Theatre, hysterics, denunciations. No tight, orderly and sterile space could ever entirely contain those dark characters with lengthy butcher’s bills and blood soaked attributes. Screams accompanied accusations; words to make all blush were shouted at witnesses, lawyers and judges.
In the sanguinary mess of attack, counter-attack and retribution, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia was meant to rise, glinting above the squalor, peering over with a sort of moral responsibility. Its effects after it closes on December 31 this year will be debated for decades, leaving perhaps the lawyers content that something was done to bring acts of conflict into the court room. The narratives on the ground will, in large part, remain untouched, mutating into various poisonous guises.
Coming to its grim finale, it was fitting that the curtain would close on a publicly executed suicide by Bosnian Croat wartime commander Slobodan Praljak, a figure most closely associated with the destruction of Mostar, a gem of Bosnia’s Ottoman legacy. “I just drank poison,” he exclaimed, having seemingly toasted those deemed his adversaries. “I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction.” The 72 year old subsequently died in hospital in The Hague.
It had been quite a scene, a live broadcast that was garnering special interest. Croatia’s parliament, for one, had been suspended to enable members to follow the reading of the verdict, along…