In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, students from RMIT University in Melbourne and the University of Leiden in The Hague travelled to Bosnia. It was in this small Balkan state that the First World War began in 1914 .
A century later and Bosnia still hasn’t escaped brutality and devastation. From 1992-1995, Bosnians were subjected to horrific crimes orchestrated by ethnonationalist parties and individuals.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established to ensure individuals who committed these crimes would be rightfully convicted. The Tribunal endeavours to “[bring] war criminals to justice [and bring] justice to victims.”
In this image of the memorial to the Srebrenica massacre in Potocari, the small white pillars represent over 8,000 Bosnian men and boys who were systematically and brutally slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces in the Srebrenica genocide of July 1995. These victims are at the core of the ICTY’s philosophy of justice.
General Ratko Mladic was the commander-in-chief of the Bosnian Serb forces. Seeing him behind the bulletproof glass at the ICTY brought the full force of this genocide to the fore.
This ‘butcher of Bosnia’ was largely responsible for the murders of all Bosnians represented by those white pillars solely because of their ethnicity and religious beliefs. The United Nations (UN) had declared Srebrenica a ‘safe haven’ yet it was there that this massacre was allowed to take place.
Both the UN and Dutch forces failed in their objectives to protect the Bosnian refugees, and this called into question the ability and dedication of the international community to prevent conflict and ensure a safe environment for global citizens.
But what does one think when facing a murderer like General Ratko Mladic in court? Where does one look? I found it hard to look at this monster at all.
Looking forward, the work of the ICTY is imperative in providing justice to these white pillars and their devastated family members who continue to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is important for the international community to support such tribunals to ensure their work can be completed. The international community needs to atone for its inability to protect the individuals that have become these white pillars.
Unfortunately, given the increasing prevalence of conflict within countries and the continued reluctance of other nations to intervene, it appears that there is still a long way to go before the international community will fulfil their responsibility to protect the citizens of the world.