Balkan War Criminals: First the good news…

The good news is, last week Serbia handed over a fellow named Zdravko Tolimir. Tolimir, a Bosnian Serb, was a top aide to wanted war criminal Ratko Mladic.

This is good news not only because Tolimir is a wrong’un — he’s under indictment on counts of genocide, extermination, murder, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation, and was the third most wanted suspect after the two headliners, Karadzic and Mladic — but also because both Serbia and the Bosnian Serb Republic cooperated in getting him and handing him over. For Serbia, that’s the first evidence of real cooperation with the Hague since 2005. For Bosnia… well, it’s the first time the Serb Republic’s police have helped catch a war criminal, ever.

It may be because Serbia has a new government; or because they’re hoping to re-start talks with the EU (stalled for over a year now, because of that same lack of cooperation); or because they’re hoping to score points as the Kosovo issue comes up in the UN this month. Whatever he reason, it’s very welcome.

If only that were all the war criminal news this week. Unfortunately not. Just a day before Tolimir was picked up, convicted war criminal Radovan Stankovic escaped from prison.

This is bad in a variety of ways.

One, it’s bad because Stankovic is about as bad as they come. I don’t throw the word “evil” around lightly, but this guy ran a rape camp. He’s a sadistic thug, a rapist and torturer.

Two, it’s bad because Stankovic is likely to stay at large. He stayed on the run for six years already — a warrant was issued for his arrest in1996, but he wasn’t captured until 2002. And he has plenty of supporters… people who think he was unjustly persecuted, and who’ll applaud his escape as a triumph of Serb ingenuity and daring.

Three, it shows (again) that it’s folly to expect governments in the former Yugoslavia to punish their own. Stankovic’s escape was aided by his prison guards, who stood by idly — all nine of them — while Stankovic trotted into a waiting car. But it also looks like he had assistance, or at least passive support, from much higher up; the police response was sluggish, and there was a curious three-day delay before an international warrant was sought.

The Hague’s decision to transfer Stankovic back to Bosnia was bad enough. This was just deeply and obviously stupid. But letting him be transferred to Foca — a town in the Serb Republic of Bosnia, and the same place where he’d committed his crimes — was a piece of imbecility so profound as to baffle and enrage.

Note that Stankovic was the first convicted war criminal to be transferred back to Bosnia; and note further that it took him less than three months to escape. There are proposals to move other war criminals back to their home states. Let’s hope this shuts them down for a while.

Finally, it’s bad because Stankovic has repeatedly threatened the judge, the prosecutors, and the witnesses against him. The Bosnian government has already ordered protection for the judge and the prosecutors, but as far as I can tell nothing has been done for the witnesses.

Pause to think that one over. These women were taken from their families (who, in several cases, were promptly killed), beaten, tortured, and then turned into sex slaves. Somehow they found the courage to testify against their abuser. And just a few months after being sentenced, he escapes.

Radomir Stankovic is just 38 years old. If he stays at large, these women have been sentenced to a lifetime of looking over their shoulders.

13 thoughts on “Balkan War Criminals: First the good news…

  1. Unfortunately there were criminals and genocidal maniacs on all sides in Bosnia. I served 8 months there. Organized and methodical rape was committed by every group.

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  3. David, sure. And every group continues to insist that it was a victim, while murmuring under its breath that its boys were the only real heroes.

    That’s why it was a really bad idea to put Stankovic in Foca, a prison with Serb administrators and prison guards. At best, he’d be living a life of ease, with guards and warden treating him as a celebrity. At worst, he’d promptly escape.

    You mention that there were criminals and genocidal maniacs on all sides. I’d add that one of the most disturbing aspects of the Bosnian war was how fast the scum bubbled to the top. Thugs and criminals rose very rapidly, while professional soldiers mostly got sidelined.

    Doug M.

  4. RE: David,
    the rhetorics of war-crime equality and their political correctness baffle me because they’re not followed with accounts of the situation of political and military inequalities at the time!
    Regrettably, it is the same with vice-versa interpretations.

    However, until the day that local parties involved can agree on facts and history, the “international observer” party will have the credibility for interpretation. And it isn’t a completely accurate one.

    Along the same lines & when speaking of rape-camps, I wonder if the international peace-keepers who took part in the crimes there (of whom I used to hear reports, but not so much anymore) will ever by discussed again or completely forgotten about?

  5. David’s concern to point out that atrocities were committed on all sides serves to divert attention from the fact that atrocities were systematically perpetrated predominantly by one side as part of the campaign of ethnic cleansing conducted in the multi-ethnic parts of Bosnia that were intended to be incorporated into Republika Srpska and the rape camps of Foca and many other places were elements in that general strategy.

    David’s comment is reminiscent of a famous remark made by the prominent pro-Serb lobbyist and peacekeeper to whom Hajra may have been referring in her message.

    The international community must not let people like Stankovic and his collaborators rub salt in the wounds of the people of Foca. At the same time the Canadian government needs to show its sensitivity towards the rape victims and their continued suffering by facilitating the Bosnian prosecutor’s enquiries into the involvement of international peacekeepers in the operation and activities of rape camps.

    Doug, while Stankovic may have been a crude thug, professional soldiers weren’t always sidelined during the Bosnian war. Setting aside the shortcomings of some high-ranking peacekeepers, I seem to remember one or two senior officers being involved in the little matter of organising and perpetrating genocide at Srebrenica.

  6. Whoever thinks that the majority of all crimes in the Balkan wars were not committed by the Serb forces (JNA, paramilitaries, speacial police, etc) is naive and uninformed.

  7. Owen and Hajra are of course referring to the trumped up Bosnian government smear campaign against the Canadian general of UN forced in Bosnia, Mackenzie. Basically, the Bosnian government accused Mackenzie of raping Bosniak women in Serb-run rape camps. Probably because they felt he didn’t support them strongly enough. Of course, no one has laid any creedence to it.

    Owen and Hajras comments are a prime example of how propaganda (even discredited and nasty propaganda) refuses to die. Of course, it’s not the only example of such war-time propaganda which is perpetuated. Other examples include the “50,000 raped in Serb-run rape camps”, “200,000 Bosniaks killed”, etc.

  8. Completely agree that the majority of crimes in Bosnia were perpetrated by the Bosnian Serbs. It’s just that with time, the picture has become a lot less black and white. Just take the casualty figures. During (and immediately after) the war, the figure of 200,000 killed was commonly accepted, with the implicit undertanding that this referred to 200,000 Bosniaks killed by the Bosnian Serbs. However, research has shown the figure to be around 100,000, of which roughly half were civilians. Of these civilians Serbs accounted for something like 20%. Given their lower share of the population and the fact that they had the better armaments (at least initially), this doesn’t give the quite the same picture of one-sided slaughter (or “genocide” as is often used) as is often portrayed.

    Either way, it is good that the perpetrators of crimes, no matter what magnitude, are prosecuted and it would be even better if they could keep them in jail once they’ve been sentenced.

  9. Good point, truth be told. It is entirely possible the whole Mackenzie affair was a nasty propaganda fabrication. It was never investigated, the accusation wasn’t brought up even. An obvious reason would be that it was untrue from the start. I think I’ll try to sniff around the local media and discussions a bit more as to why isn’t this being brought up. Well, it was amateurish never to think of it before and only bring it up here, but I’m an average amateur internet user. It’s just discomforting to hear about this on the news a lot and then never again. It’s not like other UN generals did great favors to the bosniak side so they would be spared from slandering, so that explanation of the rumor doesn’t make much more sense.

    As for the numbers, ICTY’s number is officially cca.102000 – true. The reasons stated are- double missing people reports, not surprising for a time of crysis. I personaly only heard the exaggerated figure of 200 000 just after the war, and it wouldn’t make sense that it was in operation during the war because the number was rising, no?! And, as to my knowledge, it always went for the total number of casualties.
    Well, I’m only relieved with any ambiguity over any issues that is finaly resolved like this.

    (uh, I just typed and lost a reply because I forgot the spam-protection entry, I should get used to it)

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  11. The West is in a quagmire in the Balkans and we do not know how to get out! The Serbs were blamed for everything, the niggers of the Balkans: not wanting to be murdered by Fascist Croats or Muslims like in WW2 and wanting to live together in one country.

    Unfortunately, the pro-Muslim terrorist US regime has supported exactly a repetition of events in former Yugoslavia. Ths US war-mongers supported Bosnian Mujahadeen fighters and Albanian Muslim KLA terrorists, yet now are fighting an alleged “War on Terror” – rubbish! If the Bosnian Serbs are so guilty of everything bad in Bosnia, why were a third of the victims in the Bosnian bloodbath Serbian?

    Whatever happens in the Balkans, there will be no future peace unless Serbs are treated fairly and the wrongs against them are righted. Future events will see the Serbs returning to their Kosovo and Metohija homeland, when the West loses interest, just like the Jews returning to Israel (accelerated as a consequence of their mas slaughter) and the liberation of Republika Srpska from the hands of EU dictators.

  12. Namaan is right. We Serbs are the true victims. Those sluts at Foca begged for us to rape them and now they want me in prison? Good thing my guards took little payoff in seeing me run away. Now I can get back to what I do best- rape, murder and singing the Serbian national anthem!

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