Twilight of Impunity

The War Crimes Trial of Slobodan Milosevic

Twilight of Impunity

Book Pages: 576 Illustrations: 10 photographs, 5 maps Published: July 2010

Author: Judith Armatta

European Studies > Eastern Europe and Russia, Law > Human Rights, Politics > Political Science

An eyewitness account of the first major international war-crimes tribunal since the Nuremberg trials, Twilight of Impunity is a gripping guide to the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The historic trial of the “Butcher of the Balkans” began in 2002 and ended abruptly with Milosevic’s death in 2006. Judith Armatta, a lawyer who spent three years in the former Yugoslavia during Milosevic’s reign, had a front-row seat at the trial. In Twilight of Impunity she brings the dramatic proceedings to life, explains complex legal issues, and assesses the trial’s implications for victims of the conflicts in the Balkans during the 1990s and international justice more broadly. Armatta acknowledges the trial’s flaws, particularly Milosevic’s grandstanding and attacks on the institutional legitimacy of the International Criminal Tribunal. Yet she argues that the trial provided an indispensable legal and historical narrative of events in the former Yugoslavia and a valuable forum where victims could tell their stories and seek justice. It addressed crucial legal issues, such as the responsibility of commanders for crimes committed by subordinates, and helped to create a framework for conceptualizing and organizing other large-scale international criminal tribunals. The prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic in The Hague was an important step toward ending impunity for leaders who perpetrate egregious crimes against humanity.


“Armatta has produced a valuable book that will be of interest to specialists on the former Yugoslavia, and especially to anyone with interests in international justice and human rights. . . . Armatta’s book deserves a wide readership of those seeking to better understand the attempt to bring to justice the people responsible for the violence in the former Yugoslavia.” — Max Bergholz, Canadian Slavonic Papers

“Armatta’s detailed narration and analysis of Milosevic’s trial makes this book vital for students and researchers interested in the ramifications and contradictions of international law and justice.” — Ramona Wadi, British Politics and Policy at LSE

“Armatta' s Twilight of Impunity provides an excellent account of Milosevic's trial while both highlighting the challenges of prosecuting a head of state and unpacking the typical ‘lessons leamed’ commentaries that have emerged from Milosevic's trial.” — Maya Karwande, Berkeley Journal of International Law

“Here, Armatta—a journalist, scholar and human rights lawyer who had a front-row seat at the proceedings—trains her focus on the trial of Milosevicc itself rather than attempting to offer a pure history of the conflicts in Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Croatia. Nevertheless, indications of the many different versions of that history do emerge, and clearly the complexities are huge. Particularly useful is her commentary on the operational failings of trials of this nature. . . . There are never excuses for genocide, but what, in the end, is truth? Armatta's absorbing work suggests that it is found somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of views on such events, and that the victors do not have a monopoly on truth or morality. That much, at least, is certain.” — Penny Booth, Times Higher Education

“Judith Armatta, a lawyer, reporter and human-rights campaigner, has written a detailed and thorough account of the trial that is certain to answer more questions than any lay reader is ever likely to have. As a record of the proceedings, and of the substance of Milošević's presumed crimes, Twilight of Impunity is invaluable.” — Toby Vogel, European Voice

“This book will rightly become a key reference in the literature both on the war and the politics that surrounded Yugoslavia’s dissolution and on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. . . . In presenting a strong assessment of all the evidence produced, Armatta has gone some way toward offering the judgment that the judges could not have reached a different conclusion on certain points, even if Miloševic´’s death had not caused the consequent ending of the trial before it was completed.” — James Gow, Slavic Review

“This is a definite source for the examination of post-WW II human rights trials and post-conflict resolution institutions. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.” — S. R. Silverburg, Choice

“[An] amazing book. . . . Armatta . . . has brought a boots-on-the-ground understanding of the Balkans from previous work in Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia. In her observations, she proves to be an acute student of law, character, strategy, and history. . . . [T]his is a wonderful and important book. Armatta has captured not only the sights and sounds of the court, but also of the Balkans itself, and the book emerges analyzing the biggest themes of international justice. It has enormous implications for the future. . . . Every practitioner and student of international relations should read Armatta’s book.” — Wesley Clark, Washington Monthly

“[Armatta’s] is the front-row view of a first-rate court reporter, giving the reader a TiVo-like version, culled of dead space and repetition, that is still exhausting in its arduous pace and detail. Diligently, she watched and recorded as the court probed all three charges from Kosovo, back through the Croatian and Bosnian wars, tediously piling up the evidence as Milosevic bobbed and weaved. One comes away half heartened by the effort to answer unspeakable cruelty and suffering with justice but, in a way, more saddened by Milosevic's slippery success in persuading his partisans and many of his countrymen that they, not he, were on trial, the victims of great power bullies.“ — Robert Legvold, Foreign Affairs

“Armatta’s encyclopedic compendium is impeccably researched, meticulous, detailed, prudent, and careful. It distinguishes itself as a must-read.” — Mark A. Drumbl, Law and Politics Book Review

"Armatta is quite evenhanded in her description of the court and its procedures." — William Pruitt, H-Genocide, H-Net Reviews

“As the only independent lawyer to have monitored and reported regularly from the Milosevic trial courtroom from its first day, Judith Armatta has produced an unparalleled, firsthand account of the first truly international war crimes trial of a national leader. She captures the courtroom atmosphere and personalities with a thoroughly engaging reportorial style, but brings her legal and regional expertise to bear in explaining and analyzing important testimony and judicial decisions. Twilight of Impunity is not only a singular history of the trial, but a compelling narrative of the major battles and convoluted diplomatic struggles of the Balkan wars. The book is filled with previously unreported insights arising from the testimony of major figures of the era, including Milosevic, former world leaders, NATO officials, victims, judges and prosecutors. A compelling and thorough source of unconventional wisdom on the trial and its impact, this book must be read by anyone hoping to understand the Balkans and the new era of international war crimes trials.” — Nina Bang-Jensen, former Executive Director/Counsel, Coalition for International Justice

“In Twilight of Impunity, Judith Armatta has done for the trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the Butcher of the Balkans, what Hannah Arendt did for the trial of Adolf Eichmann, the Architect of the Holocaust: present an unflinching depiction of the crimes, the anguish of the victims and witnesses, the arrogance of the killers, the virtues and flaws of the judicial process, and the banality of the evil that can arise when leaders assume they enjoy impunity.” — Chuck Sudetic, author of Blood and Vengeance: One Family’s Story of the War in Bosnia

“Judith Armatta spent three incredible years with a front row seat in the trial that many hope will signal a beginning of the end to impunity. Through this book the reader is granted a rare privilege to share Judith’s journey through the trial of Milosevic. As such, Twilight of Impunity serves as an indispensable cornerstone to the historical record of the Yugoslav conflict, and is a must read for anyone who seeks to understand how and why genocide returned to Europe.” — Paul R. Williams, American University Washington College of Law


Availability: In stock
Price: $49.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Judith Armatta is a lawyer, journalist, and human-rights advocate who monitored the trial of Slobodan Milosevic on behalf of the Coalition for International Justice. Her dispatches from The Hague appeared in Tribunal Update, published by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting; Monitor, a magazine of political commentary published in Montenegro; the International Herald Tribune; and the Chicago Tribune. Prior to her work in The Hague, Armatta worked for the American Bar Association’s Central and East European Law Initiative, opening offices in Belgrade, Serbia (in 1997) and Montenegro (in 1999). During the Kosova War, she headed a War Crimes Documentation Project among Kosovar Albanian refugees in Macedonia. Armatta currently consults on international humanitarian, human rights, and other rule-of-law issues, most recently in the Middle East. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface: A Personal Note ix

Acknowledgments xiii

Note on Usage and Conventions xvii

Abbreviations xxi

Cast of Characters xxv

Introduction 1

1. Opening Statements 10

2. Milosevic Was Warned 25

3. The Lead-up to War 46

4. War in Kosova 75

5. Massacre and Cover-up 95

6. Milosevic's Rise to Power 117

7. The Exercise of (De Facto) Power 148

8. War and Attempts at Peace 182

9. War Comes to Bosnia 212

10. Concentration Camps and Safe Areas 240

11. Genocide 284

12. Immigration 322

13. The World According to Milosevic 345

14. Constructing Reality: Milosevic's Loyal Officers 370

15. Croatia and Bosnia: A Case of Self-Defense? 393

16. Conclusions and Recommendations 430

Afterword 449

Appendix I. Law of the Tribunal 451

Appendix II. List of Defense Witnesses 457

Appendix III. Chronology 459

Notes 471

Bibliography 517

Index 523
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4746-0