Since the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in 1993, the rapid and accelerating development of international criminal law has changed the world we live in. Crimes of war and atrocities against civilian populations have been a tragic and persistent scourge on humanity and are not likely to disappear anytime soon. But for perpetrators of these offenses, the calculations have changed. Now dictators, warlords, and generals know that their actions will be scrutinized by prosecutors and the possibility exists that those who violate the laws of war and commit crimes against humanity will one day face justice.
Definitely, this is a good thing. The world is a better place when the law can bring justice to victims who in earlier times could not have hoped to see the mighty who inflicted their suffering face judgment in a court of law. I will never forget the many victims I have seen come into international tribunals and face former high-ranking politicians, generals and even a former President. I will always remember Alusine Conteh, a man who had his left hand amputated by rebels in Sierra Leone and when the perpetrators then asked to have his 3 year-old son brought forward, instead volunteered to have his right hand amputated to protect his son; and Mustafa Mansaray, another man with both hands amputated and who was in a wheelchair. He sat across from a former President and who told the court that the reason he had come to testify was that this man, Charles Taylor, had threatened his country would taste the “bitterness of war.” Mr. Mansaray raised the stumps on his arms and told the court “This is my bitterness.”