Angelina Jolie delivers her introductory speech for The Darfur Case, enlightening the audience about the realities that refugees face and the justice that they need to live in peace.
Well, thank you all for being here, and a special thanks to Lisa Shields and Richard Haass for bringing us all together today.
Over the past seven years, I've worked with UNHCR, and I've traveled around the world to try to bring attention to refugees and internally displaced persons. And it's been a remarkable education. On my last trip to Chad, I asked a group of refugees - what do they need, what are their concerns, and one woman said better access to water; another said medicine, another better tents. And this young boy raised his hand and he said, we need a trial, and he heard that morning on BBC Radio that the ICC had issued arrest warrants and it meant something to him. He was asking for what any of us could ask for, having been violated, having had many horrific things happen to his family, and yet in my heart I knew that he may never see that trial; that justice often seems like a luxury for the rich and wealthy nations.
In far too many places I've been, I've seen refugees return to live among the same people that attacked them. Peace is placed before justice, often instead of justice, and often at the insistence of the perpetrator. And this is happening today with Joseph Kony in Uganda and with President Bashir in Sudan. They are threatening more violence and delaying or blocking aid if we attempt to bring them to justice, and often we listen to them. We let them dictate what will happen. We let those who destroyed their countries decide the future for their countries.
Now, I believe - after finding myself returning to countries, who, after a brief period of peace, are again at war - that there is no enduring peace without justice. I've seen refugees whose rations were cut nearly in half, and I've seen them waiting for the aid truck to arrive - just to find out that the aid relief was stolen by the rebels who are still active. And I've talked with little kids who had bruises, and they showed them to me and they said, somebody came and they gave us new school supplies - but the bad guys took them away, because the bad guys were still there. And I've sat in a tent with women who were about to be returned to their homeland - women whose daughters were raped and husbands were killed, and many of their sons also killed or tortured - and I've heard them ask, "How is it safe to go back?" And I've watched aid workers struggle to explain that some things have been signed, some people have shaken hands. But what they don't say is that aid in their host countries has run out because the international community wants to see returns and wants to see progress - but that really nothing has changed to ensure their safety, that they are returning to the same lawlessness that sent them running in the first place.
And I've seen these same aid workers tear up, when they put these ladies on the buses, and say, "I don't know what we're sending you back to." Common sense tells us that when the risks are weighed, the decisions are made very differently. When crimes against humanity are punished consistently and severely, the killer's calculus will change, and when a killer is allowed to walk away from his crimes, I believe that also tells him something. It sends a message to the next that they need not worry, that they will most likely not be held accountable for their actions.
I believe that the existence of trials alone has the potential to change behavior, but ultimately, we need to arrest those who are indicted. The Sudanese arrest of Ali Kushayb appears to be a positive development, but not if it becomes a bargaining chip that will stop others from being brought to justice. Without an arrest, we tell the victims of these atrocities that impunity is the rule of law.
Now, I don't know if the ICC is the answer, and I don't know what type of court is or what it would need to be for all of us to agree and make it strong enough - I have no idea. And after seven years of traveling into the field, I find that I have a lot I need to learn, but I do know this: No mother who had her children killed in front of her, no young girl sold into slavery, no boy kidnapped and forced to be a child soldier, and no young girl like the three-year-old I met in Sierra Leone who had her limbs cut off should be expected to simply forget. No one should have to choose between peace or justice, and that young boy in Darfur who asked for a trial deserves one.
So thank you very much for letting me speak.
Zainab Salbi highlights an unseen side of wars - the women on the 'backlines' who keep the schools, factories and hospitals open, and makes the argument that their heightened involvement in negotiations and society as a whole will pave the way to a lasting peace.1 people like this