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Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations with…
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Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations with Humanity's Worst Criminals and…

by Carla Del Ponte

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Every law student learns quickly that neither the United States nor any other country has legal authority over foreign powers or their citizens. The United Nations is an institution deprived of the two standard tools of all behavior motivation: rewards and punishments. All international relations are a sophisticated dance, one party attempting to persuade the other of the rightness of his cause. Diplomacy is nothing more than sophisticated persuasion without enforcement while justice requires the ability to exercise at least the threatened power of coercion.

The International Criminal Court was established in 2002 as a permanent tribunal with limited jurisdiction lacking total international support. The United States, China, Russia and India, for example, are not signatories to the treaty that created the court and are not bound to participate. Further, the court itself is granted jurisdiction only where the nation involved is unable or unwilling to prosecute crimes committed within that nation’s borders.

Since its inception in 2002, the court has not conducted a trial of a single person.

Why, then, would a sophisticated lawyer like Switzerland’s celebrated attorney general Carla Del Ponte and her well-informed co-author, Chuck Sudetek, assume that “Humanity’s Worst Criminals” could or would be brought to any kind of justice in the ICC? Why do they describe the world criminal court’s failure to succeed in prosecuting those criminals as the “Culture of Impunity” when impunity is precisely what all criminals have a right to expect from the international community? It is the province of sovereign nations to bring their own criminals to justice, even though many nations are ill equipped to do so. This, Del Ponte and Sudetek argue, should be changed.

Madame Prosecutor is a lengthy discussion of the heinousness of crimes against humanity and a poignant plea for a better international criminal justice system. Using the imperfect system now in place, Ms. Ponte’s efforts to bring war criminals to trial are nothing short of fascinating and heroic. Her work contributed to the indictment, arrest, or prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic, and dozens more. Mr. Sudetek’s experience as a New York Times reporter and author as well as his work as an analyst for the Yugoslavia tribunal and his current position as senior writer for the Open Society Institute, also inform the politics and scope of Madame Prosecutor.

This memoir is densely packed with information that will be of most use to researchers, scholars, or readers interested in international judicial systems and liberal political philosophy.

by M. Diane Vogt

Copyright ForeWord Magazine, Volume 12, no. 1 ( )
  ForeWordmag | Jan 23, 2009 |
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Carla Del Ponte won international recognition as Switzerland's attorney general when she pursued cases against the Sicilian mafia. In 1999, she answered the United Nations' call to become the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. In her new role, Del Ponte confronted genocide and crimes against humanity head-on, struggling to bring to justice the highest-ranking individuals responsible for massive acts of violence in Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo. These tribunals have been unprecedented. They operate along the edge of the divide between national sovereignty and international responsibility, in the gray zone between the judicial and the political, a largely unexplored realm for prosecutors and judges.… (more)

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