Monday, March 15, 2021

John D. Ciorciari's "Sovereignty Sharing in Fragile States"

John D. Ciorciari is an Associate Professor at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan. He teaches about international law and politics and has written widely on transitional justice and peacebuilding.

Ciorciari applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Sovereignty Sharing in Fragile States, and reported the following:
Page 99 offers concluding thoughts on one of the most important recent cases in international criminal law—the prosecution of senior surviving Khmer Rouge leaders for atrocities of the Pol Pot era. The locus for the case is a “hybrid” criminal tribunal operated and staffed jointly by the United Nations and the Cambodian government.

The page 99 test works well here, because the case exemplifies the potential and pitfalls of “sovereignty-sharing” arrangements that involve international actors in normally sovereign state functions. Such joint ventures aim to blend national and international knowledge and resources to deliver sounder services than the host government can provide alone. In some respects, the case against surviving Khmer Rouge leaders fulfilled that promise. The case was dauntingly complex, covering myriad crimes across Cambodia in the late 1970s. The hybrid tribunal’s budget, technology and staff expertise helped it manage the case far more ably than cash-strapped, rudimentary domestic courts could have done. This led to the conviction of two key architects of the Cambodian genocide, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan—a crucial step in Cambodia’s long trek toward justice.

However, the same case illustrates the many challenges of sharing sovereignty effectively. As page 99 notes, lawyers complained about the court’s confusing mixture of Cambodian and international procedures. More damningly, Cambodian authorities stonewalled international judges’ attempts to summon senior government officials for testimony. Cambodian judges at the court also were accused of excluding evidence that could impugn incumbent leaders. These problems foreshadowed a more serious showdown over the tribunal’s next two cases, favored by international court appointees but blocked by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his national court appointees. Those stillborn cases, pertaining to crimes by Khmer Rouge military officers and subnational chiefs, have damaged the tribunal’s legacy and public legitimacy. Unable to transcend the political interference that plagues the domestic judicial system, this sovereignty-sharing venture risks reinforcing the notion that law is more an instrument of power in Cambodia than a constraint upon it.
Learn more about Sovereignty Sharing in Fragile States at the Stanford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue