Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1997


In Copyright


Fifty years after Nuremberg, the international community has again decided to experiment with international war crimes tribunals. The stated purpose for the establishment of both the Yugoslav and Rwanda Tribunals by the United Nations are to “put an end” to serious crimes such as genocide and to “take effective measures to bring to justice the persons who are responsible for them.” This piece argues that both assumptions are unrealistic and that such tribunals will have little or no effect on human rights violations of such enormous barbarity. In addition, this piece questions the motivations behind the formulation of the tribunals and posits that the tribunals served either to deflect responsibility or to assuage the consciences of states which were unwilling to take political and military measures to prevent or stop the Yugoslav and Rwandan genocides. The tribunals are disarticulated, if not entirely irrelevant, to the political, reconstructionist, and “peace” and “normalization” processes underway in Rwanda and the republics of the former Yugoslavia. The tribunals now orbit in space, suspended from political reality and removed from both the individual and national psyches of the victims as well as the victors in those conflicts. The failure of both tribunals will make the establishment of a permanent international criminal tribunal that much more difficult.

Publication Title

Temple International and Comparative Law Journal

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