Was a genocide, throw away the key. After 26 years, the definitive truth about one of the worst war criminals in history arrives. Ratko Mladic. The Executioner of Srebrenica. The Bosnian Serb general who in July 1995 ordered the massacre of 8,372 people (but the figure on the memoriam plaque was carved with ellipsis: hundreds of bodies have never been found…). The strategist of the longest and most distressing siege of the twentieth century, in Sarajevo. The man who gave his little girl the gun to clean instead of the dolls (until the little girl grew up, he is not ashamed of so much father and not on suicides). At 79, Mladic was definitively sentenced to life imprisonment for genocide.
Tired and sick, he did not react to the ruling of the court and to the five robes – including the president, Prisca Matimba Nyambe, judge of Zambia – who listed all the charges: genocide, murder, extermination, persecution, terrorism … They only gave him a discount: acquitted of the charge of genocide for the expulsion of non- Serbs from various cities at the beginning of the war. a sentence that compensates the victims and incognizes the executioners. In a tense, waiting atmosphere. The opportunity to finally close the accounts with the most frightening massacre in Europe since the Second World War. Or the excuse, as Mladic’s supporters wanted, to reread the dark years of ethnic rapes, snipers in the hills, concentration camps from a revisionist point of view. The judges of the so-called Residual Mechanism in The Hague, what now remains of the dissolved International Criminal Tribunal on the former Yugoslavia, have decided to uphold life imprisonment, already inflicted in 2017 for war crimes and against humanity. And to avoid a repetition of the process, which Mladic’s son hoped instead.
We must read the reasons. Which in this specific case take on the value of a historical document. Because with this decision, the judges in The Hague were called upon to clarify one aspect above all: whether that of Bosnia could be considered not only a terrifying sequence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but a real genocide. Conceived. Planned. Done. Hidden away. To wipe out an entire people. At first instance, Mladic had already been found guilty on ten of the eleven counts, but acquitted precisely of the charge of genocide (this time, only the horrors in Foca, Vlasenica, Kljuc, Sanski Most, Kotor-Varos, Prijedor, oreverywhere his Mladic troops organized systematic sexual violence, set up camps, destroyed mosques). Determining whether or not it was genocide, the relatives of the victims say, was an important step. Especially now that the Serbian side tends to reduce the hundred thousand dead of the war and even to deny what happened in Srebrenica, in those sultry July days.
There was some expectation in Sarajevo, the city that owes Mladic a good deal of the eleven thousand killed between ’92 and ’95. At the monument that commemorates the 1,600 children killed during the siege, there is no shortage of flowers and candles even in these hours. And even at the Srebrenica memorial, an impressive expanse of white crosses, every day one sees relatives of the victims, astonished visitors, astonished tourists. a difficult day, the Serbian premier confided in Belgrade Aleksandar Vucic, nationalist and former supporter of wars, always critical of the Hague trials (they only have it against us Serbs: they have inflicted on ours 1,138 years of imprisonment, to the Bosnians only 42 …!) and struggling, just this week, with the handing over to the international court of two ultra-nationalist deputies.
Live TV was also watched in Pale, the capital of the Serbian enclave in Bosnia: here, Mladic is still considered a hero of the Serbian cause. On Monday evening in Bratunac, 10 km from Srebrenica, in the town square they found themselves showing a film celebrating his life. IS Milorad Dodik, Bosnian Serb leader and member of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has no problem attacking The Hague again (not a place of justice) and its political processes, which do not help to reconcile the peoples.
Mladic’s black shadow doesn’t stop at the Balkans: the crazy Australian who killed dozens of Muslims in Christchurch in 2019, said he was inspired by him. And so is Anders Breivik, the Norwegian supremacist who shot 77 boys. With this condemnation, we arrive at a definitive truth about the Bosnian war. Because he was the only one missing: Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian president who upset the Balkans, died in his cell; Radovan Karadzic, the head of the Serbs who devised ethnic cleansing, recently transferred to an English prison, was sentenced to life; the other supporting actors of that tragedy have been acquitted, released or murdered: from Vojislav Seselj to Biljana Plavsic, not to mention the ferocious tiger Arkan. Waiting for the last sentence was only Mladic. He wanted to see the verdict. And for the last time he scornfully fled the gaze of the Mothers of Srebrenica, present in the classroom: We were waiting for the final word, says one of them. Our lives stopped that day. But a future is needed for those who survived.