The International Criminal Court (ICC) indicted several people for the atrocities being committed in Darfur. The most famous of those wanted is of course, the president of Sudan, Omar Hassan Ahmad al-Bashir, who has mocked the tribbunal by traveling internationally since his arrest warrant was issued. But, the ICC indicted a rebel leader as well, Bahr Idriss Abu Garda (“Abu Garda”), a Zaghawa tribal member who is accused of leading an attack on an African Union peace keeping location in Northern Darfur. Twelve peace keepers died as a result of the attack. In a surprising  move, Abu Garda submitted to the  jurisdiction of  the ICC and voluntarily turned himself to an undisclosed ICC location. As a result of his cooperation, the ICC issued a summons to appear rather than an arrest warrant. This was the first time the court used a summons to appear. The Registrar of the Court, Ms Silvana Arbia, welcomed his arrival: “The voluntary appearance of Abu Garda might serve to encourage other suspects currently at large to come before the Court to be heard with all guarantees of a fair trial”. This is a milestone moment for the court and for all the nations who support the ICC. Hopefully, Abu Garda, although the first,  will not be the  last defendant to  appear voluntarily.


It is hard to get much public notice when you are yesterday’s tragedy. Apparently, the Special Court of Sierra Leone has been quietly running out of money. The court predicted it would not have enough funds to carry it past April. The Special Court does not have a UN funded budget like the ICTR and the ICTY, rather contributions are voluntary, and with so much else going on in the world, the flow of contributions had diminished. With the Charles Taylor trial still in progress having sufficient funds to “keep the court doors open” is extremely important. reported today that the court received $6.5 million in fresh contributions that will allow it to stay open through June, but the Taylor trial is expected to last through the end of 2009. The American/European style of justice is expensive. Those nations who volunteered to contribute should step up and do so. The court is in the middle of one of its most important trials. No one involved with the court needs to be distracted by trying to calculate whether the court can make it to the end of the trial. If a tribunal can be set up and financed to investigate the death of one man, Rafik Hariri of Lebanon, surely the funds can be found to finish the task of ending impunity for the deaths of over 20,000 civilians in Sierra Leone, the maiming of another 30,000 and the rape of over 200,000 women and girls.

After too many decades of delay, the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia have finally gotten the trials of the last remaining Khmer Rouge defendants under way. The tribunal is a mixed court, sitting in Cambodia, with Cambodian judges and some international judges as well. Time has taken its toll on the quest for justice as most of the people who should have been tried for the deaths of 1.7 million Cambodians have already died themselves from natural causes. The trial of one of the five remaining opened this week. But, the trial takes place with a cloud over it. Defense lawyer, Jacques Verges, has repeated allegations made by other counsel as well that the Cambodian tribunal staff were required to pay kickbacks for their jobs, thereby destroying the legitimacy of the Tribunal. Evidently, the UN, aware of the allegations conducted an inquiry into the situation but did not release the findings. Cambodia will not get another opportunity to set the record straight on these atrocities. It is terribly important that the allegations of corruption be addressed openly, so the process can go forward with out taint.

In a sad note, the New York Times reported that for the most part, young Cambodians do not know about the Khmer Rouge atrocities despite the fact that almost all of their older relatives lost family members during this period. The subject has not been taught in schools and the children do not believe such brutality could actually have occurred. One wonders whether this is a good thing or not. This generation has not grown up with the fear and dread that haunts the survivors and that’s good. But one wonders, if they don’t know about the horror, would they be able to recognize should it come around again?

Perhaps only time will tell.