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War Crimes: Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World

David Chuter
War Crimes: Confronting Atrocity in the Modern World
ISBN: 978-1-58826-209-7
ISBN: 978-1-62637-021-0
2003/299 pages/LC: 2003046722
IISS Studies in International Security

"A penetrating and uncomfortable discussion of the relativism of truth in situations in which victim status is a strategic prize and evidence is treated in self-serving ways by governments, the media, nongovernmental organizations, and even academics."—Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

"David Chuter's extraordinary work offers a comprehensive and enlightening primer on bringing war criminals to justice. Exceedingly pragmatic and insightful, it should be required reading for all concerned with bringing the perpetrators of atrocity crimes to justice."—David Scheffer, Georgetown University Law Center and formerly Ambassador at Large for War Crimes issues


War crimes typically are discussed in sensational terms or in the dry language of international law. In contrast, David Chuter brings clarity to this complex subject, exploring why atrocities occur and what can be done to identify perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Chuter confronts the real horror of the murder, rape, and torture that are subsumed under the dispassionate phrase "serious violations of international humanitarian law." But his discerning analysis also situates war crimes in their historical and cultural context—acknowledging the social and cultural mind-sets that allow them to happen—and discusses the political and policy issues surrounding them. Offering a nuanced typology of war crimes and a thoughtful discussion of the laws relating to them, War Crimes also grapples with such troubling questions as whether the outcomes of tribunals can come close to "the truth"—and whether they can help to prevent atrocities in the future.


Working for the British Ministry of Defence, David Chuter has had responsibility for Balkans war crimes issues and support to the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague. He is author of Humanity's Soldier: France and International Security, 1919-2001, and Defence Transformation: A Short Guide to the Issues.


  • Introduction: A Grave in the Air.
  • The Basics.
  • The Origins.
  • The Law.
  • The Politics.
  • The Organization.
  • The Investigation.
  • The Arrest.
  • The Trial.
  • The Truth?
  • The Future: Never Again?