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The Butcher's Trail: How the Search for Balkan War Criminals Became the World's Most Successful Manhunt

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  234 ratings  ·  28 reviews
The gripping, untold story of The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and how the perpetrators of Balkan war crimes were captured by the most successful manhunt in history

Written with a thrilling narrative pull, The Butcher’s Trail chronicles the pursuit and capture of the Balkan war criminals indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hag
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published January 19th 2016 by Other Press
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4.06  · 
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Twenty years after the massacre of 263 men, boys, and one woman at Vukovar, the centuries-old Croatian town alongside the Danube, Goran Hadžić was captured and extradited to the Hague, last on a list of 161 indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It was a fifteen year manhunt filled with big personalities, creative surveillance techniques, much double dealing and leaking of sensitive documents, allowing many of ...more
Feb 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A well-researched, well-organized work.

Borger begins with the story of how Yugoslavia disintegrated, and describes how international peacekeepers identified war criminals but often avoided them even if their whereabouts were known due to the messy politics of capturing them, and how reluctant other nations were to go after war criminals even when they had thousands of troops in the country. Italian troops would literally turn their backs whenever Karadžić’s motorcade came by. When he went into h
Jennifer W
Oct 02, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm not sure that I can adequately review this book. I have too little knowledge of the Balkan wars. I learned some more from this book, but I think I would have gotten more out of it if I had a better understanding of the history. I am appreciative of the efforts of the tribunal to bring justice to the thousands of victims. However, the final chapter was a real downer as the guilty are being released and the world powers, especially the US and Russia, are not inclined to work for the furthering ...more
Nov 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Postwar Bosnia is probably one of the better examples of a country receiving accountability for crimes against humanity committed during wartime. This is less a commentary on its great success, but rather points to the general impunity that tends to reign following armed conflict. During the 1990s, Nazi-like levels of violence were once again perpetrated in the heart of Europe. Scenes of concentration camps, mass rapes and public executions managed to shame the world into taking some level of ac ...more
Andrew Haggard
Jan 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The Butcher's Trail illuminates one of the darkest periods of the 1990's including details of the systematic ethnic cleansing by Serbs and Croats during the Yogoslav Wars. This book puts some perspective on the horror and helps the reader to better understand the scope and scale of the human tragedy of this series of conflicts beyond the headlines of that era.

It is also a fabulous man hunt spy vs. spy story that is wonderfully gripping. It covers the early efforts to organize UN operations in B
Martin Reed
Apr 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book. It's written in a relatively light, journalistic style, rather than as a dense history book (not surprisingly, as the author is a journalist and not an academic historian). So it's very readable in a literate way.

The subject matter obviously contains a lot of sadness, but the real focus of the book is the way in which the war criminals were caught (or not, at least for some years). The tragedy of the terrible events that the criminals perpetrated is not covered in det
Joshua Thomas
Mar 10, 2018 rated it liked it
The beginning of this book really had me confused due to the lack of background knowledge on the Balkan war. The book moved at a fast pace and I constantly lost focus because of the multiple criminals and all the information thrown at me at once. I let go of the book for a while but, after my break from it the book really grabbed my attention as it followed one criminal for each of the last three chapters. I really enjoyed these last few chapters but the book as a whole was pretty disappointing.
Garrison Taylor
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Found this one a bit challenging to follow. Exceptionally little background of the Balkan conflicts was provided (a modicum was expected, honestly) and then the chronology jumped around significantly. Fully aware that there were several various counterparties, story lines, timetables, etc. the book jumps around so much that it can be difficult to reconstruct a consecutive narrative without having a good amount of prior knowledge on the subject.
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing. (John Stuart Mill)
Doug Mitchell
Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Excellent and important primer on the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. Remembering this happened on the doorstep of Europe a generation ago and is happening today in other places in the word is an important reminder to all of us as to remain vigilant about human rights.
Igor Brezovic
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Spot on, without political BS. Precise, colorful, amazing book from a guy that doesn't live in Bosnia/Croatia/Serbia! it's always tricky for an author to be realistic and not to take anyone's side. Julian aced it!
Andy Janes
Aug 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, non-fiction
A very clear read about the ICTY and their generally successful hunt for war criminals. In many ways both heartening and depressing, as you can see it as a model for moving forward while you also see the evidence that we haven't.
Jan 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for war crimes nerds.
Feb 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is the true story of what the author describes as the world’s most successful manhunt. It's a story about how a small group of determined individuals – investigators, prosecutors, spies and special forces – hunted down some of the perpetrators of the most horrific human rights abuses to occur in Europe since the Nazi era. It will also come as a surprise to many, as indeed it did to me, who can recall the seeming impotence of the US and EU in the face of the genocide rampaging across the for ...more
Aug 30, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic, Slobodan Milosevic? Remember these guys? Remember the atrocities committed under their leadership during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Seems so long ago here in 2016.

So, why read this book?

1. It is a comprehensive story of the pursuit of various war criminals over the course of more than 15 years. A mixed bag story -- eventually, all 161 persons indicted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague were apprehended (except for those who dies in the
Natalie Tyler
Aug 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction

I will begin with a bit of a post-script: On March 24 of 2016 Radovan Karadžić was found guilty of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity. Borger’s excellent book which reads like a fictional thriller is about the pursuit of Balkan war criminals—the worst known since WWII. The focus is on Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia. Borger has interviewed over 200 people in his close surveillance of the war fugitives who ran from the International Criminal Tribunal. He illustrates the techniques for manh
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war
We have said it seems forever, "never again" and yet genocide as a method of politics keeps occurring. The Balkans has always been troubles by unending violence and a strange history of unforgotten victimhood, even held strongly by perpetrators. This text shows the bungling efforts of the international community to address justice for the victims of the carnage that rounded up civilians and slaughtered them, village by village...all in the name of nationalism. It is a sad story about the efforts ...more
Nov 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
It's certainly compelling - it taps into our desire and need for justice. The author goes into some detail about some of the crimes, but not too much so as to be gruesome. It delves mostly into the efforts after the fact, and you find yourself drawn in by the same emotions that ruled the people involved - mainly frustration at the red tape, roadblocks and overall lack of initiative and accountability by the players involved.

It's a litany of foreign sounding names and places, so it can be hard t
Dec 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Outstanding; exceptionally well written narrative that covers a lot of ground. This book fills in a huge hole of previously missing information about the fall of Yugoslavia. Having served with SFOR in 1999 I recognized names of people I'd met and places I'd visited. This book answers many questions I had about the conflict and its aftermath.
Jo Jones
Sep 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book all about the hunt for war criminals after the Balkan war. Shocking how such perpetrators were effectively living "normal" lives after the atrocities they either committed or oversaw. It was also interesting to see how much politics played a part in the eventual hunt and capture of the main players and equally how much politics helped them evade justice for so long.
I tried several times, but just couldn't finish this book.. More my fault than that of the book, as it is well written and researched, but my lack of knowledge of the history of the area made it just too confusing. I might go back and read a more basic history of the area and its conflicts, and then try again.
Andy Law
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I think it's often forgotten that we had war and genocide in Europe as recently as the 90's. This book is a timely reminder. It recounts in great detail the hunt for the main protagonists, the successes and failures, and where we are today. A very important book that should be read.
Matt Denmark
Apr 08, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting subject, but not well written.
My mistake, not my kind of book.
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was ok
The author is very knowledgeable, you just need to have a lot more background knowledge of the conflict than I had going in.
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Good but dense and hard to get through. Didn't actually finish it. Written almost like a novel, but not enough that it was easy to read.
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May 05, 2017
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Jan 22, 2016
Donald H. Veach
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Mar 05, 2016
Erick Njenga
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Yugoslav Wars: Some Suggestions 3 14 Sep 05, 2017 10:15AM  

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Julian Borger is a British journalist and non-fiction writer. He is the world affairs editor at The Guardian. He was a correspondent in the US, eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Balkans and covered the Bosnian War for the BBC. Borger is a contributor to Center of International Cooperation.
“The fact that the killing came to a halt so abruptly, as if a switch had been flicked, also demonstrates the decisive role of political leadership in creating the conditions for the mass murders of the 1990s. The nationalist leaders who assumed power at the breakup of Yugoslavia were not struggling to contain the murderous impulses of their people. On the contrary, they created circumstances for psychopaths and sadists to kill with impunity.” 0 likes
“The lesson taught by the pursuit of the Yugoslav war criminals is that there can be no sustainable peace without some measure of justice.” 0 likes
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