Marcus Tanner: A victory for justice, but not for reconciliation in the Balkans

Share
Related Topics

A victory for justice, for sure, and a red-letter day in the annals of the Hague war crimes tribunal, now nearing the end of its life and preparing for closure. The soldiers of Ratko Mladic's once all-conquering Bosnian Serb army never expected to face a trial. As they swept through eastern Bosnia on their murderous rampage in 1992, cutting a swathe through one unarmed Muslim town after another, they used to boast to foreign reporters about how convinced they were that no one could even touch them.

The international war crimes tribunal for Yugoslavia, a virtual afterthought when it was first established, has proved some of those cocksure men wrong. Popovic, Beara and the others will have years now to reflect on their actions in July 1995, after they overran the last remaining Muslim redoubt in eastern Bosnia. They probably wish they'd merely imprisoned their thousands of captives, instead of which they killed every man and boy over the age of 10 they got hold of, about 8,000.

The only men from Srebrenica alive today are those that got out before the war or those that in July 1995 fled into the dark pine forests and avoided the Serbian search parties sent to hunt them down, somehow making it along hidden trails to government-held Tuzla.

The sheer, almost inexplicable, barbarism of the massacre and the fact that Europe, Nato, the US and the UN pusillanimously stood aside and let it unfold, over several days – explain why these court verdicts won't on their own do much to assuage Bosnian Muslim bitterness. Don't expect "closure" or even some form of reconciliation to flow from The Hague. The very word Srebrenica has become etched into Bosnian Muslims' collective consciousness as an emblem of Serbian wickedness and Western perfidy, its memory kept warm by powerful lobby groups, like the Women of Srebrenica.

The Women's idea of justice goes well beyond the imprisonment of Serbian second-in-commands and gofers. They want the Bosnian Serb army's then-chief, Ratko Mladic, still hiding out somewhere, and who for years enjoyed the almost open protection of the military establishment in neighbouring Serbia. Only the capture and trial of Mladic will even begin to ease the anger of the relatives of the dead of Srebrenica – along with a full admission by Serbia that the events in Srebrenica constituted genocide. At the moment, they seem unlikely to obtain either.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Account Manager

£30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

Recruitment Genius: Service Advisor - Automotive

£21000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's leading...

Recruitment Genius: Legal Secretary - Family Law

£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing professional legal pr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Java

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting and disruptive co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Daily catch-up: Ancient Labour rivalries – Bevan versus Morrison

John Rentoul
Labour leadership hopefuls, from left, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, Andy Burnham and Jeremy Corbyn on the BBC  

If you’re thinking of voting for Jeremy Corbyn, here are my promises to you

Andy Burnham
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935