Landmark Ruling in Karadzic Trial
Radovan Karadzic photo courtesy of ICTY.
By Ivona Ogramic
A landmark ruling will be made by the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) this Thursday, March 24, 2016. After 8 long years, the ICTY will determine whether Radovan Karadzic, a Bosnian-Serb leader, will spend the rest of his life in prison.
As I await the verdict, I can’t help but reminisce about my time spent at the ICTY in 2011. As an undergraduate student at the University of Washington, I participated in the International Justice Seminar where I got to sit in on Karadzic’s trial.
As I sat observing the trial, the court repeated the charges: 2 counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity (persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, and inhumane acts), four counts of violations of the laws or customs of war (murder, terror, unlawful attacks on civilians, and taking of hostages). It has been 8 long years and justice has been slow to come.
It has been nearly 5 years since I’ve been to the ICTY but I still remember one of the most influential moments I have ever witnessed. Karadzic was cross-examining a witness, a woman from a small village in Bosnia who had lost both her husband and son. She was only a table away from one of the worst war criminals in recent history. She was asked repeatedly about the identification of her son’s remains. This courageous and bold woman did not budge, she spoke with confidence, she looked at Karadzic and she answered his questions without hesitation. At that very moment, I gained the courage to continue a career that allows me to participate in this crucial process of ensuring justice. Justice gives victims the opportunity to be heard and the opportunity to be in a position of power when sitting across the table from accused or alleged perpetrators of crimes. For the accused, it allows an opportunity defend themselves and challenge incriminating evidence.
As the entire Bosnian community hopes for a just verdict this Thursday, the following goes without saying: no court verdict brings back the 8,000 plus innocent boys and men in Srebrenica who were massacred in a matter of days. No verdict brings back the other 100,000 people who were killed. No court can bring back a peace of mind to all of the women who were repeatedly subjected to sexual violence.
However, it is a start. A guilty verdict acknowledges that it happened, it puts the blame where blame ought to be placed, and it gives the victims a voice where it otherwise would not exist.
Furthermore, one of the most important observations I made, sitting in on Karadzic’s trial, is that Karadzic uses the ICTY as his personal broadcast forum to spread his nationalist agenda to his followers.
As we patiently await this verdict, we must be mindful that Karadzic’s tactics at the ICTY have only incited more hate and nationalism in the Balkans. The promotion of separatism is poisonous to the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina. To ensure that Bosnia and Herzegovina is prosperous politically, socially, and economically, we must keep it democratic and multi-ethnic. Not only is democracy and multi-ethnicity contrary to everything Karadzic stands for but by maintaining a democratic and multi-ethnic Bosnia, we continue to build a Bosnia and Herzegovina he once tried to destroy.
Ivona Ogramic is a law student at Seattle University. She was selected as one of six scholars to visit Washington DC on behalf of VOBG last year.