International War Crimes Tribunals

  • September 2, 2010
    Twilight of Impunity
    The War Crimes Trial of Slobodan Milosevic
    Judith Armatta
    Judith Armatta is a lawyer, journalist, and human-rights advocate who monitored the trial of Slobodan Milosevic on behalf of the Coalition for International Justice. Joining efforts to promote the rule of law, Armatta worked for the American Bar Association's Central and East European Law Initiative, opening offices in Serbia and Montenegro. During the Kosova War, she headed a War Crimes Documentation Project among Kosovar Albanian refugees in Macedonia.

    The trial of Slobodan Milosevic, who is described variously as the Butcher of the Balkans or the Martyr of a New World Order, before an international war crimes tribunal was touted as "The Trial of the Century." As it stumbled into its fifth year amid heavy criticism over its length and management, Milosevic was found dead in his cell. There would be no judgment in this problematic trial.

    As the first indictment of a head of state for 66 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in an international tribunal committed over a decade during three wars, the trial was destined to be epic. A defiant Milosevic heightened the drama as he appeared in court denouncing the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia as illegitimate and a tool of NATO and the United States, refusing counsel and insisting on using the trial to accuse his accusers. Twilight of Impunity examines whether justice is possible where an accused sets out to destroy the institution that seeks to hold him accountable - by using its legal process against it.

    My purpose in writing Twilight of Impunity was three-fold: 1) to increase knowledge of the trial by providing accurate factual information and legal explanation, 2) to inform further discussion by assessing its achievements and failures, and 3) to strengthen the investment of policy and opinion makers and the educated public in war crimes trials as a significant element of peace-building in war-torn countries.

    Twilight of Impunity makes the four-year-plus trial accessible to professionals and an educated public by extracting highlights and analyzing their importance for establishing guilt or their failure to do so and by explaining developing international law in plain language. Through specific examples of events that occurred during the trial, it corrects misconceptions about the trial and the growing revisionist history of the Balkan wars.