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Prosecuting the Leadership That Directs Genocide

David Scheffer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues

We believe that both the leaders and the people who perpetrate these crimes do need to be held accountable in some form or fashion: within the society in which they live, or internationally. Our responsibility, in looking at crimes that are committed elsewhere in the world, is really to look at the leadership that directs, spawns, perpetrates these crimes, and perpetuates them. Because for us, that’s—and I think for any international tribunal or court, those are the manageable targets of investigation and prosecution. It’s really the challenge of each domestic legal system to get a better grip on bringing the murderers and rapists and others within their own society during these conflicts and atrocities, to bring them to justice. I think the—what the international community can do is to highlight that justice not only needs to be rendered, but it is being rendered against the leaders, and that that’s a clear example for what must be done domestically. Now, this is happening in Kosovo; this is happening in Bosnia; it certainly happened in Germany after World War II, in terms of domestic prosecutions of Nazi perpetrators and crimes; and it’s happening even in Rwanda today, where Rwandan courts are bringing perpetrators of the ’94 genocide who are not being prosecuted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: they’re being brought to justice domestically. So, there’s kind of a division of labor here that is a realistic and pragmatic one; but both the international community and the domestic societies are really operating under the same set of principles of law.

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About David Scheffer