Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Will Justice Ever Be Done at The Hague?
This article of mine appears in The First Post.
"One of the worst men in the world, the Osama bin Laden of Europe, has been captured". That was the verdict of an ecstatic Richard Holbrooke, former US envoy to the Balkans, on the arrest of Radovan Karadzic (pictured above).
But no one should think that justice is done and dusted with Karadzic's capture.
While the massacre of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces was by far the most terrible single atrocity committed in the Balkan wars of the 1990s, other parties to the conflict were guilty of dreadful crimes too - crimes that have largely gone unpunished.
For the West, it seems that only crimes in which Serbs are the perpetrators are of interest. There was little media coverage of the killing of up to 1,000 Serbs by Bosnian forces led by Naser Oric, which preceded Srebrenica. 'Operation Storm', in which 200,000 Serbs were forcibly driven from their homes in Croatia, has also been airbrushed out of history.
And what of the prima facie evidence that Nato forces were guilty of war crimes – the bombing of a passenger train at Grdelica gorge and the RTS television studios in Belgrade, which together took the lives of 30 civilians in April 1999?
If the treatment of other Serbian defendants at The Hague is anything to go by, his chances of receiving a fair trial look remote. The trial of Slobodan Milosevic descended into farce as a succession of 'smoking gun' prosecution witnesses turned out to be damp squibs. After four years of proceedings, the prosecution palpably failed to land a blow - and it was a mighty relief for his accusers when Milosevic died in custody.
Many have claimed that Karadzic's arrest will lead to closure.
But 'justice' selectively applied to only one party in a conflict is only likely to increase Serbia's sense of victimhood - and prevent long-term reconciliation.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, despite the arrest of Karadzic, the bullying of Serbia continues.