Sunday, August 20, 2006

No Justice without Victors' Justice: Milošević

From "Milošević in Retrospect" by David Rieff (Viginia Quartlery Review, Summer 2006):
Milošević's death accomplished what all his delaying tactics and coutroom antics coudl never do--cement perception of the International Criminal Tribunal of Yugolsavia's failure. In retropect, it is obvious that the idea so fervently promoted by advocates for the ICTY--that convicting Milošević would somehow win over Serbian hearts and minds--was always the purest wishful thinking.

But this is not to say that victors' justice can never succeed; what it cannot do is succeed in a political vacuum or when the outcome on the battlefield has been indecisize. By now the principal reason Germans came to accept the burden of Nuremberg and South Africa (in the main), the conclusions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, seems clear: decisive defeat, whether military or political. [Emphasis mine]

And in Serbia, this is emphatically not the case. Even in Bosnia, nationalism burns almost as fiercely in the Serb areas as it ever did, and certainly few ordinary Serbs, let alone the former leadership, feel any remorse for Srebrenica or the siege of Sarajevo. In Serbia proper, the current government, while not extreme itself, depends on the support of Milošević's Socialist Party in order to remain in power. Under those circumstances, it is almost impossible to imagine that had Milošević lived and been convicted, the Tribunal's judgement would have seemed legitimate to many Serbs. With his death, one more name has been added to the martyrology of extreme Serb nationalism--a victim, in this accound, of a kangaroo court whose pretensions of delivering justice ring hollow.
Rieff's postmortum troubles me. Milošević talked his country out of responsabiltiy for the attrocities, turning sovereignty into a shield. He was neither the first, nor the last, to put forth the state's unquestionable monopoly on violence (and no state has really come forward, no matter how supportive of international justice, to question this monopoly). If victors' justice is necessary for justice to be founded, then the cost of justice on the international scene will be high.


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