"International Courts Help Achieve Peace"
No. The 1993 and 1994 U.N. Security Council resolutions that established the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and its sister court for Rwanda (ICTR) both said the courts would contribute to the process of national reconciliation and to “the restoration and maintenance of peace." Sadly, that has not happened.
In The Hague, the ICTY's most famous indictee, Slobodan Milosevic, has successfully used drawn-out courtroom appearances to perpetuate the feelings of hatred still harbored by many Serbs. Few Serbs, Croats, or Bosnians think that the ICTY has helped achieve reconciliation. The fragile peace in that region is the product of international troops and diplomacy, not judges and lawyers. In Rwanda, fewer than 36 percent of people polled in a 2002 survey said that the ICTR has promoted reconciliation in their country. And the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) announcement that it would investigate atrocities in Sudan has not ended violence there.
What's worse, modern tribunals have been prolonged and expensive. As of November 2005, the ICTR had handed down judgments for only 25 individuals. More than $1 billion has been spent on the tribunal so far, or about $40 million per judgment. By contrast, South Africa's truth commission processed 7,116 amnesty applications for less than $4,300 per case. In postconflict Mozambique, programs to demobilize and reintegrate thousands of former combatants cost about $1,000 per case. Rwandan community leaders aren't shy about saying that the more than $1 billion the United Nations has so far poured into the ICTR could have been better spent.
"Today's International Courts Are the Legacy of Nuremberg"
Not really. Supporters of today's international criminal tribunals say that their work builds on the post-World War II tribunals in Nuremberg and, to a lesser degree, Tokyo. As a matter of legal doctrine, that is true. The category of "crimes against humanity," for example, was developed at Nuremberg and is now a central element in many prosecutions. But there is a critical difference between now and then.
The courts in Nuremberg and Tokyo were part of a broader political project that aimed to rehabilitate the occupied countries socially and economically, not simply to try guilt or innocence or hand out harsh punishments. The Allies enacted a punitive policy toward Germany a quarter-century earlier, with disastrous results. The U.S.-dominated courts established after World War II were streamlined and efficient -- perhaps to a fault. At Nuremberg, defendants were given no meaningful right of appeal, and the prosecution was able to introduce documentary evidence into the record that defendants could not challenge. But the fact that many due-process concerns were swept aside meant the court completed its work in less than 11 months; 10 of the 22 defendants were hanged on Oct. 16, 1946. These were military courts that operated with military efficiency, and the Allies could then focus fully on rebuilding the broken nations.
By contrast, the international courts for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, and the new ICC in The Hague operate under civilian law and provide generous protections to defendants. The result is a ballooning of the courts’ timelines and costs. It took the ICTR 10 years to complete the same number of trials that Nuremberg conducted in less than a year. The trial of Slobodan Milosevic is now in its fourth year. Nor have these societies been able to make a clean break with their past. The protracted and always polarizing exercises that are today's war crimes trials cannot serve the decisive political and social function that Nuremberg did.