As the sham Zimbabwean election proceeds, there is increasing discussion of charging Robert Mugabe with crimes against humanity – with a view to an eventual trial at the International Criminal Court in the Hague.
Many liberals regard the establishment of the ICC as a triumph for international justice and victims’ rights- and a crucial breach in the idea of inviolable national sovereignty. They also argue that future dictators might be deterred by the sight of prosecutions in the Hague.
But - it seems to me – there are two coherent counter-arguments. The first is pragmatic. It will be much harder to persuade dictators to leave power, if they fear they may end up in the dock in the Hague. Some argue that Mr Mugabe might have agreed to go into exile, were it not for the sight of Charles Tayor - the former Liberian dictator – going on trial at the ICC. Taylor himself, it is argued, only quit office because he thought he had an amnesty. Mugabe and others like him will now never believe in amnesty offers – and so they will cling onto power regardless. Read more