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Genocide is Directed by the Leaders

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Genocide is Directed by the Leaders




Oral history video clip featuring David Scheffer, United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues. This video was originally produced by Media Entertainment, Inc., for the 2000 documentary The Genocide Factor.


Media Entertainment, Inc.


Genocide Factor Collection, Oral History Program, Tampa Library,
University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.


Tampa, Fla. : University of South Florida Tampa Library.




Scheffer, David


Tape number: 4059F


video / mp4




Oral History

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Prior, Cecily


Scheffer, David


United States Department of State, Washington D.C.


The perpetrators of these crimes on the ground, who are usually the rebel groups, or even the soldiers, who go through the villages and the farms and wreck such havoc oftentimes simply don’t know what the laws of war are, what the Geneva Conventions establish, et cetera. But, they would not be where they are, doing what they are doing, unless there were leaders directing them to do so. Very little of crimes against humanity or war crimes is spontaneous. It can be spontaneous, once the perpetrator is in a village and decides on his own accord who he’s going to kill, who he’s going to rape, what house he’s going to pillage, what he’s going to burn. That can be spontaneous on the part of just the average perpetrator of these crimes. But what is not spontaneous is putting a large number of these individuals in a particular village or in a particular area of the country with the authority, without any consequence domestically, in terms of prosecution or otherwise to do what they are doing. And so the way we can best get at that problems is to go at the leadership ranks, and that is exactly what the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal based in The Hague is doing. It is trying to focus its limited resources and investigative capabilities on the leadership of these crimes, so that—you cannot possibly allege in a courtroom such total ignorance of civilized conduct that somehow you can mitigate the consequence, the punishment, that is really deserving of these perpetrators. The leaders know what the laws of war are. They know that there are international principles that must be complied with. And those are the individuals that to be sought after by international criminal processes. But, it’s also extremely important—and this is a huge challenge for the next century, the twenty-first century—that the domestic justice systems, the domestic military justice systems in countries around the world, are significantly upgraded to literally be able to investigate and prosecute those individuals on the ground who actually commit the physical violence against innocent victims. Because they should not be allowed to walk free, either, in the larger sense. And you need domestic justice systems that are capable and willing and independent enough from political influence to be able to do that.

Original Format

Beta tape




Media Entertainment, Inc., “Genocide is Directed by the Leaders,” USF Library Special & Digital Collections Exhibits, accessed August 13, 2020,