After 14 years on the run, Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb wartime leader, is finally being brought to justice. Today, prosecutors at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) charged Karadzic with 11 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
According to the indictment, Karadzic was one of the authors of a plan to "permanently remove" Bosnian Muslims and Croats from Bosnian Serb-claimed territory. It details allegations of two counts of genocide, including for the July 1995 massacre of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. But the charge also details a hellish litany of crimes, including allegations of persecution, extermination, murder, rape, and deportation committed in 19 Bosnian municipalities, as well as during the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left some 10,000 people dead.
For the relatives of Karadzic’s victims, this moment could not come too soon. Having worked in Bosnia for four years after the war, I have seen first-hand the extent to which the war has left deep physical, political and emotional scars. These will not heal simply because Radovan Karadzic in the in the Hague. Nor will they heal when his military commander, General Ratko Mladic, is eventually captured by the Serbian government and given a place next to his civilian boss in the dock. Justice is not the same as reconciliation let alone the same as coming to terms with the loss of loved ones.
In today’s Bosnia-Herzegovina, moving on from the war is made all the more difficult for many of the victims because Karadzic’s political aim -– the creation of an independent, Muslim-free entity for Serbs –- has been accomplished.
Republika Srpska was created in the Dayton Accords as a semi-autonomous part of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It was run in the first couple of years as a continuation of Karadzic’s wartime polity – with a clear policy to deny the right of wartime refugees to return to their homes. Today’s leaders in Republika Srpska may share none of Karadzic’s wartime guilt, but their project looks in many respects as a non-violent version of what Karadzic set out to achieve.
Bringing Karadzic and Mladic to justice is an important step in dealing with the legacy of the war. But so is building a viable, functioning Bosnian state where all three ethnic communities – Bosniacks, Serbs and Croats — can live in peace and where nobody should feel unwelcome.Tags: Europe, International politics, War