War Crimes, International Courts And Reconciliation

Sep 25, 2018

File photo of residents excavating at the site of a recently-discovered mass grave in Rwanda in April of 2018. Mass graves that authorities say could contain more than 2,000 bodies were discovered in Rwanda nearly a quarter-century after the country's genocide.
Credit Eric Murinzi / The Associated Press

The judge who presided over the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwandan genocide says international courts do not create peace and stability, but they do contribute to it. Judge Vagn Joensen will speak in Kalamazoo Wednesday afternoon.


Joensen will deliver the annual George Klein Lecture Wednesday September 26th at 3:30p.m. in the Political Science Library in Western Michigan University’s Friedmann Hall. It’s sponsored by the Political Science Department and the Institute for Government and Politics.

Joensen told WMUK’s Gordon Evans that there are a variety of factors that determine whether a country can recover from genocide and war crimes. He says running an international court is expensive so usually they only hold trials for the people most responsible for the crimes committed.

The guilty verdicts of Rwandan leaders marked the first international court convictions for genocide. Joensen says that was an important moment. But he says it’s a struggle to bring leaders to trial while they are still in power. Joensen says it’s alos difficult to try people at lower levels if you don’t hold people at the top accountable first.

President Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton recently criticized the International Criminal Court. Joensen says he finds Bolton’s comments strange since the U.S. under the President Bill Clinton was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Court.