Authors Explore War Crimes Book Seeks to Set Standards for Confrontation

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON -- Chechnya, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo. Deportation, torture, willful killing of civilians, ethnic cleansing.

The century in which "genocide" and "concentration camp" entered the vocabulary is ending with a decade that has forced the world to confront crimes against humanity, not once but several times.

It is easy to forget that wars have rules.

But 50 years after the Geneva Conventions outlined the laws of war in the aftermath of World War II, a group of combat correspondents and legal scholars has written a guide to the ways fighting men have broken those codes of conduct. Their goal is to build political support for rules that are all too rarely enforced.

"Humanitarian law and international rights law have never been more developed; yet never before have so many innocent civilians been the victims of war crimes," South African jurist Richard Goldstone, the first chief prosecutor for the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal, writes in Crimes of War: What the Public Should Know.

The book, published by W.W. Norton, is an alphabetical catalog of international humanitarian law, from act of war and biological weapons through death squads, forced labor and refugees' rights to torture and wanton destruction. It is both legal text and battle glossary.

CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour writes about Bosnian Serb paramilitaries. German law scholar Horst Fischer describes the legal ambiguity of carpet bombing. Retired British Army Maj. Gen. A.P.V. Rogers sets out rules governing civil wars, which are murkier than those of cross-border conflicts.

Former U.S. Army law professor H. Wayne Elliott offers a how-to guide for judging whether prisoner of war camps meet the Geneva Conventions standards: Is it located far enough from the combat zone? …