Voice

An ICC trial in Libya?

Since rebel forces apprehended Saif Gaddafi last November, the International Criminal Court and the Libyan authorities have largely been pitted against each other, each wanting to host the trial of the former ruler's voluble son.  In the background, however, there has always been the possibility that the two claims could be reconciled, perhaps through an ICC-managed or supervised trial that would take place in Libya (David Kaye and Mark Kersten both made the case for that option). Today, the BBC reported that just such a deal is in the works:

The BBC's Jon Donnison, in the Libyan capital Tripoli, has been told by a Western official with good knowledge of the case that a deal is close to being agreed.

But the official warned it could be months before any trial might begin.

Describing the suggested arrangement as ground-breaking for the ICC, the official acknowledged concerns that 39-year-old Saif al-Islam could face the death penalty in Libya.

But he added that the court could accept a death sentence if the trial was fair and transparent, and there was an adequate appeals process.

I'm not sure what to make of the story. It appears to be based on one anonymous source, and there has been plenty of confused reporting in the past on the ICC/Libya saga. If it is true, it would be a remarkable development for the young court, which has never been involved in a trial away from the Hague. Kevin Jon Heller has some thoughts on the potential complications here:

Would ensuring that the ICC has at least some role in a national trial be a good idea?  To be honest, I’m not so sure.  I think it is very unlikely that Saif will get a fair trial in Libya, ICC involvement or not.  Any deal between the ICC and Libya, therefore, would means that the Court would be on the hook for the results of the trial — if it turns out to be a fiasco, the Court would share the blame with the Libyan government.  And rightfully so.  Be careful what you wish for, ICC!

Update: Reuters is now reporting that ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo has arrived in Libya and that he is denying brokering a deal:

Asked whether a potential deal was being brokered with the Libyan government about trying Saif al-Islam in Libya under the supervision of the ICC, he said: "I am a prosecutor at the ICC, I don't make deals. We apply the law.

"The judges of ICC ordered (Libya) to surrender Saif. The Libyan government says they will challenge the admissibility of the case before the end of April and then the judges will decide."

The Multilateralist

How independent is the IMF?

In today's New York Times, David Gordon and Douglas Rediker (who was, until recently, one of the U.S. representatives to the Fund) worry that the Euro crisis is undermining the independence of the International Monetary Fund. Because the IMF has played second fiddle in bailouts orchestrated by Europe, they see a danger that the Fund is subordinating its analysis functions to elements of the EU: 

Moving forward, the I.M.F. must loosen its partnership with the commission and the E.C.B. While coordination remains critical, the I.M.F. should make clear that on financial matters, it remains in sole command of how its resources will be deployed.

In particular, the fund must present its financial analysis separately from any key political deals that might be struck by other troika members, allowing markets to assess the underlying assumptions. Only then will I.M.F. programs lend market players the confidence to re-engage with those countries that desperately need private capital. Maintaining credibility will also reassure the fund’s shareholders that I.M.F. resources are being deployed in a manner consistent with the organization’s mandate as a global financial truth-teller.

If the I.M.F. is involved, it needs to be on its own, and not anyone else’s, terms. Ignoring that truth will have dire consequences for global finance, and bolstering the fund’s resources this week won’t change that.

The trick, of course, is that Europe is heavily represented on the IMF board and led by a former European finance minister. It is of course reasonable to demand that senior IMF officials and staff, whatever their state of origin, act in the best interests of the institution and the international financial system more broadly. But it makes little sense to ask European board members (appointed by European states) to analyze potential loan packages without reference to the broader strategy of their governments. What's missing from the piece is an acknowledgement that the IMF is in very important respects an intergovernmental organization, and that European governments are key players. 

I also think Gordon and Rediker greatly overestimate market confidence in the IMF. They cite the African overlending of the 1990s and the current Euro crisis as unfortunate departures from an otherwise strong record of independent analysis. But in fact there's very strong evidence in a much broader array of cases that IMF analysis and lending practices have been influenced by political considerations. Randall Stone, in particular, has done great work documenting how the United States has often intervened informally to loosen IMF conditionalty for key allies and strategic partners. Nor does the IMF have a strong recent track record of independent analysis. The Fund failed completely to sniff out the 2007-2008 financial crisis, and an internal evaluation determined that a variety of cognitive biases may have played a role.

In short, it's hard to imagine that the Eurozone lending packages are teaching the markets anything new about the Fund's shortcomings.