On June 8, the United Nations court upheld the conviction of the Bosnian Serb military leader and war criminal Ratko Mladić for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes committed during the Bosnian War. The International Remaining Mechanism of the Hague Criminal Court rejected Mladic’s appeal, thereby maintaining his life imprisonment.
World leaders welcomed the end of the nine-year court case against Mladic. US President Joe Biden stated that the final verdict “shows that those who commit terrible crimes will be held accountable” and “reinforces us. The common determination to prevent future atrocities occurs anywhere in the world.”
Although many people in the West think this is “justice” and it is time to turn the page, for Bosnia, the trauma of the war continues to worsen. Mladic and some of his associates may be in prison, but their thoughts and actions continue to influence Bosnian politics and harm the lives of Bosnians. His greatest legacy-an ethnically cleansed autonomous entity, the Serb Republic separated from Bosnia-continues to exist under the leadership of his ideological descendants and continues to be a role model for war criminals and terrorists around the world.
Young people’s legacy
Before the war, today the territory within the borders of the Republika Srpska is as diverse as the rest of Bosnia, with about 30% of the population being Bosnian Croats (Muslims). However, genocide led to ethnic homogeneity, and cities such as Banja Luka, Prijedor, Srebrenica and Visegrad lost most of the Bosnian population.
Today, at the helm of the Republika Srpska is Milorad Dodik, a proud denier of genocide, the trial of Mladic and the former president of the Republika Srpska and the convicted war criminal Radovan Karaj. Odd defense witness.
Since taking office in 2006, Dodik has systematically implemented policies to make life as difficult as possible for Bosnians who have returned to their homes in the Republic of Republika Srpska or wish to return.
He claimed that the returnees of the Bosniaks would “occupy again” the land he took for granted that belonged to the Serbs. To curb such returns, he promoted the enactment of laws that would allow the confiscation of the land and property of Bosnians and Croats who were forced to flee during the war.
Under his leadership, schools in the Republika Srpska continue to deprive Bosnian children of their constitutional right to learn Bosnian. State institutions also discriminate against non-Serbs in terms of employment opportunities and service provision.
Most political elites in the Republika Srpska deny genocide and refuse to condemn Mladic, Karadzic or any other convicted war criminals. Just in May of this year, the entity’s legislature rejected a request made by the United Nations High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, to revoke the honors granted by the government to Karadzic and other war criminals.
Under this kind of political leadership, there was no repentance of what happened during the war, and there was even no debate in the whole society, and convicted war criminals continued to be celebrated. The souvenir shop in Banja Luka, the capital of the Republika Srpska, publicly sells posters, T-shirts and mugs with faces, while the streets and schools of many cities in the Republika Srpska bear the names of war criminals.
Unsurprisingly, the post-war generation-who grew up in this hateful environment-fully accepted the legacy of denial of genocide and Mladic. The mayor of Banja Luka Draško Stanivuković (Draško Stanivuković) is a typical example of this generation.
The 28-year-old young man not only constantly refused to call Mladic, Karadzic and other war criminals as such, but also seemed to be a fan of the fascist “Chetnik”, a Yugoslav paramilitary force that was allied with Nazi Germany during World War II. Stanivukovich’s radical views and radicalism have won him widespread praise, including convicted war criminals and self-proclaimed Chetnik Vojislav Šešelj (Chetnik Vojislav Šešelj).
Appease war criminals
The power that Mladic’s legacy continues to maintain today has a lot to do with the appeasement policy of the West.
Western Europe seems to have not learned its lesson from the late 1930s, when it repeatedly gave in to Hitler’s demands, hoping that peace would only be dragged into war. Almost 60 years later, it made the same mistake when trying to appease the warlords of the Republika Srpska.
In the fall of 1995, when the Bosnian army began to advance to the Serb army to liberate the ethnically cleansed territory, the Clinton administration was eager to end the fighting.
It promoted peace negotiations and led to an agreement to include Mladic and Karadzic’s creation of the “Serb Republic” into the Bosnian Constitution, thereby making it internationally recognized. This move legitimizes the cause of Serbian nationalism and sends a strong message that the dream of “Greater Serbia” still exists and can even be realized.
For the next two decades, the West continued to appease those who supported the ideology of genocide. When the United States imposed sanctions on Dodik in 2017, the European Union decided not to follow suit, despite recognizing the dangerous racial politics played by Serbian leaders in the Serbian Republic. In the next few years, European capitals continued to receive Dodik for official visits, without accusing him of denying genocide in any way.
This weakness in the presence of genocide theorists has put into question the integrity of Western values and sends a dangerous signal to the rest of the world that genocide companies will not be confronted, and their leaders will only Will be comforted.
The verdict on Bosnian Serb war criminals does not seem to prevent the atrocities. In the past decade, genocide has continued to occur all over the world, and the international community has hardly responded. Aspiring war criminals see Mladic’s case as a model of how to legitimize cruel bloodshed. Far-right terrorists such as Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant were also inspired by “heroes” such as Mladić and Karadžić.
In the Republika Srpska, this policy of appeasement encouraged Mladic’s supporters and prevented any challenge to the dominant genocide denial. This will only deepen the dysfunction of the Bosnian state and bring the country closer to a political disaster or even another genocidal conflict.
The recent remarks made by Rajko Vasić, the founder of Dodik’s party ideology, after the removal of an Orthodox church illegally built on the land of a Bosnian woman in the village of Konjevic Polje illustrates this point. “In future wars, many innocent lives will be lost as a result,” he wrote in a tweet.
As we have learned from history, appeasement will only lead to war.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.