Mladic revisited: An unremarkable news item, were it not for the absurdity of the process

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Mladić at the start of the ICC Trial in May 2012
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Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander largely responsible for the Srebrenica Massacre in 1995 lost his appeal with the special UN tribunal set up to judge the case. He had been convicted on ten counts including genocide and crimes against humanity. This is an unremarkable news item really, were it not for the absurdity of the process.

The first Nuremberg Trial (20 November 1945 – 1 October 1946) took less than a year to try 24 of the most prominent Nazis after World War II. Imagine if that trial had dragged on for as long: it would have been lingering on until the 1970’s. True, despite having been charged in July 1996, Mladic was not apprehended and extradited to the Hague for trial by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) until May 2011. Still, most of the ICTY’s cases had been dealt with by then. Nevertheless, the trial formally began a whole year later and he was not convicted until 22 November 2017, after which, the appeals process, that has only now been completed, was referred to the successor body, International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals.

Moreover, part of the responsibility for the genocide also lies with the UN as Unravelling the United Nations makes perfectly clear. So it seems rather rich that it should be sitting in judgement over the atrocities relating to the former Yugoslavia. I guess the same thing could be said about the Nuremberg Trials, as the allies were far from innocent, especially the US, whose indiscriminate use of atom bombs was also nothing less than genocide (though we are not allowed to call it that). However, the fact that the victors should sit in judgement is not remarkable.

As for Mladic, the ICC is at least one step removed from the UN, and judging such cases is precisely what it was set up to do. This would have saved the UN some face, although as discussed in the May issue of The Gordian, its track record certainly does not inspire confidence.

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