Click here for a report on General Mladic in the Hague.
It’s been said that if you killed one person, you went to jail; if you killed 10 people you were put in an insane asylum; and if you killed 10,000 people, you were invited to a peace conference. Strongmen knew that they could brutalize their people and pillage their country’s treasury, and at worst be forced into exile with their bank accounts abroad. But times change. The International Criminal Court, the 1998 arrest in Britain of the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, and war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Sierra Leone are all symbols of a new, if uneven, movement to end impunity for the worst crimes. More than a dozen countries, many in Latin America, have convicted their former rulers of human rights crimes.
On May 30, a United Nations-backed tribunal in The Hague sentenced former Liberian president Charles Taylor to 50 years in prison for aiding and abetting the rebels in neighboring Sierra Leone who committed horrific abuses against civilians -- including their signature atrocity of cutting off their victims’ limbs. The rebels’ crimes were among the most brutal that I have investigated in a long career of tracking killers and representing their victims with the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and other groups.
The Taylor verdict, as has been widely noted, was the first conviction since the post-World War II Nuremberg trials of a former head of state by an international tribunal for war crimes and crimes against humanity. It has cast a spotlight on other former leaders and dictators who are also wanted on serious charges. Here’s my personal list of some of the worst offenders eluding justice: