March 11, 2006

SO I WAS LISTENING TO THE BBC earlier today, and they were reporting on the people (Russians and Serbs, mostly) who were unhappy that Slobodan Milosevic died. Major John Tammes, who has bad memories of service in the Balkans, is not among their number.

I expect there will be dark rumors, as the BBC story suggested — Slobo murdered by the UN, Slobo murdered by Western nations (France? Russia?) who didn’t want him revealing the extent of their support, etc. But the Milosevic trial was yet another argument that the qualms about the Nuremberg approach to deposed dictators (qualms that many participants in the Nuremberg trials felt quite strongly) may have considerable force. Saddam’s trial is less of a circus than Milosevic’s, but that’s about all you can say.

So should we just hang ’em? Perhaps. These trials are pretty much a foregone conclusion, and their character is more political than judicial anyway. When critics call them “show trials” they have a point. Do they do more good than harm? That’s not at all clear. I’m not sure what I think, but it certainly seems that trials that last until the defendant dies of old age aren’t the solution. Nuremberg didn’t take as long as the Milosevic trial.

UPDATE: More non-mourning, from Jesse Walker.

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