49 Emory L. J. 205 (2000)
Why Perpetrators Should Not Always Be Prosecuted: Where the International Criminal Court and Truth Commissions Meet

handle is hein.journals/emlj49 and id is 215 raw text is: ESSAY
WHY PERPETRATORS SHOULD NOT ALWAYS BE
PROSECUTED: WHERE THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL
COURT AND TRUTH COMMISSIONS MEET
Charles Villa-Vicencio*
When we discover that we have on this world no earth or rock to
stand or walk upon but only shifting sea and sky and wind, the
mature response is not to lament the loss of fixity but to learn to sail.1
Justice and amnesty; if they are not sisters, they are at least first
cousins.2
In the wake of the long history of struggle concerning war crimes and
crimes against humanity, the advent of the International Criminal Court (ICC)
represents a major triumph over lawlessness that is both morally impressive
and legally a little frightening. Impressive because at last the world is taking
this level of criminality seriously. A little frightening because it could be
interpreted, albeit incorrectly, as foreclosing the use of truth commissions,
which could otherwise encourage political protagonists to turn away from
ideologically fixed positions that make for genocide and instead to pursue
peaceful coexistence and national reconciliation.
Martha Minow identifies the limitations of court cases as a facilitating
mechanism in situations of political transition.3 Prosecutions, she argues,
are slow, partial and preoccupied with the either/or simplifications of the
adversary process.4  This, she suggests, underlines the importance of the
* Executive Director, Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, Cape Town, South Africa. Former
Director of Research, South Africa Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
I JAMES BOYD WHrE, WHEN WoRDs LOSE THEIR MEANiNG: CONSTITUTION AND RECONSTITUTION OF
LANGUAGE, CHARACTER, AND COMMUNITY 278 (1984).
2 South African lawyer and civil rights activist George Bizos, in an interview with reporter Adele
Sulcas. AddIe Sulcas, Granting Amnesty Is Sometimes Not Just, SUNDAY INDEP. (S. Afr.), Feb. 21, 1999, at
9.
3 MARTHAMiNow, BErWEEN VENGEANCE AND FORGIENESS 87 (1998).
4 Id.

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