Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Great news -- if true
Rumors are flying around the Balkans that Ratko Mladic has been arrested. Mladic is the greatest war criminal still at large from the Wars of Yugoslav Seccession. Mladic was the general who established himself in the Olympic ski lodge overlooking Sarajevo from which he oversaw the bombardment of the refugee-choked town. He also gave the orders for the Srebrenica massacre. All in all, the Hague war crimes tribunal credits him with the deaths of 20,000 civilians. For the last ten years he has been on the run, though he is reported to have spent most of that time being protected by influential Serbs in Serbia and Bosnia.

Helping to bring Mladic and other war criminals to justice has been a prerequisite for rehabilitating Serbia and bringing the country into Europe. Whenever a deadline of some sort approaches, rumors fly that this war criminal or that war criminal has been arrested. The problem for the Serbian government is that these murderers remain popular with nationalist groups and still wield a great deal of power in organized crime.

Mladic has been rumored to be in ill health for the last few years, raising the dual possibilities that he might surrender to get medical care, or that he might escape justice by dying.

I believe in the value of international tribunals, truth and reconcilliation commissions, and other judicial means for overcoming the past, so I think an open, public airing of Mladic's crimes could be a good thing for Serbia and for the whole region. It could also turn into a legalistic charade and complete waste of time. Seeing him dragged by the scruff of his neck and thrown in a cage will be worth something even if a trial doesn't accomplish everything it should. In any case, I would rather we, at least, have the chance of judicial catharsis.

Let's hope they really have him this time.

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