Is the International Criminal Court in the Hague having the unintended consequence of prolonging dictatorships? This piece from The Wall Street Journal suggests that the existence of the ICC makes it harder to coax dictators into ceding power and going into exile. Instead, with the threat of arrest and prosecution for human rights crimes should they leave the country, they now have to hang on to power at all costs.
"Decades ago, Latin American dictators losing their grip on power had a reliable exit strategy: exile in some hospitable foreign locale. In 1958, the Venezuelan strongman Marcos Pérez Jiménez fled from a military coup and civilian general strike after eight years in power. He flew first to the Dominican Republic and then to Miami, where he spent five years before his successors managed to extradite him. Even then, after serving five years in prison, he lived out the rest of his life comfortably in Spain. In 1979, Nicaragua’s ruler Anastasio Somoza also found temporary refuge in Miami, fleeing the Sandinista guerrillas who overthrew his government and taking much of the country’s national treasure with him. When he had overstayed his welcome in the U.S, he moved on to Paraguay, hosted by his fellow dictator, Gen. Alfredo Stroessner. For the beleaguered strongmen who now rule these countries, however, such escapes are hard to imagine. ... Since the days of Pérez Jiménez and Somoza, the international community has established far-reaching mechanisms for adjudicating human-rights abuses and tracking the ill-gotten gains of corruption. Former dictators can no longer expect to find refuge abroad, which makes them even more unlikely to surrender power. 'It’s a conundrum,' says Elliott Abrams, who was the State Department’s top diplomat for Latin America during the Reagan administration, when the U.S. assisted in arranging exits for Haiti’s Jean Claude Duvalier, who lived for years in a French château, and for the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos, who ended his days in Hawaii. 'We were able to say, if you leave you will be OK, but if you stay who knows what will happen to you. Now, you don’t have that option.'"
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