cover image For Humanity: Reflections of a War Crimes Investigator

For Humanity: Reflections of a War Crimes Investigator

Richard J. Goldstone. Yale University Press, $24 (152pp) ISBN 978-0-300-08205-0

The strength of this book lies less in its words than in the experiences of the author Goldstone, a South African who chaired the commission that investigated atrocities committed under apartheid and also chief prosecutor of tribunals in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. In this series of lectures, originally presented at Yale, Goldstone first traces his own rise from liberal student activist to lawyer to justice on one of South Africa's highest courts. During this time, he visited thousands of South African prisoners (who had committed no crime and were detained without trial) and attempted to convince ""unsympathetic police officers to adopt a more humane attitude toward the detainees."" The bulk of this dryly written book, however, is devoted to his work on the South African commission that bore his name and the two war tribunals. In all three cases he naturally defends the role of international law in holding human rights violators accountable. Goldstone occasionally abandons his generally amiable tone for some criticism of the Clinton administration and former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. But a more critical approach to the war crimes tribunals (which have been accused by others of ineffectiveness) might have better supported his claim that the U.N. has ""sent out messages to would-be war criminals that the international community is no longer prepared to be committed without the threat of retribution."" Maps. (Sept.)