• News
  • Celebrities
  • Finance
  • Crypto
  • Travel
  • Entertainment
  • Health
  • Others

Ends & Means in War Crimes Trials


Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s alleged driver, was held in Cuba at Guantanamo Bay prison camp like these detainees. (Department of Defense photo by Petty Officer 1st class Shane T. McCoy, U.S. Navy)

In the hazy early hours of July 30, a special U.N. flight touched down at Rotterdam airport, bringing the former leader of Bosnia’s wartime Serb government, Radovan Karadžić, to stand trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, or ICTY, in The Hague. At the same time, proceedings in the trial of Osama bin Laden’s alleged driver, Salim Hamdan, which concluded today in a conviction on five of 10 charges, were reaching a crucial stage.

International reactions to the two war crimes trials, however, and their likely effects on future events, could not be further apart. The Karadžić trial signals the start of closure for the quasi-genocidal Balkans conflicts, which ended with the Dayton Accords in 1995; by contrast, the Hamdan trial offers no sense of closure and little succor to U.S. counterterrorism efforts. To the contrary, it will provide more grist to international claims about American hypocrisy and lack of moral authority. His conviction will do nothing to stem those criticisms, or the debate about the commissions’ ethics and legality.

Certainly, Karadžić’s trial before the ICTY presents many challenges. Serbs have accused the ICTY of bias in its prosecutions, and that country’s ultra-nationalists have scored points by casting scorn on the court.

More seriously, Karadžić has signaled that he may represent himself — as Slobodan Milošević did. Milošević filibustered and grandstandedthroughout the proceedings, drawing them out until his sudden death. As a result, the ICTY’s reputation suffered, and the trial never successfully addressed the gravity of Milošević’s alleged crimes.

It is to be hoped the ICTY prosecutors learned their lesson, and now focus the Karadžić trial in ways that prevent a repeat of Milošević’s performance. One way of doing this would be to concentrate on the most serious crimes — for example, the massacre of up to 8,000 unarmed civilians, mostly Muslims, at Srebrenica. To provide justice for the dead of Srebrenic — a list of whose names provides sobering reading — and to ensure that the proponents of violence in the Balkans are discredited, nothing else will do.

Proceedings against Hamdan, however, are unlikely to have the same salutary effect in the conflict with Al Qaeda. The proceedings can largely be viewed as grist for the propaganda mills of America’s opponents. Commonly identified as bin Laden’s driver, Hamdan was captured during fighting in Afghanistan while transporting two surface-to-air missiles. He was charged with conspiracy to commit attacks against the United States and providing material support to a terrorist organization; he was convicted only on the material support charges. He has been held since 2002 at Guantanamo. After his lawyers successfully challenged President George W. Bush’s military commissions, established unilaterally by executive order on Nov. 13, 2001, he was one of the first to be indicted under the new statutory commissions scheme created by the 2006 Military Commissions Act.

Hamdan’s trial and conviction by a second-tier military justice system will probably never be regarded as fair or legitimate. The commission enables the military trial of offenses — including conspiracy and material support — that have never before been recognized as war crimes amenable to military jurisdiction. Hamdan is likely the first person ever to be convicted of material support as a *war *crime — which did not even exist as an idea at the time of his capture.

Worse, the commission’s rules allowed the introduction of evidence gained by coercion, as long as the judge decides it has “sufficient” probative value. (In Hamdan’s case, evidence from his interrogations at Guantanamo was permitted; evidence from his interrogation in Afghanistan was kept out). The commissions, in other words, allow the administration to rid itself of the problem of tortured Guantanamo detainees by using the latter’s confessions to convict them.

Indeed, the very day that Karadžić was being flown to the Hague, Hamdan introduced evidence that he had been subjected to illegally coercive tactics at Guantanamo.

It is the height of ironies that the trial of an Al Qaeda suspect should furnish the terrorist group with evidence of arguments it uses to gain support for its violent activities — that the United States tortures in violation of its own laws and its own ideals.

“The eyes of the world are on Guantanamo Bay,” wrote Judge James Robertson of the D.C. district court in June, as he allowed the Hamdan commission to move forward. What the world sees is American “hard power” — military force in naked form — being exercised. Advocates of the military commissions are already pointing to the split verdict for Hamdan as evidence of the system’s intrinsic fairness. But no inference can be drawn from the partial acquittal since none of the charges are properly war crimes, and since Hamdan was certainly convicted on the basis of evidence gained by illegal coercion.

In the Hague, by contrast, an equally attentive world sees a threshold victory for European soft power that ensures an end to violence, not its encouragement. Despite the Bush administration’s contempt for “Old Europe,” it seems that the continent has some lessons for the New World after all.

It is not too late for a new administration to do better. To do so, it could go back to the wisdom of Justice Robert Jackson, the Supreme Court justice who was the chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals. “Any result that the calm and critical judgment of posterity would pronounce unjust,” observed Jackson, “would not be a victory for any of the countries associated in this prosecution.”

The same remains sadly true today.

Aziz Huq directs the liberty and national security project at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. He is the co-author, with Fritz Schwartz, of “Unchecked and Unbalanced: Presidential Power in a Time of Terror.” Garth Schofield is a Yale Law School student working this summer at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Discussion & Comments (0)

    Recent Articles

    • Things You Should Know about North America

      Things You Should Know about North America

      Get to know more about North America.

    • Eurovision 2010 Paula Seling Unpredictable Contest

      Eurovision 2010 Paula Seling Unpredictable Contest

      Paula Seling's experience on the Eurovision stage led her to declare that "Eurovision is an unpredictable contest". Which may explain the success of the young Lena from Germany, about whom the predictions before the event did not offer much chances for victory.

    • VIPRow.me - The Best Sports Streaming Website Today

      VIPRow.me - The Best Sports Streaming Website Today

      Have you ever contemplated creating a user-friendly site dedicated to sports-related free live streaming channels?

    • Learn How To Download, Install, And Use The Xnxubd 2022 Frame App

      Learn How To Download, Install, And Use The Xnxubd 2022 Frame App

      XNXUBD 2022 Nvidia users are able to watch thousands of videos and other contents online. XNXUBD 2022 Nvidia New is a piece of software that enables people to watch videos online without having to pay for memberships. On a graphics card, the XNXubd also provides some of the best gaming and virtual reality experiences.

    • Xvideostudio Video Editor Apk Free Download For Pc Full Version In 2022

      Xvideostudio Video Editor Apk Free Download For Pc Full Version In 2022

      A new edition of the Video Editor Apk for xVideostudio.Video Studio has all the latest features, including support for multiple video download formats in HD, FHD, and even 4K resolutions.

    • 9 Best Lotion For Masturbation - Popular Choice For 2022

      9 Best Lotion For Masturbation - Popular Choice For 2022

      Masturbation is a common activity for men and women. It's a natural and risk-free way to explore your body, experience pleasure, and release sexual tension.

    • Reasons Why You Need To Stop Watching Movies From Sflix

      Reasons Why You Need To Stop Watching Movies From Sflix

      Without having to sign up or pay anything, you can watch movies online for free with SFlix. It has more than 10,000 movies and television shows.

    • Coi Leray Mom And Dad's Family History & Wife, Explained

      Coi Leray Mom And Dad's Family History & Wife, Explained

      Coi Leray Collins (born May 11, 1997) is a rapper from the United States. Leray started publishing songs to SoundCloud in 2014, and in 2018 she released her breakthrough track "Huddy" as well as her first mixtape, Everythingcoz.

    • Listen And Download Music On MyFreeMP3 For Free

      Listen And Download Music On MyFreeMP3 For Free

      Are you in a bind and looking for a place to obtain free mp3 songs? Never again will you need to bother, since this article has everything necessary to obtain your solution. Download free music from MyfreeMP3.com, one of the world's most popular websites.