By João Pires
Tjitske Lingsma is a Dutch freelance journalist and author living in the Netherlands.
Over the last few years, she’s become increasingly interested in the ICC. In 2011, Lingsma studied criminology at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. She thought a lot about how the media influences law through the articles that lawyers and judges read. When studying “Courts and Tribunals”, she first visited the ICC and ended up writing a series of eight articles showing how the ICC works from the ground up.
These articles served as a base for her new book published this week, called “All Rise: De grote ambities van het Internationaal Strafhof en de weerbarstige werkelijheid (the ICC’s grand ambitions and the tempestuous reality).”
Its objective is to explain to a broader audience how the ICC works, what trials look like, the drama behind the scenes and how victims see the court.
The book looks at the rules and the history, the relationship between The Hague and the Netherlands and the position of victims and witnesses. It includes a number of case studies in Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Libya and the Central African Republic (CAR).
“I focused in on one court, a court which is not doing very well. It is very hard to measure the effectiveness of the court. In an interview with ICC Judge Silvia Steiner, I asked her , “what do you think is the ICC’s biggest task and where does its importance lie?” The judge replied with “deterrence”.
Of course, that’s important. However, it’s questionable whether the prosecution of some people would deter others from continuing to participate in crimes.
While Jean Paul Bemba Gombo, the former vice president of the CAR was on trial, a huge conflict resurged in the country, with people starting to speak of genocide (unofficially) due to the number of victims.
In this case, we cannot say that international law or the ICC played a preponderant role in stopping the conflict since there was no deterrent effect on the perpetrators.
Earlier this year, during the last breakout of violence in CAR, three refugees were kidnapped from a refugee camp by rebel forces.
A journalist reporting on the conflict interviewed a priest in the CAR. The priest had been protecting hundreds of Muslims in his mission. One day, Christian rebels kidnapped three Muslims. A nun told the Christian fighters: “the mission is under ICC protection and if you harm the three prisoners you might end up in The Hague”. That was a ruse, since the mission was not under ICC jurisdiction. But it worked. The leader of the Christian rebels decided the Muslims had to be returned.
When the trial against Thomas Dyilo Lubanga from the DRC started, there were only 12 people investigating. (Lubanga was convicted at the ICC of recruitment of child soldiers.)
Just to compare, recently 2 persons were killed in Amsterdam. The police is working with 150 people in the case. That is a much bigger effort compared to the 12 people who worked at the beginning of the Lubanga case where allegedly 800 people were killed.
When Fatou Bensouda took over, a new policy was put into motion within the ICC.
The policy included getting more qualified people onboard, people to look at the evidence to get stronger prosecutions.
One of the biggest changes was in the method of investigation: people from a criminal network have been asked to talk about what is happening within that network, including providing evidence. They are of course entitled to protection.
It has been proven to be a very difficult method, since some people within the circle need protection, but sometimes it is not in the best interests of justice to have protection from the court, not because the court wants the person in jail but because they lie to the prosecution. This happened in the Kenyatta case and the Muthaura case. Key witnesses in the case lied.
People in the OTP now view the era of the first ICC prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, as really having come to an end. It was a bad period, and they need to learn from it and hire the best people in the world.
Photo: João Pires/Justice Hub