UNITED NATIONS – Jordan's ambassador told the U.N. Security Council (search) that it should stop complaining about the high cost of war crimes tribunals, given that they are far cheaper than wars.
Prince Zeid Al Hussein urged nations to put money into promoting justice in countries emerging from conflict instead of weapons.
"With an international community prepared to spend almost one trillion U.S. dollars a year on weapons — that historic companion of war — how can we say that anything we have spent thus far on justice, the surest companion of peace, is too expensive?," he asked.
The prince, who is also president of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute (search), which created the International Criminal Court (search), was among nearly 50 speakers at a daylong debate in the council Wednesday on ways to administer justice and rebuild the rule of law in conflict and post-conflict societies.
He criticized the council for repeatedly complaining about the high cost of the tribunals, saying the $175 million spent annually to prosecute those responsible for war crimes in former Yugoslavia "is less than one-twentieth" of what the United Nations paid annually during the war for peacekeeping operations.
"If the alternative to justice and accountability is a likely return to a condition of general warfare, with all its familiar consequences, can the amounts already spent on the (Yugoslav tribunal) be construed as too great?," Zeid asked. "We suffer collectively from a very short memory; we tend to be thrifty when it comes to spending on law, and generious when it comes to spending on weapons."
Sierra Leone's U.N. Ambassador Joe Robert Pemagbi told the council his country's 10-year civil war "clearly demonstrates that the absence of the rule of law creates an atmosphere in which egregious crimes under international law can be perpetrated with impunity."
He said restoring law and justice "is very expensive" and appealed for contributions, especially for the country's U.N.-backed war crimes court.
"Respect for the rule of law cannot be separated from the problem of the availability of resources," Pemagbi said.
Police, magistrates and other law enforcement officers must not only be trained and given proper equipment, he said, but they also need "decent salaries, at least as a weapon for eliminating corruption, that cancer in the body politic of many nations in the world today."
Mark Malloch Brown, administrator of the U.N. Development Program, told the council that "too often international assistance on the rule of law has focused on transferring technical know-how to state institutions and modernizing the courts and police.
"Rule of law assistance is too important to be left to lawyers," he said, stressing that after conflicts "a policeman in the neighborhood often matters much more than a computer."
Malloch Brown, who has made the rule of law the centerpiece of UNDP's far-flung activities, told the council: Don't smother countries with advice.
He cited Guatemala where 22 donors wrote 50 reports on what to do with the nation's judicial system.
Laws in nations coming out of turmoil must also have local legitimacy, he said. Haiti's didn't which contributed to the country's institutional crisis, especially with the police.