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New Left Review 50, March-April 2008


Alberto Toscano on Danilo Zolo, La giustizia dei vincitori: Da Norimberga a Baghdad. A Florentine legal scholar traces the postwar development of a system of punitive international law, and its 1990s deployment by the West to impose ‘victors’ justice’.

ALBERTO TOSCANO

SOVEREIGN IMPUNITY

Over the last decade the Florence-based philosopher of law Danilo Zolo has emerged as one of the most principled and scholarly critics of the doctrine of ‘military humanitarianism’ that has followed the West’s victory in the Cold War. His latest book, La giustizia dei vincitori—‘Victors’ Justice’—analyses the 20th-century recasting of the legal status of war and proposes a genealogy of the international tribunals, ‘from Nuremberg to Baghdad’, in which it has been embodied. In a sense, the work may be regarded as the third of a trilogy, beginning with Cosmopolis: Prospects for World Government (1995; English publication 1996) and continuing with Invoking Humanity: War, Law and Global Order (2000; English publication 2001). Zolo himself has described Cosmopolis—a panoramic critique of liberal cosmopolitanism and juridical universalism—as a way of working through his shock and dismay at Norberto Bobbio’s salute to Operation Desert Storm as the harbinger of a new international legal order, founded on individual human rights. Invoking Humanity extended this analysis to the Kosovo conflict: it contains a scathing account of the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague, under Carla Del Ponte, and its political and financial collusion with nato; and a rigorous dissection of disquisitions on ethical cosmopolitanism by Habermas and others.

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