War Tales and War Trials

In this foreword, I will compare my experiences as a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the work of war crimes tribunals generally, with a few of the recurrent themes in epic tales of war. Books and trials strive to educate and to persuade their audiences of the barbarity of war and its antipathy to the most fundamental norms of a humane society.3 War crimes tribunals began with Nuremberg and have proliferated in the past fifteen years. These tribunals were established to try and to punish individuals for violations of international humanitarian law (“IHL”)-the so-called “law of war,” itself only a century old, which sets out “rules of engagement” for belligerent states and internal warring groups.