In 2008, the rule of law played a prominent role in a number of
African countries and is expected to do so in the New Year as well. David Crane,
former chief prosecutor of the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone and a
Syracuse University College of Law professor, spoke to VOA English to Africa
Service reporter Joe De Capua about the rule of law and justice over the past
moves forward slowly and in incremental steps, but stop and think what’s taken
place in2008. The (Charles) Taylor trial has started and it’s gone very well.
It’s moving forward justly and openly. We’ve had the request by the prosecutor
of the International Criminal Court for an indictment against another African
head of state, (Omar) al Bashir… in Sudan. We’ve had (Zimbabwe President
Robert) Mugabe go to some kind of peace table; granted, it’s started to
unravel. And we’ve had what I consider an incredibly important judgment and
that is the conviction and sentencing of Col. Bagosora, who was really pretty
much the linchpin in the starting of the genocide in Rwanda. So, from this ole
chief prosecutor’s point of view, I think it’s been a good year,” he says.
expects a verdict in the Taylor trial in 2009. He’s accused of war crimes and
crimes against humanity stemming from Sierra Leone’s civil war, in which he
allegedly supported rebels.
seeking peace, there may be a choice between expediency and the rule of law.
That is, granting amnesty, for example, rather than trying those accused of
serious crimes. Crane uses the case of Charles Taylor to explain his position.
I unsealed the indictment, and he was whisked off to Calabar in Nigeria (for
exile), individuals were saying, oh my goodness, this is going to disrupt the
peace process, justice is going to get in the way. We need peace first, justice
later. But at the end of the day, if you consider it, two years later you had
the free and fair election…of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman in Africa
to be elected a sitting president. So, in my mind, the indictment of Charles
Taylor and his eventual arrest and trial actually brought peace to the region,”
says the same issues were discussed before the ICC prosecutor requested an
arrest warrant for Sudan’s president in connection with the crisis in Darfur.
He says, “An indictment, if properly carried out according to procedure and
law, actually brings peace over time…. Justice is always the important end
state. And certainly peace is important and we may have to have peace first,
then justice, but to actually have a sustainable peace we really have to have
justice as well.”
Crane says President-elect Obama will face a number of rule-of-law challenges
when he takes office on January 20th.
“In his campaign, he certainly
has laid down a marker that we will return to the rule of law and respect the
rule of law. And…his administration certainly will follow that up. We’ve see
grumblings related to Guantanamo (prison for suspected terrorists) and its possible
closing. We see considerations as to what’s going on in the various tension
centers in Iraq and Afghanistan. And I think that with his approach of reaching
out, I think that we’re going to see…an attempt to move forward with respect to
the rule of law,” he says.
But he says it won’t be easy. “It’s
going to be a real challenge because of the fact that the rest of the world has
looked at the United States through a prism based on the alleged problems that
President Bush and Vice-President Cheney have had with the rule of law,” he