Justice in Brazil. and Tripoli?

Article excerpt

Byline: Tunku Varadarajan

Trial and Error

Libya and the International Criminal Court are locked in an acrid tug of war over the right to try Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the late Muammar, for crimes against humanity. The Libyans, not surprisingly, would like to try him in Tripoli, the venue of his worst excesses, and their insistence on a right to prosecute him on Libyan soil has frequently verged on the emotional. But the international tribunal, based in that most unemotional of places, The Hague, takes the view that any proceeding against Saif in his homeland would be fueled by a craving for revenge, not justice. They are also squeamish about the prospect of a death sentence. "Although the Libyan government has danced around the issue, let's be very clear: if convicted Mr. Gaddafi will be hanged," warned Saif's court-appointed lawyer. Possession is, of course, nine-tenths of the law, and Libya has Saif under lock and key, having bought him from nearby Mauritania (to which he'd fled after the fall of the ancien regime) for a hefty sum, believed to be $200 million. Besides, Libya hasn't signed the treaty that set up the international court, which means that any ceding of the right to try Saif would have to be voluntary. This column's prediction: Saif's not going anywhere. There's nothing quite as raw as the sense of sovereignty in a newly liberated land.

Phrase of the Week

A leading candidate for this week's award for linguistic felicity was the Swedish Nobel Committee, which lauded literature laureate Mo Yan for his "hallucinatory realism." But first prize has to go to Gwede Mantashe, secretary-general of South Africa's ruling African National Congress. In a lecture in Johannesburg, titled "Unity in Diversity: What Does It Mean to the ANC?" Mantashe lamented the fact that South Africa (as he saw it) was "an Irish coffee society"--in which "there is a concentration of black at the bottom and, in all respects, the white cream on top, with a sprinkling of chocolate." Unlike Irish coffee, however, Mantashe declared this state of affairs to be unpalatable.

Order and Progress

Asked why landlocked Bolivia has a navy, Andean gentlemen retort, "Why not? …