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:

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

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

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

April 2015

The Joke

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Abolish High School

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beat Reporter

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Going It Alone

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Rotten Ice

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Life After Guantánamo

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

[Browsings]
Photograph by the author
Article
Rotten Ice·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“When I asked if we were going to die, he smiled and said, ‘Imaqa.’ Maybe.”
Photograph © Kari Medig
Article
Life After Guantánamo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“I’ve seen the hell and I’m still in the beginning of my life.”
Illustration by Caroline Gamon
Article
Going It Alone·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The call to solitude is universal. It requires no cloister walls and no administrative bureaucracy, only the commitment to sit down and still ourselves to our particular aloneness.”
Photograph by Richard Misrach
Article
No Slant to the Sun·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“She didn’t speak the language, beyond “¿cuánto?” and “demasiado,” but that didn’t stop her. She wanted things. She wanted life, new experiences, a change in the routine.”
Photograph © Stuart Franklin/Magnum Photos

Acreage of a Christian nudist colony under development in Florida:

240

Florida’s wildlife officials decided to remove the manatee, which has a mild taste that readily adapts to recipes for beef, from the state’s endangered-species list.

A 64-year-old mother and her 44-year-old son were arrested for running a gang that stole more than $100,000 worth of toothbrushes from Publix, Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS stores in Florida.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Driving Mr. Albert

By

He could be one of a million beach-bound, black-socked Florida retirees, not the man who, by some odd happenstance of life, possesses the brain of Albert Einstein — literally cut it out of the dead scientist's head.

Subscribe Today