I’m all for war crimes trials in The Hague – so long as we agree to prosecute every possible war criminal

Reflect on the fact that Rifaat al-Assad had been in Europe for decades after he was first accused of sending his Defence Brigades to massacre civilians in Hama. He was worth millions. He lived in luxury in London at a time when I was asking why Scotland Yard didn’t pay him a visit

I like the idea of war crimes trials. Make an example of the monsters, is what I say. “Collar the lot,” as Churchill demanded in a somewhat different context. And if Nuremberg was victors’ justice, I’d prefer the imperfect trials they did hold than the version we would have got if Hitler had won and Roland Freisler, State Secretary of the Reich Ministry of Justice, was still running the Nazi People’s Court.

Right now, it’s becoming quite the thing to demand war crimes indictments all over the place. In the past week, we’ve had TRIAL International demanding that the Swiss judicial authorities act against Rifaat al-Assad for massacres at Palmyra prison in 1980 and at Hama in 1982. Rifaat is the brother of the late Hafez and uncle of Bashar, against whom Amnesty and the UN Commission on Syria would also like to level war crimes charges (according to Carla del Ponte, at least). And now the UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution to collect evidence against Isis for “acts that may amount to genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity”.

And I’m all for a little balance if we’re going to hunt down the perpetrators. War crimes investigators tried to spread the blame after the Bosnian war; Bosnian Muslims and Croatians were taken to The Hague as well as some of the more notorious Serb criminals.

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