Posted on June 23rd, 2021


 When Sri Lanka won Eelam War IV, the west called for an international    war crimes investigation. This is a new development in warfare. The International Criminal Court in Hague (2002) was created for this purpose and serious war crimes are now referred to it.

But   the first war crime courts were the tribunals for the wars in Rwanda (1990-1994) Yugoslavia, (1991-2001) and Sierra Leone (1991-2002). Yugoslavia   had a series of wars from 1991 to 2001, and finally broke up into the   successor states of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. There was a long-running dispute between the Hutu and Tutsi In Rwanda. From 1990 to 1994 there was war n Rwanda and the Hutus slaughtered 500,000 to 600,000 Tutsi.

 In Sierra Leone there was a civil war. Sierra Leone Tribunal was a judicial body set up by the Government of Sierra Leone and the United Nations to investigate war crimes during its civil war. This court appears to have functioned effectively. It sentenced persons left and right. However, Sierra Leone is not mentioned in any discussion of the war crimes of the Eelam war IV.  Commentators in Sri Lanka looked at  Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

 International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia  (1993) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,(1995)  were established by the UN Security Council acting under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter.

US gave much money and EU provided personnel for the    Yugoslavia and Rwanda investigations. Netherlands gave certain concessions free. USA also provided prosecutors, investigators and other experts from the Dept of Defence, FBI and  US Department of State.

The Yugoslavia and Rwanda  tribunals were heavily criticized  by legal experts. These tribunals  have perverted the  accepted laws ,they said. Many jurists were appalled by these two trials  saying that the standard of evidence in these trials differed significantly from the legal standards of most member nations of the UN.

The evidence rules in international war crimes tribunals have a lower benchmark than in the  national legal system of most countries. Life sentences can be handed down on little evidence, observed analysts.

Further, in the Rwanda and Yugoslavia trials it was decided that the normal rules of evidence need not be followed.  Witness testimony need not be corroborated to be admitted.  Thus removing the protection provided for the defendants.

Trials in both Tribunals were based entirely on oral testimonies. There is no documentation , only the accounts of witnesses. This also came in  for a barrage of criticisms by international jurists and other experts. Stephen D Roper observed that  with the passage of time,  recollection becomes blurred   making witness accounts un-reliable

Hassan B Jallow, chief prosecutor for Rwandan trial admitted that the trial was seriously handicapped by the fact that the investigators were all foreigners and had to work through interpreters. Nuances were lost in translation and this could  distort what a person said.

Jose Alvarez, Prof of Law at Columbia Law School, pointed out that when trials are conducted with the aid of interpreters, and without knowledge of the relevant culture or manners, misunderstandings at all levels are bound to occur.

 Manohara de Silva observed that almost all the international war crime tribunals  have been kangaroo courts where any    unreliable organization can make a complaint, false statements included, without having to face any consequences. Witnesses  are permitted  to give testimonies  that have not been properly verified. Witnesses are coached and taught how to tell convincing stories without contradicting one another.   

Christopher Black, a lawyer specializing in International Law who has appeared for persons brought before UN tribunals, has exposed  other  flaws in  the way these tribunals  conduct  the inquiries.

According to him these tribunals are propagandist. Stories are circulated about targeted countries, demonizing  their regimes and covering up the role of the US and its allies in their interventions. Christopher Black says that it  is now  known that the US was responsible for what happened in Rwanda and that America’s falsehoods were exposed at the trials.  

Many individuals brought before these tribunals had been falsely accused. A respected Rwandan General who had saved many Rwandan lives was arrested in 2000. Eleven years later the trial judges concluded that the arrest had been illegal and politically motivated because he had testified that the US and the UN forces had been directly involved in the violence unleashed in that country.

Black also said that these tribunals use criminal methods against those local  persons  whom  powerful countries want punished, such as first throwing them in prison without an indictment. Prisoners suddenly disappear, isolation being a method used to exert psychological pressure on them.

Tribunals pressurize the accused to use lawyers  in their pay,  or those whom they could bend to their will to do their bidding, or those in the pay of the West. Other lawyers are subject to harassment, intimidation, are followed, their hotel rooms are broken into and rumours are spread about them to discourage their appearing for the accused.

Indictments/charge sheets are often false and propagandist and often have parts blackened so that the defence lawyers cannot understand that whole charge. Documents and relevant disclosures are withheld from these lawyers.   ( Continued)

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