Bosnia War Crime Trials Must Proceed


The Bosnian War (1992-95), a conflict that has never been easy to explain, is finally moving towards closure, with the arrest in Serbia of Bosnian-Serb military leader Ratko Mladic.

When the former Yugoslavia dissolved into six countries, namely: Slovenia, Macedonia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, and Serbia, some provinces did so in peace, but Bosnia had troubles, because their religions and ethnicities were a Balkanized mix of Bosnian-Muslim, Catholic-Croat, and Orthodox-Serb.

When the Bosnian-Muslims and Bosnian-Croats united to form a Federation, the Bosnian-Serbs set up their own Republika Srpska (RS). This triggered a Civil War (1992-95), during which the Bosnian-Serbs, forcefully removed Bosnian-Croats and Muslims from their homes, in what became known as an ethnic cleansing.

The UN failed to act militarily, because the issue was seen by China and Russia as an internal Yugoslavian affair. The Security Council did however set up the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to prosecute war crimes (1993).

After the Bosnian-Serbs attacked Sarajevo (1994), and under the lead of Ratko Mladic, slaughtered 8,000 defenseless Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica (1995), President Bill Clinton and other NATO country leaders finally used air power to stop the Serbs.

The Dayton Peace Accords (1995) recognized both the Bosnian Muslim-Croat Federation, and the Bosnian-Serb Republic (RS). The Federation now occupies 51% of Bosnia, while the RS Republic controls the other 49%, each with their own laws.

Since the war ended 16 years ago, the remaining task has been to bring justice to the victims, or their families, by prosecuting and convicting those who committed war crimes. Those commanders who ordered or allowed torture or murder, are individually responsible for breaching the rights of prisoners and civilians, under the Hague and Geneva Conventions.

Although it took 16 years to capture Mladic, there is no Statute of Limitations as to murder. After his extradition to the Netherlands, the judge must give him a few months to prepare for trial, but after that, the court must proceed promptly, as justice delayed is justice denied, and thus far, there has been no justice as to Mladic.

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