A half century after the Nuremberg trials, the United Nations set up war crimes tribunals, in 1993 for Yugoslavia and in 1994 for Rwanda. Five years ago diplomats agreed to create a permanent International Criminal Court, inaugurated this year, for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. And tribunals of international and national judges currently prosecute atrocities in Kosovo, East Timor and Sierra Leone, with another planned in Cambodia.
All this international experience, one might suppose, would be brought to bear in the trial of Saddam Hussein.
Yet Saddam will not be tried by an international court. His case illustrates the debilitating compromises built into the International Criminal Court. To soothe government fears, negotiators made the ICC forward-looking only; it can try only crimes committed after its treaty went into effect in July 2002. Most of Saddam’s horrors were inflicted well before then.