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USF Libraries Exhibits

Helping Genocide Victims

David Scheffer, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues

Well, we can help the victims of atrocities in several ways. We never—it’s never accomplished perfectly or thoroughly, because these crimes, remember, are such of huge dimension and wreck such unbelievable havoc among civilian populations that it would be far too optimistic to assume that we can address all victims’ needs and concerns in this process. But we certainly are taking a good faith effort in many different ways. One, of course, is to seek justice, which is my primary responsibility, and that is to establish accountability for the perpetration of these crimes. That in itself often is a recuperative and rehabilitative aspect of what victims need in order to recover from these crimes, those who are living—and also in honor of those who have died, that the murderers have actually been brought to justice. That was the Nuremberg Principle, and we certainly want to do everything we can to strengthen that principle for the purpose of victims. We also, however, in the process of bringing justice against the perpetrators, recognized that there are aspects of, for example, financial compensation that can be compelled—with respect to the perpetrators—that can be of some assistance to the victims. In other words, as part of the punishment of a perpetrator, making sure that if—particularly if they have large cash reserves that have been pilfered from their own society, that those are frozen and ultimately made available to the victims of their crimes. So, that’s a major aspect of what we try to do. We spend a lot of time trying to track the financial assets of indicted individuals who have been targeted by either of the existing international ad hoc war crimes tribunals, so that financial aspect is also out there. There’s also the humanitarian aspect of victims, and that’s where my colleagues in the State Department, Julia Taft and others, focus on refugee relief and trying to ensure that the refugees who are the victims of these crimes, who have to—who are pushed across borders, frankly—or deportees of these crimes, expelled from their country, that they receive the assistance that they deserve. And I think that if you look at what we achieved with Kosovo, that was a big part of helping the victims. There’s another aspect, though, and that is the return of victims to territory that they previously lived in and which, at least, can be cleansed of the perpetrators of these crimes: and again, Kosovo was an example where NATO successfully achieved that objective and was able to bring the victims of those crimes to their homeland. So, those are some of the ways in which we try to address the needs of victims; but it’s an extremely large agenda, and I think if you talk with representatives of victims groups and of non-governmental organizations, you’ll see that the list is a very very long one, and it’s a very ambitious one; and sometimes governments simply cannot meet all of the demands that are placed in front of them by victims wanting to have redress of one character after another. But we do try to accomplish what we can.