Monday 13 March 2006

Death derails war crime justice

The ill omen of custody deaths
Two deaths in six days find the Dutch in as much a difficult situation as stressed out foreigners trying to learn Dutch.
The wheels of justice fell off as the chief defendant in the case where a president is being tried for war crimes departs with finality before judgment could be pronounced.
It does represent serious problems with these war crime tribunals.
Poor case construction
The one in The Hague has been sitting for just about four years in which the original chief judge and Slobodan Milosevic have suffered serious health battles that they both now have lost.
The case against Milosevic constituted 66 counts or charges and hundreds of witnesses in a case of an overly elaborated justice process that has failed to conclude satisfactorily.
Conversely, the Iraqi tribunal is dealing with a event by event despatch of justice, but has the proviso of executing capital punishment within 30 days of sentencing.
It means that The Hague has taken time to exhaust all the issues of the war crimes allegedly committed by Milosevic and his cohorts whilst Iraq would only deal with one of so many crimes to which the sentencing on one can prevent justice being served for the other crimes.
These are both seriously flawed; there is a need for a well-packaged and precise prosecution activity and an exhaustive analysis of crimes where arguments can give weight to the importance of some over others to the satisfaction of all affected.
Time is an unaffordable luxury
Time also is not on the side of all the parties concerned, first the defendants have moved from a live of freedom and opulence to a deprived but functional existence – this would have a psychological, social, physiological and emotional effects on them – the change of circumstances would definitely impact on their health by reason of the environment or some innocuous psychosomatic influence.
In these circumstances, there is a thin line between defiance and despair; it is not clear who will draw that line, where it would be drawn and who might end up on either side.
Even if it is assumed that none of the defendants are suicide risks, the risk of a sudden and precipitous decline in health and well-being is possible that the 30-minute interval monitoring of the defendants is just about enough time to have a ligature round the neck or suffer a heart attack with death arriving swiftly.
It might be that the defendants need to wear biorhythm monitors or have to endure uninterrupted surveillance though that might impact on their civil liberties.
The fact is defendants can be sentenced in situ, in absentia but not posthumously.
A President’s internment
Mr Milosevic who might have been an example to other leaders, who rule with tyranny, has now become a victim of sorts; hero to some; villain to some.
However, nothing stops former Presidents from getting a state funeral, he ruled his people for a decade, albeit badly. However, only recently, Idi Amin and Milton Obote of Uganda who seriously messed up their countries had state recognition at their deaths.
It would not be out of place for Milosevic to be recognised as such; I would not be taking bets on the numbers that might turn out.
Barking Balkans
The paradox of the Balkans is that it is like yeast, you do not need too much for it to leaven the dough; so is their ability to create ructions not only in Europe but globally.
Conspiracies will overrun the truth
On the matter of death, he probably died naturally from a condition related to his heart; some might try to take that dignity away from him and suggest he committed suicide but the greater conspiracy that would create the best copy would be the tribunal refusing to let him receive treatment in Russia where his family is and allowing his condition to deteriorate as he was slowly being poisoned that he succumbed before judgment day.

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