We tend to view the International Criminal Court and Interpol not only as cogs in a judicial machine, but also as the custodians of a higher ideal: that justice transcends borders. Unfortunately, as we shall see, the pursuit of criminals and cases across jurisdictions is often much messier than we would like to believe.
We start with the case of Reza Zarrab; socialite, mogul and sanctions-buster. Audiences in New York, Ankara and Tehran were left scandalised this week by Zarrab's candid admissions and weighty accusations. The Turkish-Iranian businessman pleaded guilty to having orchestrated gold-for-oil trades with Iran that skirted US economic sanctions. On Tuesday he laid bare a complex scheme
for international money-laundering that had been facilitated by Turkey's then-PM, and now President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Having spent a year attempting to extricate himself from the trial, it became clear this week that Zarrab is assisting the prosecution in order to secure a deal for himself. Meanwhile, Erdoğan's repeated attempts to have Zarrab repatriated have failed. Now, as more explosive details
have surfaced, Ankara's officials have been forced to switched gears from trashing the trial to trying to limit its damage. US prosecutors are also continuing to pursue charges against Zafer Caglayan (a one-time Minister for the Economy) and Mehmet Hakan Atilla (an official of the state-owned Halkbank). It seems inconceivable that convictions and sentences will not result from the current proceedings. But what of Turkey's head of state? At least so far it seems like Erdoğan's complicity in these affairs is a question that many people seem keen to avoid.
This same lack of accountability was also seen in another case in New York this week. This one involved a vast conduit of sports-related criminal behaviour. A long-running US investigation into FIFA confirmed this week that corruption and bribery are not mere aberrations
for the organisation, they are in fact key facets of its business model.
40 people were charged for accepting $150m in bribes over two decades. So far, so good. But then the story took a sudden turn. Disgraced South American football chief Luis Bedoya gave evidence that he and several other high-ranking FIFA heads had been party to a bribery attempt by an unnamed Qatari official. The jury heard that multiple FIFA officials with World Cup voting rights had backed Qatar - a place that is uniquely unsuitable to host a soccer tournament - in exchange for millions of dollars. Despite the scalps that this investigation has claimed, it's clear that there is only so much New York prosecutors will be able to do. FIFA has proven itself incapable of self-regulation. And it deals with cash, favours and contracts in jurisdictions of such varying legal rigidity that robust oversight is all but impossible..
The problem of competing jurisdictions also came up this week in the trial of Ahmed Abu Khattala, the alleged mastermind of the 2012 Benghazi attack
. The assault had left US ambassador Chris Stevens and three others dead, and prompted much soul-searching (and finger-pointing) in America. But in its aftermath, Khattala was abducted from Libya by the US military and then interrogated for two weeks
aboard a naval vessel. And that, his defence argued, was illegal.
The tension between a military might that is prosecuting simultaneous campaigns across the globe and a civilian justice department that is attempting to apply the rule of law are difficult to reconcile. In Khattala's case, although he was only convicted on four weak charges (from a total of 18), he'll still die in prison.
One other case caught our eye this week, although this one didn't involve competing jurisdictions, foreign influence, global conspiracies or moral relativism. At The Hague, a Bosnian Croat general was found guilty of war crimes committed during the violent break-up of Yugoslavia. The 72-year-old Slobodan Praljak heard the sentence, protested his innocence and proceeded to drink a vial of poison
. He died later that day in hospital. While suicide in prison is not uncommon, this was an incredible occasion of justice finally being done, and then denied, in the space of a few short minutes.