Monday, February 18, 2008

The Perils of Universal Jurisdiction

An interesting piece by Jaya Ramji-Nogales.

It certainly seems to me that the major problem with countries like Spain indicting foreigners for war crimes is arbitrary and capricious nature of the process.

It’s O.K. to indict an old and ailing Pinochet, but not a Castro. 40 soldiers from one of the poorest countries on earth that’s been racked by civil war and genocide for a long time, no sweat. Kim Jong Il? Nope, he probably has nukes.

An additional issue prosecutions like this create incentives to do whatever’s necessary to cling to power. The standard dictator exit option – move most of your country’s wealth into offshore accounts and then flee to a ‘friendly’ country when the rebels get to close is now less feasible.

Lastly, in order for Spain to “try” these soldiers, somebody has to arrest them, and then turn them over to the Spanish. I think that we can rule out a Spanish invasion of Rwanda to nab these guys. So these indictments are essentially a dead letter. It’s usually not a good idea to issue threats that you can’t back up.

For that matter, what keeps the Rwandans from indicting some Spaniards of war crimes and demanding their extradition?

HT: Instapundit.