Thursday, February 12, 2004

The Milosovic Trial

Although the political spin and conclusions set forth in this analysis of the Milosovic trial makes me choke, the author's larger point about the absurdity of the process seems valid. Not the question of whether prosecutors have overstated the strength of their case, or whether the defense has poked some holes in the prosecutor's initial statements - that's to be expected in pretty much any trial, let alone one as complex as this. But the fact that this trial has been going on for two years, and the fact that the clumsy and prolonged proceedings serve as a warning (although not necessarily the same ones inferred by the author) in relation to the nascent International Criminal Court.

In an era where international institutions are under attack, this type of proceeding provides no reassurance that international institutions can fairly or efficiently resolve something as mundane as a criminal prosecution - granted, a prosecution for war crimes, but on the basis of facts and allegations which are far less complex than the world's courts handle on a routine basis. It may well be that the ICC can overcome some of the institutional defects that make the tribunal so slow and clumsy, but if it cannot there really isn't much point to hand-wringing over whether the U.S. should or should not join. If the ICC's eventual prosecutions will look like this one, it will defeat itself.

It will be interesting to see if the U.S. sets a higher standard for justice and efficiency with whatever process it creates or permits for the trial of Saddam Hussein.


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