A brief review and summary of Janine Natalya Clark’s Article Peace, Justice and the International Criminal Court, Journal of International Criminal Justice 9 (2011), 521-545
The grounds of this remarkable article reside on a concept of justice that goes beyond the typical juridical notion. Different stakeholders may have a different opinion on what justice is, and on whether it has been achieved.
Clark employs a multifaceted approach that ties the effectiveness of justice to its perception, considering the perspectives of the communities affected by the crimes the International Criminal Court (ICC) is called to judge. The victims’ views on the ICC’s work rely on their expectations, which in turn are crucially influenced by the availability of information on the Court’s functioning.
Victims are often uninformed about the actual powers and boundaries of the ICC. For instance, restorative justice plays a crucial role as a form concrete redress and tangible justice; however, insufficient information may cause the victims to misunderstand the actual limitations of the Court, which suffers from limited resources. Clark maintains that, in order to foster realistic expectations on the Court’s results, the ICC should perform an outreach effort: justice is achieved if the stakeholders perceive it to be accomplished. Consequentially, justice must be seen to be achieved, and visibility is key. Among other issues, the Court is based in the Netherlands, and its action might be less than obvious to local stakeholders. The distance between the ICC and its areas of intervention is a difficult obstacle to overcome, especially if local issues – such as literacy and security concerns – are taken into account. A further approach suggested by Clark would be conducting more proceedings directly where the alleged crimes took place.
While maintaining this constant insight on victims’ perceptions of justice, Clark also manages to deliver an overview of the ICC’s issues, branching from juridical aspects to sociological and political considerations. The aim of the writer is to point out concerns, analyze consequences and provide possible solutions.
In Clark’s analysis, the Court is affected by a severe dependency on State cooperation that may influence prosecution choices: evaluations based on political concerns are, however, difficult to comprehend. Victims and other stakeholders might perceive the work of the ICC as selective justice, as Clark demonstrates with recent historical examples. The solution is not immediate; however, information is, again, key to let justice seekers understand the Court’s standing.
The last part of the article studies the interactions between peace and justice, focusing on two alternatives: trading peace for justice, or delivering justice in order to reach peace. The stimulating discussion that follows reviews part of the academic discourse on the topic, and provides historical examples and analyses for the quoted arguments. In this framework, the ICC can constitute either an obstacle or a potential facilitator for peace; Clark categorizes various examples of ICC’s work in order to determine when and whether the Court’s impact has been beneficial to peace building.
Ultimately, ICC’s contribution to peace depends on which concept of justice the Court adopts: a rigorous, judicial definition of justice confined to a successful criminal trial can be shortsighted, and may not leave space to more adaptive means of conflict resolution.