Friday 25 January 2008
Geoffrey Nice, Milosevic and the Supreme Defence Council
At a conference in Amsterdam last week, I chatted at length with Geoffrey Nice, who was the prosecutor in the Milosevic trial. Geoffrey has many interesting views on the trial, and on the problems of mixing politics with international justice. He shared with me a paper that he presented at a conference in Belgrade: http://www.mediafire.com/?7nkco5mjnjm. A big issue involves the records of the Supreme Defence Council, which were given to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal under a condition that some parts would remain confidential. For this reason, the materials that ended up with the International Court of Justice were incomplete, and this has led some critics to say that the Court failed to get to the bottom of Bosnia's genocide charge against Serbia. The New York Times correspondent wrote a fair amount on this. I'm sceptical on the point, because I don't see what the complete records would have changed. Taken at their best, they apparently show a high level of control by Belgrade over the Bosnian Serbs, especially the military. But the Court concluded - based upon International Criminal Tribunal rulings - that genocide had not taken place, with the exception of a few days in Srebrenica at the end of the war. The case at the International Court of Justice was based upon the Genocide Convention, and without a finding of genocide, there was no case. So if the Bosnian Serbs didn't commit genocide during the conflict (with the Srebrenica exception) then proof that they were taking orders from Belgrade doesn't change anything. Of course, if the Supreme Defence council records showed that Milosevic ordered the killings in Srebrenica that would be a different thing, but I don't believe anybody has made such a suggestion.