International justice: Infamous war crimes cases

A list of world leaders and former generals convicted of crimes against humanity or genocide who have been caught or are still at large.

A gallery of world leaders, military men recently convicted, on trial, in prison, at large for crimes against humanity

The tribunals held at the end of the Second World War in Nuremberg and Tokyo broke new ground for international justice. Nazi Germany and Japan's leaders were prosecuted in trials that laid bare the war's atrocities and crimes against humanity.

A permanent international court proved impossible to establish until 2002, when the International Criminal Court was created in The Hague in the Netherlands.

"The jurisdiction of the court shall be limited to the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole," its founding statute says

The following are 13 recent cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide allegations, some of which have been handled by the International Criminal Court and others by different judicial bodies.

Some suspects are still at large.

The trials of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic resume Aug. 25, 2014.

At Large:

Joseph Kony is seen during a meeting with a delegation of 160 officials and lawmakers from northern Uganda and representatives of non-governmental organizations on July 31, 2006. (Associated Press)

Joseph Kony

Leader of Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army

Status: In hiding

Kony and other leaders of the LRA, a guerrilla group that began a violent campaign against the Ugandan government in 1986, have been indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The rebels have been accused of, among other atrocities, cutting off the tongues and lips of civilians and abducting thousands of children, turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into child soldiers.

Kony was indicted in The Hague in 2005. In October 2011, the U.S. sent 100 special forces soldiers to help Uganda track down Kony. He was in the global spotlight in March 2012 when Jason Russell released a scathing documentary entitled Kony 2012.

He has evaded capture, but reports say his health is failing.

Omar al-Bashir

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir speaks during a press conference in Khartoum on Sept. 25, 2006. (Abd Raouf/Associated Press)
​President of Sudan

Status: Charges filed

The International Criminal Court has charged Omar al-Bashir with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, alleging he orchestrated the violence that has devastated the country's Darfur region and left hundreds of thousands dead.

Judges issued a warrant for al-Bashir's arrest in July 2010. The Sudanese government has said it does not recognize the indictment and al-Bashir remains in power.

ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo accuses al-Bashir of keeping 2.5 million refugees from specific ethnic groups in Darfur in camps "under genocide conditions, like a gigantic Auschwitz."

Al-Bashir has yet to be arrested. The ICC is seeking six other suspects for alleged crimes committed in Darfur. Prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for Abduraheem Hussein, Sudan's defence minister and former interior minister, on Dec. 2, 2011.

In Custody/On Trial:

Former Ivory Coast president Laurent Gbagbo, in a room at the Golf Hotel in Abidjan, being guarded by UN police, after his arrest April 11. (Reuters)

Laurent Gbagbo

Ivory Coast president from 2000 until a struggle for power following his election defeat in 2010

Status: In custody at The Hague

Laurent Gbagbo was taken into custody by the ICC on Nov. 30, 2011, charged with murder, rape and other crimes allegedly committed by his supporters as he clung to power after the previous year's elections. 

Gbagbo, a history professor, came to power in a flawed election in 2000. He failed to hold elections when his first five-year term expired in 2005, and rescheduled the vote a half-dozen times before it finally went ahead in November 2010. Killings began as soon as the United Nations declared Ouattara the winner, and for the next four months morgues overflowed as the military under Gbagbo's control executed opponents, gunned down protesters and shelled neighbourhoods.

Prosecutors say about 3,000 people died in violence by both sides after Gbagbo refused to concede defeat.

"Mr. Gbagbo is brought to account for his individual responsibility in the attacks against civilians committed by forces acting on his behalf," prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said in a statement.

He is the first former head of state arrested by the ICC since it was established in 2002.

The first hearing in June 18, 2012, was postponed, and has still not been held due to questions over Gbagbo's health and ability to stand trial.

Goran Hadzic in a photo from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia case file on the fugitive. (Courtesy of the ICTY)

Goran Hadzic

Leader of autonomous regions carved out by Serbs in Croatia in the early days of the Balkan wars of the 1990s

Status: Arrested on July 20, 2011

Hadzic was the last fugitive wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) until his arrest in the mountainous Fruska Gora region of northern Serbia. He was indicted in 2004 and is accused of ordering, committing and abetting atrocities against Croats and other non-Serbs living in the parts of Croatia that Hadzic and his Serbian allies had proclaimed to be autonomous Serb regions in 1991 and where they had set up a parallel government.

Hadzic was was captured in a village in northern Serbia in July 2011 and extradited to The Hague. He pleaded not guilty on Aug. 24, 2011, at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal to charges of murdering hundreds of Croats and expelling tens of thousands more in one of the first ethnic cleansing campaigns of the Balkan conflicts.

His trial began on Oct. 16, 2012. Prosecutors hold him responsible for atrocities early in the Balkan wars including the siege and systematic shelling of the town of Vukovar and torture and murder of some 260 prisoners who were herded out of the town's hospital and executed at a nearby pig farm.

In another incident listed in Hadzic's indictment, forces allegedly under his command forced about 50 prisoners to march into a mine field, then opened fire on them. Prosecutors say 21 of the prisoners were killed by detonating mines or gunfire.

Ratko Mladic at a session of the Bosnian Serb parliamentary assembly in Pale, Bosnia, in an undated photo from the 1990s. (Srdjan Ilic/Associated Press)

Ratko Mladic

Former general and leader of the Bosnian Serb forces during the Balkan wars of the 1990s

Status: Arrested on May 26, 2011

Mladic was captured by Serbian authorities in the village of Lazarevo, north of Belgrade, after evading arrest for 16 years. Media reported that he was living in a house owned by a relative, was not in disguise and did not resist arrest.

He was said to be living under the name Milorad Komadic and was believed to have evaded arrest for so long thanks to the help of members of the Serbian army and intelligence who remained loyal to him.

He was indicted in 1995 by the ICTY on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity related to the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre, in which 8,000 Muslim Bosnian men were slaughtered by Mladic's forces. 

Serbia had offered a $1.58-million reward for information leading to Mladic's capture, and the European Union had made his arrest a key condition of Serbia's application for EU membership.

Mladic is accused of commanding Bosnian Serb troops who waged a campaign of murder and persecution to drive Muslims and Croats out of territory they considered part of Serbia during Bosnia's 1992-95 war. His troops rained shells and snipers' bullets down on civilians in the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo. They also executed thousands of Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, the site of Europe's worst massacre since the Second World War.

Milosevic's trial has faced numerous delays related main to his ill health and his lengthy political grandstanding while acting as his own defence lawyer. On Dec. 2, 2011, prosecutors reduced the indictment from 196 to 106 charges in order to speed up the trial. His trial got underway in The Hague on May 16, 2012. He was due back in court Aug. 25, 2014, as the trial continues.

Four senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge indicted by a UN-assisted tribunal. From left to right: Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng Thirith. (Heng Sinith/Chor Sokunthea, file/Associated Press)

Khmer Rouge leaders

Status: On trial in Phonm Penh

Four senior leaders of the Khmer Rouge were formally indicted in Phnom Penh by a UN-assisted tribunal. They were accused of involvement in atrocities committed while their ultra-communist movement ruled Cambodia in the late 1970s. Their trial began in June 2011.

The Khmer Rouge regime — whose leader, Pol Pot, died in 1998 — has been blamed for up to two million deaths in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 due to starvation, exhaustion, disease and execution.

Kaing Guek Eav, a former Khmer Rouge chief jailer also known as Comrade Duch, was sentenced in July 2010 to 19 years in prison for overseeing the torture and murder of 16,000 people. Prosecutors appealed that sentence.

Former foreign minister Ieng Sary was arrested Nov. 12, 2007. Sary was officially charged by the tribunal on Dec. 16, 2009, but died on March 14, 2013, before his trial concluded.

Sary's wife, Ieng Thirith, ex-minister for social affairs, was also arrested but found incapable of standing trial due to ill health and dementia.

Khieu Samphan was president of Cambodia's state presidium from 1976 to 1979. He was arrested Nov. 12, 2007 and made his first appearance at the genocide trial in April 2008. He received a life sentence on Aug. 7, 2014.

Nuon Chea, right-hand man to the group's late leader, Pol Pot, was sentenced to life in prison on Aug. 7, 2014.

Summarizing the verdict against Samphan and Chea, chief judge Nil Nonn said the defendants were part of "a joint criminal enterprise" that launched "a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population" after Khmer Rouge guerrillas seized Phnom Penh on April 17, 1975. The attack took many forms, Nil Nonn said, including "murder, extermination, enforced disappearances, attacks against human dignity and political persecution."

Both Samphan and Chea will be tried by the same tribunal again later in 2014 on separate charges of genocide. Because of the advanced age and poor health of the defendants, the case against them was divided into separate trials in an effort to render justice before they die.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, left, is seen at the start of pre-trial hearings at the courtroom of the International Criminal Court in The Hague on Jan. 12, 2009. (Associated Press)

Jean-Pierre Bemba

Former vice-president of Democratic Republic of Congo

Status: Trial underway in The Hague

Jean-Pierre Bemba was detained in Brussels in May 2008 on an International Criminal Court warrant for four charges of war crimes and two charges of crimes against humanity. His trial began in November 2010.

The former official is being held responsible for atrocities committed by men under his command — including rape, murder and pillaging — in the Central African Republic, which borders DRC, in 2002 and 2003.

Prosecutors said Bemba allowed 1,500 members of his personal militia, the Movement for the Liberation of Congo, to run amok in Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003 after the country's then-president, Ange-Feliz Patasse, asked for its help in an ultimately unsuccessful fight against rebels led by Congo's former army chief of staff, Francois Bozize.

Moreno Ocampo said small gangs of Bemba's troops systematically invaded homes to terrorize civilians, aiming to prevent them joining the rebellion. "They stole all possessions that could be carried off and raped women, girls, elders regardless of their age. If the civilians resisted the rape or pillaging, they were killed," he said.

Bemba has pleaded not guilty to the charges. His trial continues.

This undated photo released by Belgrade's Healthy Life magazine shows Radovan Karadzic with glasses, long white hair and a beard. (Associated Press)

Radovan Karadzic

Former Bosnian Serb leader

Status: Trial underway at The Hague

Karadzic stands accused of 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity relating to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities against non-Serb civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 1992-95 war.

Before his July 2008 arrest, Karadzic had eluded ICTY authorities for almost 13 years, living under a false identity and disguising his looks by growing long white hair and a beard.

His trial before the ICTY in The Hague began in fall 2009 but was delayed until April 2010 after Karadzic  decided to represent himself. Karadzic boycotted the start of his trial in October 2009 saying he had not been given enough time to prepare. The first witness did not testify until April 2010.

In his appearance on Oct. 16, 2012, Karadzic cast himself as a "mild man, a tolerant man" as he opened his defence, claiming he tried to prevent fighting and then worked to reduce casualties in the bloody 1992-95 Bosnian war. 

Karadzic, a former psychologist and poet, told judges he was a "physician and literary man" who was a reluctant player in the violent breakup of Yugoslavia. He said before the war many of his friends, including his hairdresser, were Muslims. "Instead of being accused of the events in our war, I should be rewarded for all the good things I have done," he said through a court interpreter. "I did everything humanly possible to avoid the war … I succeeded in reducing the suffering of all civilians." 

Prosecutors have painted a starkly different picture of Karadzic during months of witness testimony, portraying him as a political leader who masterminded Serb atrocities throughout the war, from campaigns of persecution and murder of Muslims and Croats early in 1992 to the conflict's bloody climax, the 1995 massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the UN-protected Srebrenica enclave. 

In June 2012, judges acquitted Karadzic of one count of genocide, saying prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to establish that a campaign of murder and persecution early in the Bosnian War amounted to genocide. Prosecutors have appealed the acquittal. Karadzic still faces 10 more charges, including one genocide count relating to the Srebrenica massacre. 

Karadzic's trial continues.


Jean Kambanda seized power in Rwanda during the 1994 massacres. (Associated Press)

Jean Kambanda

Former Rwandan leader

Status: Serving life sentence in Mali

Kambanda seized power in Rwanda during the 1994 massacres in which up to one million civilians were killed in a mass frenzy.

He was arrested July 18, 1997. He originally pleaded guilty to genocide charges. Kambanda was sentenced to life in prison for genocide-related crimes on Sept. 4, 1998.

He retracted his confession and filed an appeal three days after receiving the sentence. That appeal was rejected Oct. 19, 2000.

Two days before Kambanda's conviction, Jean-Paul Akayesu, the mayor of a small Rwandan town became the first person convicted of genocide under the 1948 UN convention that defined the term.

Charles Taylor leaves after officially handing over the Liberian presidency to his vice-president on Aug. 11, 2003. (Ben Curtis/Associated Press)

Charles Taylor

Former president of Liberia

Status: Convicted

Former Liberian president Charles Taylor was convicted April 26, 2012, by an international tribunal of aiding and abetting rebels who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in neighbouring Sierra Leone's brutal 1991-2002 civil war. Judge Richard Lussick said the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague had unanimously found Taylor criminally responsible for aiding and abetting rebel groups. Taylor is the first African head of state convicted by an international court.

Taylor was arrested in 2006 in Nigeria, where he had been living in exile.

In his trial, which began in earnest in January 2008, he was prosecuted for 11 crimes against humanity, including rape, murder, terror, conscripting child soldiers, and other atrocities. Taylor denied the charges and began his defence in July 2009, claiming in seven months of testimony in his own defence that he was a statesman and peacemaker in West Africa.

Taylor was ultimately convicted on all 11 charges in the indictment on April 26, 2012, and given a 50-year prison sentence.

Taylor's attorney, Courtenay Griffiths, slammed the conviction as based on "tainted and corrupt evidence." He claimed prosecutors paid for some of the evidence.

Taylor filed an appeal, but on Sept. 26, 2013, an international war crimes court upheld the conviction and 50-year sentence of the former Liberian president for aiding rebels in neighbouring Sierra Leone, saying his financial, material and tactical support made possible horrendous crimes against civilians in West Africa. In its ruling, the appeals chamber of the Special Court for Sierra Leone didn't vary the 65-year-old Taylor's conviction on 11 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity including terrorism, murder, rape and using child soldiers.

Background: Liberia's Charles Taylor and the cult of the child soldiers


Former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic was accused of murder and planning a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing. Milosevic died on March 11, 2006, while on trial.

Slobodan Milosevic

Former president of Serbia

Status: Died in 2006 in jail cell while on trial in The Hague

Dubbed the "Butcher of the Balkans," Milosevic was arrested April 1, 2001. He faced three indictments at the ICTY in connection with atrocities in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo during the 1990s. Deposed as president in 2000, he was arrested after a dramatic Belgrade standoff and went on trial in 2002 in The Hague.

The prosecution had wrapped up its case, and the defence was underway when Milosevic died in his jail cell of a heart attack on March 11, 2006. Milosevic was buried March 18, 2006 in Serbia and Montenegro, in a quiet ceremony at his family estate in the town where he was born. 

Saddam Hussein gestures during his trial in Baghdad on Jan. 29, 2006. (Darko Bandic/Pool, Associated Press)

Saddam Hussein

Former Iraqi leader

Status: Executed in December 2006

Hussein was captured in December 2003 by U.S. soldiers, who found the dishevelled former dictator hiding in a muddy pit at a farm near the town of Tikrit.

After Hussein's capture, some international organizations called for him to face an international tribunal.

However, his case went before an Iraqi tribunal, where Hussein faced war crimes charges related to the Dujail massacre of 1982. Hussein was convicted in early November 2006 of committing crimes against humanity in the slaughter of 148 Shia Muslims in the northern city of Dujail in 1982. The ruthless and flamboyant Hussein used his secret police to crush any opposition through torture and executions. He ordered the use of chemical weapons to crush a rebellion by minority Kurds in the north of the country.

He was sentenced to death, and he requested that he be executed by firing squad "as a military man" and not by hanging, which he said would be a fate befitting "a common criminal."

The court denied his request, and his application for an appeal. Hussein was hanged in a public execution on Dec. 29, 2006.

Moammar Gadhafi 

Moammar Gadhafi died while in the custody of rebel troops in October 2011. (FIDE/Associated Press)

Former Libyan leader

Status: Killed on Oct. 20, 2011

The ICC issued arrest warrants for Gadhafi, as well as his son Saif al-Islam Gadhafi and Abdullah Senussi, then Libyan intelligence chief, in June 2011, in connection with the killings and violence against hundreds of civilians during the uprising to topple his government.

Gadhafi was killed Oct. 20 in an ambush near his hometown of Sirte, according to Mahmoud Jibril, prime minister of the interim Libyan government. Gadhafi died while in the custody of rebel troops.