The blog katangatrial.org has been monitoring the effect of the acquittal by the ICC of Mathieu Ngudjolo. As I mentioned in an earlier post, this acquittal (and the Thomas Lubanga conviction) tells us a little bit about the potential reaction in the Kenya cases if one group of defendants is convicted while another is acquitted.
According to katangatrial.org the reaction varies from joy (among members of Ngudjolo’s ethnic group) to despondency and disappointment among members of the Hema community (where the victims of the crimes hail). But it seems a lot of the blame is being heaped on the Prosecution for conducting shoddy investigations in Ituri (sound familiar?). There is also the question raised by one interviewee about why the President of Congo’s alleged role in the crimes in Ituri was not investigated (again, sound familiar?).
I also think that the Office of the Prosecutor has a worrying tendency in some, though not all, cases to start well in the authorisation and confirmation stages and then lose its way in the midst of the trial. Perhaps this flows from problems at the investigatory phase; a case is rarely stronger than the facts on which it is built. It seems the judges have taken note of this tendency. Without passing judgement on the propriety of the court doing so, it appears several trial chambers have stepped in- through separating joint trials, re-characterising the offences or re-characterising the mode of liability- to stop a series of Prosecution trials from completely collapsing.
In the meantime, much like Kenya, Ituri and the Congo will have to soldier on and fight the battles of social justice: against poverty, disease, illiteracy and gender violence,
even as criminal justice proves frustrating and somewhat illusive.