LEADING ARTICLE: No absolution for war crimes

Share
Related Topics
The signing of a peace agreement by the warring parties in Bosnia will be welcomed with a sigh of relief across Europe. But a peace deal is only the first step. Building and keeping the peace will require careful navigating through a mire of passionate recriminations. One of the most difficult questions is what to do with those who committed the most vicious and brutal crimes of the war.

More than 50 men have been indicted on war crimes charges by the UN tribunal in the Hague.Only one is in custody. Two of them, the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadzic, and the military commander, General Ratko Mladic, have been charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for the massacre of up to 6,000 Muslims near Srebrenica. A Bosnian Croat general,Tihomir Blaskic, has also been indicted for killing Muslims, but Croatia's President Franjo Tudjman has given him a senior position and a safe haven in Croatia.

Faced with the same problem after the Second World War, the Allies prosecuted Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials, which began exactly 50 years ago today. But parallels between these events and the situation in former Yugoslavia are limited. After the Second World War, the German and Japanese regimes were overthrown and rendered incapable of further resistance. The victors could - and did - dispense their own justice.

Bosnia is different. No one side is able to dictate the terms of peace. Indeed, the pursuit of war criminals could make it harder to end the war: if those responsible for genocidal slaughter fear incarceration or worse, they may be less willing to settle the conflict.

But important principles are at stake just as they were at Nuremburg. If the new Bosnia is to survive, it must, from the start, recognise publicly the horrors that have taken place. It cannot simply turn a blind eye to the deaths of hundreds of people who were murdered in cold blood.

Malcolm Rifkind and the US peace negotiators must stick to their commitment that peace should not be made at the cost of letting war criminals go free. Whatever the nature of the accord struck, it must not include an amnesty for those guilty of the worst war crimes in Europe since the fall of Nazism.

Such a policy need not stand in the way of peace. So far, the indictment of Mr Karadzic and General Mladic has not held up proceedings in Ohio. In fact, it is unlikely that the accused will stand trial in the near future: they are safely hidden away on friendly territory. Only pressure from the major powers will convince Croatia and Serbia to hand them over.

Justice will come only slowly for those who committed war crimes. But as survivors of the Holocaust have demonstrated, the struggle to achieve it must go on. This is the least that the peacemakers owe to those who died so savagely.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk