From the Slavic Review, Winter 2011

James Gow, Professor

Kings College London
Slavic Review
Vol. 70: 4, page 924

"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. It is the product of Judith Armatta's having sat through the trial as a legal analyst and observer for the Coalition for International Justice. This is a privilege that would not be available to the regular scholar whose other university duties would not permit a research indulgence of this kind. That community of scholars should—and will—be grateful, therefore, that Armatta was able to do so because she has produced a massive resource that will save many hours of investigation, even if this community does not, indeed, could never, embrace absolutely everything associated with this book's focus."

"That focus is the trial of Slobodan Miloševic, the Serbian leader through the years of war and widely regarded as the chief culprit in the field of war crimes. As this trial will be the focus of much research in the future, various records associated with it, including its moving image record, will be archived as a whole. Twilight of Impunity will be an initial guide to all who seek to delve into the proceedings over more than four years. As a substantial guide, it is not a full trial record, nor is it entirely objective, as the author notes on both counts—though it is considerably more objective than Armatta's admission might indicate. The elements that make the book less than objective are the author's commitment to the cause of international justice and her background sympathy for the victims of the crimes with which the Serbian leader was charged. These inform more than distort the book. In no way do they affect, let alone undermine, the account of the trial offered over 447 pages of the main text. Rather, they color the reflections offered in the concluding chapter on the achievements and deficits of the trial. This produces a conclusion that is more positive than negative about the conduct and outcome of the trial.

"In this context, the title, explained in the final sentence of the book, needs clarification. For those, such as I, who, while recognizing (in my case from school day poetry) that "twilight" is the period linking both day and night and night and day, there is a tendency to associate it more with sunset, and perhaps courtesy of the predominant translation of Richard Wagner's masterpiece Götterdämmerung, with the dimming of the day. Hence, there is an ambiguity in the title, which could be read as marking the cusp of a conclusion in which justice has not been done. This is not Armatta's intention. The title is taken from a quotation offered in the final sentence, in which the lead prosecutor of the U.S. team at the International Military Tribunal, Justice Robert H. Jackson, is quoted proclaiming the dawn of international justice, which will have far to go before its mission is accomplished. It is not possible to pass straight into the light of day, it is necessary first "to go through the twilight"(447).

"The book is full of detail and comment—even though more of the latter would have been welcome at times, such as the too-brief discussion of the "Skorpion" video at Srebrencia [sic]—it would be unreasonable to demand even more on every possible point in a book that is 545 pages long. The material that is included is blended in something of a dual chronological structure. That structure, on one level, follows the chronology of the prosecution's case, starting with Kosovo and proceeding to Croatia and Bosnia—that is, as anyone familiar with this case knows, starting with a later set of events and continuing with earlier ones. Within that structure, however, Armatta does a generally strong job of rendering a chronological narrative that follows events—"the story"—rather than the often "bitty" way in which evidence appears in legal cases. Thus, while following the broad chronology of the prosecution's approach, she does not necessarily follow the chronology of the courtroom—instead choosing to arrange the evidence presented in a sensible and credible manner that makes sense of the material as history for the reader. Nowhere is this clearer than in the treatment of the Kosovo case and, in particular, the handling of the Racak events at the start of 1999 and subsequent events elsewhere in that territory during the spring, including the evidence that convincingly demonstrates the accused's own recognition of having criminal responsibility—evident in documents surrounding the removal of Kosovo Albanian bodies from sites in Kosovo, which were eventually found in a part of the Batajnica airbase in northern Serbia.

"This coherent and compelling narrative is perhaps the most articulate account of this whole sequence of events yet produced. It makes clear that, whatever doubts there might have been about the soundness of the prosecution's case regarding Croatian and Bosnia (doubts Armatta tends not to share, it seems, on the whole), and the competence of its prima facie strong case on Kosovo, the judges could not possibly have failed to convict Miloševic on these counts. 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."

Twilight of Impunity: The War Crimes Trial of Slobodan Milosevic. By Judith Armatta. Durham: Duke University Press, 2010. xxix, 545 pp.

$39.95, hard bound.