International justice at work
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The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia last week took custody of the last remaining fugitive from international justice involved in the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s. Goran Hadzic, discovered hiding in a mountainous region of Serbia, was arrested by a special police unit and transferred to The Hague on Friday.
When I served with the tribunal, my team investigated Hadzic, a former president of the so-called "Republic of Serbian Krajina" in Croatia.
In 2001, he was named as an unindicted co-perpetrator in the indictment against former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic for crimes alleged to have been committed in Croatia. Three years later, he was indicted individually for his alleged role in the murder, torture and persecution of innocent civilians and unarmed combatants. Allegations include the abduction of approximately 264 patients from Vukovar hospital who were subsequently transported to a remote execution site where they were shot dead and buried in a mass grave.
Throughout the wars in Yugoslavia, thousands and thousands of innocent victims were abducted, tortured and murdered. Rape camps were established, and hundreds of thousands of women, children, elderly and infirm were driven from their homes. Refugees were dispersed throughout the world, including in Pittsburgh, which has one of the largest ethnic populations of Croats and Serbs in the United States.
All of these victims have waited for justice. And now that day has come.
The arrest of Hadzic, following on all the others, is a victory for the United Nations and all of humanity.
Meanwhile, taxpayers around the world complain about the misuse of public funds by their governments, and governments make the same complaint about intergovernmental organizations. The United Nations is often the prime target.
My experience has been that there are countless international civil servants who undertake selfless service for the betterment of others. And one independent U.N. agency stands above most others: the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The vast majority of the men and women who work for the ICTY are career criminal justice professionals who have interrupted their careers to come to The Hague from all over the world to serve the cause of international justice.
They are experienced police investigators with backgrounds in homicide, organized crime, sexual assault and conspiracy investigations. And they are career prosecutors with experience in major criminal cases, international law and military justice who work tirelessly for victims and their families.
Military and criminal intelligence analysts, as well as political research officers, bring years of analytical experience to the table. Victim and witness protection officers ensure the safety of the vulnerable and try to make sure they are not victimized a second time.
Working together, teams of war crimes investigators and prosecutors examine some of the most difficult and horrific crimes in the world -- atrocities that shock the conscience of mankind and rise to the level of crimes against all of humanity. They must wallow in acts of unimaginable depravity.
Nevertheless, there are those who complain about international criminal tribunals, particularly their cost and the pace at which trials proceed.
Most of these cases do take a long time to resolve, and there is room for legitimate criticism. But it must be remembered that international criminal tribunals like the ICTY are hybrid systems that blend the best of the common law legal system of England, which operates in the United States, and the civil law systems found throughout continental Europe and Latin America. They oversee massive criminal prosecutions that require years of evidence collection and complex criminal, military and political analysis.
Still, despite the enormity of the undertaking and the criticisms about the time and resources expended, the committed efforts of war crimes investigators and prosecutors bring the accused to the dock, one by one. And as they do, they deliver a message to would-be war criminals everywhere: Kill and rape, maim and torture, and you will be hunted down.
First Published July 25, 2011 12:00 am