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Tue Feb 7, 2012, 08:17 PM

All the Missing Souls: Six Questions for David Scheffer

By Scott Horton

Ambassador David Scheffer steered America’s engagement with the concept of war-crimes accountability throughout the Clinton years, and has been one of the nation’s leading observers and commentators on the subject since then. He has now published a major work, All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals, that chronicles America’s pursuit of war criminals during the Nineties and offers clear insights into the issues these efforts raised for future generations. I put six questions to Scheffer about his book:

1. In the Wall Street Journal, torture-memo author John Yoo argues that you “fail to understand” that the humanitarian challenges of our age demand the robust use of military force, and that international tribunals “will do little to stop the killing.” As a defendant in pending litigation in Spain, Yoo has pressing personal reasons to oppose the concept of universal jurisdiction, but aside from that, how do you respond to his critique?

If John Yoo had bothered to check the record, he would have found that I have been an advocate of humanitarian intervention and the “responsibility to protect” principle, both of which contemplate the utility of using military force to protect civilian populations from atrocity crimes (genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes). During the Balkan conflict, Ambassador Madeleine Albright and I repeatedly sought more effective use of air power, and I personally sought the introduction of U.S. troops years before the Dayton Accords. The Clinton Administration’s use of air power over Kosovo and Serbia, followed by the introduction of NATO troops into Kosovo in June 1999, was no small measure of commitment to the utility of military force. So I really do not need Yoo’s counsel on the utility of military force to stop the killing. The fact that such intervention did not occur during the Rwandan genocide of 1994 was a terrible mistake. But had I resigned at that time, as Yoo advocates, I would have been unable to help address situations in the field and in the newly created tribunals drawing upon the lessons of 1994.

Yoo is also employing a straw man to denigrate international justice. The primary purpose of the international criminal tribunals is to render justice and reveal some of the truth of what transpired. That means investigating massive crimes and leadership suspects, indicting and prosecuting some of them, and rendering judgment followed by either conviction or acquittal. It is a false burden to place on the shoulders of the tribunals to assess their legitimacy and utility by whether they “stop the killing” or deter further atrocity crimes. Such deterrence is a tremendous bonus if it occurs, and we hope for it, but that is not the purpose of the tribunals. Victims want top perpetrators to suffer punishment and that is precisely what criminal courts are designed to achieve, particularly when there are hundreds of thousands of victims and those responsible for such horrors grasp the levers of power.

remainder: http://www.harpers.org/archive/2012/02/hbc-90008440

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