The Boston Globe
TUESDAY, JULY 12, 2005
On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serbs massacred more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica, which was under UN protection as a safe haven. The failure of Dutch soldiers in a UN peacekeeping contingent to protect the victims left a stain on the reputation of the United Nations. What has become yet more of a humiliation for the international community is the failure, after a decade, to arrest the two men responsible for the slaughter and deliver them to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where they stand accused of genocide and crimes against humanity.
The troops doing the killing were led by General Ratko Mladic, acting under orders from the Bosnian Serb government headed by Radovan Karadzic. As long as Mladic and Karadzic remain at large, genocidal killers elsewhere - like members of the Sudanese government behind the continuing genocide in Darfur - may assume that they, too, can expect impunity. Muslims around the world will be tempted to regard the two fugitives as evidence that the West is not serious about enforcing a universal standard for the punishment of crimes against humanity, particularly when the victims are Muslim.
Within Bosnia, signs that influential military and civilian Serbs are still able to shelter Mladic and Karadzic stir deep fears among Muslims. Only 3,000 of 29,000 uprooted Muslims from Srebrenica have returned to their homes, and the refugees are said to fear a repetition of what happened 10 years ago.
Postponement of a trial for the indicted fugitives also threatens to become a thwarting of justice, since the tribunal is not empowered to bring prosecutions after 2008.
There are heartening signs that time may be running out for Mladic and Karadzic. A video shown recently on Serb TV of Mladic at the scene of cold-blooded executions in Srebrenica has brought home to some Bosnian Serbs the justification for the indictments in The Hague. A petition sponsored by Physicians for Human Rights and others has called for the immediate arrest of Mladic and Karadzic. And there have been parallel resolutions in the U.S. House and Senate as well as mounting pressure on the Bosnian Serb authorities from the European Union.
That pressure must be sustained. Prevention of future genocide requires punishment for the perpetrators of past genocides.