Monday, 2 November 2009

Make Radovan Karadzic face the truth

Make Radovan Karadzic face the truth

By Mark Austin 1/11/2009

It is a scene that has stuck with me, even haunted me, for nearly 15 years now. We were filming in a refugee camp in a place called Tuzla in eastern Bosnia and the spectre of genocide was confronting us.

Not happening there before our eyes, but still apparent in the words of the women who had gathered all around us.

Some were screaming, most were crying and all had the look of human beings caught up in the most dreadful, horrific, barbaric conflict since the Second World War.

The women – mothers, grandmothers, sisters and wives – had all been bussed out of Srebrenica.

The last they saw of their menfolk was when they were being herded on to trucks by Bosnian Serb soldiers and Interior Ministry troops to be driven away.

I’ll never forget one of the Muslim women turning to our camera as we filmed and yelling down the lens: “They are killing them now and no one is doing anything.

“They will kill them all and we will never see them again.”

The women feared the worst and they were absolutely right to.

Eight thousand men and boys were slaughtered that summer in Srebrenica. Forced to dig their own mass graves, then told to kneel on
the edge and shot.

The worst part of it was that Srebrenica was supposed to be a UN safe haven, with the population protected by Dutch peace-keeping troops.

They failed and these were dark days indeed for the UN.

And now, so many years later, the will of that organisation to provide justice for the women of Srebrenica is being tested once again.

This time it is the UN’s International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague that is in the spotlight.

The man accused of orchestrating the greatest massacre of civilians since the end of Nazism is treating the court with contempt.

Dr Radovan Karadzic, who has been indicted on counts of genocide and crimes against humanity, has refused to leave his cell to appear in court.

His excuse was that he hadn’t had enough time to prepare his defence.

He seems intent on delaying the process in the same way Slobodan Milosevic did when he faced trial. He succeeded – his death coming before justice could be done.

The same should not be allowed to happen with Karadzic. He must either be dragged into court and made to confront his crimes or the trial should simply go ahead without him.

There has been some meagre comfort for the women of Srebrenica.

Just over 6,000 of the massacre victims have now been identified through DNA. But what they really deserve is justice.

The UN has failed them catastrophically once. They must not be allowed to do it again.

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