Next week, my cohort and I will hand in our comprehensive exams. This advances us from doctoral students to doctoral candidates. While this is exciting for us all personally, the issues we're addressing in our exams have importance well beyond our personal professional trajectories. Each one of us is addressing some aspect of conflict resolution, prevention or transition so timely, I wish I could have you hear about them all. Perhaps I will...shortly.
I'm writing about corporate accountability for mass atrocity. I was able to ask my question to Madeline Albright and Richard S. Williamson (who worked in foreign policy under Reagan and Bush and also served as special envoy to Sudan). I asked them about the difficulties of holding collective forces accountable. Their discussion was, in general, really astonishing...if you have the time. The transcript of our conversation is below the video. She is one of my role models. I'm so glad they have the transcript because my heart was beating so loudly I could not hear her answer.
Sarah Federman: Hi, my name is Sarah Federman. I'm a doctoral student studying corporate accountability for mass atrocities, looking at those issues. Secretary Albright, you both can answer, you were talking about the ICC as the criminal court focuses on holding an individual responsible to expunge the collective. And also I feel like the Responsibility to Protect is actually moving us towards a collective accountability towards this rather than saying there are certain individuals responsible for all this. I know this is so complex and I guess I would like to hear what you both have to say about holding the collective more accountable and is there a way to do that that doesn't create cycles of just shame and retribution?
Madeleine Albright: I don't know how to answer that. It's interesting, I hadn't put that together. I do think it's a combination of it. I do think that not everybody - when we say it's "collective," it's collective responsibility by the international community to do something and one would hope a collective way that those who are fighting might think more as a group, but ultimately what we have seen is that often the individual guilt is something that has been a result of “X” political leader thinking that he can do better by whipping up anti-“X”, not just being proud in your own group but curdling into hate of another. So I think it's that combination of the collective responsibility of the community to do something about it, but I do think that one would find individuals, certainly it was true in the former Yugoslavia as well as in Rwanda, of people that were specifically responsible for stirring up the hatred.
Richard Williamson: If I could just comment on that briefly. Again it's somewhat a case-by-case situation. In South Africa, Mandela made a determination. He was negotiating a transition and he couldn't sit across the table from the white apartheid government to negotiate a path to sustainable peace and a new era if there was a threat of harsh justice. So he made a decision that we're going to have a truth and reconciliation commission so victims can record what they went through so they could never be denied. Perpetrators would be identified. And there is a certain punishment in that but he would not set up a court and it's worked. You have victims of apartheid who are now police commissioners, etcetera. My only point is that it is going to have to be case-by-case because I used to be asked by my friends in the ICC and International Justice during my tenure in Sudan about accountability, and I said, “Look, to me it's pretty simple. If you can hold those most accountable and bring them to justice great, but if it's a question of justice for saving lives I'm going to save lives.” And I was involved in getting Charles Taylor out of Sierra Leone because we thought there would be 10,000 that would die in the next few weeks if we didn't during the Bush administration. But these are not easy questions. They can be gray, they can be difficult, and I think when you're talking about other sorts of collective responsibility you have to have those factors in as well.