By Thomas Verfuss
More than 200 journalists from various continents have registered with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague to attend the trial judgment on Wednesday in the Ratko Mladic case. General Mladic, now 74, was the leader of the Bosnian-Serb army that committed the only genocide in Europe after the Second World War when it killed thousands of Bosnian Muslim men after the fall of the enclave, Srebrenica, in 1995.
The Mladic judgment may be of some consolation to victims who tend to lose hope because they have to wait for justice so very long. The first indictment against Mladic was announced in July 1995 by then ICTY Prosecutor Richard Goldstone of South Africa. So Judgment Day is more than 22 years later. The patience and perseverance of Goldstone and his successors, Louise Arbour, Carla Del Ponte and Serge Brammertz as well as that of the NGO community have paid off. Mladic, who had been in hiding for years, was finally arrested in Serbia in May 2011 and brought to The Hague for trial.
That trial took quite some time because of the 377 witnesses heard in court, and the almost 10,000 exhibits (documents, photos, videos) admitted into evidence, which the judges and their team had to analyse to write their judgment.
The Mladic judgment will be the last trial judgment of the ICTY. After the appeals judgment in the case of a former Bosnian-Croat prime minister a week later, the tribunal will close at the end of the year, after more than 24 years of activity. In 1993, it was the first international criminal tribunal set up by the international community since the aftermath of Second World War, when allied tribunals tried the leaders of Germany and Japan in Nuremberg and Tokyo.
Crimes committed by the likes of Mladic were the reason for the establishment of the ICTY. When Yugoslavia started breaking up in 1991 due to ethnic tensions, the world saw crimes that had not been seen in Europe since the Second World War, like concentration camps and besieged cities. Many people thought such things would never happen again on the continent. The bloody conflict was, however, partly a result of impunity: when Croatia and Bosnia declared independence, many Serbs did not want to become a minority in the new countries. They remembered the horrible crimes hundreds of thousands of Serbs had been the victims of in the Second World War, and which had remained unpunished.
The idea of a permanent international criminal court, which had been launched after the Second World War due to the tensions of the Cold War, had never been implemented. So in 1993, the United Nations Security Council set up the ICTY as an ‘ad hoc’ tribunal, until the idea of a permanent International Criminal Court was realised with the adoption of the Rome Statute in 1998, an international treaty agreed upon after years of negotiations. Share Music – Music podcasts –