The ICTY Comes to A Close

Last Tuesday, March 22, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia(ICTY) based in The Hague announced that Radovan Karadzic was guilty of committing genocide in Srebrenica.

While the Balkans is usually a forgotten place in the world, last Tuesday articles about Karadzic appeared in newspapers worldwide. As I read those stories and imagined people at home reading those stories I couldn’t help but feel they would not be getting the full story.

Karadziv awaiting the verdict in the courtroom
Karadzic awaiting the verdict in the courtroom (image courtesy of Google Images)

First is the fact that the ICTY has a very long history. It was opened in 1993, while the war in Bosnia was still going on. So far the ICTY has indicted 161 people.  Only two cases remain before the court is to be closed. The remaining cases are those of Vojislav Seselj and Ratko Mladic. Seselj’s trail will be announced on March 30 while Mladic’s verdict is expected in November 2017.

The their website the ICTY states some of its achievements as follows: “By holding individuals responsible for crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, the Tribunal is bringing justice to victims.” Additionally they have “established beyond a reasonable doubt crucial facts related to crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia. In doing so, the Tribunal’s judges have carefully reviewed testimonies of eyewitnesses, survivors and perpetrators, forensic data and often previously unseen documentary and video evidence. The Tribunal’s judgements have contributed to creating a historical record, combatting denial and preventing attempts at revisionism and provided the basis for future transitional justice initiatives in the region.”

As I mentioned in my previous blog, not all victims feel brought to justice. Our tour guide at Srebrenica was angry with the lack of justice he and other victims had received. While he told us that the ICTY was doing important work by documenting the war in Bosnia he did not see it as providing justice. Instead he saw RECOM, an initiative for a regional commission to establish facts about war crimes and other  human rights violations committed in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, as being able to provide justice. Though he had hope in that process when it began in 2008 though it had not had a huge amount of success.

While scrolling through Facebook last Tuesday after the verdict of the Karadzic trial was released I noticed how many people had written posts about how the Bosnian people had finally been given justice.

I also read this in several news articles. The main points in the trial were covered in all the articles I read. Karadziv was charged with ten of the eleven indictments he was charged with, including the genocide in Srebrenica.

Charging Karadzic with genocide in Srebrenica was far easier than charging him for genocide in genocide in seven other municipalities of Bosnia at the beginning of the war since Srebrenica has already been named as genocide. Karadzic was charged with ten of the eleven crimes he was charged with, the one he was acquitted for was committing genocide in those seven other municipalities in Bosnia.

Genocide is one of the greatest crimes in international law and is extremely hard to prove. In order to prove genocide one must prove that the person who committed the act had the intent to destroy a certain group. It is proving the intent that often proves the most difficult.

While some in the region felt that the Karadzic verdict was fair, others felt it did not go far enough and even others held rally’s to support him and protest the verdict.

As future generations come of age in the Western Balkans it remains to be seen how much justice the ICTY did bring to the region.

For more information about the Karadzic trial and Srebrenica I recommend the following articles:

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