Back Coming to terms with the past and delivering justice is the only way to achieve reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia

Coming to terms with the past and delivering justice is the only way to achieve reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia

”I sincerely hope that the confirmation on appeal of Ratko Mladić’s guilty verdict brings the relief of justice done to the many victims who suffered atrocities and lost loved ones in Srebrenica, Sarajevo, and other municipalities during the war in the 1990’s in the former Yugoslavia”, said today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović.

“My thoughts are with the mothers of Srebrenica, some of whom unfortunately have not lived to see this day, and with the other victims and witnesses who made this trial possible. I salute their courage and determination over the decades. Nothing can erase the horrors of the past and the suffering of the victims, but their struggle for justice has been honoured.

This verdict rendered by the UN International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals should not be an end in itself. It underscores the importance of preserving and making full use of the legacy of international justice processes, including by continuing to press for more justice, truth, reparations and reconciliation at the national level.

The significance of the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which conducted the Mladić trial in first instance, cannot be overstated. In its 24 years of existence, it convicted 90 war criminals. The tribunal has cemented the principle that there cannot be impunity for crimes that shock the conscience of humanity. It has shown that even the most powerful cannot escape justice. Importantly, the tribunal has gathered a vast amount of evidence and testimonies and has established historical facts and responsibility for the crimes.

This rich legacy must be kept alive to combat the widespread denial of genocide and war crimes, dehumanisation of genocide victims and the glorification of war criminals in the region. It is also of pivotal importance for the prosecution of war related crimes in domestic courts, which has been seriously undermined by a lack of regional judicial co-operation and the refusal of governments in the region to extradite their citizens on war crimes charges. There is still much work to be done at the national level to ensure justice and to honour the victims.

While Mladić’s case is closed, the ideas underpinning the genocide and atrocities committed under his command are still very much alive, and are being exploited by nationalists who wish to shape a future for the region characterised by ethnic divisions, discrimination and hatred for the other.  We need to be as forceful as ever in denouncing such ideas and vigorously counter them. We owe this to the victims and to future generations.”

Strasbourg 08/06/2021
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