Hiding in Plain Sight: The Pursuit of War Criminals from Nuremberg to the War on Terror

Hiding in Plain Sight coverHiding in Plain Sight tells the story of the global effort to capture the world’s most wanted fugitives—mass murderers like Adolf Eichmann, Muammar Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein, Ratko Mladic, Osama bin Laden, and the elusive Joseph Kony. It is a tale of judicial obstruction, backroom deal making, daring escapades, and broken laws.

Authors Eric Stover, Victor Peskin, and Alexa Koenig draw on years of research and hundreds of in-depth interviews with prosecutors, investigators, and diplomats to shed light on political and legal efforts to catch fugitives over seven decades.

The book opens with the flight of tens of thousands of Nazi war criminals after World War II. The action then shifts to the International Criminal Court and other modern-day tribunals and their pursuit of high-level suspects, including President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, Liberian warloard Charles Taylor, and former Rwandan prime minister Jean Kambanda. The book closes by examining the post-9/11 landscape and the United States’ increasing reliance on military force to capture—or more often simply to kill—suspected terrorists, with little or no judicial scrutiny.

Capturing fugitives, as one international prosecutor notes, “lies at the very heart of the criminal justice process: unless the accused are taken into custody, we will have no tribunals; no development of the law by courts; and ultimately, no international justice.” But arrests pose a vexing problem, especially for international tribunals. With no police force of their own, prosecutors rely on states and international peacekeepers to enforce arrest warrants. Yet many states ignore this legal obligation because they fear it will imperil their political interests. How we untangle this Gordian knot, the authors argue, will influence the course of global justice for decades to come.

Hiding in Plain Sight is a companion book to the public television documentary Dead Reckoning: Postwar Justice from World War II to the War on Terror.

Buy the book through UC Press or Amazon!



Left to right: Eric Stover, Victor Peskin, and Alexa Koenig

Hiding in Plain Sight, authors

Eric Stover is Faculty Director of the Human Rights Center and Adjunct Professor of Law and Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley.
Victor Peskin is Associate Professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University and Research Fellow at the Human Rights Center.
Alexa Koenig is Executive Director of the Human Rights Center and Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.




Saturday, June 4: Bay Area Book Festival (Berkeley, CA) (See the video of event on here)

Wednesday, June 1: Ralph J. Bunche Library at the U.S. Department of State (Washington, DC)

Thursday, May 26: World Affairs Council of Northern California (San Francisco, CA) (See the video of event on the sidebar to the right of the screen)

Tuesday, May 17: Changing Hands (Phoenix, AZ)

Wednesday, April 27: Books Inc. (Berkeley, CA)

Tuesday, April 12: UC Berkeley School of Law

16.06.04, Bay Area Book Festival (12, Cropped2)

16.05.26, World Affairs Council of Northern California (Cropped)16.04.27, Books Inc. (Cropped) 



“Eric Stover, Victor Peskin and Alexa Koenig combine meticulous historical and legal research to trace the global search for war criminals from Adolf Eichmann to Ratko Mladić, Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden. Beginning by detailing the legal and humanitarian precedents set by the Nuremberg Trials and the Geneva Convention, and ending with a critique of the United States’ moral negation during the so-called ‘War on Terror’, this book is essential for readers looking to understand why crimes against humanity so frequently go unpunished.”—Esther Adaire, London School of Economics Review of Books, June 2, 2016

“I find the whole topic rather detestable, not simply because of the crimes themselves, but because of how society has failed to adequately respond. This book does not back down from pointing out the failings”—Book of Bogan (blog), March 20, 2016

“Hiding in Plain Sight is a chilling and infuriating book. It has to be because of its subject matter. The last third of the book was the most outrageous (in the sense that I was outraged) because it takes a hard look at the actions of the American government since September 11.”—A Bookish Type (blog), March 20, 2016

“There is no comparable effort to pull together so much material about the evolution of international justice, from Nuremberg to the ad hoc tribunals to the ICC, including contemporary challenges from the ‘war on terror.’ Hiding in Plain Sight is an excellent introduction to the field for students and the general public.”—Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch

Hiding in Plain Sight is destined to be an essential work in the field of human rights for years to come. I admire the way the authors’ reach extends back in history—and includes citizen activists as well as courts and tribunals. Their lively writing ensures that the book can be read by all of us, not just legal professionals.”—Adam Hochschild, author of To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918

Hiding in Plain Sight is a fast-paced, well-written account of the pursuit of war criminals. Many have not only committed crimes on a large scale, but have been protected by powerful forces, including governments. This book is essential reading for those who wish to see that those who are responsible for atrocities are brought to justice.”—Aryeh Neier, President Emeritus of the Open Society Foundations and cofounder of Human Rights Watch

“This is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the history and importance of pursuing war crimes trials against the men and women who have violated international law. Hiding in Plain Sight, revolving around the essential task of finding war criminals and making them stand trial, is a wonderfully comprehensive and clearly worded study that everyone should read. It serves as a resource treasure for information about the major war criminals and war crimes of our era. It also serves as a major contribution to understanding where and how the pursuit of justice can go wrong, especially in relation to the American ‘extraordinary rendition’ program after 9/11. If you want to understand the war criminals of modern times and the dogged pursuit of justice for them, this is the only book you need to read, and you must read it.”—Peter Maass, author of Love Thy Neighbor: The Story of War

“One of the world’s most daunting challenges is securing the arrest of war crimes suspects, especially when they are high-level civilian or military leaders. Hiding in Plain Sight deals a much-needed blow to impunity by revealing how governments and international institutions have sometimes succeeded—but more often failed—to live up to their legal obligations to bring war criminals to justice. Built on scores of interviews with jurists, investigators, and activists from the front lines of international criminal law, this thoroughly researched book is both extremely timely and long overdue.”—Navi Pillay, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former President of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda

“The cycle of impunity for atrocity crimes is closing slowly but surely. This book documents how that steady progress has been achieved, but also how hard it was and how difficult it is to maintain its momentum. Telling a complex story in a highly readable way, the authors make their own significant contribution to accountability and justice for human rights crimes. The torturer still runs, but he can no longer hide.” —Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

“A riveting modern history, on the trail of international justice in the face of politics and self-interest, Hiding in Plain Sight is a must-read for anyone who wants to know from whence we have come and the obstacles that will fill the road that lies ahead.”—Philippe Sands, author of Torture Team: Uncovering War Crimes in the Land of the Free