Tag: mladic

The Balkans after Mladic

With Mladic’s arrest last month, Bosnia and the rest of the Balkans are getting some much needed international attention. The New York Times has a nice run-down of some of the debates about the situation in Bosnia — especially the debate between Kurt Bassuener from the Democratization Policy Council and Gerald Knaus from the European Stabilization Initiative. The piece is a spin-off from a conference that Daniel Serwer from SAIS helped put together in Sarajevo earlier this month. Dan also has some excellent posts about the situation in both Bosnia and Kosovo on his great new blog peacefare.net.

Patrice McMahon and I also have a short piece on the Balkans after Mladic that is now on Foreign Affairs website. We argue that the arrest of Mladic is a notable bright spot in the region and for all the faults of the ICTY, it is striking that Mladic, Karadzic, and Milosevic all ended up in the Hague. But, more than that, the arrest demonstrates the continued ability and importance of international pressure and influence to alter the incentive structures of local elites — especially with the leverage of EU conditionality. I’m sympathetic to the calls of Gerald Knaus and others who argue that the international community has to turn governing to the Bosnians. Yet, as Patrice and I argued two years ago, the institutions created at Dayton continue to privilege ethnically-based politics and nationalist demagogues and it has been international indifference and fatigue over the past five years that has allowed, and in fact, exacerbated the resurgence of nationalist discourse and politics in the country. Mladic’s arrest demonstrates that the international community still has a role to play in the region — it just needs to play it.

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Making me Mlad: Why you can’t compare the Mladic and Osama bin Laden raids

Charli has been writing about international justice, arguing against ‘myths’ – and comparing the efforts to bring Mladic to justice as opposed to the rush to shoot Osama bin Laden in the face. Others, such as John Feffner at Foriegn Policy in Focus have made similar arguments.

I agree and disagree with some of the points being made. However I am concerned that that many of these arguments seem to completely ignore or fail to appreciate the different context of the Mladic and OBL raids. I just don’t think we can pretend these are at all similar situations – even looking beyond “status” issues, (who was/is a combatant/civilian etc). Rather, I think the core issue here is time and context.

For lack of a better term, bin Laden was caught and killed “during” the War on Terror, a period of active hostilities between the US and al-Qaeda. Mladic was captured over a decade and half after the Dayton Accords. The situation in the Balkans is far from perfect, but it’s certainly calmer. People have been able to get on with their lives as they rebuilding their homes, villages – even if scars can never perfectly heal.
The ICTY was established in 1993 (- a great way for the West/UN/European countries to look like they were doing something about the ethnic slaughter when they really weren’t). Mladic was indicted in July 1995 and surely was eligible to be captured and extradited from that point on.


There’s no question that it’s been a painful and horrible wait, but I wonder if it is also one that has allowed cooler heads to prevail? There have been protests in Serbia, of course. But they have not been on a truly significant scale. Mladic has been caught, charged, extradited (despite appeals) in under a week. Would this have actually been possible in 1995? Possible without tearing apart a freshly signed peace treaty? Aggravating a tense situation? And an angry population?

I’m not saying that international justice does not work – but I do not think 1) it always needs to take the form of an international court 2) that it should be done immediately.

Although it’s been nearly a decade since 9/11, the fact that the War on Terror has been ongoing makes the OBL situation different. bin Laden was a leader of a terrorist group actively planning attacks against the United States and other targets. Mladic, clearly a jerk of international proportions, was guilty of crimes but had returned to civilian life – and so have many others. The Hague will not become the centre of terrorist attacks or even protests. I’m not sure the same could have been said for OBL. Does this mean a trial for both was impossible? No. Does this mean the circumstances were very, very different? Yes.

The bottom line – you can’t make a fair comparison between Mladic and bin Laden when it comes to international justice.

The other reason this consideration is important is that the UN has released a report saying that both sides have conducted war crimes in Libya. Is it the best idea to indict individuals now? Or wait until the conflict is over, the country has a chance to catch its breath and then begin to take a good hard look at what has happened on its territory? Time may or may not tell.

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Notorious BIG Fish: Mladic and Munyagishari

The capture of Ratko Mladic and his pending transfer to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has become another boon for international justice in a year where war criminals seem to be dropping like flies. But there’s an interesting debate to be had over whether this arrest signals a stronger commitment to end impunity on principle or its combined success with political and pragmatic imperatives. Of course, it’s both. Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch argues that the international community’s “principled pressure for justice” worked with Serbia – and the pressure came from conditioning Serbia’s EU accession on Mladic’s arrest. Similarly, Geert-Jan Knoops argues that Serbia’s action to finally arrest him was based on “political and economic motivations” – irrespective of the international community’s more normative appeals for holding Mladic accountable.

And hidden amongst the media and diplomatic excitement over Mladic was the important news about the arrest of Bernard Munyagishari by Congolese authorities in the DRC. Munyagishari is wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for genocide and crimes against humanity committed in the 1994 genocide. He is alleged to have been the leader of the Interahamwe (an extremist youth militia) in the Gisenyi region of western Rwanda, responsible for training Interahamwe and ordering mass killings and rapes. There is little controversy over his arrest – it’s a victory for both the ICTR and the Rwandan government. Of course, there’s a pragmatic element at play here too. The presence of many former genocidaires in the Kivus in the DRC (Munyagishari was arrested in North Kivu) has been a significant source of insecurity and been used to justify Rwanda’s military engagement in the region. Impunity and conflict are intricately linked in this region.

That there are pragmatic reasons for and benefits to arresting war criminals, however, does not undermine the apparent trend of a principled commitment to end impunity. They’re often, but not always, mutually reinforcing.

Beyond the Big Fish….
In accordance with their mandates, the ICTR and ICTY have been successful in trying a broad swath of those considered “most responsible” for core crimes (such as Milosevic, Karadzic, etc. for ICTY and Bagosora, recently Bizimungu, etc. for ICTR). The ICTR has completed 46 judgments (including 8 acquittals) and 9 fugitives remain at large. The ICTY has completed 77 judgments (including 13 acquittals) and only one fugitive remains at large (Hadzic).

Apprehending the “big fish” is an important but not sole measure of success for international tribunals. It’s essential to look beyond indictments and arrests to the impact of trials on truth and reconciliation – the murkier and loftier goals of transitional justice that we can’t really measure. The trials of Mladic and Munyagishari will contribute to the already well established historical records of the systematic and systemic nature of atrocities. In both cases, their crimes are already well known and their guilt almost certain (especially for Mladic, as some of those operating under his command have already been tried and convicted). Just as important, their trials may help counter denial and individualize guilt – both necessary to combat Serb ultra-nationalist support for those like Mladic and what remains of political and military Hutu extremism in the DRC.

The impact of trials on reconciliation, however, deserves a healthy dose of skepticism. An EU representative made a statement that the arrest “will bring down barriers to reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina.” This may be possible at a national or regional level – whereby reconciliation between those victimized by the Srebrenica genocide and the Serbian government would be thin without Mladic’s arrest.

In Rwanda, despite the ICTR’s mandate reference to reconciliation, the local population is largely dismissive and indifferent to the ICTR. The elite perpetrators that appear in its courtrooms are less well known to Rwandans and the process is physically and culturally remote to them (as compared to the trials in the local Gacaca courts). While many applaud Munyagishari’s arrest, it’s worth waiting to see whether his victims in Gisenyi consider this a meaningful form of justice.

(cross-posted at Global Transitional Justice)

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Mladic, OBL and International Justice

It’s hard to overstate the significance of Ratko Mladic’s arrest last night. Moreso that Slobodon Milsoevic, Serbia’s president during the 1991-1995 war of ex-Yugoslavia, and moreso that Radovan Karadzic the political leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the war, Mladic is reviled by Bosnian survivors of the conflict as the former leader of the Bosnian Serb Army. Though best known for his his calculated role in the war’s most infamous massacre of over 7,000 noncombatants at Srebrenica – along with the subsequent massacre at Zepa, this was his crowning achievement after several years of war marked by sexual assault, forced displacement, massacre and general butchery of civilians and detainees. Danger Room has a well-linked round-up of info on the snatch.

What I find fascinating about the international reaction to his arrest is the importance of this man being brought to trial. At no point I am aware of during his years of hiding was it argued that he should instead be taken out by a targeted killing – partly because it was recognized that justice for his victims required a trial. Recent empirical research demonstrates that these courts have not only been able to effectively carry out prosecutions, but have had a number of other important positive side-effects, with few of the negatives originally feared. I remain puzzled that the ad hoc tribunal model has not been seriously considered for KSM, OBL or other terrorist masterminds.

[cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money]

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