David Scheffer


On his book All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals

Cover Interview of January 31, 2012

A close-up

Pages 2 through 5 state what the book is about, its objectives, the historical significance of the story, and my role in it.  Allow me to stitch together some of the key passages here:

The futile slogan of “never again” after World War II collapsed under the weight of atrocity crimes occurring again and again….  The task was not to construct a new legal order of perfect justice where every war criminal from the top leaders on down to the foot soldiers would be prosecuted.  Rather, the challenge centered on building tribunals that would hold political and military leaders to account for the atrocity crimes unleashed on innocent civilian populations for which they were primarily responsible…. [W]hat follows is a historical narrative of how international justice evolved exponentially during the decade of the 1990s and into the twenty-first century and brought to an end the presumption of impunity for atrocity crimes.  It is the story of the political decisions that shaped the tug-of-war between peace and justice during that dynamic period in world history.

In the pages 264 to 266 I describe my days on the Kosovo-Macedonian border in April 1999, as thousands of Kosovar-Albanians fled Serb terror and crowded into fields of utter misery and despair.  I also recount in these pages what I wrote in my notes immediately thereafter—that raw reaction, without any refinement of the clearance process in Washington, is a good snapshot of what one encounters throughout the book.