UCL News


Justice was served by the Milosevic trial

14 March 2006

The death of Slobodan Milosevic is widely seen to have punctured a large hole in the emerging system of international criminal justice.

How much of a setback is this for the international criminal justice project? …

Not everyone shares the assumption that the criminal law dispensed through courts is a proper way of dealing with the most serious international crimes: the Bush administration prefers to put its efforts to deal with al-Qa'ida into the paradigm of war. We cannot have illusions about the effectiveness of internationalising the criminal law. It will not be a panacea for all the ills of the world. It will not eradicate gross violations of fundamental human rights. But it may be the least bad option for dealing with the gravest crimes, or at least some of them. …

These are early days for international criminal justice. The Milosevic trial will be remembered as a proceeding in which delay led to justice being denied. But that would not be right. The trial has caused a vast amount of new material to emerge into the public domain. …

It would have been preferable for the Milosevic trial to have been brought through to a judgment on his individual responsibility, whatever the outcome. But that was not the only function of his proceedings, which need to be seen in the broader context of long-term efforts to ensure that those most responsible for international crimes are not immunised from justice.

Professor Philippe Sands [UCL Laws], 'The Independent', 14 March 2006