Most of the science-fiction-y means of causing oneself to be whisked about the universe instantly go something like “you are dematerialized, all the tiny little pieces of you are beamed or tunneled or frog-marched about, and then you are put back together as a human creature at your destination.” This is like that, but it takes a few days. I’m a genial cloud of little pieces of me, in transit. Can’t really get my hands on anything. Had ambitions about doing work, but can’t get hold of enough little pieces of brain to marshal them to any useful use. Bless Virgin Atlantic and its plentiful supply of movies on demand.
Let the record show that I’m on my way to Arusha, to take a post as a clerk in the chambers of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. A later post will detail exactly what I have to, uh, do (to the extent that I’m allowed to talk about it). For now, I think I’ll go into why I think it is a good thing to go work for this court, despite the storm of tiny little (and huge glaring) problems it faces.
One of the problems is, putting the war criminal in jail twenty years after the war crimes might make some victims feel better, and leave others perfectly unmoved (one victim is on record as saying that she’d prefer the money were spent on rebuilding her ability to live a productive life, rather than on chasing down the radio operator). I hear that. But at the end of the day, I don’t know if I think this is *for* the victims.
This is going to sound awful, but I think the Court’s work is for me, and everybody else in the world. I think I, as a person, am infinitesimally less awesome because someone once commanded a rape squad as part of a genocide. I dig the work of this court because, even through all its flaws, I can still see the work as a joint, multinational declaration that People are Basically Good, and that ghoulish excesses of power are aberrations which we will join together and do what we can to set right. I don’t know if the actual imprisoning of the actual war criminal does that much to restore the insult that has been done the entire species, but I do think the repudiation is a big deal, and the Court has a role to play as the organ by which the world can say “We don’t think that was acceptable.”
The more international criminal law actually happens, the more it gets built into everybody’s sense of what the world is like. I don’t think most people refrain from murdering folk (or let’s take something less instinct-driven like tax evasion) because It’s Against the Law and they’ll Be Tried and Go to Jail. I think that the legal system has inculcated into people the idea that some things are Within Bounds and some things are Out of Bounds. Enough international criminal proceedings later, hopefully the general idea will be that state-sponsored torture, genocide, war rape, are all things which are Out of Bounds.
(Let’s all breathe a sigh about how much catching up America has to do until most of my countrymen agree with a basic premise like that).
I can hear Lindsay freaking out because this is getting awfully close to saying that we can reprogram people and make them better, and I can hear Bob freaking out because of my standard tiresome anti-American bias, and I can hear Cole freaking out about victim support issues, and restructuring things to give more voice to the voiceless, but for the last few months, I’ve been starting and ending the conversation here in my own head. I want to live in a world that has these Courts, and where they are powerful.
Whuf. I start work on Monday.