On Tuesday 5 November, the European Council on Foreign Relations and the Hague Institute organized a conference on international justice and the prevention of atrocities. Participants included government representatives, officials from international institutions, scholars, researchers and representatives of NGOs.
The nexus between accountability and peace processes was discussed with reference to a variety of cases, ranging from Darfur and Libya where the international community (through the Security Council) referred the situations to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as part of its response to humanitarian emergencies, to Afghanistan and Yemen where peace settlements were prioritized over questions of justice which were to be settled afterwards. Finally, the interplay between justice mechanisms and conflict resolution was reviewed in cases where peace and justice were pursued simultaneously such as in DR Congo, Uganda and Sierra Leone.
Ensuing debate addressed the role of the judicial institutions such as the Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the ICC in the deterrence of committing mass atrocities and their impact on peace negotiations. There was no consensus on whether peace negotiations or justice issues should prevail over the other. Also the use of limited amnesties in favor of achieving stability was recognized, while blanket amnesty could perpetuate conflict rather than ending the conflict.
At the closing of the conference, it was argued that the tension between the two should be managed. For that reason, common grounds between human rights advocates and those dedicated to end atrocities ought to be identified. In addition, a frame work should be established to ensure that both can work more effectively.
The European Council on Foreign Relations and the Hague Institute are working on a more elaborate report which will be published on their respective websites shortly.
The Hague Institute has a particular interest in this crucial area and is developing a project that will assess the effects of the ICC on conflict resolution through the collection of empirical data, together with the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict.