Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Justice Delayed Better than None at All

Ratko Mladic was convicted by ICTY (the Intl Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia) of committing genocide at Srebrenica.  That was not his only crime against humanity, as he led the Bosnian Serb forces during the Bosnian war, and those forces did many, many bad things--and he was convicted for many of those as well..  At Srebrenica, 7000 Muslim men were killed simply because they were Muslim men.  Very much an act of genocide.   And yeah, it took 22 years for Mladic to be convicted.  He had to be found, and he was running free i Serbia for much of this time, despite suspicions he was still in Bosnia.  That Serbia gave him up was significant progress for that country.  This conviction is still more progress.  There were bad guys on all sides, but he was the biggest and the baddest with the possible exceptions of Slobodan Milosevic who died while on trial by ICTY and Radovan Karadzic (was found earlier and convicted).

While much is well known about the genocide at Srebrenica, a few things are less well known and always get my attention:
  • The Dutch government fell in 2002 due to a report that came out that criticized the Dutch performance in 1995.  Yes, a seven year delay but I find it remarkable that a government would fall for something that happened early and... was mostly not their fault.  It was mostly the UN's fault for not allowing NATO planes to strike the Bosnian Serbs that were attacking "safe areas" that were supposed to be under UN protection.  To use force, NATO and UN officials had to agree--a dual key system.  And, no, the UN guy failed to give his consent.  It is more complicated than that, of course, but more blood is on the UN's hands on this than on the Netherlands's.
  • The Canadians were in Srebrenica before the Dutch but chose to re-deploy so that they would not be present during something like what happened.  So, yeah, the Canadians owe a bit of an unknown debt to the Dutch for taking the hit for the team.
  • The chase for PIFWC's (persons indicted for war crimes) took longer not just because of Serbia hiding some but also
    • the US didn't try to fulfill this key part of the NATO Stabilization Force mandate in its sectors because Bill Clinton told his commanders that the highest priority was force protection--that the US not experience another Blackhawk Down and suffer casualties in a peacekeeping op.  Since chasing PIFWCs was something that could lead to confrontations, riots and such, the US military avoided doing it for a while
    • When they did start, it was done by Special Operations, so I would get kicked out of the room when this stuff was discussed in 2001-2002 as it was above my Top Secret clearance level.
    • That when these searches did happen, it seemed that the French forces in the NATO mission would alert the Bosnian Serbs.  In the name of getting the support of the local authorities but perhaps more likely helping the side with which they had some historical affinity.  Oops.  
One conclusion, of course, is that multilateral peacekeeping is hard.  Originally, the Dave and Steve NATO book was going to cover Bosnia and Kosovo, but Afghanistan ate the book (the Libya chapter fell in our laps, more or less).  So, we would have covered some of these challenges.

Anyhow, happy Mladic Conviction Day!  Better late than never.

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