No Comment — June 11, 2010, 1:25 pm

Genocide Convictions at The Hague

Marlise Simons at the New York Times reports:

Judges at The Hague handed down two rare genocide convictions on Thursday, sentencing two security officers for the Bosnian Serb Army to life in prison for their roles in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the worst single episode in a decade of war that left 100,000 dead and tore the Balkans apart. The verdicts, along with five other war crimes convictions, concluded an almost four-year trial in which many witnesses spoke, at times in horrifying detail, of the Serbian capture of the United Nations protected enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa that held tens of thousand of Bosnian Muslim refugees.

The military operation ended with the deportation of thousands of women and children and the execution of close to 8,000 captive men and boys. Although the United Nations war crimes tribunal has convicted more than a dozen people of crimes committed in Srebrenica, it has only once before issued a conviction of genocide. And that ruling, against Gen. Radislav Krsti?, was lessened on appeal to “aiding and abetting genocide.”

But the decision involving two other high-ranking security officials, Vujadin Popovi? and Ljubiša Beara, may actually be worthy of more attention. They were charged with and convicted of “extermination as a crime against humanity” and “murder as a violation of the laws and customs of war.” The convictions rest on evidence that the genocidal crimes were not spontaneous, but rather the result of decisions taken within the formal chain of command during the 1992-95 war. And that makes it far more likely that the trial of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadži? will similarly conclude with a genocide conviction.

Under article 2 of the 1948 Convention Against Genocide, the crime is defined as

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

The prosecutions so far have focused at least as much on detention and transportation arrangements prior to the actual killings of the civilians seized at Srebrenica, but that is just as the language of the Convention–recalling the experience of World War II–anticipates. What happens to prisoners, including how they are moved, is particularly significant because it provides evidence of formal government intent and purpose, moving legal culpability up the chain of command. Critics have long argued that the definition is vague and the circumstances in which the crime of genocide should be charged (as opposed to the lesser included offenses, such as homicide) are unclear. I don’t buy that. In any event, however, the decisions coming out of the Hague are providing essential precedent governing genocide as a crime, and the incident at Srebrenica is an excellent testing grounds. The Karadži? case will be the one to watch.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2015

The War of the World

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Sharp Edge of Life

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Great Republican Land Heist

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Captive Market

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Day of the Sea

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Great Republican Land Heist·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The wholesale transfer of public lands to state control may never be achieved. But the goal might be more subtle: to attack the value of public lands.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Sharp Edge of Life·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The struggle of the novelist has been to establish a measure, a view of human nature, and usually, though not always, as large a view as belief and imagination can wring from observable facts.”
Photo by Eddie Adams/Associated Press
Article
Captive Market·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Fear of random violence lives on, but the reality is that violent-crime rates have dropped to levels not seen since the early Seventies."
Photograph by Richard Ross
Article
The Day of the Sea·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Fifteen judges will then sit together in a wood-paneled room, in a city thousands of miles from the Andes, and decide whether the ocean Bolivia claims as its right will at last be returned to it.”
Photo by Fabio Cuttica/Contrasto/Redux
Post
The Art of Outrage·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Illustration by Art Spiegelman

Estimated total calories members of Congress burned giving Bush’s 2002 State of the Union standing ovations:

22,000

A fertility scientist named Panayiotis Zavos announced that he had created human-cow embryos that were theoretically viable, but denied that he planned to allow such a hybrid to be implanted in a woman’s womb. “We are not trying to create monsters,” he said.

A statistician determined that the five most common first names among New York City taxi drivers are Md, Mohammad, Mohammed, Muhammad, and Mohamed.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today