Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, came out swinging against the ICJ’s recent decision that Serbia did not commit genocide in Bosnia in 1995 when Bosnian Serb nationalist forces massacred over 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.
Not only was she miffed at the court’s finding, but she criticized the E.U.’s response to it as overly “muted,” noting that there was no ackowledgement in the E.U.’s response that genocide had in fact occurred, a point of contention still in dispute politically for the Balkan region. Although the ICTY found that genocide had occurred, as did the ICJ – even though it refused to hold Serbia responsible, politicians in Republika Srpska (the Bosnian Serb region of Bosnia-Herzegovina) and Belgrade are still resisting that characterization.
In fact the Serbian Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, has denied that genocide took place – although he did apologize for what he called heinous crimes. This set off a political firestorm in Srebrenica and has caused the city’s Muslim population to seek special autonomous status within Republika Srpska. Local Muslim politicians are threatening to take their populations out of the city and out of that part of Bosnia unless they get what they want. Sadik Ahmetovic, an MP, said, “If there is any morality in the international community, it will not allow the victims of genocide to be ruled by those who committed genocide on them. Either Srebrenica will be outside the jurisdiction of the Serb Republic or we shall all move out of Srebrenica.” The town was 90% Muslim before the war, but is now a majority-Serb city.
Ms. del Ponte’s concerns are understandible. Speaking to the press about her disappointment with the E.U.’s response, she said, “This is truly a potentially devastating development given the tribunal’s completion strategy.” (The ICTY plans to wrap up its affairs by 2010). She also noted that she was “worried that we will never see Mladic and Karadzic in our custody. That would have a devastating impact on international justice and on our battle against impunity.” Allowing the Serbs to continue sheltering the two masterminds of the genocide would be a travesty indeed.