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Charles Taylor: A Hollow Victory

31 May 2012, 07:24

The International Court of Justice at The Hague finally gave their verdict: 50 years behind bars for a man who was the representation of a very sick campaign of crimes against humanity. The headlines flashed through the world’s media that justice was served by this verdict, but…… WAS justice served by this sentence, or was this just another false note in a cacophonous melody of hollow victories for justice?

It doesn’t matter what the language or culture is, justice only have one universal accepted meaning: balancing out the crime with retribution. The Bible calls this “an eye for an eye”, but this saying became a sad and totally misinterpreted and rejected cliché, whilst it only means that the criminal and the crime must be put on the one end of the scales of justice, with society and punishment on the other end and the verdict bringing the scales in perfect balance.

Did the verdict in The Hague do that? COULD the verdict in The Hague do that? Can 50 years of relative luxury in a ‘first world’ jail ever be just retribution for the crimes stipulated on the charge sheet? What about the perpetrators on the ground? Those who did the actual raping and looting, killing and maiming? Those who robbed children of their childhood to become child-soldiers, sex slaves, forced labourers? What about those who forced a woman to carry a bag with bloody human heads, only to discover later that her own children’s heads were among them? Could the 50 years perhaps balance out that act of abhorrence? Does it send shivers down your spine to fall into the hands of the International Court of Justice?

Can one really blame those people or even communities who take the law into their own hands? Can one blame the Libyans for resolving the matter with Gadhafi by themselves? Are they going to allow his son to be taken from their custody to be tried in a court far removed from where he perpetrated the alleged crimes against his country folk? Every so often one hear about communities convening ‘bundu courts’ and meting out their crude justice: Sjambokking, stoning, necklacing – can one blame them? They often feel that they are far removed from justice, because to them it seems that criminals are in charge, and not the justice system of the Land.

Some court-cases sometimes take forever to be resolved. One hears of cases that drag on for years. Like the ‘boeremag’ case, dragging on for more than nine years. Is justice served this way? Do they need hundreds or even a thousand witnesses to come to a conclusion in a court? Doesn’t it prolong a case unnecessarily? The Bible says two or three witnesses are sufficient. What purpose does a sentence of ‘10 life imprisonments’ (running concurrently!) serve to justice? Is Justice served when an alleged perpetrator is acquitted because of a legal loophole, or a docket disappeared, or for whatever willy-nilly reason?  Is justice served when two people committed a similar crime, a similar fine is imposed, and the one can pay with a smile with the fine not even making a dent in his or her resources, while the second person must go to jail because of a lack of the necessary funds? Is justice served when perpetrators have more money than virtue and can afford the best lawyers and advocates to get them off the hook even if it is by crook?

Is justice served when an offender is sent to jail as due punishment for the crime, but once in the custody of the prisons department they take scant responsibility for the security of the prisoner? Offenders land in overcrowded prisons and may get abused in many ways, even raped, infected with HIV and other venereal diseases.  Some get drawn into gangster and various other illegal activities. The system that is supposed to rehabilitate sometimes only succeed in producing worse criminals, people unable to be introduced back into a normal and peaceful society. Is justice served when some convicted criminals with the right connections can serve their terms in the luxury of their homes after acquiring ‘compassionate amnesty’ on the grounds of producing ‘terminally ill’ reports?

The questions are never-ending, the answers are never-forthcoming. I know I’m just scratching the little hairs on the ears of the hippo. Is there some place in the world where justice is truly served? Did the world’s justice system evolve into a monstrosity where you need a degree to be a judge, a degree to be a prosecutor, a degree to be a defendant, a degree to be a witness and even a degree to understand the verdict?    

Is the verdict meted out for Taylor fair for some communities but hopelessly falling short in others? Can there be a better and more just and universally acceptable justice system for the world? Are the justice systems that are coming such a long way outdated for the global village concept of the 21st century? Isn’t it time that Justice itself has to be put on trial? Or will the inhabitants of the world just have to become used to the resounding of a hollow victory for justice, wherever and whenever it is ‘committed’?
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