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Prof. James Stewart: "Will prosecuting the pillage of blood diamonds prevent atrocities?"

Uptown Campus
John Giffen Weinmann Hall

Professor James Stewart of University of British Columbia offers a lecture "Will prosecuting the pillage of blood diamonds prevent atrocities?"

Professor Stewart was an Appeals Counsel with the Prosecution of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and he has also worked for the Legal Division of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Prosecution of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. His principal scholarly work is on the relationship between atrocity, commerce, and international criminal justice.

Ever since the movie Blood Diamond  was released, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, there has been broad public recognition of the linkage between natural resource exploitation in war zones and atrocities. In fact, this relationship predated the 2006 film by several decades and involves a wide range of other natural resources, not just diamonds. Although it is always important to recognize that conflicts are caused by multiple factors, there is a growing concern that economic motivations provide the means and motivation for atrocities in a substantial number of modern settings.

Economics and not racial, religious, or ethnic tensions emerge as the dominant motive for atrocities. If pillage means theft during war, and the exploitation of blood diamonds and other natural resources by armed groups constitutes pillage, there is some reason to think that prosecuting the illegal exploitation of natural resources during war as pillage might undermine the trajectory of atrocities, instead of waiting until a brutal campaign of mass violence runs its terrible course. At the same time, pillage of natural resources cases might create problems of their own, meaning that the question whether they’ll ultimately prevent atrocities is complex, intriguing and crucially important. This talk explores these issues by offering practical and scholarly perspectives.