Deutsche Welle: If Mladic is not made to answer, why should anyone else?

The arrest of Ratko Mladic was one of the conditions of the international community for visa liberalization. Yet Serbian citizens will in a few days be able to travel without a visa in Europe, and Ratko Mladic remains at large. In an interview with Deutsche Welle radio, Natasa Kandic, executive director of the Humanitarian Law Center, said:

“Ratko Mladic is in my opinion still important. If something changes in the conditions of the international community and the Hague Tribunal, that is certainly a question which can be discussed. It is evident that thereis some free interpretation of what exactly cooperation with the Hague Tribunal means. For this reason we always hear such phrases as “There is progress,” “Serbia is doing everything it can”, “If Serbia had the opportunity, she would have already arrested Mladic”, etc. If the law is not applied in respect of Mladic, if he is not arrested, the question
of other war crimes trials is brought into question. If Mladic is not made to answer, why should anyone else? This is a very difficult decision that the International Community has made, for which Serbia and the region, not the international community, will have to pay. If thereis no perspective of Mladic being arrested and Serbia’s Stabilization and Association Agreement is taken out of cold storage, it will not be good for Serbia, its young generation, nor for Serbia’s relations with
Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo.”

How would you comment on the trial of Elijah Jurisic, the accused in the Tuzla column case?

“If the Serbian war crimes prosecutor has evidence, it should give it all to the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina, because it is good for Bosnia and Herzegovina to try its own citizens, to expand the whole case and finally find out what happened on May 15th 1992. But not so!
In this case Serbia wants to show that others committed crimes, and the “spear is broken” on Ilija Jurisic. The final verdict has not clarified what happened on 15th May 1992. There was not enough data, facts and evidence about where the shooting took place, who was shot and whether
there were attacks on both sides. The case was reduced to a variety of options as to where the attack came from, whether from the column or outside it. And there was no mention of the lives of these young people who were killed.”

Did the Serbian media “fail the grade” over the way in which it reported on the release of Biljana Plavsic and her arrival in Belgrade to the public?

“This time nothing could throw Serbian politicians. They were silent; they were not even next to Biljana Plavsic, or to Dodik. They behaved very politely. As in the case of Karadzic, the media completely obfuscated what was at issue: why were they accused, what did they admit to, how
many thousands of victims there were, in which the camps, etc. They followed the entire event from the perspective of someone who is terribly important, as if a Russian Empress had arrived; as if she had come on an official visit and each step of the visit had to be covered by the media. Everything was ugly and disgusting.”

An initiative for the formation of regional commissions to investigate war crimes, whose headquarters should be in Sarajevo, was recently launched. What are the odds that national parliaments will adopt and make a decision on the establishment of the aforementioned regional commission?

“It is an initiative of non-governmental associations, associations of victims, youth organizations and women’s groups and, as the subject of debate in all countries of former Yugoslavia, the initiative is gaining increasing momentum. The initiative was presented two days ago in Brussels and supported by the European Commission. We must still develop a model and strategy for approaching the politicians. It is anticipated that we will collect one million signatures in support of the regional commission and submit the initiative to national parliaments in the region at the beginning of 2011, requesting that they form the regional commission. We, civil society, lead the debate about how to gather all the facts. We will focus on victims and create a public platform for the voice of the victims. We will exercise pressure on politicians and government to agree to establish the regional commission because the wars and crimes were transnational. Therefore the truth cannot be established within one country alone.”