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Bosnian War Crimes Tribunal Called Into Question As Karadži? Trial Draws To A Close

Wednesday’s closing arguments marked the end of five years of court hearings in the case against former Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadži? at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

Karadži? has been accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war for his role during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War, including the massacre of over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica. Prosecutors are seeking a life sentence for Karadži?, but there will be no decision from the ICTY until mid-2015.

Radovan Karadži? in Moscow on 3 March 1994.
Credit Mikhail Evstafiev / Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
Radovan Karadži? in Moscow on 3 March 1994.

  International security expert and World Views panelist Rebecca Cruise says that in the course of its 21-year history, the ICTY has lost much of its credibility and strength.

“The first conviction for the ICTY was a man named [Duško] Tadi?, and he was arrested in 1994 by German police in Munich,” Cruise says. “He was found guilty on nine accounts of crimes against humanity, and he was released in 2008 and is now walking free.”

Further rulings in 2012 and 2013 overturned the convictions of Croation general Ante Gotovina and Serbian army commander Mom?ilo Periši?.

“They had all sorts of celebration on both sides there,” Cruise says.

This points to a double failure of the ICTY. Not only has it not been able to prosecute the war’s leaders and instigators, its actions have not led to reconciliation or a real reckoning with the region’s troubled past.

“The other issue is that these tribunals are supposed to act as a deterrent for other war crimes,” Cruise says.

This has failed, too, Cruise says.

“We certainly can see from the situation in Syria that it certainly hasn't deterred others from engaging in these sorts of activities.”


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