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Aranburu receives Kroc Inst. award

Sarah Mervosh | Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Xabier Agirre Aranburu was presented with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies’ 2009 Distinguished Alumni Award immediately following a lecture he gave titled “Make Law, Not War: On the Power of Truth, Law and Justice” Tuesday in the Hesburgh Center auditorium.

He discussed his experiences as a senior analyst at the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands. The goal of the office is to “deliver justice for the international community of the world,” he said.

The ICC “is an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes,” according to the ICC website.

The ICC is separate from the United Nations, the Web site said.

Aranburu said one of the biggest challenges of the ICC is that it can only deal with a very narrow amount of crimes, and generally people expect them to be able to help in all criminal cases.

“There are huge expectations for what we do,” he said. “We don’t deal with any crime. We only deal with the worst types of criminality.”

Aranburu said this narrow definition is especially difficult because most often, the Court works with people who have experienced great suffering and are receiving international attention for the first time.

“Very often we deal with people who have no experience with any formal [kind] of human justice. These people are the ultimate forgotten people in the planet,” he said.

Because of this, it is so difficult to explain to them why the ICC cannot help them, Aranburu said.

While the ICC has support in more than 100 countries, with strong support in Europe and Africa, Aranburu said it does not have support from the United States and much of Asia. He said he would like to work on receiving support from more countries.

Aranburu said as an analyst, his job is to focus solely on dry facts, which are then given to the chief prosecutor. The chief prosecutor decides how to use the information in the trial.

“I look at our job like the job of a scientist or the job of a doctor where I have to look at a horrible situation of suffering … [and] the best that I can do to help these people is to run the right diagnostics,” he said.

For example, he said he might compare the rates of murders of civilians with a chronology of events, to show when the peak violence is occurring and why.

The ICC is currently waiting to hear the verdict of a trial regarding war crimes committed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Aranburu said it is too early to tell if the ICC will be effective in this case.

“Courts try cases and cases try courts,” he said.

However, he said he believes international justice has made progress, using the well-known glass-half-full or glass-half-empty analogy to describe his point of view.

“I believe it is working to some extent,” he said. “My view is that the glass is half empty but it is filling up very quickly.”

Aranburu called himself a realist who knows that there is still much work that needs to be done to help bring international justice, but he also said he is optimistic about the future.