Writing about Karadzic Wednesday, October 23, The Evening Standard’s Chris Addison lamented the soft touch treatment that the former Serbian leader will get for failing to show up at the opening of his much publicized trial.
He compared it to one of those rare charges where an offending person is sent a letter reminding them of a parking charge they skipped usually with an instruction to pay a fine of between £10-50.
I get his point. Anyone including criminals and suspects must love the principle of natural justice. Apart from being the best thing ever thought through, it provides for people to do as they wish and yet they still will be perceived as playing by the rules.
Unlike in the parking scenario, you can choose when to appear and when not to appear as long as the choice gives you an extra day to think. You see, like Addison, i subscribe to the idea that criminals do better with rehabilitation rather than just punishment. That is why in Rwanda, convicted genocide criminals have so often been let off because you cant jail everyone for life and most importantly, for peace and reconciliation to prevail some kindness has got to come into play.
But by encouraging compassion, sometimes on a large scale, do we negate the very principle of natural justice that we have so often argued to be promoting?
What if those we suspect or have accused of crimes against hmanity suddenly decided to play the system in an effort to delay proceedings and buy more time, shall we have denied them justice if we insist that proceedings go as planned? And what if they pass away in the process does this serve those who have waited for so long to know the fate of their loved ones any justice?
Prosecution claims they have proof enough to pin Karadzic and they might well be right, but what if he is happy with a few fines?
Call them worrying times for the man at the Hague yes, they could as well be worrying times for whoever knows about what happened in Serbia.