Those Who Remember the Past May Not be Condemned to Repeat It

In The Hague, Slobodan Milosevic is on trial for crimes committed in Bosnia, Kosovo and Croatia; in Arusha, Tanzania, Jean Paul Akayasu, a Rwandan bourgmestre, was convicted of genocide; in London, Augusto Pinochet was detained and adjudged amenable to an arrest warrant issued by a Spanish magistrate for acts of torture carried out in Chile; in Belgium, a Hutu Roman Catholic former mother superior was convicted of complicity in the Rwandan genocide; and in Rome a treaty was signed commencing the process that will result in the creation of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”). All these events underscore the startling growth of efforts to establish a worldwide criminal process capable of punishing heinous crimes ranging from genocide to grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Though the pace of change has been dramatic over the past few years, the forces driving it have been building up for at least half a century. Each of the four books under review is, in one way or another, designed to address the process of transition from a regime of strict national sovereignty and local prosecution of criminal acts to an international one in which major abuses can and will be punished in courts around the world. Two of these volumes, Gary Bass’s, Stay the Hand of Vengeance, and Lawrence Douglas’s, The Memory of Judgment, provide excellent scholarly analyses of various historical aspects of the growth of international criminal prosecution. A third, Justice Richard Goldstone’s, For Humanity, provides the recollections of one of the architects of transformation about his work as chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (“ICTY”) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (“ICTR”). The fourth book, Geoffrey Robertson’s, Crimes Against Humanity, is far weaker than the others, and presents an idiosyncratic and polemical assessment of some of the matters addressed in the other volumes. Part I of this Review examines some of the critical events that have contributed to the current upsurge in international criminal prosecutions. then each of the four books is discussed. The Review concludes with two suggestions, one a potentially useful means of explaining why change has taken place, the other an exploration of the role of truth commissions in the prosecutorial effort.