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Airs Tuesdays, June 19-July 3, 2018 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Nuremberg trial of Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s doctor and director of Nazi expe...

Credit: Courtesy of PD / U.S. Signal Corps

Above: Nuremberg trial of Dr. Karl Brandt, Hitler’s doctor and director of Nazi experiments on humans. Palace of Justice, Nuremberg, Germany. United States of America v. Karl Brandt, et al. Started Dec. 9, 1946 and decided Aug. 20, 1947.

Survey the evolution of postwar justice and war crimes investigated over the past 70 years.

Syria. Iraq. Rwanda. Congo. The Balkans. Sri Lanka. Guatemala. Vietnam. Massive war crimes have ravaged our world in the seven decades since World War II. How can — and should — the international community act to bring those responsible for genocide and crimes against humanity to justice?

Ending war seems beyond humankind’s abilities, but significant advances have been made in investigating and prosecuting these international crimes.

A three-hour PBS series, DEAD RECKONING, follows war crimes investigators and prosecutors as they pursue some of the world’s most notorious war criminals — notably Adolf Eichmann, Saddam Hussein, Radovan Karadzic, Charles Taylor, and Efraín Ríos Montt.


Civilians worldwide are increasingly the targets of war crimes. An unprecedented three-part series examines the evolution of postwar justice in investigating genocide, ethnic cleansing and other atrocities, and in prosecuting the perpetrators.

The principles, legal doctrines and tactics that emerged from those pursuits now inform the effort to expose, prosecute, and punish present day human rights violators whose depredations have left millions dead and displaced.

It is a tale of daring escapades, political obstruction, broken promises, and triumphs and failures.

Produced, written and directed by Jonathan Silvers, the Emmy Award-winning journalist and filmmaker behind the documentary "Elusive Justice: The Search for Nazi War Criminals," this series serves as a comprehensive sequel to that endeavor.

The film opens with the flight of tens of thousands of Nazi and Japanese war criminals after World War II. The action then shifts to war crimes committed behind the veil of the Cold War, the trial of Guatemalan dictator Efrain Rios Montt, and the establishment of the International Criminal Court and other modern-day tribunals.

Twenty-two seats in the dock

Like command responsibility, other conceptions of justice rapidly conceived by the Allies in the aftermath of WW2 would prove enduring. The most influential: The International Military Tribunal, created by the Allied powers in the ruins of Nuremberg, Germany to address the crimes of the Nazi State.

The film takes viewers on an unprecedented global journey, recounting the efforts of survivors of mass atrocities, investigators, forensic scientists, and jurists—all working to obtain postwar justice.

DEAD RECKONING reveals that international war crimes tribunals and national courts can provide acknowledgement to survivors of mass atrocities and place future offenders on notice that they, too, can be held accountable.

Rwanda: The Convicted

The community tribunals known as Gacaca formally ended in 2012 with over 400,000 murder cases judged. Sentences for those who confessed their crimes were relatively brief, ten years on average. Defendants who did not confess and were convicted faced maximum sentences of thirty years.

Also resonating throughout the film is the concept that the enforcement of international humanitarian law and international criminal law is dependent on the political will of states.

Interspersed throughout the film is footage of current excavations and investigations, as well as archival footage.

This work has nothing to do with the dead

The Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation was founded in 1991 to identify victims of a thirty-year civil war between the government and leftist guerillas, many of them from the indigenous Mayan population. Both sides engaged in human rights violations during the war.

The documentary also features an array of candid interviews and insights from the world’s leading legal authorities, forensic scientists, medical researchers and foremost human rights workers and international justice experts — including Benjamin Ferencz, U.S. Army prosecutor at Nuremberg, and currently an official at the International Criminal Court (ICC); Allan Ryan, former Chief War Crimes Prosecutor of the U.S. Department of Justice; Eric Stover, Faculty Director of the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley’s School of Law; pioneering forensic anthropologist, the late Clyde Snow; Naomi Roht-Arriaza, UC Hastings School of Law; journalist Philip Gourevitch; various members of Physicians for Human Rights and more.

Interview: Thierry Cruvellier

Journalist and author Thierry Cruvellier has dedicated his career to examining international criminal justice. He has written extensively on the institutions created to investigate and prosecute war crimes and human rights violations, and has attended every international tribunal of the post-Cold War era.


Episode 1: “The General's Ghost” repeats Tuesday, June 19 at 11 p.m. - See how laws and mechanisms for international justice are created in the wake of war crimes committed by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. General Yamashita's conviction for crimes against civilians establishes a command responsibility doctrine.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Silvers

Former U.S. Justice Dept. war crime prosecutor Allan Ryan with Fernando Vasquez-Prada, survivor of Imperial Japanese Army massacre in Manila, Philippines.

Episode 2: “The Blind Eye” repeats Tuesday, June 26 at 11 p.m. - Learn how the Cold War obstructs postwar justice and how atrocities in conflicts with large civilian tolls-such as Vietnam, Afghanistan and Guatemala-are concealed. Individuals make efforts to expose war crimes and identify the perpetrators.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Robert Caccamise

Dr. Clyde Snow with director of Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation Fredy Peccerelli.

Episode 3: “In Our Time” repeats Tuesday, July 3 at 11 p.m. - See how postwar justice has been revitalized over the past two decades, but is limited in confronting the exponential rise in civilian tolls-sexual violence and genocide-occurring in the Balkans, Rwanda, Congo, Syria, Sri Lanka and other countries.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Jonathan Silvers

Mass murderer Jean “Gasumari” Ngirumpotse in Taba, Rwanda.


Produced, written and directed by Jonathan Silvers. It is produced and edited by Patrick Flynn. Co-producers are Philip Gourevitch, Allan A. Ryan, and Eric Stover. For WNET, Executive Producer is Julie Anderson. A production of Saybrook Productions Ltd. in association with THIRTEEN Productions LLC for WNET.

There's this one killer who came back

Like the Balkan conflict that preceded it, the genocide in Rwanda confronted the international community with its obligations under international and humanitarian law. But instead of intervention, there was inertia. The slaughter by the Hutu majority against the minority Tutsi and political moderates lasted one hundred days. At the end of it ten percent of the population was dead.

Vukovar: The Search for the Missing

The International Commission on Missing Persons has accounted for roughly seventy percent of the missing from the Balkan wars of the 1990s. This success has given hope to the families of the thousands still missing -- even as the likelihood decreases that the missing will be found.


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