Epitaph for a Judicial Farce

Posted by John Rosenthal

One does not have to have been an admirer of Slobodan Milosevic to have found his trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague to have been a judicial farce. Witness the following observation by Jiri Dienstbier, who served as UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the former Yugoslavia from 1998 to 2001:

Slobodan Milosevic was neither a Communist, nor a Liberal. He was an Apparatchik-opportunist, who always did what was helpful to the realization of his goals. His death does not only free him, but also the Tribunal, from a trial that for five years now has unsuccessfully attempted to transform political responsibility into criminal responsibility. (Source: Die Welt, 13 March 2006)


The ad hoc ICTY – and not the Nürnberg tribunal as is so often claimed – was the obvious inspiration for the permanent International Criminal Court. Neither the one, nor the other provides the most elementary guarantees of due process for the accused. They were essentially created as political courts designed to "get convictions" against figures who had already been convicted in the, not always reliable, "court of public opinion". (On the ICC, though with some sideward glances at the ICTY, see my "A Lawless Global Court" in Policy Review.)


In March 2000, Jiri Dienstbier released a report (available here) documenting the massive human rights violations occurring under the nose of the UN administration in Kosovo. Dienstbier suggested that the level of violations under the UN Administration was essentially the same as it had been under Yugoslav rule a year earlier, when NATO intervened to drive Yugoslav forces out of Kosovo. The victims, however, were now predominantly Serbs, Roma and other ethnic minorities.

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