|Picture Credit: flickr.com/bogomir doringer
The ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia continue to prosecute and sentence individuals who have committed especially serious violations of international criminal law. Special tribunals and national courts now occasionally exercise such jurisdiction as well, and the International Criminal Court has also begun to investigate and hear war crimes.
These pages provide information on a sample of well-known individuals who are accused of major crimes, yet continue to elude prosecution. Some of these suspects have already been indicted by tribunals but others have not. We include examples from five continents.
Viktor Bout, shadowy international arms dealer and war profiteer, has fuelled dozens of the world's most murderous conflicts by shipping arms clandestinely to rebel groups, trading in diamonds and other precious resources. For years, Bout has been able to operate with impunity, thanks to his many passports, different identities, and the wide support he enjoys from those in power. He was finally arrested in March 2008 in Thailand and was extradited to the US in November 2010. Bout will be tried by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in September 2011.
Radovan Karadzic is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity throughout the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. A fugitive from 1996 to 2008, he was finally arrested in July 2008 and later brought to the custody of the ICTY in The Hague.
A squad under former US Senator Bob Kerrey's command killed unarmed, civilian women, children, and elders in a village in Vietnam. Efforts to initiate an investigation into these war crimes are attacked by politicians and the media for "misunderstanding" the harsh realities of war.
Overwhelming evidence shows that former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger has committed crimes during his involvement in covert operations, coups, and illegal conduct in armed conflict - particularly in Indochina and Chile.
Over the past two decades, Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army has been accused of killing "more people than Al Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah combined." In October 2005, the International Criminal Court issued official indictments of Kony and his top LRA deputies.
Ratko Mladic was Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic's army chief throughout the Bosnian war and was responsible for the murder of over 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men. Mladic spent sixteen years on the run before he was finally arrested in May 2011.
Since stepping down as Secretary of Defense under the Bush administration in November 2006, a number of civil and criminal suits have been filed against Rumsfeld for his role in authorizing torture and abuse at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.
Charles Taylor seized power in Liberia in a ruthless civil war that left an estimated 250,000 Liberians dead and thousands more seriously wounded. The Special Court for Sierra Leone has indicted Taylor for war crimes.
When East Timor voted in 1999 for independence from Indonesia, militia groups trained and supported by the Indonesian army killed at least 1,000 East Timorese and forced three quarters of the population to flee to neighbouring West Timor. In January 2000, an Indonesian commission placed overall responsibility for the violence with then commander in chief, General Wiranto.
General Augusto Pinochet came to power in Chile in 1973 by leading a coup against democratically elected socialist President Salvador Allende. Pinochet maintained power by dissolving parliament, banning all political parties and allegedly murdering thousands of Chileans who stood in opposition to his rule. Pinochet eluded prosecution by claiming he was mentally unfit to defend himself at trial. The former dictator died in December 2006 at the age of 91, escaping justice and accountability for his crimes.
As the leader of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), Foday Sankoh used brutal tactics to seize and maintain control over Sierra Leone's diamond mines, including extensive use of child soldiers, systematic amputation of limbs, and rape as a means of terrorizing civilians into submission. Even after the UN granted immunity to Sankoh while negotiating for peace in Sierra Leone, Sankoh continued his reign of violence, at one point kidnapping several hundred UN peacekeepers. Sankoh was arrested for his crimes and indicted by the UN-backed Special Court for Sierra Leone, but died before he could be tried.
Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli Prime Minister, is well known for his unflinching attitude towards "preserving security" for Israel, even at the cost of prolonging and escalating conflict with Palestinians. But some legal experts are certain that Sharon is indictable for the massacre of innocent civilians in a Lebanese refugee camp in 1982. Sharon suffered a major stroke in January 2006 and has remained comatose ever since.