Slobodan Milošević died a few months before the end of his trial. There were no closing arguments and there was no judgment by the judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – the ICTY.

Sir Geoffrey Nice had been preparing closing arguments as the case proceeded and will explain what some of them were. Would those arguments have suggested Milošević was a deranged political dictator or merely a politician seduced by events to make bad – criminal – decisions? How should a prosecution craft its arguments about a single individual on trial for events that happened in a grave conflict without running the risk of ‘over-prosecution’? How can four years of a trial focused on one individual avoid distortion of the complex political, military and historical realities which made mass atrocities possible?

Had Milošević’s case concluded, would arguments of the Prosecution and judgments of the court have depicted a man so different from how we see ourselves and how we see ‘ordinary’ political leaders that the trial would have achieved little beyond achieving some retribution, some deterrence and bringing some resolution for survivors and bereaved? Or might the trial have been seen as a warning for those other ‘ordinary’ political leaders of how easy it is for political power to lead astray and corrupt those who might, in other circumstances, have ended their lives honourably – all showing how valuable may be the mechanisms – of democracy or otherwise – that allow us to restrain bad leaders before they get worse.

The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:

Gresham College has been giving free public lectures since 1597. This tradition continues today with all of our five or so public lectures a week being made available for free download from our website. There is currently over 1,300 lectures free to access or download from the website.

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