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War criminals

On June 8, a United Nations court upheld the conviction of Bosnian Serb military chief and war criminal Ratko Mladi for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed during the Bosnian war. The International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals at The Hague rejected Mladi ’s appeal and thus confirmed his life sentence.

World leaders welcomed the conclusion of the nine-year-long court case against Mladi , with US President Joe Biden stating that the final judgement “shows that those who commit horrific crimes will be held accountable” and “reinforces our shared resolve to prevent future atrocities from occurring anywhere in the world”.

While many in the West consider this “justice served” and a time to turn the page, for Bosnia the wounds of the war continue to fester. Mladi and a few of his associates may be behind bars but their ideas and deeds continue to shape Bosnian politics and hurt Bosnian lives. His greatest legacy – an ethnically cleansed autonomous entity, Republika Srpska, carved out of Bosnia – lives on under the leadership of his ideological offspring and continues to be a model for war criminals and terrorists across the world.

Before the war, the territory which today falls within the borders of Republika Srpska was ethnically diverse just like other parts of Bosnia, with around 30 percent of the population being Bosniak (Muslim). The genocide, however, resulted in ethnic homogeneity, with cities like Banja Luka, Prijedor, Srebrenica and Višegrad losing the vast majority of their Bosniak population.

Today, at the helm of Republika Srpska is Milorad Dodik, a proud genocide denier and a defence witness at the trials of both Mladi and former Republika Srpska President and convicted war criminal Radovan Karadži .

Since he took office in 2006, Dodik has systematically implemented policies to make the lives of Bosniak people, who have returned to their homes in Republika Srpska or want to do so, as difficult as possible. He has claimed that Bosniak returnees are coming to “occupy again” what he perceives as land rightfully belonging to Serbs. To curb such returns, he has pushed for laws that enable the confiscation of land and property of Bosniaks and Croats, who were forced to flee during the war.

Under his leadership, schools in Republika Srpska continue to deny the constitutional right of Bosniak children to study in the Bosnian language. State institutions also discriminate against non-Serbs in employment opportunities and service provision.

The majority of the political elite of Republika Srpska denies the genocide and refuses to condemn Mladi , Karadži or any of the other convicted war criminals. As recently as May this year, the entity’s legislature rejected a request by the UN High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, to withdraw government honours given to war criminals, such as Karadži .

Under this political leadership, there has been no repentance or even society-wide debate about what happened during the war and convicted war criminals continue to be celebrated. Souvenir shops in Republika Srpska’s capital, Banja Luka openly sell posters, T-shirts and mugs with their faces, while streets and schools in many cities of the Republika Srpska bear the names of war criminals. Unsurprisingly, the post-war generation – having grown up in this environment of hate – fully embraces genocide denial and Mladi ’s legacy.

 

Ismail Cidic & Alma Begic, "War criminals," The News. 2021-07-05.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , United Nations , Global politics , Leadership , Crimes , Accountable , President Biden , Radovan Karadži , Bosnia , United States