Getting Away with Murder 19:00, 2000 (Ref: EU0019)


In this television documentary we examine in depth the highs and the lows of the permanent war crimes court charged with prosecuting war criminals in Bosnia and Rwanda.

Louise Arbour, the chief prosecutor at The Hague Trials, is seeking punishment for those who carried out the massacres in Rwanda and Bosnia.

Among the people we interview in this film is Ben Ferenz – the chief prosecutor for the U.S. at the Nuremberg trials after World War Two. Ferenz has written extensively on war crimes and the need for a permanent international court. He followed events closely in the former Yugoslavia and saw parallels with the Nazi era. But he believes the public didn’t care enough to stop the crimes there and it doesn’t care enough to seek justice for them either.

Ferenz says that World War Two had a tremendous impact all around the world. There was a tremendous outcry all over the world for a new system of law. That manifested itself in the United Nations. The UN Charter; the Charter for the International Military tribunal; the Nuremberg Trials; the Tokyo Trials, which received an enormous amount of public attention and support of all kinds.

The former Yugoslavia situation was more limited and the public didn’t care. The same situation existed in Rwanda where the fastest massacre of the 20th Century occurred – 800,000 people killed in a few weeks.

It has taken enormous pressure from human rights groups for the U.N. to agree to a war crimes tribunal.

In the Nuremberg Trials, convictions were relatively simple, but it’s not the same in The Hague. In former Yugoslavia, investigators require constant protection from locals who want the investigations shut down.

For forensic investigators, important evidence is destroyed or off limits. They’ve exhumed only some of the mass graves. Documented evidence of Serbian crises committees, or lists of people killed is difficult to secure.

Despite the obstacles we see in Getting Away with Murder that the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague has compiled a number of solid files on atrocities and indicted dozens of criminals.

Ferenz says that at Nuremberg justice was relatively simple with the victors of the war controlling the police and the justice ministry and they had access to the archives, the files and they had plenty of money.

In former Yugoslavia, it’s quite absurd. The tribunals have a limited mandate put together in a hurry by the Security Council.

What is lacking is the political will. There was enough political will to create the tribunal, but insiders say it wasn’t really expected to succeed. Badly underfunded, slowed down by bureaucracy and U.N. foot-dragging.

Arbour says she is frustrated, but that’s the way it is and she has to “play the hand you’ve been dealt. There’s no point thinking it would have been easier if it was different”.