A court that is not for all

Photo by Wikipedia/ Harry Wad (2007)Unfortunately, none of those who were responsible for going to war against Yugoslavia will answer for their crimes in a court. Thorvald Stoltenberg was a former Norwegian foreign minister and from 1993-96 the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the former Yugoslavia. He has good reflections about war crimes tribunals and powerful nations in his book “Det handler om mennesker” or “It’s all about people” from 2001. My translation from pages 294-295:

A court that is not for all

In recent years I have thought a lot about the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Constantly I meet highly gifted people who believe that we live in a world where there is an international court that is beyond power relations and political realities.

This is not how it is. Not infrequently, I think back on the Allied bombing of Dresden in February 1945, at that time, over 55 years ago, I was very happy because I understood that the peace was closer. This bombing, that claimed at least 50,000 deaths, can hardly be described as anything but a crime against humanity.

No one was ever drawn to the responsibility, of course, because we won. What is right and just is still defined by the victors.

Yugoslavia is no exception. But let me be clear – as so long as the world is as it is, I prefer of course that the U.S. is the winner and loser types like Miloševic’. But the world has not yet come so far that we have managed to establish an independent tribunal for war crimes, where they themselves can decide about investigation and preparation for the court. The world’s strongest country will not risk this.

Currently, there are only losers and the weak parties that are presented in a war crimes tribunal. Therefore, it is significant that it is only for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda we have such courts. To put it clearly: Citizens of the United States, Britain, Russia, China, Germany and France will never be tried by an international war crimes tribunal, whatever they may be guilty of.

The border runs right there. Under France. From Italy and down it’s different. An Italian could face war crimes charges, like all of us who are not of the world’s most powerful nations.

It will take generations before we see a court that also prosecutes the citizens of the great powers, but it’s a goal there is every reason to work for. The day that happens, we will have taken a major step toward a world with stronger democratic institutions than we have today, in short, a better organized world.

We will also have come closer to a world where justice means more than power.

  • Dear Kristian. Slobodan Milosevic was 100% democratic elected by the Serbian people. And to be honest: i don’t know what his part was during the dismantling of former Yugoslavia. Personally i remember him fighting for Yugoslavia not to be dismantled. Every US-government since world war two was a government of dictators and war criminals. So it sounds a bit strange to me if one prefers undemocratic war criminals instead of former Yugoslav socialist leader Slobodan Milosevic.