Ratko Mladic on trial

The former Bosnian Serb military commander who instigated the atrocities of the Bosnian war is finally being prosecuted at the Hague.  Where has he been all these years? Hiding out with friends-comforting to know there are little Mladic followers out there who have successfully kept a mass murderer safe for sixteen years. Maybe they were under threat of death from him otherwise. Anyway.

It seems that a significant period of time must pass before a genocide is recognized for what it truly is. With the exception of the Nuremberg trials, which began months after the end of WWII, large-scale systematic violence occurred without the small hope of pursuing justice.

Cambodia, 1975:  Khmer Rouge orders forced labor and execution of suspected political dissidents. Between 1.7 and 2 million Cambodians died in the span of four years. The Guardian reports that “Despite five years of process at a cost of nearly £100m, only one defendant – prison warden Kaing Guek Eav, alias as Duch – has been convicted.”

Rwanda, 1994: President Habyarimana killed-campaign of violence against Tutsi civilian minority begins. 800,000 to 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days, not to mention widespread acts of torture and rape. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established in 1994, and convictions and trials are ongoing.

Sudan, 2003-?: The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)- took up arms against the Sudanese government, “complaining about the marginalization of the area and the failure to protect sedentary people from attacks by nomads.” The government of Sudan, in turn, released Arab militias to attack hundreds of villages throughout Darfur, causing destruction and displacement of millions of civilians.  The militias, or “Janjaweed” are also systematically killing farmers and other civilians. The count is at 400,000 lives and 2,500,000 displaced. About 7 million in Darfur rely on humanitarian aid.

Iraq, 1982-2006: Saddam Hussein. Enough said.

The justice and reconciliation process for genocide is an incredibly complicated thing, and part of the reasons for its slowness and ineffectiveness include limited resources, difficulty in determining the jurisdiction (for example, the conflict in Rwanda is classified as a domestic issue) and punishments (How can you adequately punish some of the worst crimes in history?), and ensuring future peace. Responsibility of the international community is another issue altogether, inevitably tied up with all of the previous problems and arguably the most important.



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