Ratko Mladic’s arrest could help reconciliation in the Balkans, but poses tough questions for future international prosecutions.
The international community greeted last week’s arrest of former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic by praising it as a sign of Serbia’s gradual maturity. But as Srdja Pavlovic points out in the Edmonton Journal, Mladic’s arrest hasn’t sat well at home. A slim majority of Serbs didn’t want him extradited, and Serbian leaders have made little mention of Mladic’s victims in explaining why he was shipped to The Hague. “The absence from the politicians’ narratives of any moral dimension that would clarify why Mladic should face the court, and why all citizens of Serbia should support such action, is noticeable,” says Pavlovic. But the trial will force the various Balkan countries to confront the atrocities committed both by and against them, which Pavlovic hopes “will facilitate true reconciliation in the entire region.”
Serbian anger over Mladic’s arrest is at least somewhat understandable, says Michael Coren in the Sun papers, given that “Washington and Europe have been enormously selective in their morality” when it comes to prosecuting war criminals. Coren claims Serbs are rightly peeved over “the double standard where a Serb is arrested, but legions of fellow Slavs just a short flight away in Moscow who ran Soviet intelligence and security services enjoy wealth and freedom.” Coren concludes that Mladic was only pursued because his victims were Muslims, from whom the West is keen to curry favour, but his point of inconsistent justice is one worth remembering.
Timothy Garton Ash responds in The Globe and Mail to Coren’s question over double standards: “If you can’t catch all murderers, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t catch any,” says Ash. Arresting a destitute old man in a modernizing country is a lot simpler than pursuing those living out their twilight years in hostile dictatorships. And rising powers such as China or Iran aren’t likely to cede sovereignty to international tribunals to prosecute the skeletons in their closet, meaning the time is right for the U.S. to finally sign on to the International Criminal Court. “If international law is to have any chance of deterring the monsters of tomorrow, then we need the United States to support it practically and not just rhetorically,” says Ash, a small gesture that could carry significant weight in the world.