It took years to bring Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladić to trial. His conviction should give renewed impetus to the pursuit of other perpetrators
The arc of the moral universe is long and, in the case of Ratko Mladić, it has finally bent towards justice. More than two decades since the Srebrenica massacre, more than five years after his trial began, and following evidence from almost 600 witnesses, the “butcher of Bosnia” was sentenced to life imprisonment by a UN tribunal at The Hague on Wednesday for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, hailed it as a warning to other perpetrators. “They will not escape justice, no matter how powerful they may be nor how long it may take. They will be held accountable,” he said.
Activists from Syria and Myanmar echoed those words. But to many, the promise will ring hollow. When the trial of the former Bosnian Serb commander and others began at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, it seemed to herald a new and better era. This was supposed to be the end of impunity. In retrospect, it looks like a high watermark for international justice for mass crimes.