General Ratko Mladic, after 16 years, has been captured and is to be extradited to The Hague to face genocide charges over the 1992-95 Bosnian war, including the massacre of about 7,500 Bosnian Muslim men and boys that at Srebrenica. There were multiple atrocities during the war, with Srebrenica the largest and most notable. Considerable organisation and logistics were involved.
Genocide, or “ethnic cleansing” was a tool of war. Women and girls as young as 12 were brutalised, humiliated and gang raped. It is alleged that babies had their throats cut. By one count about 150,000 people were systematically eliminated.
The Serbian government is happy to see Mladic out of the country and brought to justice as soon as possible.
President Boris Tadic said Gen Mladic’s arrest had brought Serbia and the region closer to reconciliation, and opened the doors to European Union membership.
Today the Serbian ambassador was emphasising lasting reconciliation rather than EU membership. Lasting reconciliation is a worthy aim, but arguably the wound from such horrific crimes can never heal. Especially since the man is still seen by some as a hero. This was disturbing:
MARK COLVIN: When you hear, as we have heard here today, Serbs saying that it’s a disgrace that he’s been arrested and that he was one of the great Serb fighters, what do you think?
MARK DANNER: Well, I feel a bit desperate when I hear that although to be candid, I don’t feel surprised. He was very popular in Serbia and I suppose the best answer to give is that it’s salutary that we be reminded of that; that this was not simply an evil man doing evil things and there’s a population that did not know what was going on. In fact this, Srebrenica itself was the climax of a war in which genocide was used as the most important weapon of war.
It’s where we got the term “ethnic cleansing,” it’s where in fact over the three years of this war perhaps 150,000 or more Bosnians, the overwhelming proportion of them civilians, were massacred and those massacres were a method of warfare, of clearing territory and Srebrenica does not stand out from that; it was only the climax of it and the single most concentrated example of it.
And it’s, I think, I hate to say it, awful as it is, we should be reminded that this was not simply an evil man doing evil things. This was a very evil war fought in the most evil terms and a war that the West was unable to stop, did not show the…
MARK COLVIN: Unable or unwilling?
MARK DANNER: …to stop. Well unwilling is the better word, you’re quite right. In fact by the time of Srebrenica the West had long since known of these massacres, knew it very well indeed and it should have been stopped long, long, long before.
Mark Danner of the New York Review of Books was alluding to a wider responsibility on the part of those who failed to act.
There is coverage everywhere, of course. I haven’t attempted a round-up. The ABC’s The World Today had three other segments covering the event. Der Spiegel has a round-up of German press and suggests that the capture will not be enough in itself to gain EU membership. Financial daily Handelsblatt writes:
“This is a good day for justice … It also opens a door along Serbia’s path into the EU.”
“Without Serbia the admission of every other country in the West Balkans would be incomplete, and without the delivery of Mladic the acceptance of Serbia would be unthinkable. But it will be a long time before the young Balkan nations that came out of Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse find their happiness in the heart of the EU. While Slovenia is already a member of the EU, the decision over Croatia’s acceptance, expected by late June, continues to be delayed. Not to mention the European fates of Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo, which hasn’t even been recognized as a state by some EU nations.”
“Still, Mladic’s arrest opens the way to negotiations over the needed further convergence of the Balkans with the EU.”
I don’t understand Balkan politics, but it still sounds messy. I understand Belgrade still refuses to recognise Kosovo.
In late information, Mladic is going to appeal extradition on the grounds of ill-health.