Through death, a war criminal escapes justice

When accused Serbian war criminal Slobodan Milosevic was found dead in his jail cell this week, we could almost feel a collective global sense of “good riddance.”

The former Serbian president was one of the bad guys, presiding over the worst genocide in Europe since World War II. Just as the souls of murdered Jews cried out for justice after the Holocaust, so too did the souls of murdered Bosnian Muslims in the wake of Milosevic’s ethnic cleansing campaign in the 1990s.

With the tyrant’s death by heart attack, the dead will not receive their full measure of justice. Instead of a trial laying bare his crimes, Milosevic takes his guilt with him to the grave.

We Jews can sympathize with Milosevic’s victims. We know all too well what it feels like to be deprived of justice. When Hitler, Goebbels and Goering committed suicide, the Jews of the Holocaust never got to see the architects of Nazism pay for their crimes.

It says something about the Jewish people that we demand more than a hasty firing squad for such criminals. We demand due process. We want even the most heinous monsters to have their day in court, to face their victims and to stand in judgment before the world.

How sweet it was to see British Holocaust denier David Irving tried, convicted and sentenced to jail last month for his crimes. How relieved we are that French police have arrested the gang of maniacs suspected in the kidnapping, torture and murder of French Jew Ilan Halimi.

Now if only we could get Iran’s Ahmadinejad, Hezbollah’s Nasrallah and Hamas’ Haniyeh on the docket to answer for their crimes.

That won’t happen anytime soon. There is a lawlessness afoot in the world, even among sovereign nations, that seems to usurp proper justice.

Some would point to Israel’s actions this week, raiding a Palestinian prison in Jericho and capturing known terrorists, as contributing to the problem.

But with Hamas poised to take over the Palestinian Authority, those jailed terrorists — among them killers of Israeli government officials — almost certainly would have been freed and given a hero’s welcome.

That would have been the height of lawlessness.

Slobodan Milosevic is gone. However, many of his cohorts remain at large. Many tyrants like him live on, and many more will someday wreak their havoc on the world. We Jews cannot always prevent that.

But we can and must remain ever vigilant, ever ready to seek justice and pursue it. It is our mission, it is our obligation.