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Additional resources for Genocide and Accountability: Three Public Lectures by Simone Veil, Geoffrey Nice and Alex Boraine
We should not stray beyond our proper function. Prosecutors can do no more than attempt to bring to account under rules some of the worst offenders. Judges, as they sensibly say, are not to attempt to write definitive histories, but to return verdicts within the rules, other wider issues being, of course, for others. ) Of course we might have uninformed views on the nature of man, on whether violence is natural and simply a sensible ultimate technique for the resolution of conflict. Or we might think that there is reality in the spirit lying behind those memorials that are regularly and properly erected in respect of crimes of genocide, memorials that plead and pray that ‘this may never happen again’.
There is always a question about what can happen not just to others but – were the circumstances to exist – also to ourselves. Brought up shortly after the second World War, like many of those involved in these cases, I was educated in an environment – certainly as far as England was concerned – that on reflection seems to have been artificially peaceful. Let us recall what and how we have learned about the Holocaust. It was the most critical event in recent history, but it had to be overlooked as we learned to believe that peace was natural and that war was an aberration – despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Reparations are, for them, the most tangible manifestation of the efforts of the state to remedy the harms they have suffered. Criminal justice – even if it were completely successful, both in terms of the number of perpetrators accused (far from being the case in any transition) and in terms of results (which are always affected by the availability of evidence, and by the persistent weaknesses of judicial systems) – is, in the end, a struggle against perpetrators rather than an effort on behalf of victims.