Wednesday, August 23, 2006

An Important first step in forgiveness: war crimes in Yugoslavia

So, the Milosevic trial was a bust, but Elizabeth Pond of the Christian Science Monitor suggests that not all was lost with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Some lessons were learned.
Well, one might be to not have 66 charges against anyone, and not to take over 5 years to convict-- and oh yeah -- there's the part about making sure that your key supect has proper medical care so that he doesn't die in prison before convicted...
Milosevic died in March 2006 and so did the hope of closing the case on the Yugoslav genocide.
It raises the bigger question -- if Milosevic had lived and had been convicted of war crimes would that have started the healing? It all depends on how you see the cause of the conflict -- was it one man alone that could have created such havoc in a once multicultural country? Or, if not just one man, a handful (and some women too)?
Was it inevitable: history, past conflicts? Or as some would suggest, just fate?
This is at the heart of understanding whether a war crimes tribunal or even the ICC (International Criminal court) will help heal the wounds of human rights abuses -- or prevent future abuses.
This issue is also relevant when we look at the Lords Resistance Army in Uganda, and the inditement against Joseph Kony and his commanders. Will bringing them to the ICC bring peace to Northern Uganda? Will it help heal the wounds of the many who have lost loved ones?

Different countries had different experiences -- some have tried "Truth and Reconcilation" like South Africa, some have struggled with bringing to justice those that have overseen massive human rights abuse (like Pol Pot in Cambodia that also died before anything could be brought against him -- like any charges at all), and some still struggle with whether acknowledging wrong doing is enough -- Argentina, Chile, Guatemala.
So where does this leave us?
It is important to not let war criminals get away with their crime, but it is also important to be realistic about what can be accomplished in the present international system. Acknowledging that wrong-doing has been committed is a start, acknowledging that genocide occured is another, and acknowleging that it was not just once person or one ethnic/linguistic, or regional group is also supremely important

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