The Cost of Justice


This point, from the comment section below is well taken.

“I think you have drawn the wrong conclusion from the article that you posted. Yes, broadly international justice is expensive. However, the article is referring to the wastage at the an Ad-hoc Special court for Sierra Leone. Similar claims of waste have been leveled at the Rwanda tribunal in Arusha. It should be remembered that one of the reasons for the establishment of the ICC was to reduce the wastage that came as a result of such ad-hoc courts. So in a sense, the expense of the Sierra Leone court justifies the ICC more than anything.”


I am on record as being pro the ICC. But this got me thinking about the absurdity of having such procedurally expensive justice systems meant to serve people who’s own justice systems are left to crumble….

“The entire budget for Sierra Leone’s domestic justice sector is roughly $13 million per year, including the Sierra Leone Police, the Prisons Department, all levels of the court system, and the various human rights and legal services commissions.  There are just 12 magistrates for the whole country outside of Freetown, and they hear between 4,000 to 5,000 criminal cases per year. The lack of judges, lawyers, and police investigators –even the lack of a few cents in cell phone credit to contact witnesses that might implicate or exonerate a defendant –is a serious obstacle to a functional justice system.

In contrast, a quick tally using the Special Court’s [that tried Charles Taylor] annual budget reports reveal costs of approximately $175 million for the prosecutions of 13 other defendants in Freetown, in addition to the hefty bill for Taylor’s trial in the Hague. And the Special Court boasted 11 judges and hundreds of staff members for its 14 cases spread over the past nine years.  Add on the testimony of Naomi Campbell, and it appears international war crimes have become a red-carpet affair.”

For more on the contrast between the under-financed and poorly staffed Sierra Leonean justice system and the special court’s extravagance check out a post by friend of the blog Alaina Varvaloucas [and her colleague] over at the CGD.

H/T Alaina.

quick hits

The BBC reports that the Kimberley process, designed to rid the global diamond market of blood diamonds, is failing. This is largely because of second country exporters of diamond like the Ivory Coast. Made famous by the movie Blood Diamond which included among others the Beninois Djimon Hounsou and Leonardo DiCaprio, the attempts to stop the illicit trade in diamonds that was fueling wars across the Continent had so far been seen by many as a success. Many had hoped that the same success could be replicated in other commodities, especially in the DRC where mineral wealth in the eastern part of the country has been funding wars since the mid 1990s.

And in other news, William Easterly wrote a rather pointed critique of the Millenium Villages project and the tourism business surrounding it. This piece reminded me of the plight of the Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania whose lifestyle has long been “preserved” by the two governments as tourist attractions reserves – even as thousands of Maasai children remain out of school and without proper healthcare or diet because of the incompatibility of the centuries old traditional Maasai way of life with 21st century living (and this is not exclusive to the Maasai). I think it is about time governments and development experts got honest with themselves. Development means having a good education system, having access to healthcare so that people do not die of treatable illnesses, having a diet of at least 2500 calories a day, being well clothed and housed, among other things. If a lifestyle, however cherished, denies the people practising it these essentials for a comfortable human existent it belongs in the rubbish bin of history, regardless of whether such a lifestyle is considered authentic African or not.