Firsthand account of the war crimes tribunals created in the 1990s to prosecute perpetrators of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Beginning in 1993, Scheffer (Law/Northwestern Univ.) led efforts to create tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, the Balkans, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia—all of which culminated in the establishment of the International Criminal Court in 2002. Working first as senior advisor to Madeleine Albright, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and then as U.S. ambassador-at-large for war-crimes issues in the Clinton administration, the author was deeply involved in every aspect of the quest to bring to justice political and military leaders responsible for the murder and mutilation of millions. Scheffer re-creates the period of murder and ethnic cleansing, describes the politicking required to convince nations to act and weighs the successes and missteps of diplomacy aimed at creating a new era of international justice. “I saw so much misery for so many years that my memories remain consumed by human suffering,” he writes. His graphic descriptions of mutilated victims in hospital wards underscore the urgency of his pioneering work and explain his anger and frustration at the behavior of Western nations, which offered excuses and prevarications over apprehending war-crimes suspects, with the United States taking a “dangerously isolated” policy on the international court because of the Pentagon’s fear that U.S. soldiers abroad might be prosecuted. From the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo to the trial of Charles Taylor in Sierra Leone, Scheffer recounts the highlights of this “truly international counterattack on impunity for the worst possible crimes.” Reflecting after nearly a decade of battles, the author writes that international justice is the art of the possible and requires endless patience and persistence.
May not appeal to a general audience, but an important resource for scholars and specialists in international law.