Jodi Throp, Welcome Ex-Dictators, Torturers and Tyrants: Comparative Approach to Handling Ex-Dictators and Past Human Rights Abuses, 37 Gonz. L. Rev. 167 (2002).
“Welcome ex-dictators, torturers, secret police members …. “‘ This statement has different connotations depending upon the country extending the gesture. For some countries, the welcome may be accompanied by an arrest warrant. In other countries, ex-dictators and others involved in massive human rights violations are guaranteed a safe haven.
The idea that a state actor should and may be held accountable for human rights violations is relatively new, stemming from “the twentieth century, the era of total war and genocidal atrocities.” Before World War II, international law was virtually silent regarding government-sponsored human rights abuses against a state’s own citizens. The aftermath of World War II removed this silence, implementing in international law the notion of individual accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. “Crimes against international law are committed by men, not by abstract entities, and only by punishing individuals who commit such crimes can the provisions of international law be enforced.” The post-World War II International Military Tribunal Charter further recognized, at least theoretically, the notion that heads of state are subject to criminal liability and may be prosecuted. “The official position of defendants … as Heads of State … shall not be considered as freeing them from responsibility… .”
Since Nuremberg, war crimes and crimes against humanity have been codified in multi-lateral treaties and domestic law so as to provide more concrete methods for achieving accountability. In practice, however, states have taken different approaches and varying levels of zeal when dealing with the prosecution of crimes against humanity. In general, states have been criticized for their reluctance to use domestic and international fora to hold persons accountable. The result is a patchwork system. This patchwork system includes domestic courts, courts of other states not involved in the conflict, truth commissions, and ad hoc tribunals. Where dictators are concerned, state reluctance to prosecute is even stronger. This usually results in no trial or ineffective trials, although this trend is slowly changing. . . . Read More