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Justice in the Balkans

Prosecuting War Crimes in the Hague Tribunal

Called a fig leaf for inaction by many at its inception, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has surprised its critics by growing from an unfunded U.N. Security Council resolution to an institution with more than 1,000 employees and a $100 million annual budget. With Slobodan Milosevic now on trial and more than forty fellow indictees currently detained, the success of the Hague tribunal has forced many to reconsider the prospects of international justice. John Hagan’s Justice in the Balkans is a powerful firsthand look at the inner workings of the tribunal as it has moved from an experimental organization initially viewed as irrelevant to the first truly effective international court since Nuremberg.

Creating an institution that transcends national borders is a challenge fraught with political and organizational difficulties, yet, as Hagan describes here, the Hague tribunal has increasingly met these difficulties head-on and overcome them. The chief reason for its success, he argues, is the people who have shaped it, particularly its charismatic chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour. With drama and immediacy, Justice in the Balkans re-creates how Arbour worked with others to turn the tribunal’s fortunes around, reversing its initial failure to arrest and convict significant figures and advancing the tribunal’s agenda to the point at which Arbour and her colleagues, including her successor, Carla Del Ponte (nicknamed the Bulldog), were able to indict Milosevic himself. Leading readers through the investigations and criminal proceedings of the tribunal, Hagan offers the most original account of the foundation and maturity of the institution.

Justice in the Balkans brilliantly shows how an international social movement for human rights in the Balkans was transformed into a pathbreaking legal institution and a new transnational legal field. The Hague tribunal becomes, in Hagan’s work, a stellar example of how individuals working with collective purpose can make a profound difference.

"The Hague tribunal reaches into only one house of horrors among many; but, within the wisely precise remit given to it, it has beamed the light of justice into the darkness of man’s inhumanity, to woman as well as to man."—The Times (London)

Read an article by the author Ace in the Hole.

304 pages | 7 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2003

Chicago Series in Law and Society

Law and Legal Studies: International Law

Sociology: Formal and Complex Organizations, Social Change, Social Movements, Political Sociology


“With our attention shifted from ethnic cleansing to global terrorism, we have lost track of what is at stake in The Hague, where the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has been at work since 1994. With this penetrating analysis of the court’s workings, Hagan forcefully yanks us back. The arrest and trial of Slobodan Milosevic have been the sensational culmination of the process, but other crucial trials preceded it, including those of the perpetrators of Srebrenica and Foca. Hagan traces the complex interactions between investigatory and prosecutorial teams, the dynamics between witnesses and prosecution, and how the special leadership of three successive chief judges turned an unpromising start into a forceful finish. On the path from the Nuremberg trials to the ‘liberal legalism’ of the International Criminal Court, these proceedings, Hagan argues, stand as a milestone in the creation of humanitarian and international criminal law.”

Robert Legvold | Foreign Affairs

“This is a superb book, comprehensively researched and elegantly written. . . . . [Hagan] tells the story of how the diverse members of the human rights community . . . painstakingly breathed life into nascent international judicial institutions.”

Richard H. Ullman | Slavic Review

“An excellent narrative history of the Yugoslav Tribunal based upon extensive interviews with the principals, Justice in the Balkans also promotes the concepts of legal liberalism.”

John English | Literary Review of Canada

“Hagan paints a nuanced picture of the way in which a particular set of individuals . . . was able to navigate the difficult waters of international politics and steer the Tribunal toward greater success. . . . Only with these kinds of studies can policymakers ensure that the ICC—along with the broader enterprise of international human rights enforcement . . . . has the best chance of success.”

Jenny S. Martinez | American Journal of International Law

Table of Contents

List of Key Characters
List of Abbreviations
Prologue - Contempt of Court
Introduction - The Prosecution’s Theory
1. From Nuremberg
2. Experts on Atrocity
3. The Virtual Tribunal
4. The Real-Time Tribunal
5. The Srebrenica Ghost Team
6. The Foca Rape Case
7. Courting Contempt

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