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All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals (Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity) Hardcover – December 25, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookforum

Scheffer provides an almost dizzying amount of information about how even the best-intentioned efforts to confront human rights atrocities on his watch fell repeatedly short. Because we follow him through grinding days, a sense of tunnel vision can set in. However, he writes clearly and at times grippingly, with especially strong accounts of the horrors wrought in Rwanda and Sierra Leone. —Marguerite Feitlowitz


Winner of the 2012 Book of the Year Award, American National Section of L'Association Internationale de Droit Pénal (AIDP)
Selected for the Washington Post's "Best of 2012: 50 notable works of nonfiction"

"All the Missing Souls is a very personal history, an angry book by an often bitter man caught in the middle, conflicted in his loyalties, trying to advance the American agenda on international justice, while simultaneously having to tell potential allies in other countries that the agenda did not apply to Americans. . . . [T]he question of whether the establishment of international justice was actually worth it hangs over David Scheffer's narrative. . . . Justice--imperfect, partial, expensive--has been done and even been seen to be done. In these places, murderous rages have subsided. Some have reconciled. States have achieved stability. People are moving on. One of the reasons for this may be that in some cases justice was done. If so, David Scheffer can be proud of what he tried to do."--Michael Ignatieff, New York Review of Books

"The story [Scheffer] tells is fascinating, for it makes clear that his principal adversary in the struggle for international justice wasn't African warlords or Balkan nationalists but members of his own government."--Lawrence R Douglas, Times Literary Supplement

"A diplomat fights an uphill battle to bring the worst criminals to justice in this dogged memoir. . . . Scheffer's narrative is an epic diplomatic history. . . . In it we see the birth of a more responsible and civilized world order."--Publishers Weekly

"David Scheffer, a former State Department official who was a major architect of the five new tribunals of the 1990s, takes a refreshingly different approach to American pride in his semi-autobiographical study of the new courts. He is critical of his president (Clinton), he is critical of his secretary of state (Albright), and, remarkably and refreshingly in an American memoir in the twenty-first century, he is critical of himself. . . . Scheffer . . . offers an impressively gripping and persuasive story of the complexity of his own undertakings: the cooperation across bureaucracies domestic and international, the development of law respectfully and creatively, and the furious indifference of circumstance to the best of intentions. In other words, he has written a good book of contemporary history."--Timothy Snyder, New Republic

"A revealing and valuable record of the U.S. role in the effort to entrench accountability for mass atrocities as a central principle in international affairs. . . . The centerpiece of Scheffer's book is a long and vivid account of the negotiations to set up a permanent International Criminal Court."--Anthony Dworkin, Washington Post

"David Scheffer . . . provides the ultimate insider's life work, part autobiography, part documentary, all highly informative and enlightening. Indeed, much of the information contained in this text simply cannot be obtained from any other source."--Matthew Kane, International Affairs

"Meticulous. . . . From 1993 to 1997 [Scheffer] served as senior adviser to Madeleine Albright, the US ambassador to the UN, and then until 2001, on President Bill Clinton's nomination, he became the first US ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues. Scheffer is therefore particularly well placed to describe the changes that occurred over that eight-year period. . . . All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals is first and foremost an insider's account, and one written from a US perspective. . . . No country has done more to create an international justice system than the US, or to keep itself outside the reach of that system. If nothing else, Scheffer's account establishes that for the US, even for the Clinton administration, this was about making international law for others."--Philippe Sands, Financial Times

"Scheffer recounts the effort to extend the reach of international justice to war zones and collapsing societies. . . . This impeccably documented work stands as a condemnation not just of such Bush-era expediency but also of moral compromise at the expense of the powerless. It's also the story of an attempt to attain the most strenuous of goals: upholding civilization in the face of monstrous evil. Scheffer is one of the very few people who can tell it."--Douglas Gillison, Time

"The most enduring and sobering message of All the Missing Souls is that--unless the most powerful players in international military actions insist otherwise--international criminal justice is always at the bottom of the list."--Jacqueline Bhabha, Harvard Magazine

"Pioneering. . . . From the indictment of Slobodan Milosevic in Kosovo to the trial of Charles Taylor in Sierra Leone, Scheffer recounts the highlights of this 'truly international counterattack on impunity for the worst possible crimes.' Reflecting after nearly a decade of battles, the author writes that international justice is the art of the possible and requires endless patience and persistence. . . . An important resource for scholars and specialists in international law."--Kirkus Reviews

"Scheffer provides a fascinating insider's account of the formation of the war crimes tribunals following atrocities in the Balkans, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and Cambodia. . . . Scheffer chronicles in captivating detail the diplomatic and political minefields that he and his colleagues navigated to help establish the International Criminal Court. . . . A superb account and unique perspective on the subject, complementing works such as Carla Del Ponte's Madame Prosecutor: Confrontations with Humanity's Worst Criminals and the Culture of Impunity."--Lynne F. Maxwell, Library Journal starred review

"As the first Ambassador at large for War Crimes Issues, David Scheffer was literally at the centre of what is the most fertile period in the development of international criminal law since the Nuremberg Trial. . . . His insights into the dynamics of the evolving US policy in international criminal justice are invaluable. Amongst the many textbooks in international criminal law, David Scheffer's book is refreshingly different. It makes good reading for specialists and for students, yet it is also highly accessible to a broad public. This is a must acquisition for the international criminal law bookshelf."--William A. Schabas, PhD Studies in Human Rights blog

"The reporting of genocide and mass atrocities in the media often has the effect of dulling us to their full horror. They become abstractions, something that happens to other people, far away. In All the Missing Souls, Scheffer makes those crimes immediate and real, and describes an extraordinary effort to further the creation of a world that 'holds war criminals in contempt and breeds them no more.'"--Maria Browning, Chapter 16

"This is an honest and scholarly book."--Geoffrey Robertson, New Statesman

"[Scheffer] documents, in careful detail, the convoluted behind-the-scenes steps that went into the setting up of the various tribunals, the nit-picking delays, the timidity and obfuscation of governments and the endless postponements and quibbling. . . . [A] historically important book of record."--Caroline Moorehead, Literary Review

"Scheffer, who led U.S. efforts to develop international criminal courts during the Clinton administration, has written a personal history of these efforts. . . . Full of exhaustive details, although not organized in chronological or systematic fashion, this book will be of great interest to specialists in the field."--Choice

"This is an important book, its final chapter being, perhaps, the most important, because it points a way forward to new categories of crimes against humanity, such as atrocity crime, which need to be on the statute book if the ICC is to have even sharper teeth."--Rabbi Dr Charles H Middleburgh, Middleburgh Blog

"All the Missing Souls clearly fills a gap in literature on the administration of international justice, and it is must reading for those interested in emerging themselves profoundly in this field. His direct personal involvement in working to create international tribunals to bring to justice individuals responsible for the worst of the 'atrocity crimes' of recent decades demonstrates that perseverance and tenacity can make a difference on the international scene."--Martin Wenick, American Diplomacy

"David Scheffer has provided us with a unique insight into the international legislative process and into the making of US foreign policy. We are in his debt."--Chris Brown, RUSI Journal

"All the Missing Souls is an excellent narrative on the formation and the future of international justice and rule of law initiatives."--Justin L. Heather, Chicago Bar Association Record

"Scheffer's general observations and recommendations are grounded in a wealth of detail on the diplomatic ins and outs of the pursuit of international criminal justice during his tenure."--Richard B. Bilder, American Journal of International Law

"On behalf of the world's most powerful nation in the 1990s, Scheffer was pivotal throughout the formative decade of international criminal justice. No historian or scholar of international criminal law can afford to miss his newly published All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals. . . . The role of a talented and committed diplomat and lawyer, in the service of the world's most powerful nation and of his own pathway to redemption, can be invaluable. In the end, we are all indebted to Scheffer for his personal contributions to the cause."--Doug Cassel, American Journal of International Law

"This clearly written book [is] a comprehensive historical, political and diplomatic overview of the international criminal law system."--Rossella Pulvirenti, Political Studies Review

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Product Details

  • Series: Human Rights and Crimes against Humanity
  • Hardcover: 552 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; First Edition edition (December 25, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691140154
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691140155
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #656,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By jerold pick on August 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
For those who wqondered what really happened in the 90's in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, and even Cambodia,this book is a wonderful introduction. It a historical account of the legal attempts to bring those responsible to Justice, a formidable task in a complicated world. The author is to be congratulated for his persistence despite tremendous resistance here and abroad. One would hope 'NEVER AGAIN', was clear enough. However---
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on November 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
David Scheffer proves that it is indeed possible for a book concerning atrocities to be overly maudlin. It is disappointingly poor writing from one of the architects of modern international justice, even one who is as angry and resentful, as the editorial reviews label him. For want of a well-turned phrase, Scheffer is happy to string together several sloppy ones. The polemic is far more forgivable for its tone and vitriol than it is for its unrelenting inelegance. There was a truly good book to be written here, and Scheffer has failed far worse in that project than ever he did in the events that it attempts to frame.
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Format: Hardcover
One aspect of justice for atrocity crimes that Scheffer discusses in All the Missing Souls is the issue of preventing genocide in the future, although he never comes up with a concrete solution. Scheffer seems to hold so tenaciously to the idea that the International Criminal Court serves a deterring function for all future crimes against humanity, but so far there is no empirical proof so far that it does. New media play a significant role in the way ideas gain traction in society, while also significantly shaping public opinion. The technology of today's media environment allows anyone to publish themselves easily, which can work as both an advantage and a disadvantage for defenders of human rights. As stated on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website: "Holocaust denial on the Internet is especially a problem because of the ease and speed with which such misinformation can be disseminated. In the United States, where the First Amendment to the Constitution ensures freedom of speech, it is not against the law to deny the Holocaust or to propagate Nazi and anti-Semitic hate speech." The article goes on to elucidate that: "The Internet is now the chief source of Holocaust denial and the chief means of recruiting for Holocaust denial organizations." The Internet was founded on the concepts of openness and customability. It would not be such a useful resource today if it had not been, as society's contributions as a whole have made it into the fast paced wealth of knowledge that it is today. However, these same concepts allow anyone to post false or manipulated information.Read more ›
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By Natasha on February 18, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Fantastic book. I love the political aspects brought to life. It brings a wonderful introduction to the need for international justice.
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