The Imagery of Universal Justice

In The Atlantic, Adam Hochschild has a great piece on the story of Thomas Lubanga, a former DRC warlord who is the first ICC defendant to face a proper trial. When the ICC outreach team visited Bunia, the town in eastern DRC that has been ravaged by war, they realized that the scales of universal justice are quite similar to another set of scales more commonly seen in a town known for its gold deposits.

Nicolas Kuyaku, the cheerful, energetic Congolese who runs the ICC’s “outreach” office in Bunia, begins today’s session by showing 20 minutes of videos sent from The Hague. We see a brightly lit courtroom full of some two dozen people: solemn judges and lawyers in black robes and white jabots, an impassive Lubanga in a suit and tie in the dock, witnesses who testify about his use of child soldiers, plus a prosecutor, a defense attorney, and—an ICC feature loosely modeled after some European justice systems—a lawyer making statements on behalf of a group of victims. Something that must mystify the audience is the court’s logo, almost always in the upper right-hand corner of the TV screen: the scales of justice. To anyone in Ituri, they look like the small, handheld scales found in thousands of shops here that weigh little flecks of gold laboriously gathered from riverbanks by miners—a job some of those here today say they’ve done.



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