In This Review

Judging War Criminals: The Politics of International Justice
Judging War Criminals: The Politics of International Justice
By Yves Beigbeder
St. Martin's, 1999, 224 pp

International humanitarian law is a work in progress. Beigbeder, a former U.N. Official who also was a legal secretary at the Nuremberg trials, traces its slow, episodic, and unfinished historical journey that has led most recently to the international tribunals for war crimes in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. His narrative covers the nineteenth-century conventions on war to the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials to the recent plans for an International Criminal Court. As the scope of humanitarian law has expanded from codes of war to wider prohibitions against genocide and human rights abuses, it has started to encroach on state sovereignty in order to recognize rights of individuals. The author's most interesting argument -- and his fervent hope -- is that international humanitarian and human rights law is slowly turning into international criminal law. Although sanctions remain weak, the emerging legal order no longer merely represents the justice of the victors or triumph of the strong. But this chronology misses the political question: what great historical forces are propelling this drama, and why?