War Crimes: Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World

By David Chuter | Go to book overview

8
The Trial

Most people, and that includes those who make decisions about war and peace, have absorbed the majority of ideas about trials from TV and film. Even the depressing and banal experience of being a juror does not banish these ideas altogether. From The Merchant of Veniceto Perry Mason, the trial has been a powerful narrative device and a symbol of much wider attempts to arrive at the truth, or at least some form of justice. In Christian tradition, the Last Judgment was in many ways the culmination of all of history, when God would judge the living and the dead and send each human to the place merited by their conduct or by the solidity of their faith.

A political problem with international justice is that it must meet the requirements of a largely secular society that still seeks what are essentially divine attributes in international organizations. Just as intervention is the wrath and omnipotence of God, and intelligence is the omniscience of God, so international justice is a poor substitute for the swiftness and certainty of the justice of God. That justice, to be feared and admired, was never constrained by rules of evidence, never hamstrung by procedural maneuvers, and never subject to appeal to a higher authority. And the justice of God, being terrible, swift, and certain, based on omnipotence and unchallenged virtue, combined moral with legal judgments; indeed, it was primarily about morality rather than law in its bureaucratic sense.

Side by side with the exaggerated hopes for the law in Western society, there has always been an undercurrent of cynicism about how the law works in practice, and lawyers have had, and continue to have, a status within Anglo-Saxon societies that few other trades would envy. But the impulse to believe in the effectiveness of the rule of law, and in the organization of the world along just and moral lines, is very strong, and it is stronger still in non-Anglo-Saxon cultures in which the law is seen less as

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War Crimes: Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • War Crimes - Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • War Crimes xi
  • Introduction: A Grave in the Air 1
  • 1: The Basics 5
  • 2: The Origins 29
  • 3: The Law 59
  • 4: The Politics 93
  • 5: The Organization 131
  • 6: The Investigation 149
  • 7: The Arrest 187
  • 8: The Trial 203
  • 9: The Truth? 225
  • 10: The Future: Never Again? 255
  • Bibliography 281
  • Index 287
  • About the Book 299
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