Thoughts on the military and military activities of a diverse nature. Free-ranging and eclectic.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

This is coolbert: I have noticed a trend in the international arena that is both surprising and disturbing at the same time. This trend has to do with the consensus opinion that seems to be prevailing on the subject of war crimes tribunals.

It should be remembered that at the end of World War Two [WW2], war crime trials were held for many years in Germany. This had it's genesis in the Nuremberg series of trials of the high ranking Nazi war criminals. Persons accused of genocide, plotting aggressive war, war crimes, crimes against humanity, etc. And a large number of Nazis were tried, convicted, and hung. And an analogous series of trials, on a smaller scale, were also held to try Japanese war criminals. A number of Japanese were also hung. Trials of this nature continued in the decades following the end of the war at least in Germany. Even until quite recently. I think it was just a few years ago that the Germans finally did announce that no more ex-Nazis would be tried. These persons were just too old, feeble, and mentally unsure to stand and get a fair trial. Even recently, just a few years ago, in France, an ex-policeman who signed deportation orders for Jewish children, who were sent to Auschwitz, was tried and sent to prison, at the age of ninety-five [95]!

And the consensus opinion about these war crimes trials at the time was that this was fair and just, and necessary and even mandated. Such terrible damage was done that something had to be done by the world powers, the victors in the war, to bring about a sense of justice world-wide. It could not be a return to business as usual for the aggressors in WW2. Not only did something have to be done, but this was going to set a trend for the history of the world. International war criminals could no longer be safe after a war ended. Persons accused for committing horrendous crimes would be brought to justice.

And even at the time, there was criticism of the war crime trial concept. It was criticized that it was "ex post facto" law, that it was victor's justice, etc. And these criticisms were valid to an extent, but were mild and mostly muted.

Like I have said, there seems now to be a new consensus regarding war crime trials and holding perpetrators to account for atrocity and inhumane behavior.

The arguments raised now are that such trials are counter-productive. That rather that establishing a system of justice that allows victims some degree of retribution against their persecutors, these trials and punishments do not allow for reconciliation. Victims are basically told something along these lines:

"Yes, you were mistreated, maybe very badly. But you now have to get on with your lives and look to the future. And that future means you will have to live with your one time oppressors. You must get beyond what happened in the past, reconcile your differences with your adversaries, and get on with life. Not only that, but you should not desire revenge, or retribution. That will begat only more animosity from your erstwhile foes. Persons you will have to live with in the future!!"

This sort of attitude has been seen in say Sierra Leone, where just the most terrible atrocities were perpetrated by the "rebels". This usually involved cutting off the hands of those that would not support them. After negotiations, the rebels were not only not prosecuted for war crimes, but got a seat at the table of government.

[Most surprisingly, at least to me, is that the person who negotiated and oversaw the bringing of "peace" to Sierra Leone was Jesse Jackson. Claims the title of Ambassador as the results of his effort. Jackson is a person who would normally go into a frenzied mode if one black man in American was say beaten senseless by white police officers. Would rant and rave and stamp his feet up and down in his desire to see justice done. In the case of Sierra Leone, Jackson said that peace must come first, even if it meant accommodating the perpetrators of horrendous atrocities. This I just do not understand. To me it represents a contradiction of the most astounding nature!!]

And the same attitude is also seen in Rwanda. Hundreds of thousands of persons were massacred in the most grotesque manner within weeks. Some perpetrators are being tried and sent to prison. But the numbers of convicted are few, and the punishment for the most part is miniscule compared with the crime. [There was an incident where 4,000 Tutsi refugees fleeing massacre were herded into a church by two Catholic nuns, on the offer of safety. The church was then saturated with petrol from the outside by Hutu militias, and the structure burned to the ground, all inside perishing. And this with the knowing and in advance connivance of the nuns???!!! These two nuns were tried, convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison in a Belgian court. Well, figure it out, that amount to about 3/4 of a day for each death. Is that justice???!!!]

And who is it that is advocating the policy of reconciliation rather than retribution and justice?? Most surprisingly, at least to me, this advocacy comes primarily from non-governmental organizations [NGO's]. Groups that are very lefty. Groups that would pursue persons such as General Pinochet of Chile or Milosevic of Serbia to the ends of the earth. To me, this is a very surprising contradiction. I am not sure what the aims of these groups are, but it is not going to bring the reconciliation that they seek. It merely allow a whole bunch of plain ordinary bad old people to go free, or be punished very lightly. Go figure!!??

Read about a NGO implementing such a policy on the island of Bougainville, South Pacific Ocean, by clicking here. It seems that they had an eight year war going on there until recently. This policy of "reconciliation" is called restorative justice. My own opinion is that it will not restore anything or bring any justice. Is just band aid measures and feel good stuff!!

I know that the NGO's will say that the trials for war crimes after the fact are not satisfactory either, but please don't tell me that what they are doing is justice either!



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