RECOM: road to reconciliation
The arrest of Ratko Mladic on 26 May signified a key victory for both the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, and the Republic of Serbia’s President, Boris Tadić. However, perhaps inevitably, after 16 years at-large, the timing of Mladic’s arrest was questioned, coming as it did on the day that the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Catherine Ashton, was visiting Serbia, and shortly before the ICTY President Judge Patrick Robinson and Prosecutor Serge Brammertz were due to update the Security Council on the ICTY’s recent work.
Perhaps more troubling than the accusations about the political motivations for Mladic’s arrest, was the reaction to that arrest by some sections of Serbian society. There were street protests against Mladic’s apprehension, and the media afforded him celebrity status, even updating the Serbian public on his diet in jail. Nationalism remains strong in Serbia, but also in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo and Montenegro. By way of evidence, Natasha Kandic of the Humanitarian Law Center in Serbia, points to the rejection by a large cross-section of Croatian society of the ICTY’s recent conviction of two Croatian generals for war crimes, a ruling that conflicted with the national narrative of the war. In Kosovo, the public opposes any trials for the commanders of the former Kosovo Liberation Army, and in Montenegro, a court ruled that policeman that handed over Muslim refugees to Bosnia Serb forces in 1992 were not guilty of war crimes.