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Great news!

July 22nd, 2008

The arrest in Serbia of Radovan Karadzic is great news for the world and for Serbia. For the many victims of the genocidal campaign undertaken by Karadzic’s regime in Bosnia, there’s the prospect of long-delayed justice. Of course, Karadzic is entitled to a fair trial, and a conviction is by no means certain, given the need to prove his personal responsibility, but at least the issues will be tried.

It’s excellent also as a signal that the new Serbian government is going to be part of the world, rather than persisting with the poisonous nationalism that has done so much damage (to ordinary Serbs as much as anyone).

Finally, for all those in governments around the world who even now are giving orders for torture and murder, it’s a reminder that no matter how strong their position might seem and how long they can evade justice, it will catch up with them in the end.

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  1. July 22nd, 2008 at 11:42 | #1

    Good news indeed.

    I posted a comment on the ABC News site about this story, expressing my hope that our Western War Criminals Bush, Blair and Howard might also face justice one day. The comment did not get through the moderator, so I toned it down by saying I hoped Bush, Blair and Howard might one day “face War Crimes trials”. Even that comment was rejected!

    When it comes to international law, either you support it or you do not. We cannot pick and choose.

    I look forward to hearing some good news one day from http://www.iccaction.com. Their 62 page ‘Brief of Evidence’ document to the ICC Chief Prosecutor, which builds a prima facie case of Howard’s war crimes, was sent to The Hague on 14th June. The ICC said it was under review just ten days ago.

    We live in hope.

  2. David Allen
    July 22nd, 2008 at 12:51 | #2

    Ghandi,

    Hear, hear.
    Radovan Karadzic’s trial by an international body only has validity if it can apply to all international criminals.

  3. Michael S.
    July 22nd, 2008 at 12:57 | #3

    This is an outstanding thing – whether he gets convicted or ont.

    Bashir, Mugabe, and Bush (amongst others) will hopefuilly not sleep as easily.

  4. conrad
    July 22nd, 2008 at 13:02 | #4

    “all those in governments around the world”

    Do you really mean: “all those in governments [from small countries with little power]” here or are you expecting officials like Donald Rumsfeld and his Chinese equivalents to be charged one day?

  5. July 22nd, 2008 at 13:47 | #5

    “It’s excellent also as a signal that the new Serbian government is going to be part of the world, rather than persisting with the poisonous nationalism that has done so much damage (to ordinary Serbs as much as anyone).”

    Actually, this is bad news. It is indicative of the way governments get out of touch with their subjects. Good news would have been, if the people changed to want the right things and then the governments did what they were told. What this does is perpetuate Serb feelings of being sidelined and driving underground any actual “bad” stuff, which has been greatly exaggerated although there is a large core of truth there. It encourages governments to do as they think fit in their own eyes; the very thing that sooner or later leads to, say, the US government doing the sort of thing it is doing now, since there is nothing to keep the various governments’ sense of right and wrong on track. Being obedient to world opinion is the sort of thing that manifested in, say, the Irish people being asked to vote repeatedly on EC measures until they got it right (sorry, until “the people are ready”).

    “What is the greatest treason? To do the right thing for the wrong reason” (quoting from memory).

  6. July 22nd, 2008 at 14:11 | #6

    Back onto the major point and off the “we hate Bush” line – I would agree. While it may be occasionally convenient to let people go in the name of expedience, each time this happens it makes it harder to argue that the next case is not also a special case.
    There should be no special cases.

  7. derrida derider
    July 22nd, 2008 at 14:18 | #7

    They may indeed have trouble proving Karadzic’s legal responsibility. I always thought the legal case against Milosevic was very dodgy (plus even at a moral level some of his opposite numbers – eg Tudjman – were no better). This case may be similar.

    The guy they really want to get, though, is Mladic – there ought to be no trouble pinning Srjbenica and some lesser massacres on him.

    And yes, if you’re going to try people for crimes against peace there are some Western leaders and erstwhile leaders you can mount a good case against.

  8. smiths
    July 22nd, 2008 at 14:46 | #8

    the best evidence that the case against Milosevic was dodgy was the fact he ‘died’ in custody,

    just like saddam he actually wanted the chance to go before a legitimate tribunal and tell all he knew

    but there is no such thing

  9. July 22nd, 2008 at 14:55 | #9

    smiths,
    I take it you are therefore alleging that the doctors that certified his death were either part of some conspiracy or were incompetant.
    If not, deal with the fact that accused persons do sometimes die in custody of natural causes.

  10. James Haughton
    July 22nd, 2008 at 15:17 | #10

    Any comments on the Sudan indictment?

  11. jquiggin
    July 22nd, 2008 at 15:32 | #11

    The Wikipedia article on Tudjman says he would probably have been charged if he had lived long enough, and quite a few on the other side(s) have been charged and convicted.

    I suspect the lesson of the Milosevic case is that the responsibility of heads of governments for war crimes committed by forces answerable to them needs to be expanded.

  12. jquiggin
    July 22nd, 2008 at 15:37 | #12

    On Sudan, I think it’s good that the political calculus, which gave some strong arguments for doing nothing, didn’t outweigh the need for crimes against humanity to be prosecuted.

    On Milosevic, I agree with AR. OTOH, the case of Saddam is a clear example of victors justice, with all the big crimes kept off the docket for fear that people like Rumsfeld would be shown to be complicit. The crime for which he was executed (collective punishment for an assassination attempt) wasn’t much different from what happened in Fallujah.

  13. Socrates
    July 22nd, 2008 at 16:18 | #13

    Good news indeed. While I agree it would be desirable for all such persons to stand trial, I don’t see how that can be construed to mean this is bad news. Just because Bush adn co may not stand trial, shouldn’t get Karadzic or others off the hook. Extending that logic, no war criminal woudl ever stand trial unless all did.

  14. smiths
    July 22nd, 2008 at 16:26 | #14

    yeah yeah, doctors are always honest,

    politicians make honest mistakes,
    miscalculations, are incompetent, theres bad apples,
    coincidences

    anything but conspiracy, why?

  15. Ian Gould
    July 22nd, 2008 at 17:24 | #15

    Smiths,

    It’s not a matter of simply blindly believing in the benevolence of politicians etc.

    You’re making an extremely serious allegation without a shred of evidence to support it.

  16. July 22nd, 2008 at 17:34 | #16

    smiths,
    Not “anything but consiracy” – logic dictates that there is sometimes a conspiracy. I just cannot see how this one was.
    I would encourge you to read the actual report:
    http://www.un.org/icty/milosevic/parkerreport.pdf
    A man under what must have been a stressful situation, with a history of heart problems who was not taking the prescribed medication is likely to have a heart attack.
    If you prefer to see a conspiracy do you have any actual evidence beyond some personal feelings?
    .
    PrQ,
    I would agree with you on Saddam. The real pity there was that he will never be tried for the other crimes of which he was accused.
    On Sudan, I think the reason the Chinese have consistently blocked action where they can is simple – they are terrified of the idea that the same principle may be applied to Tibet. The really good thing here is that the Chinese cannot block action in the ICC.

  17. Frankie V.
    July 22nd, 2008 at 17:50 | #17

    When it comes to international law, either you support it or you do not. We cannot pick and choose.

    So you’ll be putting Gerhard Schröder, Bill Clinton and Jean Chrétien on trial for their morally justifiable yet equally unsanctioned, and therefore equally illegal, involvement in Kosovo?

  18. smiths
    July 22nd, 2008 at 18:29 | #18

    yes,

    but dont you see ian that as far as we are concerned there isnt a shred of evidence to support the official story other than kevin parkers words,

    if i can summarise the report,
    we are the goodies,
    you should always believe us,
    some people said he was killed, but he wasnt,
    he wasnt in good health, shouldnt have defended himself, nothing more to report

    ooo, well thats that eh?

    you might think me stupid but i have developed a new policy with regard to government statements and media pronouncements,

    i disbelieve them until they are proven factual

    with regard to the war on terror i go further,
    i believe the absolute opposite of what they say,

    over the last five years i have realised that just about every thing i had learnt up till then was a lie, the history of the twentieth century is a sad fantasy for the rich westerners who bathe in it,
    of which i am one,

    and now the benefit of the doubt is gone,

    so when it comes to slobodan, and the russian claim that he was killed,
    quite possible i would say, and supported by the simple fact of who would benefit

  19. jquiggin
    July 22nd, 2008 at 18:35 | #19

    By the “russian claim that he was killed” do you mean the claim made in Russia by his son?

  20. July 22nd, 2008 at 18:57 | #20

    smiths,
    None of us benefit by our own deaths – yet we still all do it. Odd that.
    There is no “trust us” stuff in there. The toxicology was verified by multiple independent laboratories and his autopsy was conducted by two independent authorities. The report seems to go out of its way to be purely factual.
    Without any evidence (beyond the “russian claim”) I suggest this goes into the Roswell 1947 bucket – or do you believe in that one as well?

  21. Tim M
    July 22nd, 2008 at 18:59 | #21

    Frankie V, if you can show that there is a prima facie against against Schroder, Clinton et al for war crimes, by all means submit a brief to the ICC. However, the absence of formal legal approval for a specific use of armed force does not automatically translate into its instigators being guilty of war crimes. There need to have been acts which can be specifically characterised as war crimes.

    In Howard’s case, mentioned by Gandhi above, the relevant alleged crime was “Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated” as provided in Article 8, clause 2(b)(iv) of the Rome Statute.

    If you think Clinton and the other NATO leaders who directed the Kosovo campaign have committed war crimes, specify what they are. As Andrew Reynolds said above, there should be no special cases.

  22. smiths
    July 22nd, 2008 at 19:25 | #22

    andrew i didnt say he benifitted from his own death,

    that really is absurd,

    with regard to what i recall as an official russian expression of his being killed i was wrong,
    they wanted the autopsy done in russia and were denied it,
    they subsequently accepted the results,

    maybe he did just die…

    there still would have been a frew sighs of relief

    and they ought to catch that other criminal and murderer Hashim Thaci though

    oh, i see

  23. July 22nd, 2008 at 20:41 | #23

    smiths,
    You were wondering who benefitted from his death – I was observing that none of us do so, but we continue to do it. Sometimes people just die – we all eventually do.
    .
    On the general legality of the Iraq war – there has so far been alot of opinions flying about, but only one case (decided in Germany) where the actual legality was tested. That found (IIRC) that it was illegal. That finding, though, is binding on no-one.
    I think the big test will come when the USSC gets to see some of the legal cases from the US military deserters in the next few years. If the findings there are in favour of the deserters then the consequences will be interesting.

  24. jquiggin
    July 22nd, 2008 at 20:43 | #24

    smiths, there were plenty of criminals on all sides in the Balkan wars. And while many have avoided prosecution, quite a few, on all sides, have been convicted and sentenced.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ICTY_indictees

  25. melanie
    July 22nd, 2008 at 21:00 | #25

    I think Conrad @ 4 is right. The US tortures, but I doubt that anyone much above the level of Lynddie England will ever be charged with it. The US did not join the ICC in case somebody had the idea of calling for the arrest of Henry Kissinger or Donald Rumsfeld. Sudan also did not join, presumably for much the same reason. If the prosecution of Bashir goes ahead and Sudan refuses to hand him over, the consequences for Sudan are likely to be far worse than they would be for the US in case, say, a warrant went out for Henry K. Of course Kissinger would have just as much right to defend himself and, no doubt, plenty of money for the lawyers. Double standards abound.

  26. July 23rd, 2008 at 12:22 | #26

    Lets not just just blame the Serbs,the european governments have blood on their hands. If they hadn’t rushed to recognise different states, before the U.N. could sort out the ethic problems. This wouldn’t have stop all of the blood shed, but a lot of families would still have all their male menbers alive.

  27. July 23rd, 2008 at 12:50 | #27

    Melanie,
    Prosecuting Kissenger would not be possible as any alleged crimes would have been committed prior to the ICC’s foundation and they are expressly prohibited from enquiring into previous alleged crimes.
    .
    Robert,
    Of course, how silly of us. The people responsible for the murders are not those with the guns in their hands or issuing the orders but some politicians recognising political reality. How silly of us.

  28. Alphonse
    July 23rd, 2008 at 13:45 | #28

    I don’t see Cheney going incognito as a new age healer any time soon, but I’d love to see him have to try.

  29. melanie
    July 23rd, 2008 at 21:52 | #29

    Andrew @ 27. Well Rumsfeld then or Olmert.

    Also the pro-independence referendum in B-H was won by an extremely narrow margin – about 51-49. Recognising political reality might more sensibly have involved calling for some negotiation between the parties. Instead, the West (led by H Kohl) charged in to recognise Bosnian independence. This doesn’t excuse the ethnic cleansers, but it was pretty irresponsible behaviour. You might call it throwing fuel on the flames.

  30. observa
    July 23rd, 2008 at 22:20 | #30

    Forget all these small fry, we’ve got to go after the real genocidal big fish
    http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2008/2008-06-18-02.asp

  31. Ian Gould
    July 23rd, 2008 at 22:30 | #31

    elanie – Milosevic refused to negotiate before the west recognised Croatia and Bosnia.

    Western recognition of those states was retaliation for Serbian intransigence not the cause of it.

    I agree that a process of negotiation with border adjustments and resettlement of ethnic minorities as well as guarantees of minority (i.e. Serb) rights in the newly independent states might have prevented much of the bloodshed.

    But it was Milosevic who blocked any such negotiation.

  32. Ian Gould
    July 23rd, 2008 at 22:52 | #32

    Observa, in his ongoing quest ot post the msot innane and irrelevant links possible, has chosen to link to a story about legal action against the Canadian government for failing to obey its legal obligations under Canadian law relatign ot climate change.

    Because such action is obviously EXACTLY like an internaitonal prosectuion for war crimes.

    Presumabvly the point is that the dirty human-hating Greens care more about the environment that about human rights.

    This is, quite simply, contemptible nonsense.

  33. observa
    July 23rd, 2008 at 22:58 | #33

    With Obama now saying it’s time to get out of Iraq and get serious in Afghanistan, perhaps we’d better indict him a priori, along with the usual suspects Bush, Blair and Howard. Well according to those who believe in the higher moral authority of that UN gaggle of unelected gangsters of course. Yes folks, you remember them. Those who worshipped the ground Arafat and Mugabe walked on. What a bunch of Malcolms they all are now, pontificating on the moral righteosness of their particular kinetic speed on the great slippery slope of history.

  34. observa
    July 23rd, 2008 at 23:27 | #34

    You might like to consider Ian, that if we lose the battle for the Graveyard of Empires to the sons of Arafat and Ourmadjihad gets those nukes Saddam so long and oft coveted, we may come to view Radivan Karadzic as an early hero of the great clash of civilisations, assuming we eventually prevail. If not, clearly he was just another murderous infidel and where’s me prayer mat?

  35. Ian Gould
    July 23rd, 2008 at 23:29 | #35

    You might want to conisder that if none of the various ludicrous apocalyptic scenarios you keep propounding come about that you will be considered a laughable paranoid.

  36. Ian Gould
    July 23rd, 2008 at 23:31 | #36

    It strikes me as grossly offensive to Karadzic;s victimsto hi-jack this thread to provide yet another soundin board for Observa’s Islmaphobia and partisan spite.

    Having contributed to this by responding to Observa’s baiting, I will simply apology for my party in this and not respond further.

  37. observa
    July 23rd, 2008 at 23:49 | #37

    “Observa’s Islmaphobia and partisan spite.”
    Hmmm… and just who is pressuring Iran to desist with enriching uranium? As for Afghanistan, I presume Rudd and now Obama are not just interested in a carpet buying trade mission? More mission accomplished I would have thought and just how are they going to accomplish that?

  38. observa
    July 23rd, 2008 at 23:56 | #38

    “DEMOCRATIC presidential hopeful Barack Obama says Afghanistan might end up being tougher to subdue than Iraq, days after visiting both war zones.

    The White House hopeful told Time magazine in an interview that his two trips had confirmed in his mind many of his earlier thoughts about future US policy towards the two countries.

    “I think in Afghanistan, looking at the landscape and the extraordinary poverty involved, makes you realise what a daunting task our efforts there are going to be,” Senator Obama told Time.

    “It redoubles my belief, or deepens my belief, that if we’re going to get that done we’re going to have put in more resources.

    “Both issues (Iraq and Afghanistan) are very difficult. Both situations are very difficult, but it is not clear to me that in the long term Afghanistan isn’t a tougher job than Iraq is.”

    The Illinois senator has laid out a plan to start withdrawals of combat troops from Iraq as soon as taking office, and would hope to get most US soldiers out of the country within 16 months.

    He wants to divert at least two combat brigades to Afghanistan, amid worsening insurgent violence and security problems.

    Senator Obama is in the middle of a gruelling tour of Iraq, Afghanistan, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories and Europe, meant to assuage fears among some voters about whether he is ready to be president.”

  39. observa
    July 24th, 2008 at 10:57 | #39

    For those of you who like to separate forcing our Judeo Christian, democratic, liberal values at the point of a gun onto the less well inclined, into good wars and bad wars, perhaps Pepe Escobar can be a bit more sobering than the naive Observa-
    http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JG24Ak01.html
    In particular-
    ‘Obama for his part still cannot have grasped the full, complex, picture of what is going on the tribal areas – in his current world tour he’s only been to Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan, and only for a few hours. But he’s on a learning curve – although, for the moment, he seems to be playing to the US military establishment galleries, pledging to add 10,000 US combat troops to the Afghan theater of war. Al-Qaeda will be delighted.

    What Obama has certainly accomplished for now is a certified three-pointer – turning George W Bush administration and neo-conservative rhetoric about the “war on terror” in Iraq upside down and applying it to Afghanistan. Obama has been emphasizing the “growing consensus at home that we need more resources in Afghanistan”.

    In his press conference in Jordan, Obama also emphasized his decision to make Afghanistan the first stop on his world tour because it’s the “central front in the war on terror,” the place “where 9/11 was planned” and where “terrorists” are “plotting new attacks against the United States”.

    And here’s the clincher – straight out of the neo-con playbook, “We have to succeed in taking the fight to the terrorists.”‘

    Ah the high moral ground of the good war fans laid out so clearly before us all now. No sullied oil, WMD or Islamophobia to distract them from taking their noble, carefully targeted fight to the terrorists, but if the odd wedding party gets in the way, well you know how it is in the good war on terrorism folks. That aint no Sarajevo. However with no oil, WMD or Islamaphobia to worry about in Afghanistan and now Pakistan too it seems, it makes you wonder just exactly how and when it’s mission accomplished for these moral cleanskins. Well aint that the $64000 question rattling around in Observa’s morally confused head these days and Osama’s too by all accounts. Of course the Observa comes with the historical emotional baggage of his years to confuse the issues. He’s experienced freedom fighting heroes like Mugabe and Arafat become self interested, murderous thugs which might lead him to logically contemplate the reverse possibility, or even Obama and Bush still arguing over the high moral ground at their public beheading by the victors, should we lose Obama’s good war now. In that event no doubt the Observa will remain confused by the subtle nuances of it all and pray for guidance.

  40. derrida derider
    July 24th, 2008 at 20:04 | #40

    observa, policy aside you have to admit it is simply brilliant politics; it’s left McCain nowhere to go. Obama is clearly anything but “confused”.

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