The Butcher's Trail: Mass crimes, impunity and justice, with Julian Borger, Guardian World Affairs editor

Julian Borger, Guardian’s World Affairs editor and a Pulitzer Prize winner, about his new book, The Butcher’s Trail


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It tells the story of the pursuit of Balkan war criminals, the most successful manhunt of modern times, a tale that has lain buried under layers of official secrecy until now. But this is much more than a litany of these crimes. It is a powerful reckoning of how the world was forced to recognise a shocking reality: appalling war crimes in modern Europe.

We expect murderers to be caught and punished. But what about mass murderers? Are some crimes so enormous that they go beyond the reach of the law? In an age of seeming impunity for the atrocities in Syria, Ukraine, and elsewhere, Julian Borger's book, The Butcher's Trail, is a reminder that there is an alternative.

The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia indicted 161 war crimes suspects for atrocities committed in the Croatian, Bosnian and Kosovo wars. Their pursuit was carried out by the special forces of six countries and intelligence agencies of many more.

Julian Borger interviewed more than 200 of the protagonists to build up a picture of a long, complex and often flawed pursuit, plagued by double dealing, gaffes and incompetence. Its ultimate success depended largely on the actions of a handful of mavericks. Julian Borger examines the legacy of the Balkan manhunt for its implications in the Syrian conflict, and the enforcement of international humanitarian law for war crimes everywhere.

As well as many images taken and collected for his book, Julian will be showing an extraordinary video of the first arrest for the Balkan War Crimes Tribunal. It has only been shown once before, in New York.


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Julian Borger

Julian is The Guardian's world affairs editor**, and writes its global security blog. He was part of the Guardian team that won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism for its work on the Snowden Files. His first real job was working as an economist in Lesotho for two years before turning to journalism.

He began his news career in Africa, where he reported on the fall of apartheid in South Africa for the BBC. He moved to The Guardian in Poland in the Solidarity era and then in Sarajevo during the Bosnian war. He went on to serve as Middle East correspondent, based in Jerusalem and as The Guardian's US Bureau Chief during the late Clinton and Bush presidencies.




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2016Martin Keeley