(Original post by lala)
You say that nobody would fear Milosevic's comeback if he was dead and use that as a reason to execute him, but it can just as easily be argued that killing him would only turn him into a martyr, which isnt to anyones advantage.
Its highly contentious whether liberal standards dont apply in this case- if one believes in a moral absolute ie that it is never justified to take a human life or that human rights are not promoted by denying them to their violaters then it applies in every situation. Including punishment of dictators. Equally contentious is the suggestion that a political trial makes execution legitimate- reasoning, please?
Of course its about the greater good, but there's more than one idea floating around about how to achieve it!
lala - I think we both agree that international trials of former heads of states are in fact political trials. Saddam, Milosevic and the Nazi war-criminals didn't break actual laws. They only broke laws set by the international community. So, from a legal point of view, there is not actual case against them.
Because these trials are political trials, it would be a mistake to apply the same rules to them as to domestic criminal trials.
During the trial of Louis Capet (formerly Louis XVI) in 1792/93 in France, Robbespierre argued that the presumption of innocence was not applicable in this case, because presuming Capet was innocent would destroy the Revolution. Under the presumption of innocence, Capet would have been innocent until proven otherwise. However, if Capet is innocent, the Revolution was not justified, it was then a crime. Hence, according to Robbespierre, the revolutionary principle of presumption of innocence had to be violated in this case in order to save the Revolution.
Louis Capet's trial was indeed a political trial. There was no traditinal 'legal basis' for his prosecution, since his alleged crimes were committed while everything he did was by definition legal because he was King and only responsible to God.
I think you could put forward the same argument in Saddam's case: If Saddam is presumed innocent, he is innocent until proven otherwise and hence the liberation of Iraq was wrong and hence he has to be put back in place etc. etc.
That of course is utter nonsense. It shows that we cannot have a legalistic approach in international matters. We have to drop the standards we apply to normal legal trials when political trials are concerned.
Political trials, as opposed to legal trials, are not about essentially about the person being prosecuted. There is no legal basis to prosecute Saddam or Milosevic, because they WERE the laws at the time of their crimes. Yet, we the victors agree that they deserve to be punished.
But, we can't apply our models to their punishment.
The only legitimacy of a political trial is that it is necessary to achieve the political aim of the victor. These political aims can be the greater good in cases like Saddam or Milosevic.
A political trial does not have any moral legitimacy. But certain things have to be done even if they are not morally justifiable.
Example: Those islamic fundamentalists who commit terrorist acts consider themselves freedom-fighters. We cannot absolutely refute their beliefs and hence the justification of their actions. There is always a possibility that there is a god who wants Osama bin Laden to destroy the whole capitalist world. Just as a coal you throw into the fire might not burn. We know that there is a possibility our very existence is immoral. But even in that case, we should fight for our existence. So, fighting these kind of opponents is justified, because even if we are in the wrong, we are entitled to defend our existence.
Political trials are about existential matters to certain populations. Saddam's trial is important for Iraq, because Iraqis need to draw a line under the past and because the very essence of a liberated Iraq is only justified is Saddam is guilty.
Saddam's person is less important than a liberated Iraq. Similarly, in political trials, the defendant is less important than the political cause of the prosecutors. If the death sentence is helpful to that political cause, it should be applied.
That does not mean that Milosevic or Saddam should necessarily be executed, only if that serves the cause, ie. if they won't be seen as martyrs (in Milosevic's case I don't think he would)
Of course, you may object that by conducting such political trials, we are betraying our own principles and hence serve our enemies' cause.
In my view, global politics are a jungle. The world in itself is amoral. The only 'ethics' there is, is your own survival. We have created civilisation, because we think that life is nicer if it isn't all about power and survival of the fittest. That's why we created ethics, moral rules and laws. We have created a bubble for ourselves in order to improve our quality of life. We were successful in doing that.
The trustees of this bubble (ie those in power) should try to avoid at all cost to betray the principles on which this bubble was built, because it might burst. However, this is only true within the bubble. If the bubble is attacked from outside, we have to act according to the outside rules. And the outside rules are all about power and hence politics (the game of power).
The hypocrisy of the UN and the advocates of the ICC (International Criminal Court) is to pretend that a legal system is possible on a global scale. 'International Law' is nothing but a set of purely political agreements (the law of the strongest). There is no impartial jurisdiction on an international level, because there is no world-government. 'International Law' is in essence political, its application leads therefore to political trials.