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International War Crimes and Justice

A Look at Our Progress Prosecuting Corrupt Leaders

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One of the frequent complaints about international justice is that bodies such as the International Criminal Court lack an enforcement arm to bring suspects into custody. This perpetuates a myth that once a leader is indicted on war crimes charges they will cling to power indefinitely, or that few people charged with war crimes actually end up in court.

This slideshow features some of the most prominently indicted war criminals from around the globe since the early 1990s.These cases make clear that a surprising number of the most senior war criminals are ultimately apprehended and held to account for their actions even though the wheels of justice often turn slowly.

Moammar Qaddafi

Leader of the Revolution, Libya

  • Conflict Libya
  • Indicted June 2011
  • Status Deceased
Timeline

May 2011 The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court announces that he is seeking an arrest warrant against Qaddafi for his actions in directing the killing of protesters during February 2011 democracy protests. An ongoing conflict continues in Libya as part of an effort to dislodge Qaddafi, who has ruled Libya with an iron fist for more than four decades.

June 2011 The International Criminal Court issues arrest warrants for Qaddafi, his son Seif Islam, and Libyan intelligence chief, Abdullah Senussi finding reasonable grounds to believe that all three were implicated in the killings of hundreds of civilian demonstrators.

October 20, 2011 Qaddafi is killed in his hometown of Surt as the last of his forces fall. Mahmoud Shammam, a spokesman for Libya’s new Transitional National Council, observes, “This is the day of real liberation. We were serious about giving him a fair trial. It seems God has some other wish.”

Photo: U.S. Navy

Slobodan Milosevic

President, former Yugoslavia

  • Conflict Bosnia, Kosovo
  • Indicted May 1999
  • Status Deceased
Timeline

May 1999 Milosevic is indicted by the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, or ICTY, for war crimes and crimes against humanity, including murder and ethnic cleansing of civilians, during the Kosovo conflict. A later charge for genocide in Bosnia is also added. Many see Milosevic as one of the prime engineers of the former Yugoslavia’s descent into bloody ethnic conflict.

June 2001 The Serbian government transfers Milosevic to a U.N. criminal tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, for trial after massive street protests in Belgrade over a rigged election lead to the downfall of his regime.

March 2006 Milosevic dies of a heart attack while standing trial in The Hague.

Photo: AP

Ratko Mladic

Commander, Bosnia Serb army

  • Conflict Bosnia
  • Indicted July 1995
  • Status On trial
Timeline

July 1995 A U.N. tribunal indicts Mladic on charges of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his actions in Bosnia, including the siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica, conducted as international peacekeepers failed to intervene.

May 2011 Serbian authorities detain Mladic after he eludes capture for more than 15 years. His capture removed one of the last major obstacles to Serbia’s closer affiliation with the broader European community.

June 2011 The government of Serbia transfers Mladic to The Hague for trial.

May 2012 Trial begins

Photo: AP

Radovan Karadzic

President, Republica Srpska

  • Conflict Bosnia
  • Indicted July 1995
  • Status On trial
Timeline

July 1995 The ICTY accuses Karadzic of crimes against humanity, including the order of the Srebrenica massacre. As leader of the breakaway Serb Republic in Bosnia, Karadzic directed his military forces to “ethnically cleanse” Muslims and Croats from wide swathes of territory from 1992 to 1995.

July 2008 Karadzic is arrested in Serbia, posing as a doctor of alternative medicine, and is transferred to The Hague for trial.

Current Karadzic is on trial in The Hague where he plans to defend himself.

Photo: AP

William Samoei Ruto

Former Minister of Higher Education, Science, and Technology; 2013 Candidate for President of the Republic of Kenya
William Samoei Ruto

  • Conflict Kenya
  • Indicted December 2010
  • Status Trial Pending
Timeline

March 2010: The chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, or ICC, announces that the court will undertake an investigation of individuals suspected of organizing violence following the disputed 2007 election. During this period violent riots led to the death of more than 1,200 Kenyans and displaced more than 300,000. Ruto, who supported presidential candidate Raila Odinga, is one of the main individuals under investigation and is accused of planning even before the election to establish militias to attack supporters of President Mwai Kibaki.

December 2010: The ICC charges Ruto for crimes against humanity including murder, forcing people from their homes, and persecution. He is one of six people indicted. Notably, this indictment sets an interesting precedent as Ruto is gearing up to run for president but has also cooperated willingly with the court.

March 2011: Ruto is summoned to appear at the ICC to determine where there are reasonable grounds to believe he has in fact committed the alleged crimes.

April 2011: Ruto attends an initial hearing at ICC’s headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands, to defend himself against the alleged charges.

January 2012: The ICC confirms the original charges against Ruto, along with charges against three others. The charges of two are dropped.

Photo: AP

Ramush Haradinaj

Prime Minister, Kosovo

  • Conflict Kosovo
  • Indicted March 2005
  • Status  At large, acquitted of all charges
Timeline

March 2005 The ICTY issues an indictment for Haradinaj’s arrest on war crimes charges linked to his actions when he served as a Kosovo Liberation Army commander in 1998. Haradinaj, who had just become Kosovo’s prime minister when the indictment was announced, delivers himself voluntarily to The Hague almost immediately after the indictment is announced.

March 2007 Trial commences.

April 2008 Haradinaj is acquitted due to lack of evidence. He was arrested again and transferred to The Hague for a second trial in June 2010 after claims of witness intimidation and appeal by the prosecution. After considerable legal back and forth, the retrial is expected to begin in August 2011.

November 2012 Haradinaj is acquitted of all charges due to lack of evidence. Governments of Albania and Kosovo demand an inquiry into the behavior of the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte

Photo: AP

Charles Taylor

President, Liberia

  • Conflict Sierra Leone
  • Indicted March 2003
  • Status Convicted
Timeline

March 2003 The Special Court for Sierra Leone issues a sealed indictment against Taylor on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in backing the brutal Rebel United Front forces during Sierra Leone’s civil war. RUF forces widely used child soldiers and regularly amputated the limbs of civilians.

August 2003 Taylor resigns the Liberian presidency and takes exile in Nigeria where he is guaranteed safe passage by the government—unless he again becomes involved in Liberian politics. After violating this agreement, Taylor is extradited first to Liberia and subsequently to The Hague, where the special court will hold his trial.

June 2007 Trial begins. Taylor’s lawyers repeatedly asked for delays in the proceedings.

April 2012 On April 26 Taylor is convicted of 11 counts of planning, aiding, and abetting war crimes committed in Sierra Leone during their brutal civil war. Taylor is the first head of state to be convicted by an international court since the Nuremberg trials.

Photo: AP

Joseph Kony

Chairman, Lord’s Resistance Army

  • Conflict Uganda
  • Indicted October 2005
  • Status At large
Timeline

October 2005 The International Criminal Court indicts Kony on 33 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes. As leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, or LRA, Kony is notorious as one of the cruelest warlords on the planet. For more than 20 years the LRA staged attacks throughout northern Uganda before fleeing to eastern Congo and the Central African Republic where they regularly commit egregious acts of violence.

Current Still at large and actively involved in leading the LRA, whose attacks against local populations in eastern Congo and the Central African Republic continue.

Photo: AP

Vincent Otti

Vice chairman, Lord’s Resistance Army

  • Conflict Uganda
  • Indicted July 2005
  • Status Deceased
Timeline

July 2005 The International Criminal Court indicts Otti on 32 charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, rape, and the use of child soldiers, during his time as second-in-command of the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda.

October 2007 Details are murky, but Otti is apparently executed by LRA Chairman Joseph Kony after pushing for a return to peace talks.

January 2008 Otti is confirmed dead

Photo: AP

Omar al-Bashir

President, Sudan

  • Conflict Darfur
  • Indicted March 2009
  • Status At large
Timeline

March 2009 The International Criminal Court issues an arrest warrant for the Sudanese president on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity; al-Bashir is the first sitting head of state to be issued an arrest warrant by the court. The court subsequently issues a second arrest warrant on charges of genocide in July 2010. All of the charges relate to al-Bashir’s role in directing offensives in the Darfur region of Sudan where attacks by government proxies have killed hundreds of thousands and driven millions from their homes since 2003.

Current At large and still serving as Sudan’s president. In response to increasing pressure for democratic reforms in 2011 as part of the “Arab Spring,” al-Bashir announces that he will not seek re-election in 2014.

Photo: AP

Ahmed Haroun

Governor, South Kordofan, Sudan

  • Conflict Darfur
  • Indicted April 2007
  • Status At large
Timeline

April 2007 The International Criminal Court issues an indictment for war crimes and crimes against humanity against Haroun for his role in inciting proxy militia attacks against civilians in Darfur. Haroun was Sudan’s minister of state for humanitarian affairs and played a central role in recruiting and directing the janjaweed militias that committed widespread atrocities against civilians in Darfur in 2003, including murder, torture, and mass rape. Haroun was also instrumental in slowing the flow of assistance to refugees and displaced persons in Darfur and across the border in Chad.

Current At large. The Sudanese government has refused to cooperate with the ICC, and in 2009 appointed Haroun as governor to South Kordofan, a hotly disputed state along Sudan’s North-South border.

Photo: AP

Jean-Pierre Bemba

Vice President, Democratic Republic of Congo

  • Conflict Central African Republic
  • Indicted May 2008
  • Status On trial
Timeline

May 2008 The International Criminal Court issues a sealed indictment against Bemba on eight charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in violence in the Central African Republic, which included murder and rape.

May 2008 A day after the indictment is released, Bemba is arrested during a visit to Belgium and transferred to The Hague shortly after.

November 2010 After a number of hearings on the legality of the proceedings against him, Bemba’s trial begins. Two charges against him are dropped for lack of evidence though six remain. The trial is ongoing.

Photo: AP

Jean Bosco Ntaganda

Chief of Staff, National Congress for the Defense of the People

  • Conflict Congo
  • Indicted August 2006
  • Status At large
Timeline

August 2006 The International Criminal Court issues a sealed warrant for Ntaganda’s arrest for war crimes, including the widespread use of child soldiers. Ntaganda’s Tutsi-dominated militia is active in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ntaganda, whose nickname is “The Terminator,” was widely feared.

Current On March 18, 2013 Ntaganda surrenders at the US Embassy in Rwanda and asks to be transferred to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Most recently, Ntaganda served as a leader for the M23 rebellion, which temporarily captured the city of Goma, DRC in late 2012..

Photo: AP

Jean Kambanda

Prime Minister, Rwanda

  • Conflict Rwanda
  • Indicted July 1997
  • Status Convicted
Timeline

July 1997 Kambanda, after being under lengthy surveillance, is arrested in Nairobi, Kenya, and transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Tanzania. Kambanda served as acting prime minister during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, which was directed from the highest levels of government.

September 1998 Kambanda is found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment in a U.N.-run high security prison in northern Tanzania. Kambanda is the first head of state to plead guilty to genocide.

Photo: AP

Félicien Kabuga

Rwandan businessman

  • Conflict Rwanda
  • Indicted August 1999
  • Status At large
Timeline

August 1999 The Rwandan tribunal issues an arrest warrant for Kabuga on 11 charges, including genocide and conspiracy to commit genocide. Kabuga, a wealthy businessman, was seen as a key player in financing the Rwandan genocide, which claimed 800,000 lives.

Current At large. Kabuga fled Rwanda in 1994. There have been frequent allegations that he has found safe haven in Kenya, though the Kenyan government denies the claim. He remains one of the highest-profile war crimes suspects still at large who is no longer in the country where their crimes were committed.

Photo: U.S. Department of State

Uhuru Kenyatta

President-elect of the Republic of Kenya

  • Conflict Kenya
  • Indicted December 2010
  • Status Trial pending
Timeline

March 2010 The chief prosecutor for the ICC announces that the court will undertake an investigation of individuals suspected of organizing violence following the disputed 2007 election. Kenyatta, the son of former Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta and a supporter of President Mwai Kibaki, is under investigation for his role in postelection violence that killed more than 1,000 and drove more than 300,000 from their homes.

December 2010 Kenyatta is indicted by the ICC for crimes against humanity, murder, deportation or forcible transfer and persecution, rape, and other sexual violence and inhumane acts. He is one of six individuals indicted. Notably, this indictment sets an interesting precedent as Kenyatta is gearing up to run for president but has also cooperated willingly with the court.

March 2011 Kenyatta is summoned to appear at the ICC to determine that there are reasonable grounds to believe he has committed the crimes for which he is indicted.

April 2011 Kenyatta attends an initial hearing at the ICC in The Hague to defend himself against the accusations.

January 2012 The original ICC charges are confirmed, along with charges against three others. The charges of two are dropped.

March 2013 Elected President with 50.07 percent of the vote amid allegations of voter fraud. His trial is set to begin in July 2013.

Photo: AP

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