Ethics & International Affairs Volume 21.2 (Summer 2007): Features (Peer-Reviewed): Uganda's Civil War and the Politics of ICC Intervention [Full Text]

Jun 1, 2007

The International Criminal Court's intervention into the ongoing civil war in northern Uganda evoked a chorus of confident predictions as to its capacity to bring peace and justice to the war-torn region. However, this optimism is unwarranted. The article analyzes the consequences for peace and justice of the ICC's intervention, dividing them into two categories: first, those resulting from the political instrumentalization of the ICC by the Ugandan government; second, those resulting from the discourse and practice of the ICC as an institution of global law enforcement.

As to the first, the article argues that the Ugandan government referred the conflict to the ICC in order to obtain international support for its militarization and to entrench, not resolve, the war; the ICC, in accepting the referral and only prosecuting the LRA, has in effect chosen to pursue a politically pragmatic case even though doing so contravened the interests of peace, justice, and the rule of law. As to the second, the article reveals the harmful effects that ICC intervention can have upon the capacity for autonomous political organization and action among civilian victims of violence, specifically how it leads to de-politicization by promoting a political dependency mediated by international law. The article draws from this analysis disturbing implications about ICC interventions generally, and concludes by asking whether ICC practice may be reformed so as to avoid these negative consequences.

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