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Exorcising Milosevic

It?s debatable whether Slobodan Milosevic?s death in a war crimes tribunal cell was a fitting end for someone who started and lost four wars that wrecked the Balkans, killing more than 300,000 people and leaving millions more homeless.

india Updated: Mar 18, 2006 00:18 IST
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It’s debatable whether Slobodan Milosevic’s death in a war crimes tribunal cell was a fitting end for someone who started and lost four wars that wrecked the Balkans, killing more than 300,000 people and leaving millions more homeless. But there’s no denying that this trial has been one of the most important for international justice. Also, it’s obviously a benchmark for all future efforts at punishing the world’s bloodiest war criminals — including those at the International Criminal Court and the ongoing post-war tribunal in Iraq.

Charged with committing genocide and crimes against humanity in Bosnia, Kosovo and Croatia, Milosevic earned the dubious honour of being the first former head of State to land in the dock of an international war crimes tribunal — which many others like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot managed to avoid. Of course, there’s no doubt that even if he had survived, Milosevic would never have been free again. For the eventual sentence for him always looked like consecutive life sentences, as there is no death penalty in the war crimes tribunal. Still, had Milosevic not been hauled before the tribunal, it was entirely possible that he may have somehow resumed his political career in Yugoslavia — and gone on to seriously destabilise the entire Balkans. Having said that, it’s doubtful if Bosnians can ever come to terms with their past and rebuild their State as long as suspected Bosnian war criminals Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic evade justice.

More than a decade after the Dayton Accords ended the bloodiest of the Yugoslav civil wars, Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs who conducted most of the ethnic cleansing, and Mladic, the general behind the mass murders in Srebrenica and elsewhere, are still at large. As with many of its goofed-up exploits in the Balkans, Nato forces spectacularly failed to arrest the two men. Maybe Milosevic’s exit will now prompt the West to pressure Serbs in both Serbia and Bosnia to stop sheltering these two men, and bring them to justice.

First Published: Mar 18, 2006 00:18 IST