Nearly a decade after Srebrenica, the failure to bring Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic to justice mocks the memory of the thousands who died in the 1995 massacre, Human Rights Watch said today. European governments and the United States must redouble their efforts to ensure the arrest of these wartime leaders, indicted as the principal architects of the killings.
Today, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Carla Del Ponte, will address a special session of the United Nations Security Council, ahead of the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica killings on July 11.
Wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic were indicted by the Yugoslav tribunal in 1995 on multiple charges of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Both remain at large: Karadzic is believed to be in Bosnia, and Mladic to be in Serbia.
“Ten years after 8,000 were slaughtered at Srebrenica, it is beyond shocking that Karadzic and Mladic are still at liberty,” said Richard Dicker, director of the International Justice Program at Human Rights Watch. “What does it say that those associated with the worst killings in Europe since World War II can’t be apprehended?”
Between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995. At the time of the killings, Srebrenica was designated by the United Nations as a “safe area” under the protection of U.N. peacekeeping forces. Last year, the ICTY found that the Srebrenica massacre was “genocide.”
A video shown June 1 at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic at the tribunal and subsequently broadcast on Serbian television depicts the killing of six Muslim men by a Serbian paramilitary police unit as part of the Srebrenica massacre. In the past, Serbia has denied all involvement of its forces in the massacre.
The failure to bring Karadzic and Mladic to justice stands in stark contrast to recent progress in bringing other indictees before the ICTY. In recent months, numerous indictees have been transferred from countries in the former Yugoslavia to the tribunal. Serbia has transferred or initiated surrenders of 14 individuals to the Yugoslav tribunal since October. Croatia has arrested and turned over former Macedonian interior minister Ljube Boskovski. Former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj of Kosovo and Bosnian army commander Rasim Delic voluntarily surrendered themselves.
“Tenacious efforts by governments on both sides of the Atlantic deserve credit for the recent progress in getting people to the tribunal,” said Dicker. “A similar commitment is required to ensure that Mladic and Karadzic face justice. This includes pressure on Serbia, and action by NATO and EU troops in Bosnia.”
A third high-profile suspect, Croatian former General Ante Gotovina, also remains at-large. Gotovina was indicted in July 2001 for crimes during and after Operation Storm, the 1995 Croatian military offensive that left several hundred thousand Croatian Serbs as refugees. It is imperative for the European Union to maintain pressure on Croatia to arrest Gotovina, said Human Rights Watch.
The U.N. Security Council adopted a “completion strategy” by which the Yugoslav tribunal must end all trials by 2008 and all appeals by 2010.
“For the ICTY to finish its very important work, it must have time to do so. The ‘completion strategy’ dates have to be applied flexibly, not at the expense of justice,” said Dicker.