Karadzic and the search for justice
After evading capture for over a decade, the Bosnian-Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic is finally in custody. It is expected that he will be sent to the Netherlands to stand trial in front of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Will Karadzic get a fair trial? Will anyone – those who died and those who survived the break-up of the Yugoslav state - get the justice they deserve? I doubt it.
Before I go any further, let me make it abundantly clear that I think Karadzic should face a court to account for the serious accusations made against him. The short list includes the three year strangulation of Sarajevo and the slaughter of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1997. These events and other accusations all add-up to the charge of committing genocide.
Karadzic was the ugly political face of Serbian nationalism in Bosnia as the former Yugoslavia collapsed into civil war. He was part of a terrible history, but he was far from alone. This is why sending him to the ICTY is problematic in the very least, and without a doubt more than a tad bit hypocritical.
The ICTY was established with a noble mission: to punish gross violators of human rights and serve as a deterrent stopping others from committing the same. Neither has happened. The ICTY was established 15 years ago, only later did the massacres at Srebrenica and the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo occur. The hope for deterrence never played out.
The ICTY was also supposed to promote justice and closure for victims and survivors – and prison terms for the perpetrators. The opposite has happened. The peoples of the former Yugoslavia, particularly the Serbs, view the tribunal as a political tool and full of bias. Instead of being a vehicle of reconciliation, the tribunal has only been a lightning-rod continuing hatred and grief.
There are numerous examples of the tribunal’s bias. First off is the fact that three-fourths of all indictments have been served against Serbs. I have no illusions on this score. Indeed some Serbs did commit war crimes, but to claim the “loser” in this conflict committed far more crimes than the other participants smacks of duplicity and a political agenda. Some of the Croat defendants at the tribunal will probably never stand trial. In one case, the reason is because of the defendant’s “poor health.”
Ante Gotovina is accused of heading a murderous campaign in 1995 that targeted Serbs with ethnic cleansing. It is quite possible he will walk. Why, one may ask? Just maybe the EU behind closed doors assured the Croat government that was always part of the deal for giving him up. Gotovina has been in custody for five years. There has been no meaningful movement in his trial. The ICTY is supposed to hear its last appeal in 2010 before it shuts down for good. All Gotovina has to do is stay in bed until then.
Let’s have a look at Kosovo. This new, but illegitimate, state is the new darling of the West. Amazingly, its wartime leaders are called “democrats” now. The gross human rights violations committed against Kosovo’s Serb minority since 1999 have been ignored by the ICTY and the international community. Look at the history and the names.
It appears Karadzic will have his day in court. But is it the right court?
Just about everyone I read in Western media claims the Serbian government finally gave up Karadzic to further Serbia’s membership in the EU. I completely agree that Serbia should be in the EU one day and soon. But if Karadzic’s trial turns out to be a “quickie” then we will all finally understand that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was never about justice. If this comes to pass, then the first victim of the ICTY will be justice itself.
I am not defending Karadzic, but I am truly disappointed that politicians – not historians – have taken upon themselves to judge the past.