Holland has a dirty little secret. In the North Sea resort of Scheveningen, there is a prison where you can be indefinitely incarcerated without trial, or where you can be delivered on the orders of an ad hoc “court” that sometimes issues warrants only after politically motivated arrests have been made. The court is ten miles away, in The Hague, and it goes by the name of the International Tribunal for the Prosecution of Persons Responsible for Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law Committed in the Territory of the Former Yugoslavia Since 1 January 1991.

The creation of the Tribunal, three years ago, was sought by the Clinton administration and its allies in the Islamic world for purely political reasons, as yet another tool of pressuring and punishing the Serbs. According to Susan Woodward of the Brookings Institution, “the accusations became a servant of American policy toward the conflict itself, which required a conspiracy of silence about parties which were not considered aggressors.”

The disapproved-of party in the Yugoslav war was to be pilloried, and The Hague was needed to give legitimacy and “legality” to that decision. Accordingly, of the 57 suspects who have been indicted by the end of April, 46 were Serbs. At the same time, the prosecution seems unconcerned by the most severe crimes committed against the Serbs, such as the largest ethnic cleansing of the entire Yugoslav conflict and killings of civilians committed by Croats in August 1995 in the Krajina.

The goings on at The Hague could have escaped wider scrutiny but for the recent case of a Bosnian-Serb general, 61-year-old Djordjc Djukic, which has dealt a major blow to the credibility of the tribunal. Mistakenly trusting American assurances of unhindered passage on open roads in demilitarized areas. General Djukic, his assistant Colonel Krsmanovic, and their driver were ambushed on January 30 by Muslim government forces near Sarajevo and taken prisoner. The Muslims duly announced that they were holding the two officers on suspicion of war crimes, although neither the Tribunal nor the Muslim government itself had previously listed Djukic or Krsmanovic—logistics officers who had never commanded front-line troops—as suspected war criminals.

NATO commanders on the ground were furious at what they regarded as a blatant Muslim provocation. Brigadier Andrew Cumming, the British officer who directs the NATO force’s Joint Operations Center in Bosnia, immediately described their seizure by the Muslims as “provocative and inflammatory.” He stressed that, under the Dayton Accord, all military activities within the no man’s land separating the government-held territories from those of the Bosnian Serbs were prohibited.

Djukic’s arrest caused a rare expression of displeasure with Izetbegovic in some Western political quarters. The Washington Post reported that “Western officials have privately voiced opposition to the arrests, saying . . . they came at an inopportune time in the implementation of the accord and uprooted the first sprouts of hope for improved ties between Bosnia’s Muslims and Serbs.” Echoing the mood in London, the Economist opined that “the arrests seem to menace one of the peace plan’s fundamental principles, freedom of movement across the whole of Bosnia.”

At this point The Hague Tribunal obligingly came to Izetbegovic’s rescue: on February 6, its chief prosecutor Richard Goldstone “asked” the Bosnian Muslim government to “provisionally arrest” the two officers, saying it “might” indict them for war crimes. By the time Goldstone came on board, Djukic and Krsmanovic had spent eight days in a Muslim jail; but from that point on, Izetbegovic could claim that their further detention was “legal.” To the delight of mission creep enthusiasts, on February 12, NATO was also included in the affair, by having to provide a G-130 to take the two from Sarajevo to The Hague.

According to Goldstone, they were brought to Scheveningen to be investigated for their role in the shelling of Sarajevo; but significantly, as the New York Times reported a day after their transfer to Holland, “officials close to The Hague said the men may be held as witnesses in other cases.”

The possibility of plea bargains was broadly hinted at by Goldstone himself. He noted that while the two Serbs “are themselves under suspicion, because of their positions as senior military officers they may be able, as witnesses, to provide investigators with important information relevant to other enquiries being conducted by the prosecutor’s office.”

Goldstone’s hopes of using the Serb general as a star witness against Karadzic and Mladic were soon dashed. After two weeks of being subjected to threats and promises, Djukic was punished for his refusal to provide desirable testimony by being formally indicted on February 29. He was charged with being “part of an operation” designed “to kill, injure, terrorize and demoralize the civilian population.”

It was soon apparent that Goldstone’s vindictiveness was shortsighted. Even those commentators who could never be accused of pro-Serb sympathies found the whole episode rather sordid. Edward Cody, writing in the Washington Post on April 7, noted the “terrible banality” of the indictment, and warned that on this form hardly any 20th-century leader could avoid the same charge:

Did Harry Truman order the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki “in order to kill, injure, terrorize and demoralize the civilian population” of Japan? Of course he did, and for the most part, history has treated him kindly for it. Winston Churchill ordered the firebombing of Dresden for the same awful reason.

Cody correctly noted that as a consequence, the Tribunal has made itself “vulnerable to already heated contentions among many Serbs that it is an instrument of revenge and political expediency rather than justice.”

By the middle of April, Colonel Krsmanovic was released, and it had become obvious that any public trial of Djukic would collapse in ignominy even under the Tribunal’s own rules. At the same time, Goldstone was not prepared to eat the humble pie of relenting on his indictment. He decided that the easiest way out was to release the ailing Serb general “on humanitarian grounds.” Of course, this was in itself an admission of the frivolity of the charges: no “humanitarian” considerations could possibly justify the release of a real, full-blooded war criminal.

L’affaire Djukic is more than just a reminder of the travesty of justice going on in The Hague. A dangerous precedent in positive international law has been created, too, and a thorough revision of the U.N. Charter has been effected. The Hague may yet prove to be a step toward the globalist dream of a permanent International Criminal Tribunal. The goal is not to delegitimize war crimes per se, but to enhance the power of New World Order enthusiasts to decide what is a war crime on the basis of current political calculations. To the Albrightesque mind there is no danger of the United States having to accept the jurisdiction of an International Criminal Tribunal created by the resolution of the U.N. Security Council, without congressional consent, without presidential signature, with primacy over the Constitution and over American courts. Such indignities are reserved for a Serbia, or a Rwanda. The true goal is not to give up control, but to exercise it. The objective is not to build a new global superstate, but to develop more effective tools to keep existing states in submission.

Chief prosecutor Coldstone is leaving The Hague to take an attractive new post in his native South Africa. It is doubtful whether his hand-picked successor, Madam Justice Arbour from Ontario, will be able to restore some credibility to the prosecutor’s office. The task may prove beyond the powers of even the fairest-minded of jurists: the system of justice created in The Hague is inherently unfair.

For many it is also lucrative. Like any other ideologically inspired and publicly funded project in social engineering, the Tribunal has become an important provider of sinecure to a legion of lawyers, paper-pushers, and “experts.” It has gobbled up over 40 million dollars so far, and this year’s budget alone amounts to another 40 million. This is enough to guarantee its transmutation into a self-perpetuating bureaucratic Leviathan which will never willingly leave the scene.

And who pays for all this? Increasingly, the American taxpayer. While some early bankrolling of the Tribunal came from the Islamic world, a lot of its current budget comes from the U.S. Treasury—including 2.5 million dollars’ worth of computer equipment donated to the prosecutor’s office. The majority of Americans whose innate sense of fairness has not been corrupted by inside-the-Beltway considerations might have good reason to feel that their tax dollars are being misused. Most of them do not know the truth about The Hague Tribunal. If they did, they just might care.