Genocide a Fitting Charge for Mladic

10 June 2011 by David Tolbert

The arrest of Ratko Mladic reignited debates on a wide spectrum of related issues, from its implications on the prospects for true reckoning with the past in the countries of the former Yugoslavia to the possible jolt it will give to Serbia’s hopes of joining the European Union. Beyond the immediate impact on the region, the strongest reverberations of Mladic’s transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will be felt in the discourse on international justice.

Many, including myself, almost gave up on hope that they would ever see the arrest of the man who still commands an almost fanatical following among the Serbs. And while the picture of an old man in a scruffy baseball hat bears little resemblance to the once all-powerful and ruthless general declaring revenge on Srebrenica for the deeds of Ottoman occupiers from 500 years ago, his apprehension is of enormous importance for the struggle against impunity and credibility of international justice.

Although it will not be judged solely on whether it brought to trial all of its indictees, the tribunal itself stands to gain the most, as without Mladic in the dock its record would be fundamentally incomplete. There are challenges ahead for the ICTY, most notably in ensuring the remaining fugitive Goran Hadzic is not forgotten and remaining trials, including Mladic’s, are successfully completed. Fears of seeing the repeat of the “Milosevic scenario”—where Mladic, allegedly in poor health, would die before the trial is finished—have already led to calls for reduction of the indictment and numerous questions about the efficiency of international courts.

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