Graybill, “Religion, Tradition, and Restorative Justice in Sierra Leone”

In June, the University of Notre Dame Press will release “Religion, Tradition, and Restorative Justice in Sierra Leone,” by Lyn Graybill.  The publisher’s description follows:

In this groundbreaking study of post-conflict Sierra Leone, Lyn Graybill examines the ways in which both religion and local tradition supported restorative justice initiatives such as the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and village-level Fambul Tok ceremonies.

Through her interviews with Christian and Muslim leaders of the Inter-Religious Council, Graybill uncovers a rich trove of perspectives about the meaning of reconciliation, the role of acknowledgment, and the significance of forgiveness. Through an abundance of polling data and her review of traditional practices among the various ethnic groups, Graybill also shows that these perspectives of religious leaders did not at all conflict with the opinions of the local population, whose preferences for restorative justice over retributive justice were compatible with traditional values that prioritized reconciliation over punishment.

These local sentiments, however, were at odds with the international community’s preference for retributive justice, as embodied in the Special Court for Sierra Leone, which ran concurrently with the TRC. Graybill warns that with the dominance of the International Criminal Court in Africa—there are currently eighteen pending cases in eight countries—local preferences may continue to be sidelined in favor of prosecutions. She argues that the international community is risking the loss of its most valuable assets in post-conflict peacebuilding by pushing aside religious and traditional values of reconciliation in favor of Western legal norms.

Christianity Today on KONY 2012

Yesterday, I was chatting with a student here at St. John’s who told me about the KONY 2012 campaign that has gone viral, receiving tens of millions of hits in just a few days this week. KONY 2012 is a campaign by a non-profit organization called Invisible Children to arrest and bring to trial Joseph Kony, the leader of the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army, which has been terrorizing Uganda. In particular, the campaign alleges, Kony has been involved with the abduction of tens of thousands of children to serve as soldiers in the LRA. The campaign wants Kony prosecuted for war crimes.

One reason the campaign has gone viral is that Invisible Children has targeted Christian activists in America, who have been promoting KONY 2012 on their blogs. (Although Invisible Children is not a sectarian organization, its founders are apparently Christians whose zeal derives at least in part from their Christian convictions). According to Christianity Today,  however, these activists have begun to have second thoughts. Apparently, Invisible Children has a mixed record for transparency and truth-telling. Critics also point out that Invisible Children backs the Ugandan army, which itself has been accused of human-rights violations. The story is here.

Hauling the Pope before the International Criminal Court

Yesterday, the Center for Constitutional Rights requested that the International Criminal Court, a tribunal headquartered in The Hague, prosecute the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI, and three cardinals for “crimes against humanity” in connection with the clergy sex-abuse scandal.  The complaint alleges that the Vatican tolerated the systematic and widespread rape and torture of children and vulnerable adults throughout the world and that Pope Benedict XVI and three cardinals bear personal responsibility for these crimes as a matter of direct authority and respondeat superior.

There are serious legal problems with CCR’s complaint.  First, sexual abuse by clergy does not fit easily within the definition of a “crime against humanity” contained in the ICC’s founding treaty, the Rome Statute of 2002.  The Rome Statute defines a “crime against humanity” as “a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population,” a definition that suggests something like a wartime atrocity.  Second, the Vatican is not a state-party to the Rome Treaty.  That’s not necessarily a show-stopper, as the ICC has jurisdiction over crimes Continue reading

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