Mark V. Vlasic is an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and senior fellow at Georgetown’s Institute for Law, Science & Global Security. He served on the Slobodan Milosevic and Srebrenica genocide prosecution trial teams in The Hague. The views expressed are solely those of the writer.
By Mark Vlasic, Special to CNN
This week, the eyes of the world returned – if only for a moment – to the world of international justice in The Hague. In the same week, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the world’s first permanent war crimes court, sentenced its first war criminal, Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga, to 14 years in prison. And across town at the first international tribunal since Nuremburg, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), U.N. prosecutors called their first witnesses in their case against General Ratko Mladic, charged, in part, with the Srebrenica genocide and the siege of Sarajevo. Thus, in two courtrooms in The Hague, the world was reminded that while international justice may be slow, it does come – and with it, so may come the end of impunity that often exists for mass atrocities.
To be sure, for those in Syria, Sudan and elsewhere, justice and the end of impunity won’t come soon enough. But the fact that some sense of justice has come to those who perished in Congo and Bosnia is nothing to scoff at.
Lubanga, thought once by many to be untouchable, was convicted for his role in enlisting, conscripting, and using child soldiers in the Second Congolese War. And importantly for the march of international justice, Lubanga’s trial, conviction and sentencing marked a number of notable firsts: it was the ICC’s first successful prosecution since its 2002 founding; Lubanga is the first individual to be convicted by the ICC for crimes related to the use of child soldiers; and the trial was the first in which victims participating were able to present their views in court.
Books have been written about it, films have been made about it: Rwanda is best known for a genocide that claimed more than half a million lives in 1994.
But in the ensuing years, quiet changes have taken place there. So much so that "The Economist" magazine now asks: is Rwanda "Africa's Singapore?" The World Bank ranks it 45th in the world for ease of doing business, higher than any African country barring South Africa and Mauritius. And Transparency International says it is less corrupt than Greece or Italy.
The man credited with this transformation is Paul Kagame, now in his 13th year as president.
He faces a number of obstacles, however. Rwanda is landlocked between corrupt countries. It is the most densely populated country in Africa and its people earn only $1,300 a year, 1/36th of the average in the United States.
So where is Rwanda headed? FULL POST