Are International Criminal Tribunals a Waste of Money?

by Julian Ku

The journal Foreign Policy has an interesting post on the cost of international criminal tribunals. I have to admit I had no idea they were so expensive. According to the article, “As of November 2005, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had handed down judgments for only 25 individuals. More than $1 billion has been spent on the tribunal so far, or about $40 million per judgment.” For all my complaining about the ICJ’s slowness, at least they aren’t profligate with the relatively little money they do have.

You might say that ensuring punishment and the end to impunity is worth the $1 billion, but there is some point when even the end to impunity isn’t worth it. Or, more accurately, justice is not actually being achieved if the cost is so high. There are cheaper alternatives, by the way. Rwanda could itself punish the perpetrators or, as the ICTR has started to do, the ICTR could outsource to other countries (as it has started doing)

Seth Weinberger at “Security Dilemmas” weighs in with more typically intelligent analysis here.

2 Responses

  1. I would say that whether or not international criminal tribunals are a waste of money depends mostly on whether they actually achieve/further “justice” (whatever this concept means in this context).
    I wrote some thoughts on this issue over on my own blog.

  2. I have been working for five years at the ICTR. Unfortunately, this particular jurisdiction is a complete waste of money.
    Determining how much it has cost thus far to determine the guilt of the different accused is but one indicator of the value of that jurisdiction. As some authors rightly point out, if the money spent at the ICTR helped “achieving justice”, “end immunity” of “fosters reconciliation” in the great Lake Region, then it might be worth spend the money. In the case of the ICTR, none of these objectives were achieved.
    The climate prevailing in the area since 1994 has not improved.
    It is also clear to me that the Tribunal is not achieving anything that could be called justice. I am aware that this part of my comment would need further development, they will be made later.
    As regards “ending immunity”, the ICTR is not helping towards that goal at all. Quite on the contrary, by refusing to prosecute members of the RPF currently in power, it is helping the cause of immunity. By its current conduct, the ICTR is sending the message that you just have to be a head of state to escape facing courts.
    For this reason in particular, the ICTR is a grotesque judicial farce, and a pure waste of money.

    Philippe Larochelle

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