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Peace and justice

This house believes that punishing wrongdoers is fundamental to securing lasting peace.

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Representing the sides

Richard Dicker
Richard Dicker  
Director, International Justice Programme, Human Rights Watch

Richard Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch's international justice programme since it was founded in 2001, has worked at Human Rights Watch since 1991. He started working on international justice matters in 1994 when Human Rights Watch attempted to bring a case before the International Court of Justice charging the government of Iraq with genocide against the Kurds. Dicker later led the Human Rights Watch multi-year campaign to establish the International Criminal Court (ICC). He continues to be closely involved on issues that are important at the ICC. He has also spent the past few years leading advocacy efforts urging the creation of effective accountability mechanisms. He monitored Slobodan Milosevic's trial in The Hague and made many trips to Iraq before and at the start of Saddam Hussein's trial. A former civil rights attorney in New York, Dicker graduated from New York University Law School and received his LLM from Columbia University.

Director, International Justice Programme, Human Rights Watch

Human Rights Watch's research has demonstrated that a decision to ignore atrocities and reinforce a culture of impunity can carry a high price.

Jack   Snyder
Jack L. Snyder  
Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations, Columbia University

Jack L. Snyder is the Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations in the Political Science Department and the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, editor of the W. W. Norton book series on world politics, and a member of Columbia's Arts and Sciences Policy Planning Committee.

His books include "Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War" (MIT Press, 2005), co-authored with Edward D. Mansfield, and "Religion and International Relations Theory" (editor) (Columbia University Press, 2011).

His articles on crisis, democratisation and war, imperial overstretch, war crimes tribunals versus amnesties as strategies for preventing atrocities, international relations theory after 11 September 2001, and anarchy and culture have appeared in Daedalus, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Organization, International Security and World Politics. His commentaries on issues such as the promotion of democracy abroad have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The International Herald Tribune, and on national public radio.

Robert and Renée Belfer Professor of International Relations, Columbia University

Creating the conditions for justice sometimes requires bargaining with wrongdoers in the short run to remove them as a stumbling block to peace.


About this debate

Every time a dictatorship crumbles, or the end of a long, bloody war looks possible, a dilemma seems to arise. Should perpetrators of ghastly human rights abuses always be put on trial? Or is it sometimes  expedient to grant selective amnesties, especially if that appears to be the only way to edge an old regime out or persuade a bloodthirsty warlord to lay down arms? As the International Criminal Court consolidates its position, a big slice of global opinion has come down on the side of justice. Advocates point out that impunity for egregious wrong-doers can poison a new democratic order or undermine a peace settlement. If he is caught alive, Libya's Colonel Muammar Qaddafi seems certain to face justice, and few people regret that. But in the aftermath of ethnic conflicts, especially, the dilemma can be a hard one. In places ranging from Northern Ireland to Mozambique, wide-ranging amnesties were granted because an end to violence seemed impossible on any other terms. Was that too high a price to pay for peace?

Background reading

International justice in Africa: The International Criminal Court bares its teeth

Khmer Rouge trials: Justice of a kind

Canada and international justice: Be off with you

Banyan: In the name of the father

Charlemagne: No time for doubters

The Economist Asks: Should toppled Arab autocrats go on trial?

Spain and its past: Justice wars

Banyan: Truth and consequences

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