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Mladic arrest: Has the West now learned not to be impartial on war crimes?

In Bosnia, outsiders for too long relied on impartiality to distance themselves from responsibility. Now, with Mladic's arrest, we must send a message that survivors will be at the center of concerns on security.

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“I don’t curse anyone,” Kada Hotic told me, “not even those who caused me this pain.” In July 1995, Kada lost every grown male in her family to a massacre in the Bosnian mountain town of Srebrenica. She turned that pain into action, founding a large women’s association advocating for survivors’ rights. Almost 16 years later, she’s seeing partial justice. Yesterday, the man accused of masterminding that atrocity was arrested in neighboring Serbia.

Ratko Mladic commanded the army of Republika Srpska and led the units that surrounded Srebrenica that summer. Famous footage shows him overseeing the separation of tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly from men and boys. The first group was transported to Bosniak-held territory and reassured that the others would only be held for questioning. Within days, 8,000 men and boys had been killed.

The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia indicted Mladic on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. International law assures a victim’s right to justice, and Kada was clear on the kind she wanted: The chief perpetrators should be captured and arrested, but their lives spared. She simply wanted to hear them admit their guilt. “We don’t have to love each other, just respect each other’s rights.” But in Bosnia, justice was sacrificed to neutrality by an international community ambivalent – first about intervention to stop the bloodshed, and second about whether to pursue the perpetrators.


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