AUN tribunal has sentenced a former Bosnian Serb army warlord, Ratko Mladic, to a life term for committing some of the worst atrocities during the Balkan war. The punishment is fully justified but it has seemingly come much too late — nearly two decades after Mladic’s reign of terror came to an end. The 74-year-old ex-military commander had a direct hand in the massacre of at least 7,000 men and boys in 1995 and for the siege of Sarajevo which left over 10,000 people dead. His actions also displaced millions of people in former Yugoslavia. Oddly enough, the tribunal pronounced Mladic innocent of genocide in municipalities. This is unlikely to please the families of his victims.
Mladic, together with his political counterpart Radovan Karadzic, presided over the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats from areas claimed by Bosnian Serbs. The shameful episode to remove Muslims and Croats from Bosnia is painfully catalogued and etched in the collective memory of the world. If this wasn’t enough, Mladic was also found guilty of keeping more than 200 Nato military personnel hostage and using them as human shields to prevent Nato air strikes against the Bosnian Serb army.
The trial of Mladic has been no less monumental, lasting as it has a full 530 days and spaced over the course of nearly five years. Some 591 witnesses came forward to testify and more than 10,000 exhibits were presented at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. For now, justice has been served but for many Bosnians the trial should have been more about truth and reconciliation. The verdict will soothe the feelings of many Bosnians but it won’t end their suffering. Not now, not ever.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 23rd, 2017.
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