The Apprehension and Prosecution of War Criminals

Adopted by the General Assembly
Union of American Hebrew Congregations
October 29-November 2, 1997 Dallas


Judaism teaches that we are not to carry grudges in our hearts. However, we cannot confuse this teaching with the urgent ethical obligation to bring criminals to the bench of justice. Our sages observed that a pattern of transgression brings in its wake further transgression. As it is written in, Run away from a transgression, for a commandment pulls along a commandment and a transgression pulls along a transgression. (Pirke Avot 4:2)They also tell us that there is no limit to the judgments for the wicked, and that we are not to stand idly by at the suffering of other human beings. Failure to apprehend and prosecute war criminals sends a message that such actions are acceptable, with the result that other evil human beings, at a later time, will also believe that they have nothing to fear.

How well we understand, from our own tragedies as a people, the awesome price human beings pay for indifference and silence. We, above all others, must be alert to suffering and injustice any place in the world and be proactive in deterring the perpetuation of evil. We cannot allow notorious criminals to escape justice.

In a 1979 resolution on the Statute of Limitations for Nazi War Crimes, the UAHC noted that the prosecution of Nazi criminals serves as a valuable means by which to remind the world of the horrors of the Holocaust. In the aftermath of the attempted genocide in Bosnia, we again call for the apprehension and prosecution of those who perpetrated the atrocities, ensuring that the world does not forget the horrors that occurred there.

Aggressive apprehension and prosecution of war criminals will demonstrate that the United States and Canada do not tolerate barbarism and the defiance of international standards, and will ensure that those who have contributed to genocide are punished for their actions.

In addition, during the war in Bosnia, the systematic rape of Bosnian women was used as an instrument of war in a campaign of ethnic cleansing. In a historic first, the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia defined rape as a war crime. As of now, the tribunal has indicted 75 men for a variety of crimes, including the systematic mass rape of Bosnian women. Yet the NATO-led forces have taken little action to apprehend these indicted rapists and bring them to trial.

THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:

  1. Applaud the actions of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia for defining rape as a war crime and indicting individuals responsible for the mass rape of Bosnian women; and
  2. Call upon President Clinton, Prime Minister Jean Chretien, the United States Congress, and the Canadian Parliament, to take a leadership role for the United States and Canada in bringing about the apprehension and prosecution of the many other war criminals in the former Yugoslavia as well as other countries.