Sunday, April 17, 2005

Milosevic v. the ICTY: Milosevic is Winning

I didn't notice until today this devastating WSJ article ($) about the interminable Milosevic trial at the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in the Hague. ("ICTY"). Since it is behind a firewall, let me excerpt the highlights and hope the WSJ puts it on their free website eventually.

As it enters its fourth year, the world's biggest war crimes case since Nuremberg has become too long, too complex and simply too boring for most to follow. The end is not yet in sight and, judges on his panel openly fear, might never come. Some people at the U.N. tribunal fear that the Milosevic case might even succeed in destroying this court with the sheer weight of its tedium.

Unsurprisingly, there is a whiff of desperation about it all. The international media have long skipped town, leaving only a handful of Balkan journalists and international NGOs. Mr. Milosevic has already managed to outlive one judge on his panel. Even if the case finishes within the coming year as the original schedule foresees, it will still have roughly matched the combined length of the three wars in which the alleged crimes were committed.

I sat in on a few hours of the Milosevic trial (nearly 3 years ago) and it was impossible to stay awake even then (even in translation). So I know what the writer is talking about. To be fair, the writer is still optimistic about international criminal justice in general. Still, if Milosevic is eventually acquitted, this would be a major body blow to the burgeoning international criminal justice movement.


Anonymous Yuval Rubinstein said...

Whether or not Milosevic is acquitted, I think these ad hoc war crimes tribunals have already proven to be failures. This includes the ICTY, ICTR, the Special Court in Sierra Leone, and the planned tribunal in Cambodia (which the Cambodian people don't want, although nobody's asked them). Not only have they failed to reel in the "big fish" (Milosevic excepted), but they've largely alienated the local populations that they were designed to "help"-just ask the Rwandan people.

Perhaps the ICC will prove to be a more successful, but the results so far are not encouraging, in spite of the self-congratulatory triumphalism in the Western community.

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