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Review by Martin Wenick

All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals by David Scheffer, Princeton University Press, 2011, ISBN-13: 978-0691140155, 570 pp., $35.00, also available as a Kindle edition $19.25.

David Scheffer’s All the Missing Souls is not for those interested in light reading or the feint of heart. Rather it is for those with an interest in understanding developments leading to the creation of international war crimes tribunals set up to deal with mass atrocities in national conflicts. Scheffer, currently the Mayer Brown/Robert A Helman Professor of Law and director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University’s School of Law, served as an advisor to Madeleine Albright during her tenure as United States Ambassador to the United Nations (1993 to 1997) and then as the first Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues when Albright became Secretary of State (1997 to 2001).

In All the Missing Souls, Scheffer alternates between descriptions of the atrocities committed in the four areas for which criminal tribunals were established — former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Cambodia — and detailed accounts of the efforts in which he participated to establish these tribunals to bring the perpetrators of these horrific crimes to justice for their actions. He relates the actions related to the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslovavia, the carnage involved in the ethnic conflict in Rwanda, the savage and brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, and the atrocities committed by the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. While at the United States Mission to the United Nations and then as Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, Scheffer was in the forefront of those fighting to create tribunals to bring to justice those responsible for some of the worst human right atrocities of since the Second World War.

Scheffer details the arduous attempts to create each of the tribunals. In each case, he starts with the bureaucratic efforts to reach consensus within the United States Government where, on occasion, conflicting priorities or differing positions made this goal difficult to achieve. Along the way, Scheffer was often engaged in ongoing struggles with the defense and intelligence communities to provide international prosecutors with useful material needed to prosecute successfully those brought to justice before the established tribunal.

While tenaciously fighting, at times virtually single handedly, to secure U.S. support for the establishment of the tribunals, Scheffer also had to deal with the various international and national positions involved in setting up each of the tribunals. From differences over amnesties for war criminals in Sierra Leone to national positions impeding actions against those accused of the worst atrocities in the Yugoslav conflict, Scheffer details it all. He describes at great lengths Cambodian positions that led to long delays in setting up a tribunal to bring to justice those responsible for the grossly excessive crimes of the Pol Pot regime. In the aftermath of theYugoslav conflict, he cites U.S. and European reluctance to utilize their peacekeeping forces to locate and then arrest indicted Bosnian suspects. In particular, he criticizes the French for failing to move against Radovan Karadzic, who was thought to be hiding in the sector for which their peacekeepers were responsible.

A significant portion of Scheffer’s book is devoted to ongoing international negotiations designed to establish a permanent International Criminal Court, and he provides in great detail the negotiations leading to the creation of this body. He also sets forth U.S. opposition about possible court jurisdiction over American citizens – – fear that cases against Americans could result from U.S. military actions in deployments around the world.

All the Missing Souls clearly fills a gap in literature on the administration of international justice, and it is must reading for those interested in emerging themselves profoundly in this field. His direct personal involvement in working to create international tribunals to bring to justice individuals responsible for the worst of the “atrocity crimes” of recent decades demonstrates that perseverance and tenacity can make a difference on the international scene.End.

American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy


Martin Wenick graduated from Brown University and did graduate work in history at the University of California, Berkeley. He entered the U. S. Foreign Service in 1962 and retired in 1989. He served in Afghanistan, Czechoslovakia (twice), the USSR, and Italy, as well as several times in the Department of State. Following his retirement from the Foreign Service, Mr. Wenick was Executive Director of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (1989 – 1992) and Executive Vice President of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (1992-1998). Since 1999, he has been co-owner of Italian Vacation Villas. a company specialized in renting vacation properties in Italy. Mr. Wenick resides in Washington, D.C.

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