Did You Hear? But for the ICC, the War in Libya Would Be Over
This according to the Washington Post‘s Jackson Diehl, in Screed Number 1345 about how the evil ICC is preventing peace on earth and goodwill toward men:
Libyans are stuck in a civil war in large part because of Gaddafi’s international prosecution.
Diehl, of course, offers precisely zero evidence in defence of this ridiculously stupid thesis. Even better, his own column refutes the idea that the possibility of prosecution prevents dictators from stepping down, given that he devotes one paragraph of the column to criticizing Egypt’s plans to prosecute Mubarak for his crimes against the Egyptian people. Shouldn’t the threat of prosecution have given Mubarak an incentive to fight to the death? Why would he ever have stepped down if he knew he might face the death penalty? Was he really so stupid that he believed a new regime would never prosecute him?
Or is it that the threat of prosecution actually plays almost no role in a dictator’s decision to give up power?
I don’t expect very much from the Washington Post. But I do expect better from David Bosco at the Multilateralist, who unfortunately drinks a bit too much of Diehl’s kool-aid:
Diehl’s broad argument in favor of impunity and exile has all sorts of holes, but he may be right that, in this case, the ICC has created perverse incentives. Qaddafi may have clung to power with or without the threat of a trial in The Hague, but that prospect no doubt makes leaving power that much less attractive. It’s also hard to make the case that the threat of ICC indictment has deterred Qaddafi and his commanders from committing atrocities (though I suppose one could contend that the fighting would have been even more brutal absent the prying eye of The Hague).
It’s a bit disconcerting that international-justice advocates rarely acknowledge the possible downsides to international judicial intervention or grapple with the evidence that cuts against their predictions. In sectors of the human rights community, there’s a messianic faith in the value of international justice. And that’s fine if the argument is essentially one based on principle: Justice is right; impunity is wrong; consequences be damned. But the justice movement makes the argument both on principled grounds and on consequentialist grounds. It has an obligation to honestly confront some of the possible negative consequences.
Note the disconnect between Bosco’s claims and his challenge to international-justice advocates. He faults such advocates for failing to “grapple with the evidence that cuts against their predictions” — but, like Diehl, he offers no such evidence, just speculation about the ICC making it “much less attractive” for Gaddafi to step down and about other — unnamed — “possible negative consequences” of international criminal justice. At the same time, Bosco is perfectly happy himself to avoid grappling with possible positive consequences, such as his own possibility that the fighting would have been worse in Libya but for the ICC investigation.
I have no idea whether Gaddafi’s atrocities would be worse without the ICC. But I do know that the ICC’s investigation has had some actual positive consequences, in contrast to Bosco’s possible negative ones. I’ll give Juan Cole the last word:
Libyan Oil Minister Shukri Ghanem has defected from the Qaddafi regime and fled to Tunisia.
This defection is a big deal. Ghanem had been at OPEC when Libya was under economic sanctions, and his return to Libya as prime minister and head of the ruling party in 2003 was intended to signal Muammar Qaddafi’s return to respectability in the international community. Ghanem became the face of the reformed Libya, which had given up its dabbling in chemical and other weapons and was willing to privatize its state sector industries and do big deals with Western oil companies. He staunchly defended Qaddafi, going so far as to, in a 2004 BBC interview, deny the regime’s responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing. Ghanem late became head of the powerful oil ministry. If Qaddafi cannot retain Ghanem, he cannot retain his technocratic elite in general. It is another sign that the regime is collapsing.
The defection is likely in part a response to the International Criminal Court indictment of Qaddafi and his eldest son. Persons who now continue to be right hand men of that regime are themselves in danger of prosecution for war crimes. There are fewer and fewer places regime figures could flee the reach of the ICC. Since Qaddafi has deeply angered Saudi Arabia, even that famed refuge for deposed heads of state is out of the question.
Despite the cavilling about the ICC indictment, in fact it is likely to hasten the end of the regime by signalling to the Tripoli elite that they are increasingly likely to face prosecution and sanctions, encouraging them to throw the Qaddafis under the bus. If Tripoli could quickly move to expel the Qaddafis (I hear Ecuador has no extradition), and then the Western elites with no massacres on their hands could sue to join the Benghazi leaders in a government of national unity, the fighting could end quickly.
The Transitional National Council is already moving to form such a national government, bringing delegates from around the country. Tripoli’s accession would be welcomed by the TNC, which already has many Qaddafi defectors in its ranks.
Damn that meddlesome ICC!