US Must Support War Crimes Prosecution

By Robert Marquand. Robert Marquand is an writer . | The Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 1994 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

US Must Support War Crimes Prosecution

Robert Marquand. Robert Marquand is an writer ., The Christian Science Monitor

AFTER 16 months of delays, the first international war crimes trials since Nuremberg got a needed boost Aug. 15 when South African Judge Richard Goldstone took over as chief prosecutor of the United Nations war crimes tribunal on the former Yugoslavia. Progress on these trials has been slow at best, though not for lack of evidence. Last week Judge Goldstone met at The Hague with Cherif Bassiouni, the tribunal's chairman of the commission of experts, who, with a small dedicated staff of lawyers, most of whom work pro bono, has compiled 65,000 pages of documents based on 6,000 eyewitness incidents of atrocities, the bulk of which are Serb crimes against Muslims in Bosnia. The US State Department has corroborated these with several thousand highly detailed pages of its own. In June, a UN War Crimes Commission report concluded that the Bosnian Muslims were the victims of "crimes against humanity."

The months of delay over war crimes prosecution on the former Yugoslavia is not due to legal capability but to political fear. After all, there never have been trials for crimes against humanity where the defendants are state officials who not only remain in office but are involved in spirited negotiations with Western diplomats. A prosecutor who might vigorously prosecute Bosnian atrocities in the midst of "peace talks" could be an embarrassment for those governments conducting negotiations. Many governments involved in Bosnia would like to sweep the specific truth about war crimes under the rug.

As Mr. Goldstone takes over these UN-sponsored trials, the big question is whether he can operate independently. The new prosecutor, head of the 1992 Goldstone Commission in South Africa, was an excellent choice under the circumstances. But to be effective, he must gain control of a tangled UN process, choose his own personnel, and win a discretionary budget. If the war crimes trials are to be a success and not a charade, more than just the sergeants who pulled the trigger or the majors who commanded the death camps must be indicted. The generals and politicians who gave the orders leading to genocide and war must be indicted.

To do this, Goldstone needs the firm backing of the United States. Some Security Council members wanted a weak prosecutor. In October, after months of bickering, Venezuelan Ramon Escovar Salon was given the job. The most knowledgeable candidate, Mr. Bassiouni, an American law professor backed by UN Ambassador Madeleine Albright, was blocked, ostensibly because his Muslim background and zeal to prosecute might bias him. Then in February, having only set foot in The Hague once, Mr. Escovar resigned to become Venezuelan minister of the interior. Not until July, six new candidates later, did Goldstone get the job.

The wait may have been worth it. In May 1993 Goldstone was on the short list of those who wanted a real trial. But he was so respected in South Africa for investigating police complicity in election violence that Nelson Mandela wouldn't spare him.

However, Goldstone must deal with a process not yet set up to be effective. The most important item is the budget. Some $32.5 million has been proposed for 1994 and 1995, of which only $11 million has been allocated.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

US Must Support War Crimes Prosecution


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?