Something of a consensus has emerged within the international community and among commentators that war crimes tribunals have been too slow to investigate, charge, and prosecute war crimes. While acknowledging the importance of expediency in international criminal prosecution, particularly for victims, this Article challenges the feasibility, and even the desirability, of quick investigations and prosecutions of war crimes. Relying on examples from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and other tribunals, as well as literature about the processes by which societies and individuals descend into mass atrocity, this Article contends that time is often essential to the attainment of justice in this area. War crimes cases pose particular challenges in both the investigation and prosecution phases that distinguish them from even the most complex domestic cases. In addition, war crimes cases are born of significant societal disruption that can impede, on both the societal and the individual level, the emergence of evidence in the short-term. Often, a true picture of crimes will be available only after time has passed and distance has increased from the conflict. If prosecutors rush or excessively narrow the scope of cases, they risk undermining the goals of the prosecutions. In developing expectations for future war crimes tribunals, therefore, the international community must balance the desire for expediency against stubborn but necessary processes that may cause delay.
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