Wonderful news for any of us who followed the horrors of the break up of Yugoslavia, and witnessed hundreds of thousands killed in the nationalist wars that followed. The Yugoslav wars were mainly inspired by the Serbian Leader Slobodan Milosevic, his henchman Radovan Karadzic in Bosnia, and his key military leader, Ratko Mladic.
Ratko Mladic was arrested five hours ago by the Security information Agency (BIA), reports the Serbian daily “Blic”. Mladic, who was arrested in Lazarevo, near Zrenjanin, has been using false papers and identified himself as Milorad Komadic….
“With his arrest we ended a very difficult period and removed a stigma from Serbia and Serbian people, wherever they are. I think that this operation shows that the institutions of the state of Serbia made this country safe and secured the rule of law”, Mr. Tadic said.
This is also great news for the people of Serbia who, with this last arrest, have a pathway to join the EU and acquire the norms of the civil society, probity and free elections contained its protocols. As Serbian president Boris Tadic has just said
On behalf of the republic of Serbia, I inform you that Ratko Mladic was arrested this morning … The extradition process is taking place.
Mladic will be extradited to the Hague where he’ll face the following charges from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Count 1: genocide
Count 2: complicity in genocide
Count 3: Persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds
Count 4: Extermination
Count 5: Murder
Count 6: Murder
Count 7: Deportation
Count 8: Inhumane acts (forcible transfer)
Count 9: unlawfully inflicting terror upon civilians
Count 10: murder
Count 11: murder
Count 12: cruel treatment
Count 13: inhumane acts
Count 14: attacks on civilians
Count 15: taking of hostages
For those of you too young to remember the Bosnian War, the continued freedom of Mladic – who personally directed the murder of 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in the UN safe area of Srebrenica, the worst civilian massacre in Europe since the Second War – was not only an insult to international law but also a reminder that the troubles in the region might not yet be resolved. As long as elements of the Serbian people continued to protect a mass killer – how could that nation be trusted to have accepted its role in the horrors of the 1990s?
As the British Foreign Secretary William Hague has just said:
The arrest of Ratko Mladic is a historic moment for a region that was torn apart by the appalling wars of the 1990s. Ratko Mladic stands accused of terrible crimes committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina and it is right that he will now be brought to face international justice. Today our thoughts are with the relatives of those killed during the siege of Sarajevo and genocide in Srebrenica.
Among some of my peers and friends, including Samantha Power who’s Pullitzer Prize winning book A Problem from from Hell came out of her experiences during the war, we felt ourselves part of the ‘Bosnian Generation’. This was strikingly different from the Vietnam generation that preceded us. They felt the consequences and catastrophes of wrong headed intervention. We felt the consequences and catastrophes of wrong headed non-intervention.
The failures of Bosnia led to the more muscular policy in Kosovo. Of course these same principles of liberal interventionism (something I don’t actually believe in) were conscripted and used by the Neocons during the Iraq invasion. But the principles were not entirely lost. They survive in the ‘responsibility to protect’ doctrine adopted by the UN in 2005. Under that, national governments no longer have immunity from war crimes conducted against their own civilians, even if they are within their national borders, or part of civil war or strife. It was this R2P doctrine which was activated in the UNSCR 1973 resolution against Gaddafy when he threatened to massacre the citizens of Benghazi.
Personally, the day when Srebrenica fell to Mladic’s troops in July 1995, was one of the darkest in my life. From my various contacts I knew the rumours of young male babies having their genitals cut off, or a 13 year old boy being shot through the mouth once the cameras had been turned off, and the Dutch UN troops protecting the people had been neutralised, would be horribly accurate. For weeks, British and European politicians denied there was a massacre. Then the satellite photos were revealed. And news from survivors came out.
The horrors of ethnic and racial war in Europe, so well known to my parents generation, seem to have erupted out of nowhere. Europe, much more than any other continent, was the heart of darkness in terms of genocide and racial war in the 20th century. To see that return, after so many millions dead, was like the terrible shocking twist in a horror story.
I vowed to myself to go to Sarajevo, and in any way I could make some reparations for the passive acquiescence of John Major’s government to these horrors. It’s something I’ve never ceased writing about in fact or fiction ever since.
So I celebrate Mladic’s capture, just as I celebrate the attempted capture of Bin Laden. This is another mark of the increasing role of international law – a standard that seem to be almost swamped by the War on Terror and unlilateral pre-emptive war as outlined by Bush, Cheney and the Neocons.
I wish Bin Laden had been captured alive, but I’m glad he is finished. I look forward to Mladic having to answer his charges in the glare of publicity and face his guilt before the whole world.
May the many dead rest in peace. May the ones they left behind find some peace and healing in this moment of justice.