I’m not going to argue that Mladic’s avoiding prosecution for 15 years was a good thing. First and foremost his victims had to endure a decade and a half of an agonizing wait, wondering if Mladic would even see the inside of a courtroom. Second, Mladic is not a young man, or even a middle-aged one. Considering the age of the accused, health issues and the slow and laborious process of a tribunal and you get the very real scenario of a “Milosevic Part Deux” in which the accused dies before the trial can even conclude. Finally, in most cases the longer the gap between the crime and the trial the more chances there is of evidence being lost or destroyed and witnesses dying or moving away without a trace.
But in the Mladic case this third point might be turned on its head. One could argue that while Mladic being a free man for 15 years is not a good thing, his years as a fugitive from justice were also years where additional evidence was amassed against him, including DNA evidence offering absolutely irrefutable proof of the mass killings of unarmed civilians and POWs around Srebrenica in 1995. As an article in the New York Times stated:
“Serge Brammertz, the lead prosecutor for the tribunal, said this week that Mr. Mladic “has come late, but not too late.” If anything, tribunal lawyers say, after the long wait it may be easier for the prosecution to prove its case now than if had arrived a decade earlier.
The war that broke up Yugoslavia in the 1990s involved other regions besides Bosnia, but what became known as “ethnic cleansing” campaigns in Bosnia and especially the massacre at Srebrenica became the war’s overriding nightmares. Much evidence has been amassed and tested in trials involving events which Mr. Mladic ordered or for which he was responsible as commander. Two of his right-hand men have received life sentences – the maximum the tribunal can impose – for their role in the Srebrenica massacre. Two more received life sentences for their role in the 44-month siege of Sarajevo, in which about 10,000 people died. Other underlings of the general have also been tried and given a range of prison sentences.”
Beyond the record amassed by previous cases, which will certainly be used as evidence in Mladic’s trial, there is also matter of Mladic’s diary. The diary, revealed in February 2010 does not contain any silver bullets per-se, but it does include numerous incredibly damning quotes from Mladic.
Chief amongst them:
Saturday, Jan. 29, 1994: Mladic explained at a meeting with army personnel in Vlasenica: “You have to thrash the Muslims for long enough that the whole world sees that it does not pay to fight against Serbs. The most important point is Sarajevo; that is the brain of their state. With the blockade of Sarajevo, we have established our state. We must not now make any martial statements; we must speak of peace. Only in that way can we save Serbia from a blockade. Our interest is the founding of a pan-Serbian state. Perhaps Europe will not allow us this right away; it does not want a Greater Serbia.”
Saturday, April 23, 1994: At a meeting with his high command, Mladic noted: “The Turks (as Mladic called the Bosnian Muslims) have no organized military force in the enclaves of Gorazde, Zepa and Srebrenica. We should neutralize them in the near future, if necessary with military force.”