The Cost of Justice

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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.”

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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.

the war muddied everyone

News that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa’s first elected female president, had funded at least two rebel groups – including Charles Taylor – left me surprised and less optimist about the Continent. It was a stark reminder that politics is a dirty game, especially in the context of a civil war as crazy as Liberia’s (which had among its cast the self-styled General Butt Naked). It is hard to imagine how any prominent Liberian politician from the 80s and 90s could have avoided siding with any of the many warring factions.

Perhaps this comment from the FP website sums it best:

“Of course, it’s not clear that there is a Liberian over the age of six who hasn’t supported one rebel group or another the past twenty years. If they were all banned from politics, there wouldn’t be a local left to run the place.”

It is hard to sympathize with Ms Sirleaf without appearing to be applying double standards given Taylor’s treatment by the wider international community. That said, one thing is clear: Ms Sirleaf is no Foday Sankoh or Charles Taylor.

And speaking of Liberia, Charles Taylor’s defense at his trial in the Hague is turning out to be a  major hilarity. And of course nobody does better reporting on these issues than Wronging Rights.