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105 responses to “Ratko Mladic brought to justice”

  1. akn

    The contemporary history of those nations is incomprehensible without knowledge of the activities of the Croation fascists during WWII: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasenovac_concentration_camp.

  2. sg

    It’s my personal view that we shouldn’t hold proper trials for people like this. There should be a brief inquiry, in which it is determined that the soldiers of this guy’s army were involved. Then this guy is given 200 words to explain the organizational structure of his army, and why he wasn’t responsible for his own soldiers. If this isn’t convincing, he gets shot in the face on the spot.

    I mean really. He was in charge of his army and his army killed a lot of civilians. There’s no need for a trial. Either he was responsible for his soldiers or he wasn’t. And since he was lauded in Serbia as a great soldier, case closed…

  3. akn

    I can sympathize with your summary approach to justice sg. Nonetheless, such trials are often a superlative source of information for survivor families and as well can produce evidence about who else was involved.

    Besides that, European ethno-fascism remains alive as a serious issue that manifests itself across all social spheres. The linked article (Guardian, 2010) examines the role of football clubs as an organizational base for Serbian ethno-fascism and criminality. The Serbian football clubs are not alone in this which is why the current controversy over corruption in FIFA is significant. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/oct/13/serbia-hooligans-italy-riot).

  4. GregM

    Then this guy is given 200 words to explain the organizational structure of his army, and why he wasn’t responsible for his own soldiers. If this isn’t convincing, he gets shot in the face on the spot.

    That is far too dignified for the crime.

    Before he is shot, or preferably hanged, he should have his pants pulled down and be lashed with a cane on his buttocks, in public.

    That would show our contempt and disgust.

  5. FDB

    “Mladic is going to appeal extradition on the grounds of ill-health”

    Unless he’s dead, he’s not sick enough.

  6. BVB

    That he was allowed to live 80km from Belgrade at a relatives house says it all. He is still a hero to many serbs. I ran across a you tube video the other day that showed an execution of half a dozen Bosnians, the soldiers,like Mladic are clearly subhuman and deserve everything they/he get. The video was apparently for rent in parts of Serbia for a period of time. I, like most people on this blog I would presume, am anti death penalty but I have to agree with some of the comments posted earlier that a shot to the face would not be enough for this type of evil bastard.

  7. sg

    I don’t think it’s summary justice, akn. The only point at issue is whether Mladic somehow wasn’t responsible for his own soldiers. Long-winded trials to find out who ordered what are irrelevant.

    Though, of course, if it helps to close down this nasty part of history and helps the survivors and families of the victims, then a long and detailed trial could be held before he gets shot in the face.

  8. GregM

    BVB don’t use the word execution for the killing of Bosnians by the filth led by Mladic. It dignifies the contemptible creatures who did it. Call it what it is, murder, and let us all hope that Mladic and those stupid and wicked people who followed him get the meagre justice that we can serve to them for what they have done.

  9. GregM

    I would be really pleased if we didn’t talk about how we’d like to see Mladic die. Indeed if there are any more such comments, I’ll delete them.

    Sorry Brian if what I wrote is inappropriate. I have friends who lost family in that war and their distress at their loss was palpable. I shared their grief and anguish with them, and even now I share it so my comment was very personal.

    But how do you come to terms with a fourteen year old boy dieing from a bullet being put in his brain?

    You tell them.

  10. sg

    Sorry Brian, “shot in the face” is a daily mash phrase. I’ve been reading them too much lately.

    They shouldn’t have to prove that he did or didn’t order it, use radio intercepts or anything else. He was responsible for a large number of armed men whose job was killing people. If they systematically killed thousands of people who weren’t soldiers, then it’s his fault. His only defence should be to say that he wasn’t actually practically in charge of them. Since this defence is impossible for him to mount, under the circumstances of that war, then … case closed.

    The murder of all those people was his responsibility, whether he told his soldiers to do it, dropped a few hints, looked the other way or even didn’t know. He was in charge of them and they did it. That’s all anyone needs to know.

  11. adrian

    Well said, Brian. Too much macho posturing on the blogsphere in general that seems to be infecting this blog also.

    Which isn’t to defend the evil Mladic in any way, but of course some of the keyboard warriors above will not see it that way.

  12. Occam's Blunt Razor

    What sg said.

    I’d be more than happy to do it.

    Would even pay my airfare to Europe to do the job.

  13. GregM

    Brian delete this if you like but when a lowlife like Adrian, LP’s village idiot, comes out and agrees with you then you have to know you have got it wrong and take a very serious look at yourself.

    What is your problem with people discussing the means to which Mladic should be punished for his wickedness? No-one’s comments in suggesting what punishment he deserves has come remotely close to the way that he and his disgraceful followers killed Bosnian and Croatian people.

    Is he a family friend of yours? You should tell us.

    Nothing else could explain your bizarre desire to protect him from the expression of contempt and disgust that he roundly deserves.

  14. adrian

    Just as predicted you come along and prove to one and all what a fool you are GregM. You don’t even begin to get the point that I was making, but don’t let that stop your puerile self righteousness from taking full flight.

    Maybe one day you’ll learn to read.

  15. adrian

    And it’s no coincidence that the number of female commentators on this blog has decreased over time, as the tedious macho posturings of those like GregM become ever more dominant.

  16. GregM

    [email protected] and 16 Nothing intelligent there. As usual.

    Village, your idiot has strayed. Go and find him and put him away. Again.

  17. Pavlov's Cat

    Actually, GregM, I think if you bothered to ask a few of the people in question, you’d find that what Adrian says at #16 is spot-on.

  18. GregM

    PC do you have any actual evidence of this?

    Or is it just unsubstantiated assertion that you are going on?

  19. Pavlov's Cat

    Well, GregM, I’m one of the people in question, for a start. And I have been coming here a lot less, and I can tell you that’s the reason. Will that do you for ‘evidence’?

    Furthermore, I have been reading and commenting on this blog since 2005, at which time I very much enjoyed the blogging and commenting not only of Kim and Anna Winter (I think Tigtog came a bit later) but also of Cristy, Laura, Zoe, Naomi, Ampersand Duck, Weathergirl and Kate, most of whom were regular and prolific LP bloggers and none of whom any longer appear here. (Sorry if I’ve left anyone out!) And I know that most if not all of those women simply got fed up in the end with the macho posturing, especially when it was directed at them in the form of aggressive demands for evidence, proof, links etc etc in response to mild statements of opinion or of known facts, as per not very good high school debating technique.

  20. Pavlov's Cat

    Back on topic, my best mate, who was living and working for the UN in Sarajevo through most of the war and maintains connections there, says that most of the Serbs regard Mladic as a hero, have known exactly where he was all along, and are only handing him over now because they want to get into the EU.

  21. Mercurius

    OT rant:

    ‘Twas when the one discussing with PC above directed some really toxic comments at my wife that re-confirmed my general impression that LP is, for the most part, not a “safe place” for women. Even women who aren’t actually participants here are not safe from invective and unsolicited “character analysis”.

    Women visiting LP have, for years, been complaining about the tedious dominance displays among commenters — I wonder whether the voices of those women themselves count as “evidence”, or do you need to hear it from a Real Man before you’ll believe it?

    **Cue reaction of wounded defensiveness, how “hurtful” it is to be accused of monstering away half the readership, and pedantic deflective questions aimed at re-framing the issue in terms of another’s conduct (while intoning strident demands that people should take responsibility for their own actions); and insisting that one is free to dish it out and call people ‘village idiots’ and such-like, but one should never, ever have to take it (especially if one has a terminal incapacity to reflect on the effects of one’s own behaviour and conduct).**

    …How could anyone suggest LP isn’t women-friendly? I mean, it’s purple and everything!!?!

    /OT rant

    Now, anyone want to have a go at a comparative analysis of the respective means by which Mladic and Bin Laden have been made to face *scare quotes* justice?

  22. Joe

    Merc, you think a colour change might help?

  23. Joe

    Slightly tangential, but a timely reminder about war, I believe.
    Howard Zinn’s “Three Holy Wars”

  24. GregM

    Brian can I expect that you’ll delete mercurius’spost @24 for the egregious breach of LP’s comments policy that it is?

  25. Mercurius

    …and pedantic deflective questions aimed at re-framing the issue in terms of another’s conduct …

    Anyway, Bin Laden’s execution, whatever else it might have been, was undoubtedly a standard projection of American exceptionalism and extramural power/agency.

    Whereas, by contrast, what do we make of the arrest of Mladic, subject to rather different local and regional geopolitical imperatives?

    Any bites?

  26. Pavlov's Cat

    Guy Rundle yesterday in Crikey (I’ve only just seen this):

    With the arrest of General Ratko Mladic, the last major target of investigations into the Balkans Wars of the 1990s, we must now endure the same pantomime process as occurred with the killing of Osama bin Laden, and the revelation that he was more or less staying in a bungalow of the ISI Officers’ Club. It is obvious that dozens of people have known where Mladic was since the war ended, and that hundreds of people have known that those dozens of people have known — and that this knowledge has been stretched across the EU, its colony of Kosovo, and the disunited states of the former Yugoslavia.

    So the whole idea that Mladic was “caught”, or been captured, is merely part of the fiction. He was merely, finally, given up, on the day the EU’s foreign affairs commissioner came to Belgrade ahead of a report emphasising that EU membership for Serbia could not be considered until he was given up. Mladic is frail following a stroke; most likely he consented to being given up for arrest, knowing that he is unlikely to live to see the end of his trial, and will spend much of the time in hospital. Quite possibly it was only with his consent that he was given up at all.

  27. su

    I followed Anthony’s link @ 1 and was stunned to find that Jewish people who had lived in Yugoslavia during the war were warning in the early nineties that many former Ustaše and fascist sympathisers had returned following the breakup of the former Yugloslavia and had assumed senior positions in Croation politics. This is not to deny that Serbs were responsible for genocide during the Yugloslav wars or to minimize it in any way but it does indicate, I think, how important a prolonged and thorough legal process that methodically roots out all of those responsible for crimes against humanity is for any genuine reconciliation and for there to be any hope of lasting peace. One of the features of Croatian politics at the time was historical revisionism regarding the number of people, Serbs mostly, Jews and Romany, murdered by the Ustaše.

  28. Casey

    With all due respect – and this is not meta as it goes to the ethical listening of personal trauma – GregM conflates his traumatic response as a witness to the stories told to him with the primary traumatic response of those who endured the trauma in the first place , so that he becomes the victim. This is objectionable to me. Using this authoritative space, which he in fact inhabits illegitimately, he is able to get away with utter nonsense because he uses the personal. This is quite simply, ludicrous now. GregM was not a victim of Mladic. End of story. Everyone knows someone GregM. I do too. The difference is, we can put it away at the end of the day. They cannot. It is quite frankly disturbing to see how you use the site of primary trauma, conflating it with your secondary trauma – and it is only ever secondary do not kid yourself – in order to suggest that you should be released from comments policy. Indeed when you question Brian to the effect of “Is he a family friend of yours? You should tell us.” – whose authority to speak as a victim of Mladic are you usurping there? Your performance on this thread has been utterly disgraceful. And what Adrian said.

  29. akn

    su @ 31: point well made and exactly why trials and the rule of law are important.

  30. su

    Thanks, akn.

    Actions that are charactarised by revenge don’t in my opinion contribute to psychological healing, just buy into the cycle of violence, which tends to perpetuate itself.

    I agree, Brian, whereas I believe that it is possible that severe but humane treatment represented by incarceration may provide the victims with a more tangible and ongoing sense that they have received justice and also constitute some kind of healing in that they, who were treated as subhuman, are demonstrating the values of humanity at its best, by both unflinchingly holding a perpetrator to account, while yet refraining from revenge.

  31. FDB

    “both unflinchingly holding a perpetrator to account, while yet refraining from revenge”

    I’m against capital punishment, but not because other forms of punishment are somehow free of a revenge aspect. ‘Punishment’ which contains no element of revenge isn’t just a strange idea, it’s a logical inconsistency, unless one subscribes to the view that the institutionalised actions of the State inhabit a completely different moral universe to that of individuals or other groups.

    All punishment has a retributive aspect to it. There’s no getting away from it. In fact, in the four-way breakdown of reasons to punish crime (preventing the individual from re-offending (by incarceration); rehabilitating the individual for release back into the community; retributively witholding freedoms from, causing pain to or killing the individual for their offence; deterring others from following their example), #3 – punishment – is the only one that unequivocally and reliably works in practice. Scumbag X may be incorrigible, and may well reoffend on release, and deterrence may not work in practice, but by George at least the rotter’s locked up with a bunch of his foul kind in a hellhole for a bit.

    Serves him right.

  32. su

    I was thinking of revenge in terms of “an eye for an eye”, an attempt to even a score, a process that endlessly cycles because we are always more ready to identify with and give more emotional weight to our historical identity as victims rather than as secondary or tertiary (to extend Casey’s comments about victimhood) perpetrators, and so I think of revenge as distinguishable from punishment in retributive justice.

  33. GregM

    Casey @32

  34. GregM

    Casey I went through a lot with those people, who though I have not seen for a long time, are still my friends. I don’t appreciate at all your smug, ignorant and complacent comment.

    You have nothing to tell anyone in the world about ethics.

  35. sg

    I’m opposed to the death penalty too, for punishing crimes by individuals on individuals in an ordinary social situation. But I don’t think the behaviour of people like Mladic fits this situation. He organized an institution with the purpose of committing crimes on a massive scale. For this reason, I don’t think we necessarily should apply the same rules of justice that apply to individual crimes, nor do I think the same penalties apply. Considering typical arguments against the death penalty:

    a) it is likely to act as a deterrent in this case because the perpetrator – Mladic – planned the whole thing over some time from some remove, so he had plenty of time to think about the consequences of his actions. This is no crime of passion. The same is true of every other genocidal leader. If these leaders know they will be executed for their crimes if they lose the war, they can actually incorporate that possibility into their plans. Part of the reason that genocide in the modern era happens mainly in war is that leaders have to suspend ordinary social circumstances to do it. They’re thinking about a lot of things that an ordinary criminal doesn’t take into account, and although it’s likely they don’t think they’re going to lose the war, the more often this happens – that the genocidal maniac is beaten from without by other countries that turn on him, then executed – the more likely future leaders are to think about maybe not going there.

    b) There is no dispute about guilt. As I said above, the issue is not whether Mladic ordered it, the only issue is whether he was in charge of his own army. It takes about 3 seconds to establish this. After that, the rest doesn’t matter. For the crime of genocide by a state actor, all that is required is to establish that the crime happened, and that the leaders of the army were in fact in charge of the army. Case in point: it has been argued that Emperor Hirohito had no control over the army, and was essentially a figurehead. If so [I don’t offer an opinion on this claim] then he’s not responsible for the crimes the army committed, even though as head of state he should be. The same would apply to QE2 with respect to bad things in Iraq. But Mladic? All that’s required is to show that his soldiers committed the crime. We don’t need paper trails.

    c) There is no risk of killing the wrong person, because everyone knows who is in charge of whose army, case closed.

    d) At Mladic’s trial, we’re going to see a festival of denialism that is going to drag the victims’ names and histories through the mud. A trial only offers the chance for the mass murderer to muddy the waters and sow doubt for future generations. Mladic won’t be doing this because he believes that the crimes didn’t happen, and his followers won’t be supporting this process for that reason: he’ll be doing it to protect his legacy and to rub final salt in the wounds of the survivors. Why let him? A trial is irrelevant to his guilt, for the simple reason that he doesn’t have to have ordered anything to be guilty.

    The principle in warm crimes should be, plainly and simply, “did your army do it?” And if your army did, you should pay. If you don’t want to pay for the evil acts of your army, assert proper discipline and behave according to the rules of war (and basic humanity).

    Whether this principle should apply to bin Laden depends on whether he was in charge of the 9/11 bombers. I don’t think this has been established with the clarity that we have with Mladic, so a trial would have been necessary – but only to the extent of establishing that they were members of his organization, and giving him a chance to deny it and prove they weren’t. If there’s reasonable doubt, then I suppose he should be let off (or held on some other charge). But if they are shown to be members of his organization, it doesn’t matter if there’s no evidence that he directly ordered the act.

    The difference between war crimes and ordinary crimes is that someone at the top allows them, and not necessarily by ordering them explicitly, but by dropping hints, building up a certain atmosphere, etc. You need to deter people from this as much as from openly standing on a podium telling soldiers to kill babies. And you need to deter them from organizing a system of destruction in which no individual bears all the responsibility – these systems make it much easier to perpetrate genocide. So you need a system for punishing leaders in the absence of clear evidence that they ordered specific acts. Furthermore, justice demands that people be held accountable not just for openly advocating genocide, but for allowing it to happen. e.g. the campaign of rape by the Russians in world war 2 may not have been ordered from the top, but it was definitely tactily accepted for quite some time. Should we let these people go because they didn’t write a document ordering their soldiers to do it? No, we shouldn’t. We say: oh look, your soldiers committed mass rape. Now you have to pay.

    Sorry for the length…

  36. Mercurius

    @32 Interesting analysis, Casey. My gut-feel agrees with your take on it, however could I also suggest also a slightly more charitable analysis — that people might occupy (unauthorised, as it were) the victimhood space because of the empathy they feel for the close friend/relative/significant other who has been harmed? Their act of appropriating the victimhood space might not be quite so egregious as you and I both initially think…

    …In other threads gone by, we’ve had more than a handful of AGW deniers disclose personal traumas (ie. doctors who misdiagnose their spouse/close family member, with devastating personal consequences) as being some sort of tangential justification for their position of “skepticism” when it comes to climate science. They are usually the most obtuse, tendentious and incorrigible of deniers.

    There seems to be an emotional “short-circuit”, related to empathising with the suffering of persons close, that can lead people to abandoning principles they would otherwise hold in less emotionally-charged circumstances.

    $0.02

    As for Mladic, I’ll cop to having not the least desire to invest time or energy on any sort of ‘principled’ analysis (whether deontological or utilitarian) of his impending demise. Good riddance to bad rubbish, etc.

  37. Casey

    Dear Greg, the deeply personal nature of your insults only make your comments appear as if they are not rooted in the rational or logical, particularly given you don’t actually know anyone you are insulting. Furthermore as we are now dealing with your conflations, I take this opportunity to discuss how conflations do not serve the primary victims as they only result in melancholy. What is melancholy? Being stuck in one place. Like you, insulting, insulting, insulting. Being forced to deal with your acting out of melancholia also relegates the real victims of Mladic to the background as we try to deal with you and forget about them whilst dealing with your dramatics (but not traumatics). You can see how this stalls any working through of the past for everyone, both the primary victims and those who have been unsettled by their stories. Now, as interesting an example of melancholic conflation as you have been Greg, you should behave yourself or the moderator’s fairy dust will consign you to a caul of shadows, where you will fall silent and intractable, beyond the reach of any hopeful random on the internet with vampiric leanings. I would hate that Greg.

  38. Casey

    Merc, I just saw your comment. Sure there is empathy, but you need to not claim another’s victimhood as your own – then that is no longer empathy. I am thinking of Primo Levi and his foreward in Drowned and The Saved where he talks about an Italian movie director who suggested that we are “all victims and all perpetrators at some stage of our lives” and how he took issue with that statement. Not everyone is a victim and not everyone is a perpetrator. Historical loss is specific and is not subject to claims of universality. If you look at the ideas on melancholia above, which is that if you project your suffering onto another site you just go round in circles and no one gets better, particularly the primary victims, and by extension cultures and nations never come to terms with their historical pasts, you will see what I mean.

  39. Casey

    Good people to read on this, from where I got these ideas: Gail Jones, Eric Satner, Dominick La Capra, Derrida on mourning, as well as the trauma theorists – Laub, Caruth, Whitehead. etc etc.

  40. Joe

    One would have to wonder at the wisdom of Serbia wanting to join the EU at this juncture 😀

  41. sg

    guys, I know it’s probably cool to say that gregM started it and all, but I reckon this thread is getting way too personal and you should all take a chill pill. It’s the internet, you know.

  42. Fran Barlow

    As horrendous as the quality and scale of Mladic’s crime was, I don’t think a death penalty should be imposed. This is not out of regard for Mladic, who has surely forfeited any claim upon others he had. Rather, it is about us, and the value we civilised folk place on human life.

    We civilised folk respect it and that is what makes Mladic’s actions so utterly repugnant to all of us and why we cannot put him to death. We make clear to all by our acts, that Mladic crossed a Rubicon that no civilised person should ever contemplate — he deliberately killed a human being without compelling cause.

    Let him, upon conviction, see out his days as a common criminal with only fellow criminals and the occasional visitor for company, but unable to be heard offering his own demented warrant.

  43. sg

    Fran, I’ve always thought that’s the most powerful reason not to impose the death penalty. And I can certainly agree with your position. But I still think we shouldn’t follow the usual rules of justice for war crimes.

  44. Fran Barlow

    The hard reality is that for those who survive war crimes or who are scandalised by their witness there can never be “justice” — only healing — and even then, sadly, not always. We need to prevent war crimes occuring, and if they occur, focus on helping those who have suffered most grievously to salve their pain and compose themselves to make the most of their remaining lives.

  45. John D

    Kosovo could legitimately apply for Mladic to be extradited to them. However, the wisdom of doing this is debatable. Former Yugoslavia contained the intersection between Catholics, Orthodox and Islam and a history of being involved in the often brutal conflicts between the supporters of these religions. Justice, fair or otherwise, undertaken by Kosovo is likely to end up adding to the list of “wrongs” felt by various groups in this region.
    Under these circumstances, having Mladic tried by an international court with a good reputation would seem to be a wiser course. In the longer term, Serbs may accept that justice has been done and other groups may be encouraged during the court case to accept that the Serbs weren’t the only group contributing to the savage nature of the conflict. There may even be a collective resolve to work together to avoid future conflicts of this nature.
    SG @42: I can understand the argument for the treatment of genocide outside of the normal court system. However, the nature of genocide involves people being treated outside the normal rules of law and/or not be treated equally before the law. I would question the logic of treating someone like Mladic outside the normal rules of law because he treated people outside the rules of law. Keep in mind that court proceedings are not just about guilt but also about the seriousness of the crimes and the excuses for committing the crime.
    The comparison with Bin Laden is interesting. To my mind one of the key differences is that the US and Bin Laden were actively involved in a deadly war and that it would be not unreasonable for the US seals to expect armed resistance and the possibility that Bin Laden may have fitted with a suicide bomb. Mladic was an sick old man from a war that was long over who offered no resistance to arrest.

  46. David

    I think his trial will follow one of the traditional patterns. A never-ending story of legal toing and froing at the end of which he will be presented as unable to defend himself because of a serious disease.

  47. Fran Barlow

    I concur Brian. Regardless of the crime in question, I believe that the imposition of suffering, merely to satisfy public sentiment for retribution is ultimately demeaning to us all.

    Suffering is of course, entailed in trial and deprivation of liberty, but that ought to be seen simply as a consequence of the more general public good served by the law being seen to have acted to restrain someone from seriously infringing the legitimate rights of others to go about their lawful business. One can also warrant this incidental suffering as a contribution by the offender to public safety — a cost that can fairly be settled on him or her in partial restitution, given their prior subversion of it.

    I believe imprisonment should (apart of course from the inevitable baleful consequences of incarceration and the needs of effective prison management) involve a lifestyle comparable to those living at liberty in circumstances that would be seen in that society as modest but consistent with indefinite life in reasonable physical and psychological health.

    In the case of the most serious offenders — those guilty of crimes against humanity, mass murder, serial rape for example — I don’t agree that ad hoc contact with the world outside of prison is apt. Thus phone and internet privileges ought be denied or very seriously restricted. They should be allowed scheduled and monitored visits by others so as to ensure their dignified treatment and adequate health.

  48. Paul Norton
  49. sg

    I don’t think murderers should get life in prison. I think they should get a chance to try again (at life, not murder). Otherwise their punishment is also revenge.

    John D, my proposal isn’t “outside the normal court system.” I’m just proposing different laws be enacted and a different burden of proof. A burden of proof consistent with the very real possibility – as happened with the Russians in Western Europe – that those in charge just looked the other way, and never actually organized anything.

    When you’re in charge of an army you don’t get the right to look the other way while your army does bad things. And I don’t think the current rules of evidence support these prosecutions very well. So they should change to reflect the reality of your institutional, rather than personal responsibility.

  50. sg

    Oh and look, he’s denying he did it. He’s a saint, who just wanted to evacuate the wounded!

    Suppose there is no evidence that he ordered it, at the end of a long and exhausting trial. Should he go free?

  51. FDB

    Brian: “It’s just that having deprived another or others of life, the punishment should last for the term of their life.”

    So… tit for tat?

    Fran: “One can also warrant this incidental suffering as a contribution by the offender to public safety — a cost that can fairly be settled on him or her in partial restitution”

    Restitution, retribution, tomayto, tomarto

  52. Katz

    I agree with FB.

    Mladic’ trial will be a criminal trial. It is also a political trial.

    The prosecuting authorities must be absolutely scrupulous in their efforts to show that justice has been done. Surely, the dire effects of “victors’ justice” have been demonstrated often enough to dissuade even the stupidest bloviators from braying for summary justice.

    Judging from some of the comments above, however, bloviation is thought to excuse stupidity.

  53. Fran Barlow

    FDB said:

    Restitution, retribution, tomayto, tomarto

    If you really don’t know the difference between the two, not only are there dictionaries but whole courses on the role of “restorative practice”.

    One can see post-civil war “truth and reconciliation” movements as an exemplar of this idea.

    Possibly your post reflects the impulse to be glib, because I regard you as a sharper fellow than you’ve shown above.

  54. Fran Barlow

    Katz said:

    The prosecuting authorities must be absolutely scrupulous in their efforts to show that justice has been done. Surely, the dire effects of “victors’ justice” have been demonstrated often enough to dissuade even the stupidest bloviators from braying for summary justice.

    Indeed, and one might add that the trial, with its (hopefully) scrupulous accounting of the crimes and its authors and enablers, is not the least of the work needed for victims to begin to heal. Having a clear and public record of the human and system failures large and small that facilitated the crimes in question helps situate this atrocity within a meaningful context, and may enable those who have suffered a chance to again feel the solidarity of those who also recognise the wrong. It allows people to suppose that the phrase “never again” may indeed have force and that nobody can deny or misstate the record.

    The trial may have little meaning for the perpetrators, who, deep within their own “reality”, will typically reject its terms. That’s why it must be or irreproachable integrity — an exemplar of how civilised people conduct ourselves when dealing with outrageous acts. Its value is to civilisation and to humanity now and in the future.

  55. su

    It allows people to suppose that the phrase “never again” may indeed have force and that nobody can deny or misstate the record.

    That is what it should do, and hopefully will do in the longer term but reading the comments on news reports of both Mladic’s arrest and the conviction last month of Gotovina for his part in the ethnic cleansing of Krajina is very disheartening as one sees open denialism, nativism and appeals to historical wrongs as justification for interethnic violence expressed by many on all sides.

  56. Fran Barlow

    Su said:

    but reading the comments on news reports of both Mladic’s arrest and the conviction last month of Gotovina for his part in the ethnic cleansing of Krajina is very disheartening as one sees open denialism, nativism and appeals to historical wrongs as justification for interethnic violence expressed by many on all sides.

    That’s what has happened because until now, Mladic has been in hiding and his supporters have been permitted to indulge their delusions without challenge. Now Mladic will be able to state his case and have it examined by those who have nothing to do with histroical wrongs against Serbs, whatever these may have been. They will not be able to plead what Mladic has not himself plead, nor escape the examination that these pleas suffered. Their nonsense too can be cast into a midden fit to hold all useless and toxic things.

  57. sg

    Fran and Katz, I don’t think your hopes are going to be sustained. Mladic is going to deny ordering it and claim he tried his best to be a good soldier; he’ll suggest it was the acts of individuals, who should be tried, and there’ll be dark murmurings of the soldiers having acted on their personal anger at the “atrocities” committed by the other side.

    In the end there’ll be no clarity about who ordered what, and “denialism, nativism and appeals to historical wrongs as justification for interethnic violence” will win out, because we’re focusing on the leaders’ acts as if they had been required to pull the trigger themselves, instead of damning them on the basis of their institutional responsibility.

  58. su

    One can see post-civil war “truth and reconciliation” movements as an exemplar of this idea.

    One comment I have seen is that Yugoslavia, unlike Germany, did not go through a process of denazification after the war, that Tito in keeping his fragile alliance together actively suppressed inquiry into the various roles of Cetniks, Partisans and Ustase in the war, he forbade the disturbance of mass graves for example. As with post- war northern Europe and the Resistance, one suspects that the ranks of the Partisans swelled enormously after the conclusion of the war, especially amongst the diaspora (cynical but I am afraid undeniably true in the case of the Resistance).

    Geoffrey Robertson, in the article Paul links to above, talks about the importance of the Nuremburg process but in fact that was one part of a larger process of deNazification. A truth and reconciliation process, which I think would be useful for the region, especially as the ICTY and ICJ hearings are almost concluded with one warrant outstanding, would probably have to go back at least that far to address the root causes, but is unlikely to happen as certain groups have more to gain (or lose) by the process than others.

  59. Alex

    casey

    I’m certainly no fan of GregM, and his nauseating habit of mansplaining, however as a Psychologist I suggest you read about vicarious trauma. The rest of your attack on him was totally unnecessary and reflects poorly on you.

    Regarding the actual topic at hand, the evil Mladic is most certainly a hero to many Serbs. This is going to be ugly.

  60. sg

    In the case of South Africa, wasn’t an important part of the Truth and Reconciliation process that people who participated were exonerated and not pursued through the courts…? Or am I misremembering?

  61. Sam

    The Serbian government is sending him to the Hague because they want to get admitted to the EU and want to be seen as a “normal” European country, like, say Holland.

    But a large minority of Serbs, maybe even a majority, according to polls, think Mladic is a hero.

    Normal European countries don’t hero worship mass murderers and war criminals.

  62. akn

    While the process in fraught with difficulties I’m of the view that genocide demands a similar process to the Polish ‘lustration’ by which people who collaborated with secret police under the communist regime were pushed from public life (and public employment in many instances). See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lustration_in_Poland

  63. akn

    uh-oh, in fact it appears that lustration is not much but a nice idea without the political will. See Amnesty International report: http://www.amnesty.nl/bibliotheek_vervolg/thema_berechting_part_2

  64. FDB

    Fran, restitution isn’t the appropriate word in this case anyway. You’re describing forced in-kind repayment of losses incurred by the victim (i.e. compensation), not forfeiture of gains made by the perpetrator at the victim’s expense (i.e. restitution).

    So the basis of restorative justice is split into these two ways of approaching the “making of amends”, for want of a better term.

    My criticism, totally unclear I concede, was that neither of these is an example of punishment. By definition, punishment goes beyond compensation (or restitution) by imposing some further burden, usually quite unrelated to the specifics of the crime.

    I’m not endorsing it, merely describing it. Restorative justice is indeed a more laudable ideal, and is in fact exactly how I was raised. My folks, mum especially, would usually devise ingenious means of atonement rather than reflex punishment. Active ones too, not some lame “no computer games for a week” crap. For example, a number of times I had to do written apologies to my little sister examining how I’d have felt if someone had treated me like that, etc etc

    I get the concept, in short. But I don’t think it’s appropriate in every case, especially one like the case at hand, where responsibility-taking has gone walkies completely, and there’s simply no “restoration” available.

  65. su

    It seems that the aims of truth and reconciliation run up against the aims of political leaderships. From your link, on lustration in Serbia:

    President Kostunica established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in March 2001, but some of the most distinguished designated members had serious objections with respect to the objectives, competencies, and powers of this commission and refused to participate. Some years later, the commission had just vanished, without having undertaken any substantial activities and without having achieved any tangible results.

    I have been reading about the work of Nataša Kandi?, a human rights campaigner and witness, active since the early nineties. From the presentation on establishing Truth and Reconciliation processes in the region linked at that page:

    establishing the facts is not in the political interest of the governments in the region because the facts would jeopardize the official interpretations of the past and history upon which current political elites draw their power

    .

  66. Casey

    GregM, I hope you read this. I want to apologise to you. I went way overboard yesterday and I am not sure what happened but I think I just read one comment of yours too many, esp. what you said to Brian, and a switch flipped. I am very sorry. Whilst I still stand by my comments on trauma, I launched into you in a personal way and that was completely unwarranted. I wish I hadn’t. There are no excuses, even if you drive me funny loco on occasion. You are correct to rubbish my personal comments to you. I retract them now. The personal comments to you were indeed rubbish. Apologies x 3.

  67. Fran Barlow

    FDB said:

    Fran, restitution isn’t the appropriate word in this case anyway. You’re describing forced in-kind repayment of losses incurred by the victim (i.e. compensation), not forfeiture of gains made by the perpetrator at the victim’s expense (i.e. restitution).

    I’m quite keen on getting nomenclature right, so I am going to quibble. Restitution is not the forfeiture of gains made at a victim’s expense. While it may certainly entail that, it involves an attempt to put the victim back into a position recognised by them as adequate to acquit their loss. In the case of seriously criminal conduct, this is unlikely, so at most, partial restitution will be possible. A person who harms society as a whole can partially undo the harm by serving as cautionary tale, which, of necessity, will be at his or her own expense. The warrant for this burden being imposed on him/her, is precisely the harm he or she caused and for which he/she is liable. That’s the idea to which that old cliche in relation to released prisoners — those who’ve paid their debt to society alludes.

    The imposition of punishment (really a socially approved form of torture) lacks adequate warrant in my opinion. While punishment is undoubtedly a consequence of the need to secure public safety, uphold the integrity of the rights of the citizenry and the force of law standing behind those rights, to make partial restitution through cautionary example, and perhaps to acquire the skills, knowledge and standing to walk freely among the law-abiding, it should never be the purpose of any legal imposition. Torture even of those who have acted outrageously remains unethical, unless it is merely incident and entailed by some end or process that has adequate warrant. In short, something for which there is compelling cause cannot be achieved save by the imposition of circumstances which entail suffering in another. It falls in these circumstances within defences of necessity. Someone who has committed outrageous crimes forfeits intrinsic defences to the imposition of suffering that is warranted by a compelling cause. Here, evidentiary standards must be very rigorous and met.

    In the case of Mladic, assuming as I do that these standards would be met, his lifelong incarceration does meet this test and will indeed serve as partial restitution, notwithstanding that it is coerced from him rather than freely given.

  68. GregM

    Casey I have read what you have written and what PC wrote. I have been reflecting on what you both wrote and I am still trying to digest your comments.

    I think, in my current reflection, that I still have to give a lot more thought to what you have written both in your original comments and your apology.

    I have taken your comments and those of PC to heart. They were written with sincerity and I think I should learn some lessons from them.

  69. Casey

    Greg, thanks. That is a very generous response.

  70. akn

    su re ‘lustration’: it’s the nature of the learning curve that we are occasionally obliged to go back to the drawing board in the process of mangling our metaphors.

  71. goran

    Full disclosure upfront: I have a Serbian grandmother – in fact a Serb Kosovar grandmother – and I grew up (and spent a couple years as an adult) in a Serb-friendly Macedonian town on the border to Kosovo.

    I arrived in Australia in 1997 and after being raised on Serb-friendly propaganda, I was thoroughly mortified at the kind of aggressively anti-Serb coverage Balkan intrigue was receiving on this side of the world (and, to be honest, continues to).

    Since then I’ve read up a bit more on these issues so certainly this week I was at a point where Mladic’s arrest came as a kind of relief. I do believe his acts – like the majority Serb military acts during that period – were horrific, and he deserves to be punished. But it still angers me that in villifying the Serbs exclusively, the wider public is overlooking the fact that the Serbs were not the only villains in this conflict. The Croats and Bosnian Muslims also have a lot to answer for. And somehow (with one recent exception) they’ve never been brought to that position. This is what makes the Serbs [justifiably] angry and this is what makes them [unjustifiably and very disturbingly] cling to murderers as national heroes.

    The majority of people boycotting Mladic’s arrest on the streets of Belgrade are nationalistic lunatics – I don’t think I’ve personally met any of them, but I feel like I grew up around them – I recognise the ethos, I recognise the rationale (or what passes for a rationale), I recognise the vitriol. It actually makes me furious. It’s mad, misguided and inexcusable.

    But the way that even the left wing of the Western press just accepts the gospel that Bosnian muslims were the sole victims and Serbs were the sole oppressors and the Croats are a tricky bunch we best not talk about cause it blurs the narrative we’re trying to correct — well, this doesn’t make me as angry as the Serb soccer hooligans do, but it still makes me angry. People have had 15 years to catch up on the details and background to these issues. Based on the majority of the write-ups I read, they still haven’t bothered.

    The Wikilink in the #1 comment is just one aspect of the whole issue – in fact Jasenovac is possibly where Serb hatred for Croats chiefly stems from to this day. (For the record, on this point, I think Serbs need to move the f*ck on and I adore Croats for many reasons related to their contemporary ethos and culture. But at the same time I do understand why it’s difficult for Serbs to move on. Particularly with no constructive attempts at reconciliation on either side, and particularly with no honest, legitimate efforts on the part of the West to encourage them.)

    Another more urgent point though is the fact that just because maniacs like Mladic and Karadzic (Milosevic only became a full-blown maniac much much later, so I don’t want to slot him in with this happy bunch) committed atrocities for the Serb cause, that doesn’t make the Serb cause thoroughly and permanently illegitimate. When the Croatian government unilaterally declared independence, there was obviously a very real danger to the lives and safety of the 25% Serb minority in that new nation. Ditto the Bosnian government and its Serb and Croat minorities, give or take a few percentage points. To an extent even maniacs like M&K were fighting to protect innocent civilians, and there were maniacs on the Bosnian and Croat side who were fighting to chase out and/or exterminate the same civilians. Concentration camps existed on both sides. They were referred to as ‘refugee’ camps but during this period, both Serbs and Bosnians (and though I haven’t yet read definitive proof, I strongly presume, also Croats) were stuck in these ‘refugee’ camps.

    I’m very sorry to crap on for so long, but all in all, I think what I’m trying to say is: Like every war, this was an exceedingly complex mess, and there were no clear cut good guys or bad guys. The Mladic arrest really does need to be used as a step toward reconciliation in the region. I know everybody loves and needs a good villain, and a lot of these people never came to terms with the fact that they never beat up another boy in high school, so it makes them feel good to say things like “I would pull down this inexcusable monster’s pants down, chop off his penis and shoot him in the face right now”. But attitudes like this only spread the vitriol. They just add to the ammunition of people who recruit Serb soccer hooligans to boycott in the streets (boy, am I looking forward to the next wave of Serb elections, and the right-wing fascist plutocrats they will bring to power).

    One of the really important reasons for giving Mladic a due trial is that this is a fragile but key opportunity to inform the misinformed Serb majority about atrocities that were unjustifiably committed in their name. Not that I believe in such a thing as a ‘justifiable atrocity’ – though a lot of Croat and Bosnian acts are still often being presented as such. And in the meantime bone-chilling, horrifying atrocities are still being committed by the gangster government of Kosovo (I don’t mean ‘gangster’ in the Michelle Bachmann sense, I mean ‘gangster’ in the organ trafficking and ethnic cleansing sense) and nobody is posturing about shooting *these* monsters in the face. (I know they recently had a promising election result – or at least what the Western media presented as a promising result – so I am mildly hopeful.)

    Please don’t interpret this as a defence for Mladic, or even necessarily the Serb cause. I still think the majority of Serbs urgently need to be educated about the unflattering messy messy facts of this war. But so should the Western media, and just as urgently.

    [/end rant]

  72. Katz

    Goran’s points @80 are well made.

    There is no doubt that Serbs were marked harder than their opponents. This is structural victors’ justice.

    On the other hand, only a smattering of war criminals on all sides will be brought to justice. The defendants are chosen for political purposes rather than for criminal acts. Many war criminals will remain unprosecuted for both practical and political reasons.

    Does this mean that Mladic should be given a Get out of Gaol Free Card? Of course not. But given the highly politicised motivations of the process, the methodology of the process must be to convince as many Serbs as possible of the criminality of Mladic’ acts.

    Given the strength of Serb chauvinism, so powerfully characterised by Goran, it is unrealistic to expect that all Serbs will be convinced by this process. But as she concludes, “[o]ne of the really important reasons for giving Mladic a due trial is that this is a fragile but key opportunity to inform the misinformed Serb majority about atrocities that were unjustifiably committed in their name.”

    Meantime, it is necessary to acknowledge that these events were not the first instance of ethnic cleansing in the region and most probably will not be the last. There is no morally acceptable permanent solution, but the best should never be an enemy of the good.

  73. akn

    Goran:

    “When the Croatian government unilaterally declared independence, there was obviously a very real danger to the lives and safety of the 25% Serb minority in that new nation.”

    Yep, even at the time I thought that the trauma that Serbs experienced in the death camps of WWII at Croat hands would send them into a hyperdrive of pre-emptive violence.

    It is a sorry business. I see that Damir Krsticevic, amongst other alleged war criminal Croation generals, continues to prosper under the current Croation government (http://iwpr.net/report-news/respite-croatian-war-crimes-suspects).

  74. Sam

    there were no clear cut good guys or bad guys.

    I call bullshit. Mladic is a clear cut bad buy. Ditto Karadzic.

    No serious observer denies that atrocities were committed by the Croatians and Bosnians (Muslim variety) and if you want to name names, knock yourself out. If you want them tried at the Hague, agitate away.

    This thread however is about what Mladic did, as will be his trial.

  75. sg

    Again though, Katz, under standard definitions of guilt, the most likely out come is that Mladic will muddy the waters and give the Serbian ultra-nationalists a justification to continue worshipping him. Evidence of his having ordered anything will be missing, and he will use exactly the nationalist rhetoric and historical enmities Goran identifies to explain why it was “just” soldiers behaving badly. By the logic of this criminal justice stance, he will then be either exonerated, punished for some pathetically minor offense, or the trial will degenerate into a long period of technical nit-picking. None of these outcomes will serve to convince a single Serb ultra-nationalist of anything, nor will they help to convince non-nationalistic but sympathetic people of the genuine need for justice and reconciliation.

    War crimes tribunals are not a good mechanism for smoothing over community divisions, and neither are they a good vehicle for achieving justice.

  76. Pavlov's Cat

    Goran, thanks — that was a really interesting, informative and nuanced comment, and it certainly fits with everything my mate in Sarajevo was reporting back fifteen years ago. This is the way history should be written.

  77. goran

    Sam – maybe I phrased that badly – I didn’t meant to say they were no bad guys in the singular form – I meant to say that neither the Serbs as a nation or the Bosnians (or Bosnian Muslims) as a nation are categorically the ‘good guy’ or the ‘bad guy’. The generals and, one could argue, even the soldiers disembowelling civilians in the mid-90s were certainly bad guys/individuals. The people currently running the main opposition party in Serbia are also very likely bad guys. Ex-Croatian dictator Franjo Tudjman was an execrable guy. But you can’t claim that either of these people were fighting for ‘the good side’ or ‘the bad side’. There was no good side or bad side.

    As for: “No serious observer denies that atrocities were committed by the Croatians and Bosnians (Muslim variety)”
    No, no serious observer probably denies them outright – in fact, no serious observer in mainstream media ever even mentions them vaguely. But just about every observer, serious or otherwise, has no qualms about excoriating the Serbs unreservedly and in full venom. It’s the imbalance that frustrates me. Also the fact that this approach continues to spill over into media coverage of the Kosovo situation. While I do believe that independence for Kosovo is the only viable way forward, I’m mortified at how to this day no one in the mainstream media mentions, much less acknowledges the ethnic cleansing committed by the Kosovar Albanians.

  78. Mindy

    None of these outcomes will serve to convince a single Serb ultra-nationalist of anything, nor will they help to convince non-nationalistic but sympathetic people of the genuine need for justice and reconciliation.

    @sg – but surely just executing him in the manner you suggested, which in line with Brian’s request I won’t repeat, will do all those things plus ignite the rage further and risk alienating sympathetic people?

  79. Mindy

    blockquote fail. sorry, should have closed after ‘reconciliation’

    [Fixed]

  80. goran

    Meantime
    @89

    I totally agree with every point you’ve made – all of that is a possibility, and in fact, probably the likelihood. And both the Western media and the Serb ultra-nationalists will have lots of fun fanning those nasty flames.

    But also, there are many, many rational people in the Serbian press – mainstream and otherwise. They will obviously be covering this trial. They will be cutting through the bullshit on both sides. The Serbian non-ultra-nationalists who might now justifiably be feeling villainised might get a chance to understand why the rest of the world feels the way they do.

    Meantime if you just write off Mladic as a breed of psychopath exclusively found among people of Serbian ethnicity – which the Western media tends to do and the Hague may very well do – you will be achieving nothing other than the most primal kind of retribution, all while setting the cause of reconciliation back by a decade or so.

  81. goran

    “The Serbian non-ultra-nationalists who might now justifiably be feeling villainised might get a chance to understand why the rest of the world feels the way they do”

    that was meant to read “why the rest of the world feels the way it does”.

  82. sg

    Mindy, my original comment was deliberately flippant but I did intend to make the point: he needs to be tried and punished on the basis of his institutional responsibility, not the things he personally ordered or didn’t order. My original flippancy was intended to indicate what a completely open-and-shut case it is for him.

    The point needs to be made that if the Serbs revere him as a military hero, they have to accept that he was responsible for the things that happened on his watch, regardless of whether he wrote a note saying “I want to see all of Sarajevo’s military-age men dead by Tuesday.” This way they can’t shirk (what I think) the central point of the trial (should be): that Serb soldiers committed mass murder, and the serb political apparatus is culpable.

  83. su

    If you read the Croatian Prime Minister’s reaction to the recent conviction of Gotovina (also, incidentally seen as serving a political function by clearing the way for Croatia’s entry to the EU), it becomes clear that the nations of the region are all involved in a process of revising history in a self-exculpatory light, denial of the ethnic cleansing of Krajina seems to be very much the official line, and reading the comments on the Independent article about Gotovina, you can see how wrangling over and rewriting the events of WWII are part and parcel of that.

  84. Sam

    if you just write off Mladic as a breed of psychopath exclusively found among people of Serbian ethnicity

    Another straw man argument.

    It will be Mladic, individually and personally, who will be on trial, not the whole of Serbia.

    But, if as seems likely, he has significant support amongst Serbs, then this does reflect badly on the Serbian people.

    And that doesn’t mean the Croats are any better. We all know the WW2 history, not to mention the Ustashi terrorists here in Australia. And then there was that Slovenian fascist, Nazi collaborator, wart criminal and anti-semite Lyanko Urbanchich, who was active in creating the Uglies faction of the Liberal Party.

    They’re all A-grade fuckwits.

  85. Fran Barlow

    Brian said:

    Fran @ 76, I don’t think I fully understand your comment, but I think you are equating punishment with a form of torture, and then seeking justifying it ethically.

    The term torture is highly rhetorical. In normal usage, it implies intense and prolonged suffering, typically inflicted wittingly by a human being on some other human or sensate being, typically in circumstances where the community doesn’t or worldn’t approve. Imprisonment clearly ticks at least some of these boxes, though the suffering tends to be more psychological than physical. It is clear though that legal systems do take official account of the suffering imposed by legal sanction — time in isolation for example can be accounted as equivalent to more time not in isolation, especially if a verdict is overturned and compensation is payable. There’s scarcely an episode of those popular US police shows in which the fear of an accused of extra-legal violence within a prison is not adduced to coerce cooperation. One suspects this is not mere creative licence.

    So punishment and torture both fall under the heading of suffering imposed by humans, although one may be trivial and the other typically egregious and likely to cause perniciously life-altering harm, whereas other punishments may not. The child sent to cool his heels in the corridor is not going to suffer meaurable harm, even in the fairly shortterm.

    My question concerned the warrant for the imposition of suffering, becaause small or large, extended or brief, one ought to avoid causing others to suffer, if one reasonably can. Having a warrant to act in ways that cause suffering as an incident makes the imposition reasonable. Sending the child outside to reflect on his options protects the integrity of lessons, even if the child suffers momentary embarrassment and isolation. The child has no compelling claim to act so as to disrupt the learning of others, so his isolation is not unreasonable.

    I agree that in theory it’s possible to justify torture. In practice it’s not possible, because no good that one could obtain from imposition of torture could approach the harm to individual and collective interests occasioned by exercising it. We scarcely want, after all, to author people who would be capable of engaging in such conduct, or allow them to walk freely amongst us, having warranted to themselves that torture was occasionally defencible. We scarcely want states to feel that such conduct is within their remit.

    Moreover, most of the goods that might be obtained can be obtained by other far less ethically corrosive means. Those that cannot be obtained by such means probably can’t be obtained by torture. So in practice, the warrant for torture always fails.

  86. Mindy

    @sg – sorry I misunderstood your original comment, thanks for the clarification.

  87. FDB

    Fran:

    I’m quite keen on getting nomenclature right…

    Don’t get me started.

    …so I am going to quibble.

    Tops!

    Restitution is not the forfeiture of gains made at a victim’s expense.

    Yes, it is.

    While it may certainly entail that, it involves an attempt to put the victim back into a position recognised by them as adequate to acquit their loss.

    You have just described, as I said earlier, what is known in law as ‘compensation’. ‘Restitution’ is explicitly about paying the victim some percentage of the perpetrator’s ill-gotten GAINS.

    Your equation of punishment with torture is interesting on the face of it, but on examination my objections to torture (I’m talking here about interrogative torture) don’t apply very well to punishment per se. The punitive aspect to punishment (as a fan of nomenclature, I’m sure you see how integral an aspect it is) is really an end in itself, whereas the punitive aspect to (interrogative) torture is, ostensibly at least, the means to an end.

    As far as merely punitive ‘torture’ goes, there is unfortunately no bright moral line between incarceration with TV and internet and getting flogged and your wounds salted daily. It’s just a matter of degree (one which it is admittedly very important to get right, but no logical argument will really suffice to prove that this-is-right, while that-is-wrong).

  88. Fran Barlow

    FDB quoted me:

    Restitution is not the forfeiture of gains made at a victim’s expense.

    then continued

    Yes, it is.

    Common dictionaries admit my usage: for example

    res·ti·tu·tion (rst-tshn, -ty-)
    n.
    1. The act of restoring to the rightful owner something that has been taken away, lost, or surrendered. See Synonyms at reparation.
    2. The act of making good or compensating for loss, damage, or injury; indemnification.
    3. A return to or restoration of a previous state or position.

    [from Latin r?stit?ti?, from r?stituere to rebuild, from re- + statuere to set up]

    To be fair to your argument, given that this discussion has focused on restitution in a legal context, there is in the law of tort (and likewise contract) a distinction between compensation and restitution as a legal remedy. This distinction would indeed support your view, if we were discussing some purely tortious act or breach of contract. I spoke of suffering in prison as being conceptually restitutive since it fosters the restoration to a prior state (the integrity of the law dishonoured by the offender) by resort to incarceration and thus a warrant for the imprisonment going beyond a more narrow view of incarceration’s physical constraint on future harm of legitimate community interests.

    The punitive aspect to punishment (as a fan of nomenclature, I’m sure you see how integral an aspect it is) is really an end in itself, whereas the punitive aspect to (interrogative) torture is, ostensibly at least, the means to an end.

    Oh I agree. The rationale for punishment is that its target suffers. It’s both a form of cleansing through mortification (very christian) and a way of satisfying the desire for Schadenfreude within the wider community. The question is whether anyone who reflects on the concept regards either of these conceptions as capable of reconciliation with notions like the dignity of life, the struggle to acquire insight into one’s own possibility and so forth.

    etymological note: punishment is cognate with “penal” which in turn derives from the Latin poena and Greek poine describing penalties, especially “blood money”. One can easily see the link to “pain” here in the phrase on pain of death. In Proto-Indo-European, the root is -kwei for atone, compensate, pay.

  89. FDB

    So Fran, upping the pedante are we?

    Common dictionaries admit my usage

    Orly? Show me a dictionary which says “Restitution is not the forfeiture of gains made at a victim’s expense”. That was your usage, wasn’t it?

    Of course, your original usage of ‘restitution’ was quite obviously in the common-or-garden sense, and I’ve just been arseing about.

    Anyway… punishment purely for the sake of exacting unilateral suffering is like sex purely for the sake of achieving unilateral orgasm. It might “miss the point” in many ways, but it ain’t goin’ anywheres.

  90. Isidora

    I’m compelled to address the suggestion, consistently repeated in the local media, that “most Serbs” consider Mladic to be a hero. My own sense about this matter, and one only needs to read independent and even mainstream Serbian media, is that this assessment is not an accurate reflection of how the Serbs in Serbia see Mladic, and his involvement in the wars in Bosnia, and most specifically the genocide in Srebrenica. It’s reassuring to see online responses from many Serbs in Serbia via their local online media, who overwhelmingly support Mladic’s extradition and trial (B92 is one such source).

    As some commentators have noted here, there are some Serbs, and I’m not sure if it’s correct to say that there are “many”, who think the Hague trials are not equitable to all sides of the conflicts, for the reasons already mentioned on this thread (this Guardian article covers some of these sentiments: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/27/serbs-ratko-mladic-arrest-war-crimes?INTCMP=SRCH). There are many Serbs who have no such concerns.

    There is an overwhelming sense in Belgrade, where I’m from originally, that most Serbs consider Mladic to be a criminal, that they are quite prepared to face the truth about the wars in Bosnia, and want to see proper mechanisms of international justice put into place.

    With regard to the Serbian government, led by Boris Tadic, it seems relevant to note that this is not a government which took the country into civil wars after the break-up of former Yugoslavia. Tadic came into power in 2004 and was re-elected in 2008, as the leader of the Democrats (not long after its previous progressive leader Boris Djindjic was assassinated).

    There has always been a strong opposition to the Serb ultranationalist politics in Serbia, to the grip of the military regime of the 1990s, the ugly ideology of the ultranationalists and the criminal networks which ran and fuelled the country during its political and economic isolation. Hundreds of thousands of Serbs left the country in despair during the civil wars. Many of the progressives as well as ordinary citizens opposed the regime; some committed suicide. Serbia of the 1990s and very much up to early 2000s was a country of darkness and ugliness, to the Serbs also.

    Maintaining peace and stability in a country previously led by a ruthless regime, which after its incarnation after the Second World War never had proper democratic structures, is no easy task. Journalist Misha Glenny (author of The Fall of Yugoslavia), familiar with the circumstances and wars in former Yugoslavia, offers a recent commentary of the obstacles the current Serbian government had to face when negotiating its path towards democratic stability. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/27/ratko-mladic-serbia-boris-tadic

    With regard to reconciliation, there is, obviously, a lot of room for improvement, but some of the steps that reassured many ordinary citizens in Serbia were Tadic’s apology to the victims of Srebrenica, in Srebrenica, on the 10th and 15th anniversary of the massacre. Serbian parliament last year passed a resolution officially apologising for the tragedy Srebrenica (by a narrow margin, and not officially calling it genocide, but it was passed http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8594625.stm, http://daily.tportal.hr/64092/An-Apology-for-Srebrenica-by-Boris-Tadic-published-in-The-Wall-Street-Journal.html). These are considered by many Serbs to be significant political and social changes, symbolic too.

    The protest of the ultranationalists in Belgrade last Sunday, responding to Mladic’s arrest and opposing his extradition, when they were transported from various parts of the country and from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where interpreted by many Serbs as desperate gestures of an impotent group which can no longer dominate the public face of this country.

    One can be cynical and view Mladic’s arrest and extradition as a gesture of a pragmatic government motivated only by economic interests (becoming a member of the EU is not guaranteed to Serbia with this extradition, it is just one of the criteria the country needs to fulfil to be considered as a candidate), and that it represents a nation incapable of analysis, reflection and remorse, but numerous international reporters and commentators acknowledge that Serbia has made significant internal reforms, and is continuing to implement proper foundations for a stable political future.

    Stability in Serbia is a fragile entity, and ugly ultrantionalist agenda is never too far away, but there are reassuring signs that progressive politics has taken a stronger hold in this country, that political influence of the ultranationalists has been disarmed and disabled to a very large extent, and most Serbs certainly support all of these changes, and welcome them.