Friday, February 24, 2006

Why has not Ratko Mladic been apprehended?

It is a shame for the entire international community that almost 11 years following the abhorrent massacre in Srebrenica, the two men responsible for the egregious atrocities that took place there, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, are still at large. The Serbian authorities have known all this time their whereabouts, this is irrefutable. Yet, they have systematically and deliberately refused to extradite them to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Those who have little prior knowledge of the war in Bosnia probably do not know that many Serbians consider Mladic a war hero and refuse to believe that Mladic is a war criminal. Many Serbians still do not believe that there was a massacre in Srebrenica. The situation in the Serb part of Bosnia is much worse given the fact that Bosnian Serb children are taught in elementary school that Mladic is their national hero. The majority of Bosnian Serbs do not believe that there was a massacre in Srebrenica despite the abundant and compelling evidence that proves otherwise. Even though pressure on Serbia to extradite Mladic is growing, no one seems to ask the obvious question: why wait almost 11 years before putting significant pressure on the Serbian government to comply with the demand to extradite Mladic? Note that no one is talking about Karadzic any more, no one is seeking his extradition; he is as responsible as Mladic was for the gruesome massacre in Srebrenica as well as for other war crimes perpetrated in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Let there be no doubt about that but let me point out the obvious anyway: if the Serbian authorities wanted to apprehend Mladic then they would have done so a long time ago. The same can be said about the international community: if there was a real interest in Mladic’s apprehension, then the international community would have put much more pressure on Serbia. NATO does not want to further exacerbate its already poor relations with Serbia by capturing Mladic without Serbia’s permission. There is a lack of political will on the part of the international community to arrest Karadzic and Mladic. Their capture has unfortunately always been a low priority case. The real problem here is the fact that the Serbian people refuse to admit the truth to themselves. They refuse to believe that Mladic and Karadzic are guilty of appalling war crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina for which they must be punished by the War Tribunal in the Hague.

As long as the Serbian people keep misrepresenting and distorting the truth about the war in Bosnia and Kosovo there will never be any reconciliation let alone forgiveness for their aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina. As long as they keep lying to themselves, how can there be any reconciliation? How can there be any long lasting peace in the region when Serbs deliberately spread misinformation about their role in the Bosnian carnage? How can there be stability if they keep writing in their schoolbooks that there was no massacre in Srebrenica and that Mladic and Karadzic are their national heroes? Needless to say, not all Serbs are the same. There are Serbs who believe that there was genocide of Bosnian Muslims in Bosnia but they unfortunately represent a minority. Natasha Kandic is one of them, hopefully there will be more like her who dare tell the truth.

Until then, let us now hope that the international community means business this time about punishing Serbia unless they extradite Mladic. I am skeptical though.