War Crimes Tribunals May End Impunity, But They Can't Heal Hatred
Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the Nobel
Peace Prize for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. He spoke
with NPQ on February 19.
NPQ | South Africa was able to heal the
wounds of hatred and achieve justice after apartheid through the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission you headed. Is that a better way to achieve
justice than the kind of international trials going on now in The Hague
for war crimes in the Balkans and in Arusha for genocide in Rwanda?
ARCHBISHOP TUTU | These trials by the UN tribunals are steps along
the way to establishment of an International Criminal Court. My reservation
about this approach is that it risks disrupting fragile situations of
transition from repression and conflict to a more democratic dispensation.
To try to take this concern into account, a statute of the proposed ICC
states that its jurisdiction would apply only if a country had not dealt
effectively on its own with the atrocities of the past. Those who support
the ICC are mainly concerned with accountability and putting an end to
impunity for human rights crimes. They have said they would avoid intervention,
as in the case of Chile, when it might disrupt an ongoing process of reconciliation
if, at the same time, accountability for crimes is established.
In the case of the Arusha tribunal, I am fearful that the Hutu will say
that, although they have been found guilty in open court, their trials
were instigated by the Tutsis. Far from ending the spiral of hatred, revenge
and violence between the Hutu and Tutsi, the trials there may fuel yet
NPQ | In other words, international tribunals may hinder, not help,
TUTU | Such tribunals may well ensure accountability and show there
will be no impunity. That is fine as far as it goes. But you need something
other than retributive justice for healing. In and of itself, the judicial
process is handicapped. It alone cannot be effective in reconciling a
society divided by hatred.
What we found with our Truth and Reconciliation Commission was that it
was enormously therapeutic and cleansing for victims to tell their stories.
In a judicial process you have to prove guilt of the perpetrator by cross-examining
witnesses on specific acts. The court must be objective and, legally speaking,
equally hostile to the victim and the perpetrator.
In our commission, the sympathy for the dignity of the victim was assumed.
And instead of being proven guilty beyond the shadow of a doubt, the perpetrator
had to confess in order to get amnesty. That was the beginning, not the
end, of the process. This combination of storytelling and confession put
it all out in the open. With full disclosure, people feel they can move
NPQ | The South African reconciliation and the Israeli-Palestinian
peace process began about the same time. Yours succeeded, but the process
in the Middle East has totally collapsed.
You have said that "there is no future without forgiveness,"
prompting the suggestion that what the Old Testament antagonists of the
Middle East might need is a little dose of the New Testament-that is,
forgiveness instead of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."
TUTU | There is no way peace and stability can come to the Middle
East through the gun of vengeance. That is true. The Christian notion
of forgiveness, let's not forget, arises out of a Judeo-Christian tradition.
In the book of the prophet Hosea, God asks him to take as his wife a woman
who had become a prostitute.
This was a parable illustrating that God would not abandon even the unfaithful,
but would keep them and cleanse them. This idea of forgiveness is central
in the Biblical faith.
One reason we succeeded in South Africa that is missing in the Middle
East today is quality of leadership-leaders willing to make unpopular
compromises, to go against their own constituencies, because they have
the wisdom to see that would ultimately make peace possible.
In our case, F.W. de Klerk showed remarkable courage in his reforms, but
he was blessed not with an intransigent, bitter and vengeful counterpart,
but with the almost saintly magnanimity of Nelson Mandela. The whites
wanted to dig in their heels and the liberation movement was hellbent
on demanding every pound of flesh through retributive justice akin to
the Nuremberg Trial. Neither leader heeded these calls.
After 27 years in prison, no one could challenge Mandela when he said,
"Let us forgive these guys." Like De Klerk, he acknowledged
the humanity and the anguish of his adversary. Any process of peace is
bound to collapse if this is missing.
De Klerk and Mandela also knew they couldn't get everything they wanted.
They had to compromise. Unless there are concessions, there is no negotiation.
All or nothing is not a negotiation. So, too, in the Middle East. Israelis
must have sovereign security, but they must abandon settlements and grant
the Palestinians their own state.
In the end, though, it must be said, it is not the weak who can be magnanimous,
but the strong.
NPQ | Do you worry that the United States is headed into "unilateral
overdrive" in its war against terrorism?
TUTU | What happened in New York was not an act of war, but a crime
directed against the entire international community. As such, I believe
fervently that the response should not be driven by one country, but by
the United Nations. It should seek to apprehend the suspects and bring
them to trial before the world community-this would be the perfect case
in point for the International Criminal Court (though the United States,
of course, has not yet agreed to the establishment of such a court).
The awfulness of the innocent civilian casualties in New York and Washington
should not be matched by the outrage in response of killing innocents
in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
One, too, hopes very, very much that one of the elements that makes America
so great and admired-respect for the rule of law-will not be disregarded
in fear, that innocents will remain that until proven guilty.
As for the source of terrorism, there can be no doubt that it comes from
the enormous gap between the haves and the have nots. Unless prosperity
is shared and ignorance and poverty eradicated, in the long run we will
not win this war against terrorism.
In all this, once again, it is the strong who must be magnanimous.