By João Pires
Odong Jackson, who comes from Teso in eastern Uganda, is studying in The Hague. He wants international justice to go beyond prosecutions.
“From the very start, the ICC’s intentions seemed clear and purposeful, to me, with a higher goal. However, its entry point was a failure. It actually crash-landed, to use an airplane metaphor.
“Many people in Uganda, Kenya and other Third World countries believed that the ICC was a way to help them to achieve justice at a very fast rate. So they had high hopes. But if we look at how the ICC got involved in what was going on in northern Uganda, its entry point actually shattered people’s hopes.
“There have been ongoing debates about justice itself and what form justice should take. Now, the ICC is intervening in a conflict that involves both government troops and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). Both are implicated in the same crimes. But since only one side – the LRA – has been accused, that has become problematic. We’re still dealing with the survivors of the conflict, the victims of sexual violence and the survivors of displacement. They know the crimes were committed by both government troops and the LRA.
“By only taking one perspective on justice, the entire process of realizing the bigger picture of justice has been killed. Going back to the plane metaphor, there was a well-equipped plane, but it was flown by inexperienced pilots and has ended up crashing.
“International justice has to go beyond the idea of prosecution. The international justice mechanisms are largely built on the prosecution of crimes. They’re seen as the key to delivering justice. People are brought to court. They have to be tried. They have to be held accountable. Then finally the sentence is delivered. The problem is that even if you know and have evidence but cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt that a person is guilty, they will be released.
“A lot of effort and resources are put into the ICC, but the proceedings take too long. A lot of these resources are spent only on procedural aspects. The people who need to see justice done actually don’t find the healing they need. Putting someone in jail does not mean much to the person who is hurt and needs treatment.
“The ICC intends to put the victims at the center of its work. But we are yet to see whether it works or not because there haven’t been tangible results. The only way it could prove its worth and show that is capable of bringing global justice is if it brings deterrence.
“But now, on the contrary, impunity and crime are on the rise despite of the existence of the Court. Is the ICC a scarecrow? Is it a barking dog? Or an institution for job creation?”
Odong Jackson is Master’s student in development studies at the International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague.
He specializes in human rights and conflict studies. He also works for the Refugee Law Project, an NGO that focuses on helping forced migrants, based at Makerere University in Uganda.
He was speaking to João Pires for Justice Hub at the Hague Talks.