Idea Of The Day

International Justice

It is a triumph for human rights: Slobodan Milosevic will stand trial at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Not everyone is thrilled. The playwright Harold Pinter says that a trial for Milosevic would be a sham. In an interview with the Guardian, he says: “I regard it as an American-inspired court, really. I mean … it’s a really partial court and has no proper legal foundation or substance. I believe an international criminal court is really very much to be desired… there is a whole movement to get an international criminal court in the world, voted for by hundreds of states—but with the one noticeable absence of the United States of America.” If such an international criminal court did exist, then Milosevic and other Serbian leaders would presumably find themselves in cells next to Pol Pot’s surviving accomplices. (Khmer leaders are now expected to stand trial in Phnom Penh.) Moreover, such a court would be taking a close look at the activities of Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe. There’s been no genocide in Zimbabwe, though the physical expulsion of farmers from their land and the attempts to block foreign journalists from entering the country do not suggest that human rights are thriving there. Which raises the question: How would an international court go about the arrest of a national leader who has yet to commit the crimes that such a court would consider within its jurisdiction, but whose actions suggest he or she is heading that way?

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