My research has focused on the complementarity principle–the idea that national courts can be a driving force for prosecuting serious crimes against humanity. Working for the Center for Global Justice, it may seem counterintuitive to advocate for a position where atrocities that are usually labeled as international crimes should be tried on a domestic level within a State. However, my research makes me believe that this principle is a refreshing option to an old problem that many victims and nations face.
International and hybrid (International-national) tribunals are limited in what individuals will be prosecuted, namely focusing on the highly responsible “mastermind” types. The problem lies with many of the victims who feel they are without relief and that their perpetrators are without accountability. National trials however often ensure efforts to hold perpetrators accountable and have resonance with local populations/victims.
This idea can be exemplified by the local grassroots Gacaca trials within communities of Rwanda after the 1994 Rwandan genocide. While it may be true these trials have had challenges of their own, often times these trials were held simply to give victims a voice and to give accountability for the atrocities that occurred. It showed that the first step to rebuilding a community that has gone through tragedy together is to rebuild together. “The reconciliation process in Rwanda focuses on reconstructing the Rwandan identity, as well as balancing justice, truth, peace and security”.
Colossians 3:13-15 states, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” I believe God calls Christians to be the upholders of peaceful community and I have gained a new-found respect for the complementarity principle’s place in that calling.