Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
In a normal criminal proceeding, what happens is that the investigators gather evidence, and when they think they have enough evidence to convict, they present it to the prosecution, who then decide whether they need more evidence or they think they can secure conviction. If the prosecution thinks that they can secure conviction, they indict the suspect(s), and proceed to trial.

What appears to have happened here is that the process has been reversed: Indictments were issued based on more or less well-founded suspicions, in the hope that enough evidence could be found before the trial.

This is where the tea-leaf reading begins.

There could be several reasons, but my guess - and a guess is all it can be - is that there was enormous political pressure to come up with a list of suspects. NATO burned a lot of powder over Yugoslavia during the '90s, and that powder has to be justified - otherwise NATO would look pretty damn stupid. So it must have been awfully tempting to try to come up with a list of people that were very probably guilty, even if there wasn't actually enough evidence against most of them. After all, if things followed the usual pattern for political criminals, it would take several years from indictment to apprehension, during which evidence could be compiled.

But when you still haven't actually got enough evidence to convict the moment you go to trial, you end up looking stupid: You can't admit that the story above is what happened, because that would be an admission that you had chased people across an entire subcontinent on suspicions that weren't legally valid. But you can't move ahead with the trials either, because then the people whom you think very probably are guilty would be cleanly acquitted for lack of evidence. So you keep them locked up in a Gitmo-like legal limbo for years, while you trawl the Balkans for more evidence.

If this tea-leaf reading is correct, proper investigations and criminal proceedings would have meant a longer time lag between the commission of the crimes and the indictment of suspects. It would also have meant shorter trials and fewer people held in legal limbo for years without a ruling, one way or the other. And maybe even a shorter list of indictees in the final evaluation, because some would be dropped off the list of suspects when the investigators gave up searching for more evidence.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Mar 18th, 2009 at 08:00:32 AM EST
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