Philip Kearney was an assistant District Attorney in San Francisco ith 17 years experience when he received a phone call from a friend suggesting that Philip join him in Kosovo as their was an opening in the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) for a prosecutor. Though he was prosecuting homicides in his district and had a good home life with wife, he convinced himself that the change of a six month stint as an international prosecutor was what he wanted. As his friend suggested he applied for the position with the UNMIK having absolutely no knowledge of international law let alone Yugoslavian law and got the job.
This six month stint that turned into nine months would be a life changing experience for him and changed his whole life. This memoir of Mr. Kearney's time as an international prosecutor for UNMIK has been well edited and reads like a novel. It is a fast and captivating read of the inner workings of what a international prosecutor has to deal with while prosecuting war crimes in the country where they took place. He also was the lead prosecutor for UNMIK on the first case of international sex trafficking ring in the region.
We are given a front row seat as we walk in his shoes and get a real feel for the excitement, discomfort, danger and hard work that these UN workers face while in war torn regions. The work, dedication and risk assumed is amazing and you have to respect Mr. Kearney for staying with the job. But as he becomes addicted to the adrenaline we will see he cannot return to his life as a city assistant District Attorney. Having lived in a war torn third world country myself I can tell you his experiences are not even those of the people in the most danger of performing their duties. But this is a first person account that is worth reading.
The need of people for justice is great. And when war crimes to the degree of what we learn of happened in this conflict even more so. In the few cases that Mr. Kearney worked on we get a very close view of what life was like for everyone in the war torn region and the fear that continued even with the presence of the UN and NATO supposedly keeping Kosovo as a protectorate. Of course as most expect regardless of the very hard work and risk of these international workers not much gets done or moves very slowly and years of work can get overturned with a bureaucratic strike of a pen. After reading this book my respect for the ground forces so to speak of the United Nations who take such risk has risen immeasurably.
But the lack of any real action by the upper levels of the UN and NATO are also unveiled. The British general of the NATO Forces in Kosovo refused to follow direct orders to expel the unlawful occupation of the Kosovo airport by the Russians; and they never did anything but ignore them. And the UN bureaucracy and lack of international authority becomes readily apparent when they are not even able to help procure a necessary witness from the adjoining country in a War Crimes Trial and Mr. Kearney has the foresight to turn to the intelligence agencies of the areas to aid in meeting and getting his witness to trial.
Like the Middle East the Balkans have century old hatreds that played a role in each and every case that was tried. Even with the presence of international police force and NATO it was obvious the fear that everyone lived under everyday not knowing if it would be their last was ever present. Mr. Kearney does an excellent job of allowing us a small glimpse of this life as an international with a security detail. We can easily imagine what it is like for a local who does not have this protection who wants to see justice done. And what we see as his team breaks up and go to their new positions. The world is full of countries still waiting for horrendous war crimes to be prosecuted and justice brought to bear.