Ratko Mladić convicted – but justice hasn’t entirely been served in the Hague

Like Ratko Mladić, among other charges, was convicted for the genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995.
Wednesday, November 29, 2017 - 11:32

By Anna-Marie Brennan

The conviction of Ratko Mladić in The Hague for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the Bosnian War hardly came as a big surprise. The evidence was strong and stacked up against him. Nearly 600 people gave evidence during his five-year trial including many of his victims. So any robust defence of the charges was always going to be a challenge for Mladić even with the support of a defence team comprised of the most talented lawyers in the world.

Of course, his conviction has been widely hailed in the media as an important milestone for international criminal justice, since he was one of the first people to be indicted by an international criminal tribunal since Nuremberg. But his conviction also showcases how slow the cogs of international criminal justice seem to turn. Despite being indicted by the tribunal in 1995 he managed to evade the clutches of the court until 2011leading to much speculation about whether the tribunal really possessed much sway in the early days of its existence and whether the international community supported its mission. It was only following political pressure on Belgrade from the European Union that the government renewed its appetite to apprehend him.

Mladić, dubbed the “Butcher of Bosnia”, commanded the Bosnian Serb forces during the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica and the three-year Siege of Sarajevo which caused nearly 10,000 civilian deaths.

Aside from one genocide charge he was found guilty of all the other ten counts including a separate count of taking UN personnel hostage in an effort to thwart NATO airstrikes. Delivering the verdict the presiding judge, Alphons Oria, held that the crimes, “rank among the most heinous known to humankind” and rejected his mitigation pleas of good character, ill-health and diminished mental capacity.

Dogged by health problems Mladić shakily occupied the defendant’s chair but following a toilet break he was quickly removed again from court after a tirade of abuse aimed at the judges. His sentence of life imprisonment was handed down in his absence.

Bosnian Serb political and military leaders Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić

Ethnic tensions

Only time will tell whether his conviction will bring closure to the families of his victims who are still searching for the remains of loved ones nearly three decades after the war. Ethnic tensions still persist in the former Yugoslavia and many there regard Mladić as a hero who defended his people and believe that Wednesday’s judgment is a verdict against them as well.

US attorney Christopher Hale, who has worked at the tribunal, has gallantly argued that: “the weight of empirical evidence demonstrates that justice is one of the most vital components to achieving durable peace”. But in reality there is very little evidence to suggest that the trials have brought meaningful reconciliation to the region.

Whatever view we choose to adopt the statistics clearly speak for themselves. Division between ethnic communities has grown since the end of the war. For example, Banja Luka was once ethnically diverse - nearly 50% of its population were Bosnian Serbs while Muslims and Croats represented 19% and 15% respectively. In 2017, Banja Luka is almost 90% ethnic Serb. Hard questions need to be asked about whether such trials can truly bring about meaningful reconciliation and durable peace to this post-conflict region when the data suggests that ethnic tensions are becoming more deeply entrenched in communities long after the conflict has ended.

The trial of Mladić will be the last at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) before it closes its doors at the end of this year, having arrested and tried more than 161 persons, including Slobodan Milosevic – who controversially died during his trialin 2006 – and the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadžić who was convicted for his role in the Srebrenica genocide last year.

So on the face of it the tribunal seems to have achieved rather a lot. But some would argue, myself included, that the tribunal sidestepped the prosecutions of high-ranking commanders of the opposing armed factions in the war for alleged crimes. So ultimately it must be questioned not only whether justice has been achieved but also whether the tribunal has laid down an accurate historical record of the events that occurred.

We are right to question the success of these institutions that market themselves as beacons of international justice – but the process by which individuals are selected by these institutions for investigation and prosecution also needs to be placed under the spotlight.

Anna-Marie Brennan specialises in international law, in particular international criminal law, international human rights law and international humanitarian law. In the past, Anna Marie has worked on the defence team of Radovan Karadzic at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and has also assisted on drafting the final judgment in the Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo case at the ICC. She is currently the Editor of the Interdisciplinary Journal of Human Rights Law.

This article was originally published by The Conversation. It is republished here with permission.

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David D Y Choi
David D Y Choi

Under the Sky, One should be equal as long as Human Being. Underprivileged social class, Before the birth, even after the death, this underprivileged group should follow the pre-framed given route. Upon realizing that crossing the given route is limited, its trial object would be named as ‘Betrayer’ or targeted as ‘Gov. Sanction’. Extending of this status, urged and resulted let David create hand written images between # 1 and # 58. Still, there, no one, no response, no way to get out, its condition is extended. Its usefulness, it condition should be extended as usual. David D Y Choi , Mar., 2018 ( e-mail ; [email protected], or [email protected] ) Personal URL : http://www.cdyera.wordpress.com ( at URL, on the bottom site, linked images are available )

Sunday, March 4, 2018 - 03:26
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