International Culture of Impunity Fading Away

By Silvia Dropulich

There are still problems with the international criminal law system, but the legal community is learning and app lying the appropriate lessons, according to Transitional Trade Founder and Executive Director Jacqueline "Muna" Musiitwa (JD 2005).

Muna is an attorney who runs her own firm, Hoja Law Group, which represents small businesses, start-ups and non-profits in commercial, intellectual property and cross- border transactions.

She is currently working at the Special Court for Sierra Leone (SCSL), set up jointly by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations to try those who bear the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law.

"I am very hopeful about justice in the world," Muna told MLS News.

"I think that courts such as the SCSL demonstrate that the culture of impunity is fading away," she said.

"I think SCSL provides many lessons in international law. I think the hybrid nature of the SCSL was a good application of lessons learned from ICTR and ICTY because it is important for such courts to be located in the countries where the atrocities took place with the cooperation of the host government so people can see the attempt at justice first-hand."

"There are still problems with the international criminal law system, but I think the legal community is learning and applying the appropriate lessons."

Transitional Trade, established in 2008, is a non-profit organisation that aims to provide a forum and promote awareness of investment and entrepreneurship opportunities to encourage sustainable development and sustainable peace in transitional communities and post-conflict nations.

Muna has always been interested in human rights generally. Her interest in trade developed while she was a

JD student at Melbourne Law School. She always knew that she would go into public international law eventually, but was not sure in what capacity. She concedes that setting up an NGO is challenging, but she is happy with the progress of Transitional Trade.

"My father is from Uganda, a country that is still in conflict [Northern Uganda, that is]," Muna said.

"…investment does not affect those in the conflict-ridden area."

"I found it frustrating that there is a lot of investment in the country, but the investment does not affect those in the conflict-ridden area," she said.

"I then found countries like Rwanda and was impressed by the impact of good governance, high foreign direct investment and an active diasporic community and the effect they can have on development.

"I was also frustrated by the focus on extractive industries in Africa with little to no benefit for local communities."

The more she researched the impact of trade and investment on peace- building, the more Muna found that little was being done to promote social trade, investment and entrepreneurship.

With the support of other like-minded people, she started Transitional Trade.

Muna also speaks at conferences and publishes on the legal issues related to investment in post-conflict countries. Transitional Trade is planning to have a series of lectures in New York highlighting investment opportunities in a selected number of post-conflict countries.

In conjunction with her law firm, Hoja Law Group, Transitional Trade also acts as legal counsel for a women's cooperative in Rwanda where Muna is in negotiations with several African governments to review their trade contracts.

"I am happy that my legal practice complements my passion for human rights and post-conflict reconstruction and African economic development," Muna said.

Muna said she would love to return to Australia and do a fellowship or teach.

"I had a great experience at Melbourne Law School and I would like to give back," she said.

"I would love to teach a class on Rule of Law in Post-Conflict Countries and, if possible, lead a trip to a post-conflict country which either has a tribunal or a Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

This article originally appeared in MLS News, Issue 2, September 2009.