And so, at last, the Bosnian Serb war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic has been arrested and will stand trial in The Hague where he will probably have to answer charges of genocide. The court in The Hague will be properly constituted, the evidence on both sides will be properly judged and Karadzic can expect to receive impeccably fair treatment – fairer by a mile than the summary justice he is said to have meted out on his victims at Srebrenica and elsewhere.

Contrast the way that Karadzic will be treated with the scandalous want of justice received by the former leader of Iraq Saddam Hussein. The Americans, who captured Saddam, eventually handed him over to a kangaroo court where there was never the slightest chance that a fair trial could be held. Although Saddam’s crimes were crimes against humanity as much as Karadzic’s are alleged to have been at no point were the Americans prepared to hand him over to an International court. Indeed there can be little doubt that from the President downwards the US Administration wanted to see Saddam swing from the end of a rope and the fact that there would be little proper justice along the way didn’t worry them one bit.

Capital punishment, even for the most heinous crimes, has been abolished by the democracies around the world. Many citizens may feel that when the crimes include genocide, as Saddam’s certainly did, then an exception should be made. The Israelis did this for Adolph Eichmann back in 1962 and Eichmann’s hanging is the only judicial execution in the history of the State of Israel.  But elsewhere the overwhelming moral case against capital punishment is such that mass murderer though he may be proven to be Karadzic will be jailed not executed if found guilty.

The justice that Karadzic can expect is in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which recognises “…the inherent dignity and … the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family [in] the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”. Many may feel that Karadzic does not deserve such decency of treatment – but down that route lies anarchy. The Bush Administration, with the grotesque abuses of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib as stains on its collective character no doubt felt that the denial of proper justice to Saddam Hussein was justified by the horror of his crimes. It wasn’t – the modern and civilised norm is the justice that Radovan Karadzic can expect not the American countenanced and bungled judicial murder that was Saddam Hussein’s fate.

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