In this chapter, I examine the politics of the treatment of war crimes and their investigation and how this complicates the work of governments and international courts. I am not (except incidentally) concerned with the narrower issues of the way in which decisions to establish courts were arrived at in particular cases; I am more concerned with the wider political issues, as well as the link to various other fashionable subjects at the moment, including humanitarian intervention.
The idea of establishing special international courts to try alleged war criminals is unusual. As we have seen, states have been reluctant, except under extraordinary pressure, to put their own nationals on trial for such alleged offenses, and they resist with even greater ferocity the idea that anyone else should do so. Yet special courts are complex and expensive bodies, and they are not set up lightly. Indeed, while the two current ad hoc tribunals certainly deserve to exist, it is unclear what differentiates the sufferings in Yugoslavia—or even Rwanda—from many other incidents that took place in the decades that followed World War II: slaughter in colonial wars in Algeria and Vietnam, a half-million dead in Uganda, 1 million dead in Mozambique—mostly civilians. It is hard to disagree with the cynical view current in some non-Western circles that all that differentiates the Yugoslav experience, in particular, is that both victims and perpetrators were white. And so it is that all the countries of the United Nations pay money every year toward the $100 million it costs to keep the court at The Hague going, and it must seem strange to the inhabitants of, say, Benin that their govern-