History, Law and Ratko Mladić

While Zimbabwe was changing under various inexorable forces of power, the more sterile surrounds of The Hague and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia offered the scene for a conviction.

The “Serb Warlord” or the “Butcher of Bosnia”, as he has been termed in various circles, had finally received a verdict few were doubting.  One of the doubters was, naturally, the man himself, Ratko Mladić, who accused the judicial officers of incurable mendacity.

Of the 11 charges levelled at Ratko Mladić, he was acquitted of one – genocide in Bosnian municipalities outside Srebrenica.  Others covered genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity which took place while he was Chief Commander of the Army of Republika Srpska between 1992 and 1995 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Judicial deliberations are rarely the stuff of fine history.  Verdicts are, by their very nature, judgmental, giving false finality and coherence to muddy narratives.  In the Balkans, muddy narratives have met and parted; others have been forged in the blood of memories constructed and confected.

Bodies have been heaped over these generational accounts – the wars, the murders, the ecstatic patriotism and genocidal enthusiasm, and in time, the descendants pursue the task, less of living for the future than inhabiting the unchanging past.

The politicians have been attempting to make do with the verdict.  The Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, is mindful that…

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