CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 14 April 2018

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Conviction of a mass murderer

It is a spark of light from the darkness of human rights violations, horrific war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing that caused the suffering, torture, starvation and mass murder of thousands.
 
That spark is the conviction and sentence to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the Netherlands, on November 22 of Ratko Mladic, the former commander of the Bosnian Serb forces, better known as the Butcher of Bosnia.
 
It came more than 20 years after the massacre at Srebrenica in the former Yugoslavia. When the verdict and sentence was read out there was relief and satisfaction for the surviving relatives of more than 8,000 men and boys murdered at the orders of the then general, Mladic. They never forgot and they pursued justice to the end.
 
He led a murderous mission as head of the Serb forces hell bent on killing Muslim civilians to purify the Serbian nation, but when the Serbian forces were defeated by an international coalition, Mladic went into hiding for 14 years.
 
The international community worked to find him and enforce the arrest warrant issued by the international court, but although Mladic was hailed as a hero in Serbia by his devoted and fanatical followers, justice finally caught up with him.
 
He cursed and raged in the courtroom when the verdict was read out. But to no avail.
 
He got a life sentence after five years on trial and 600 witnesses gave testimony against him. He will likely die in prison, as it should be for all mass murderers waging any kind of war.
 
“They will not escape justice, no matter how powerful they may be nor how long it may take. They will be held accountable,” the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said of all mass murderers after the verdict was handed down.
 
There are still many who committed terrible crimes against humanity and served shorter sentences and have now been released. 
 
Others were never brought to trial. They participated in those awful crimes in Bosnia, one of the worst atrocities the world has seen since World War II.
 
The world has many tyrants and mass murderers, yet justice is denied to their countless victims. The International Court can only go after a tiny fraction of the perpetrators.
 
Perhaps the worst atrocities we see daily on television are the present ethnic cleansing and abuse being perpetrated in the Union of Myanmar, where Pope Francis called for justice and equality for all ethnic groups, but for diplomatic reasons, without mentioning the Rohingya by name.
 
But he did mention them by name in Bangladesh, where he also met with some representatives of the refugees who have sought protection around Cox’s Bazar.
 
The murder of children, the mass killing of men and women, and the burning of villages of the Rohingya by the military and fanatical Buddhist groups are horrific crimes against humanity that are believed to be condoned by the Myanmar Army High Command.
 
The military denies all accusations. The murder of infants and the use of rape as a weapon against the Rohingya have been authentically witnessed and recorded in a report in the New York Times, which says, “Survivors said they saw government soldiers stabbing babies, cutting off boys’ heads, gang-raping girls, shooting 40-millimetre grenades into houses, burning entire families to death, and rounding up dozens of unarmed male villagers and summarily executing them.”
 
More than 640,000 have fled into Bangladesh.
 
The International Court will have a lot to investigate in bringing charges against the perpetrators of these crimes. The records of the courts as published on Wikipedia say that the count “has opened investigations into 11 situations: the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Uganda; the Central African Republic; Darfur, Sudan; Kenya; Libya; Côte d’Ivoire; Mali; the Central African Republic II; Georgia; and Burundi.”
 
The court has publicly indicted 41 people. It has issued arrest warrants for 33 individuals and summonses to eight others. Seven persons are in detention.
 
Proceedings against 23 are ongoing: 12 are at large as fugitives, three are under arrest, but not in the court’s custody, eight are on trial and one is appealing his conviction.
 
Proceedings against 17 have been completed: three have been convicted, one has been acquitted, six have had the charges against them dismissed, two have had the charges against them withdrawn, one has had his case declared inadmissible, and four have died before trial.
 
Most of the accused are from Africa and that’s why Burundi has withdrawn its membership of the court. It says the court is biased. That will not stop the ongoing cases against the accused in that country.
 
The work of the court is extremely complicated. The need to find witnesses, protect them and catch the fugitives is no easy task, but if it is to maintain its credibility it has to show a more robust action to bring more to the justice of the court and to speed up the proceedings and win more convictions.
 
After the atrocities and the extermination policy of the Nazis in World War II, it was a cry of never again that initiated the Nuremberg War Trials, but today, the atrocities and mass killings continue and the perpetrators continue to get away with these crimes.
 
The conscience of the international community and that of every citizen must be awakened and each must take a stand against the crimes and work for justice.
 
The International Criminal Court, weak as it is, is all we have got.
 
 
 

• Father Shay Cullen
www.preda.com