BOSNIAN Serb prison camp chief Dragan Nikolic is nowhere to be
found. But that does not matter to Richard Goldstone, chief
prosecutor in the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal.
Last Friday, the tribunal issued an international arrest warrant
for Mr. Nikolic, who allegedly directed the beating to death of
prisoners with baseball bats at the Susica prison camp in Bosnia
and told his terrorized inmates, "I am God here."
It was the first of about 42 arrest warrants that, in the coming
months, Judge Goldstone will oversee. They will include, in the
spring, warrants for Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Gen.
Ratko Mladic, who Goldstone indicted last July for "crimes against
As the first international tribunal since Nuremberg hits full
stride this month, the South African chief prosecutor, a confidante
of President Nelson Mandela, is emerging as the man who made it
In the past year since taking charge, Goldstone has made the
tribunal part of the political equation in settling the bloodiest
war in Europe since World War II.
But prosecuting Bosnian Serb leaders in an area where American
troops may soon be headed - and when Americans are leading
sensitive negotiations - makes some US diplomats edgy.
No immunity given for peace
Last week, President Clinton tried to quiet a brewing
controversy over whether Assistant Secretary of State Richard
Holbrooke, in his talks on Bosnia with Serb President Slobodan
Milosevic, indirectly signaled that Mr. Karadzic and General Mladic
would get immunity from war crimes. "These indictments are not
negotiable," Mr. Clinton said in a speech before 8,000 students at
the University of Connecticut. "Those accused of war crimes ...
must be held accountable."
For his part, Goldstone refuses to allow political developments
to sway what he says is the cause of justice.
"Our job is to investigate and indict," he told the Monitor in
an interview, "and I will continue to do that. Negotiations are not
a factor in our work."
Such statements reflect the South African's dogged efforts, and
what colleagues call his "rare" sense of justice. "As long as
Goldstone is in that building, the tribunal will continue," says
Thomas Warrick, an expert on international law and war crimes. at
Pierson, Semmes, and Bemmis, a Washington law firm. "He's shown
that he won't be pushed around...."
Both the logistics of the tribunal's investigations into Bosnia
and Rwanda, and the historical precedent it represents, are
daunting. With the O.J. Simpson trial in mind, American Lawyer
magazine called the tribunal "the real trial of the century."
The tribunal is investigating 40,000 to 250,000 deaths in the
former Yugoslavia, a region the size of New England.
Refugee-witnesses are scattered from Pakistan to the Philippines.
Legal scholars say the tribunal also tests whether the 170 nations
that signed the 1949 Geneva Conventions will ever enforce that
agreement's oft-cited international legal norms. If not in Bosnia
and Rwanda, they say, then where?
Goldstone's historic role
A modest, serious man who earned a place in South African
history as head of a controversial commission investigating police
brutality against blacks, Goldstone now stands on the international
stage fully aware of his historic role at The Hague.
He argues that capturing war criminals isn't of primary
importance. What matters more, he says, is that "the truth be told,
and the story set straight. "Most victims in the criminal-justice
system know who did it. So they don't need knowledge. They have
that. Victims want what they have gone through to be acknowledged
by society. Otherwise, they carry with them tremendous anger and
resentment that causes cycles of violence," Goldstone says, as he
sits in his office in a quiet Dutch suburb, where he works 12-hour
"You can't have real reconciliation without justice," he