NEW YORK — TELFORD TAYLOR knows about war crimes.
An assistant prosecutor in the first trial of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg, Germany, in 1945, Mr. Taylor became the chief prosecutor in the subsequent war-crimes trials the next year. The law professor has just written "Nuremberg: Anatomy of a Trial" (Alfred A. Knopf). Below are brief excerpts from an interview with Taylor:
What is a war crime?
A war crime is a deed which is contrary to the laws of war. By the laws of war, we mean the laws that internationally were laid down with respect to war. This was first done on an international basis in 1899, and a large part of what was done then is still on the books.
What are some of the things you cannot do under the laws of war?
There are considerable rules about an occupying army. If the civilians in the area taken over will behave, so to speak, they are entitled to be treated correctly, allowed to continue to go to the churches, and all those things.
Have there been war crimes in Bosnia?
From my reading of the papers, and if I can believe what I read in the papers, there does appear to have been from Serbia and also from Croatia.... There is an awful lot of material in the newspapers where one person says he has seen such and such, but to what extent can you believe it? ... From what I read, there is an evidentiary basis for endeavoring to put evidence together and proceed with an indictment.
Should the leader of Serbia, Slobodan Milosevic, be tried?
If the evidence discloses that he was involved or intended to be involved in those matters, of course that is a violation of the laws of war. Most high-ranking people don't fire the shot, but they tell their underlings to shoot, and of course that is a violation.
Would it be possible to set up a modern-day Nuremberg trial for these allegations on Serbia and Croatia?
Certainly from the standpoint of the law, it would be quite possible. But you have to find the people who have the power and wish to do it.