Peace v. Justice: The ICC and Its Alternatives

Can you explain the “peace versus justice” debate and what you think is at stake in it?

The debate is [centered on] questions of causality and timing. What does it take to get a lasting peace that is normatively desirable? And does justice yield peace dividends, or is justice built on the back of political bargains and stable institutions?

“Justice first” proponents think that justice is an instrument that has the capacity to marginalize perpetrators, and that the prospects for peace will follow pretty quickly once those perpetrators are out.

Critics argue that the calculation about what it takes to contain or remove powerful spoilers is far more complex, and it also matters whom you replace them with. If you can’t mobilize support for containing spoilers and backing reformers, then it’s better to wait on justice.

An area I look at is the relationship between international justice and diplomacy during conflict and peace negotiations. Unless the pursuit of justice is carefully negotiated with key stakeholders, it’s likely to backfire. If international justice is going to be used as a tool of international diplomacy, we need to think about how to apply it effectively. Part of the debate is how flexible we should be about international justice, and at what stage it should be used to shape the behaviour of its targets. I think the potential diplomatic use of international justice is greatest before indictments have come down.

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