War Crimes: Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World

In This Review

War Crimes: Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World

By David Chuter
Lynne Rienner, 2003
299 pp. $55.00
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As a British official, Chuter experienced firsthand the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He draws on that experience, in addition to examining attempts to come to terms with the Rwandan genocide, South African apartheid, and the enduring influence of the Holocaust, to examine how courts and commissions have attempted to respond to atrocities committed during the course of conflicts. Throughout, he stresses the need to situate terrible events in their historical and social contexts. All in all, the result is a penetrating and uncomfortable discussion of the relativism of truth in situations in which victim status is a strategic prize and evidence is treated in self-serving ways by governments, the media, nongovernmental organizations, and even academics. Such groups will surely bridle at Chuter's barbed observations on how horrific acts are invoked to excuse sanctimoniousness and sloppy thinking, but this is a book that they cannot ignore.