Radovan Karadzic had a bad day this Thursday. On 3/24/16, he was convicted of ten war crimes, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Let’s just call him Rad. Back in the 1990’s, Rad ordered the killing of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebinica, during the Bosnian war. He was also responsible for the Siege of Sarajevo, which killed over 5,000 civilians. Many of these civilian casualties in Sarajevo were cut down by relentless sniper fire from the surrounding hillsides.
Rad is a former Yugoslavian psychiatrist. In the 1980s he used his credentials to issue fake psychological evaluations, which helped healthcare workers secure early retirements. Later, he and a friend obtained an agricultural loan, which they used to build houses for themselves. He was arrested and convicted of fraud, and served a year in jail.
When Yugoslavia broke up in the early 1990s, Rad entered politics – the perfect job for a con-man. He became the President of the Republic of Srpska, and Supreme Commander of the Bosnian Serb Army. I won’t get into the weeds concerning all the bad Rad was convicted of. He wasn’t the only one to commit war crimes in the Balkans. Genocide was committed by both Christians and Muslims, on many different fronts. But Christians were behind about 90% of it.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established by the United Nations in 1991 to address these war crimes. Since that time, ICTY has indicted 161 people, from lowly soldiers to high-ranking politicians such as Rad. 74 have been sentenced, 18 have been acquitted, and most of the remainder have had their cases transferred to sovereign nations, or withdrawn.
Two trials remain: that of former military leader Ratko Mladic, and former Serbian president Goran Hadzic. I love the name Ratko. Doesn’t it befit one who is accused of a war crime?
Rad hid from authorities and disguised himself for more than 11 years, before his arrest in 2008. I think it’s fitting that he had to spend time on the run and in hiding. Many accused war criminals are never caught. But I like knowing they have to spend time and energy looking over their shoulders and perhaps holing up in uncomfortable quarters.
Times seem to have changed. Political and military leaders must be more careful when considering whether or not to murder innocent people. And soldiers must think twice about which orders to obey.
War crimes continue to occur in places like Africa and the Middle East. But hopefully Rad’s conviction will sober up some of the bloodthirsty despots running around our world. Maybe we’ll have a few less disappearances of innocent civilians, over the coming years.
There have been attempts to bring war crime charges against Russian President Vladimir Putin. And there have also been attempts to charge former President George W. Bush, former Vice-President Dick Cheney, and other former members of the Bush Administration. I doubt we’ll ever see these people arrested, but if they were, I wonder how it would affect our political rhetoric.
Perhaps candidates like Donald Trump wouldn’t be so quick to advocate torture or the killing of terrorists’ family members. Maybe there’d be less Bad Rads running for President.