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Angelina Jolie, Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has a dream – she is hoping for a year of accountability. Jolie’s essay in The Economist’s “The World in 2008” pulled no punches as she gave evidence on what accountability is needed for and how it can change, and has changed, the destructive spiral of vengeance around the world.

Jolie wrote that the convictions of heads of state for crimes against humanity from places like Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Sierra Leone are recognized by refugees, including those from Cambodia, Chad and Darfur who have also been witness to murder, rape, destruction and displacement.

In support, she revealed one of her experiences that occurred during a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo five years ago: "In the Ituri region, where Mr Katanga’s reign of terror had been most intense, our group attended a meeting of rebel leaders. They had gathered in a field to discuss the prospects for a peace agreement—which were not looking very good. The conversation turned hostile and the situation grew extremely tense. At that point, one of my colleagues asked for the name of one of the rebels, announcing, perhaps a bit recklessly, that he was going to pass it along to the International Criminal Court [in the Hague].

“It was remarkable: this rebel leader’s whole posture changed from aggression to conciliation. The ICC had been around for only five months. It had tried no one. Yet its very existence was enough to intimidate a man who had been terrorizing the population for years.”

Set in her belief, Jolie states, “Accountability is perhaps the only force powerful enough to break the cycle of violence and retribution that marks so many conflicts. Only through justice will we achieve peace.”

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