WSW: Seeking Transitional Justice After Genocide

Apr 20, 2015

Gravestones at Genocide Memorial in Srebrenica
Credit Michael Buker/Wikimedia Commons

An International War Crimes Tribunal was formed in 1993 to try those responsible for genocide in the former Yugoslavia. A Georgia State University Professor will discuss the track record of the tribunal at Western Michigan University this week. 


Jelena Subotic is originally from Serbia, she moved to the United States in 1999 to attend graduate school. She is the author of Hijacked Justice: Dealing with the Past in the Balkans. She will give the annual George Klein Lecture Tuesday night at 7:30 at the Fetzer Center. It's called Crisis at the Hague: What has Gone Wrong With International War Crimes Trials.

Subotic says the war crimes tribunal was modeled after the Nuremberg trials for Nazi leaders after World War II. She says the idea is to send a message that indiscriminate killing of civilians will not be tolerated. Subotic says the proceedings are also designed to create a historical record of what happened. She says that is meant to combat the propaganda put out by leaders. 

Many countries have attempted to move beyond conflict and deal with legacies of violence. Subotic says there are various forms of "transitional justice," including trials of those responsible. But it may also include a truth commission, such as the one which followed Apartheid in South Africa. 

Subotic says the record of the War Crimes Tribunal is mixed, but she says expectations may have been too high. Subotic says the most important legacy of the tribunal at the Hague is that there is a model for prosecuting those responsible for genocide. She says it also opened up the possibility that there could be domestic prosecutions in addition to trials before the International War Crimes Tribunal.