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Press Review: Charges and Cries of 'Shame'

  • Don Hill



Prague, July 12 (RFE/RL) -- The international war crimes tribunal issued worldwide arrest warrants yesterday -- on the anniversary of the fall in Bosnia of the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica -- against Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his army commander, General Ratko Mladic. The warrants and the anniversary set off a flurry of commentary in the Western press.

In an editorial signed by Heribert Prantl, the Suddeutsche Zeitung today demands, "Arrest Karadzic!" The editorial says: "Warrants for the arrest of Radovan Karadzic and Co. are a triumph of justice. They are the first great victory for the war crimes tribunal in The Hague -- but possibly also the last. For if arrests do not follow hard on the heels of these warrants then July 11, 1996, will mark the beginning of the end of this tribunal and the beginning of the end of this historic attempt to call these perpetrators of genocide to account. The tribunal will have failed and the credibility of international criminal law will have been lastingly damaged. But then these arrest warrants against Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic turn into charges against governments in Europe and the USA. The prosecutors are not just the 10,000 people murdered and tortured in the Yugoslavian war but the 130 million people who have also fallen victim to war crimes since the Nuremberg Trials."

Today's Wall Street Journal Europe, in an editorial, identifies a man it calls "Slobodan's Himmler." The editorial says: "Nobody has derived greater benefit, material or political, than Slobodan MIlosevic and the warlords who carried out his mission to create an ethnically pure greater Serbia. Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic may have to live with the entirely tolerable, to them, fact that they have been declared war criminals and could be arrested. Zelijko Raznatovic -- better known by his nom de guerre, Arkan -- hasn't even these worries. The Beast of Belgrade. . . lives in luxury in the Serbian capital, shielded by the gentle tolerance of the man whose directions he carried out."

The Frankfurter Rundschau editorializes today: "Srebrenica is a name which symbolises the West's weakness, shame and guilt. . . . Survivors and culprits have just finished giving graphic descriptions of the Srebrenica scenes from hell to the war crimes tribunal in The Hague. Let no one say he didn't know. The UN judge described the charge against the two perpetrators of genocide responsible for Srebrenica as 'a high spot in the tribunal's three-year history' and 'a low spot in the history of mankind.' But the attempt to use international law to establish guilt and force atonement for the deeds of Srebrenica smacks a little of making amends for one's own failure. And even in this belated effort the West lacks courage. Currently it is not the heavily armed IFOR troops or the spineless emissaries of Western democracies who are determining Bosnia's political future, but the war criminals who ordered the Srebrenica massacre."

The New York Times says today in an editorial: "The major powers agreed this week in London that Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb political leader, belongs in The Hague standing trial for war crimes, including the mass killing of civilians in Srebrenica one year ago this week. Yet the American, British, French, German, and Russian governments failed to agree on any new diplomatic or economic pressure to achieve this worthy goal. It is a sadly familiar pattern."

Bruce Clark and Paul Wood write today in the British newspaper Financial Times: "By insisting that all governments have a duty to apprehend the two men if they get the chance, the court has strengthened the hand of those favoring renewed sanctions against Serbia for its failure to cooperate fully with the international effort to punish war criminals."

Richard Norton-Tylor comments today in The London Guardian: "The United States, Britain, France, Germany and Russia remain undecided aboout what to do next to achieve their oft-stated aim to see Mr. Karadzic and General Mladic brought to justice. British officials made it plain yesterday that there will be no change in the mandate of the IFOR peacekeeping force. The mandate -- which has been criticized by the tribunal -- gives the NATO-led peacekeepers the authority 'to arrest those indicted persons whom they come across in the ordinary course of their duties,' but not to seek them out."

In today's Washington Post, Jonathan C. Randal writes: "The action (yesterday), issuing 'mandatory' warrants, marked an attempt to underline the responsibility of governments to make sure the arrests are actually carried out. A court press communique said 'all states will henceforth be legally obliged to arrest the accused if they come within their jurisdiction.' Other than moral opprobrium, however, the tribunal depends on the good will of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members for enforcement of its decisions."

London Daily Telegraph Diplomatic Editor Christopher Lockwood and Pale correspondent Julius Strauss write today in the newspaper: "The move will have little immediate effect, as neither man is in the territory of a country likely to execute the warrants. Dr. Karadzic is in his own small state, the Bosnian Serb Republic, while General Mladic is thought to be in Belgrade. 'The purpose is to make the countries that harbor these men open-air prisons to them,' said a tribunal official. . . . The move also means that Serbia now formally is in breach of U.N. obligations by sheltering General Mladic, making it likely that the Security Council will consider reimposing trade sanctions on the former Yugoslav republic."

Marlise Simons writes today in The New York Times: "the warrants are unlikely to have any immediate effect since Western countries have not been willing to have their peacekeeping troops in Bosnia seek the two leaders out. The tribunal also called publicly, for the first time, for an investigation to determine whether President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia shares responsibility for war crimes in the Bosnian conflict. . . . By openly extending the tribunal's inquiry to Milosevic, the three-judge panel has taken a step that some Western officials had hoped to postpone, since they see the Serbian president's cooperation, faced with a reimposition of sanctions, as vital to the continuing peace effort. The tribunal has reportedly been secretly gathering evidence about Milosevic for some time."
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