20 June 2008
The Times' call for the international community to warn the junta running Zimbabwe that it is "collecting evidence of what is happening for use in war crimes trials" is well-meaning but will not succeed in preventing future atrocities (Atrocities mount in Zimbabwe, 20 June 2008). The evidence for the deterrent effect of the International Criminal Court or other tribunals is sadly lacking. For example, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, set up following a genocide in which up to one million civilians were murdered by thousands of their countrymen, has resulted in only 28 convictions, with 28 cases still in progress and 8 awaiting trial. If after nearly 15 years, this is the best that the international community can achieve, it is surely no wonder that genocides and widespread human rights abuses by states and non-state actors continue unabated. One need only look at Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burma and yes, Zimbabwe, to see this. The sad truth is that the West will not intervene solely on the grounds of human rights abuses, or even to prevent genocide. Mugabe and the other thugs around the world know this.