The Duck of Minerva

Five Myths About International Criminal Trials

28 May 2011

On the basis of what empirical studies I could find about the effectiveness of international tribunals versus execution of mass-murderers, I debunk the following in my latest Current Intelligence essay, responding to effects-based claims on both sides of the debate about whether Osama bin Laden should have been tried instead of summarily executed:

MYTH #1: OBL Could Never Have Received a Fair Trial.
MYTH #2: OBL Would Simply Have Used the Court as A Way to Promote Jihadism.
MYTH #3: A Trial Would Have Become a Focal Point For Further Attacks.
MYTH #4: A Trial Would Have Helped Deter Future Acts of Jihadist Terror and Build a Culture of Human Rights.

And lowest but most:

MYTH #5: The Question is Whether Trials Work.

In the final analysis, whether summary executions of terrorist leaders are preferable to trials is not a question of pragmatics. It is a normative issue. It is about whether an easy, illegal option with few benefits and certain drawbacks is preferable to a harder, legal option with equally uncertain outcomes. It is ultimately about whether or not the leaders of civilised nations believe they themselves are above the rule of law.

Read the whole thing here.