The Butcher's Trail

How the Search for Balkan War Criminals Became the World's Most Successful Manhunt

Publication Date: Jan 19, 2016

224 pp

Trade Paperback

List Price US $17.95
ISBN: 9781590518984


List Price US $23.95
Trim Size (H x W): 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781590516058


List Price US $21.99
ISBN: 9781590516065

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 Hague. Borger recounts how Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić—both now on trial in The Hague—were finally tracked down, and describes the intrigue behind the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav president who became the first head of state to stand before an international tribunal for crimes perpetrated in a time of war. Based on interviews with former special forces soldiers, intelligence officials, and investigators from a dozen countries—most speaking about their involvement for the first time—this book reconstructs a fourteen-year manhunt carried out almost entirely in secret.

Indicting the worst war criminals that Europe had known since the Nazi era, the ICTY ultimately accounted for all 161 suspects on its wanted list, a feat never before achieved in political and military history.

Excerpt from The Butcher’s Trail

Genocide challenges our idea of what it is to be human. The acts perpetrated against innocent victims are so grotesque and disturbing we recoil from their contemplation. We prefer them to be either far away or long ago. What happened in the countries of the former Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1999 ripped all that insulation away. The mass murders took place in supposedly modern Europe, a continent that flattered itself in thinking it had evolved beyond such savagery.  For millions of Europeans, it was a holiday spot, dotted with resorts along azure seas, yet suddenly it was a war zone on the evening news. Almost immediately, the rest of Europe began to distance itself, like neighbors of a dying household. Shutting their doors and windows, they convinced themselves that if they looked the other way, they would never catch the disease.  Western politicians diagnosed “ancient ethnic hatreds” let loose by the fall of communism as the cause of the bloodshed. It was one of a litany of excuses for not getting involved, and it explained nothing.

The history of the ethnic communities that made up Yugoslavia had indeed been marked by sporadic bouts of violence, but those eruptions had been interspersed by long periods of peaceful coexistence. Exactly the same could be said of most regions of Europe’s richly diverse and turbulent continent. Yet if the English herded the Scottish into concentration camps, or if the Spanish committed mass murder against the Catalans or Basques in the late twentieth century, a history of “ancient ethnic hatreds” would seem a grossly inadequate explanation. As it is for the Balkans.

“[A] vivid, page-turning account…A well-organized, deeply researched work that ably digests the Balkan war, the criminals, the criminal court, and its legacy.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Riveting and important…Borger makes clear The Hague tribunal’s efforts to bring Karadzic and other war criminals to justice will have set the high water mark against which future efforts at justice will be measured.” —Time Magazine

“Gripping.” —The Independent

“Well researched…timely.” —The Wall Street Journal

“What Julian Borger has achieved in this superb account of the tribunal’s manhunt is much more than a litany of these crimes. It is an elegantly written, powerfully convincing reckoning of how the world stumblingly faced up to a reality that should not have been: war crimes in modern Europe.” —The Guardian (US)

“Borger… handles [this] complicated story with flair and confidence. Vividly written, packed with lively character sketches of spymasters, lawyers and diplomats, The Butcher’s Trail is a deeply researched account of the hunt for some of the worst war criminals of the late 20th century…[and] an important work that adds greatly to our understanding of how international criminal justice has evolved and offers lessons for future war crimes investigations.”—Newsweek

“Presented in captivating detail [and] often playing out like a true-life spy novel…fascinating.” —Library Journal

“Vivid…well-researched.” —Publishers Weekly

The Butcher’s Trail create[s] what may ultimately become one of the defining accounts of this episode of Balkan history.” —The National

“Borger’s compelling, readable prose with these stories of assault on impunity offer a rare opportunity to penetrate the ‘nationalist bromides’ and ‘sounds of slogans’ that continue to hold these countries back in ways that are tragic in all sorts of new, post-war ways…Fascinating.” —The Arts Fuse


“A simultaneously thrilling and horrifying read.” —Signature

“A well-researched, sobering chronicle…a necessary and admirable achievement.” Washington Independent Review of Books

The Butcher’s Trail reads like a cross between a John le Carre novel and the latest Bourne installment.  Except this fine book is true.  At a time when Europe’s ugly nationalisms are resurgent, Borger’s account of war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and the pursuit of justice could not be more important.” —Eric Schlosser, author of Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus accident, and the Illusion of Safety

“Julian Borger reveals in riveting new detail exactly how a daring team secretly tracked down some of the worst war criminals of our time, and in doing, he shows us what it takes for justice to win.  This book is brilliantly researched, beautifully written and important.” —Ann Curry

“Julian Borger’s thrilling history of the hunt for the infamous Balkan war criminals—Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic among them euphemisms for late 20th Century evil—and the torturous path to creating and empowering the International Criminal Tribunal is not just masterfully told, but devastating in its revelations of complacency in the face of ethnic cleansing.” —Hooman Majd, author of NY Times bestseller The Ayatollah Begs to Differ, among other books and writings.

“Julian Borger has written the definitive account of the hunt for the war criminals of the former Yugoslavia. The Butcher’s Trail is wonderfully well written and deeply reported and it raises important questions about how to bring to justice those that have committed wars against humanity.”  —Peter Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad.

“Julian Borger has unlocked the hidden stories of a historic manhunt. This book is a powerful page turner that catapults you through two decades of political intrigue, deceit, and erratic leadership, competing intelligence agencies, botched operations with fugitive deaths, and then a steady surge of successful snatches on remote mountain roads and in sleepy villages, in warm apartments stocked with weaponry, and unawares at a Spanish restaurant with barely sipped wine. Borger proves the worth of the tribunal and those who delivered the agents of evil to its doorstep.” —David Scheffer, U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues (1997-2001) and law professor at Northwestern University