David Rohde

Gutting international justice

David Rohde
Jul 12, 2013 17:15 UTC

Over the last eight months, a series of surprise rulings at the international war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has sparked extraordinary controversy in the staid world of international law.

Critics say the decisions weakened World War II-era precedents that hold commanders responsible for war crimes. Supporters say their impact is being exaggerated and the judge associated with them is being unfairly maligned.

In interviews, two former tribunal officials said the decisions reversed years of progress in the field and endangered the recent war crimes convictions of former Liberian President Charles Taylor. They said they feared that the United States and Israel pressured judges to reverse precedents that could limit both countries’ counter-terrorism operations.

“We are taking steps back,” said one of the former officials.

The epicenter of the controversy – and a mystery –  is Judge Theodor Meron, the 83-year-old president of the U.N. tribunal. A holocaust survivor, Meron has worked for decades to create international war crimes tribunals.

But Meron is being harshly criticized for writing recent appeals court decisions that overturned the convictions of two top Croatian and a senior Serbian general for aiding and abetting war crimes. After Meron’s rulings, other tribunal judges acquitted two top Serbian secret police officials, Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, of aiding and abetting war crimes as well.

At the site of a European massacre, fears of genocide by ballot

David Rohde
Apr 20, 2012 14:30 UTC

SREBRENICA, BOSNIA — Six months from now, a municipal election will be held in this isolated mining town, the scene of the largest massacre in Europe since World War Two.

The town’s current mayor, a 33 year-old Bosnian Muslim, says the election will hand Bosnian Serbs control of the town and complete the “ethnic cleansing,” or removal, of all Muslims from eastern Bosnia. Serbs say it is democracy, plain and simple.

Seventeen years ago, Serb forces executed 8,100 Muslim men and boys here in the largest single mass killing of the war in Bosnia. The U.S. and its European allies – who had declared the town a U.N. protected “safe area” – stood by as the Serbs rampaged for days in the summer of 1995.