Revenge or justice? Who decides?

by Karen Topakian

Last week Bosnian Serb army chief Ratko Mladic was captured after eluding international law enforcement for 15 plus years. Hiding in plain sight in Serbia. Now he sits in a jail cell in The Hague awaiting trial. I believe this is what is commonly known as justice.

His charges: persecution, extermination and murder, deportation, inhumane acts, unlawfully inflicting terror on civilians and taking of hostages, for atrocities committed during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. He stands accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys. Plus he is charged with the 44-month siege of the capital Sarajevo starting in May 1992 in which 10,000 people died.

Here are some quotes from world leaders in response.

President Obama said, “I applaud President Tadic and the Government of Serbia on their determined efforts to ensure that Mladic was found and that he faces justice.”

Prime Minister David Cameron said, “People should recognize that it’s right that international law has a very long reach and a very long memory. It will send a signal to war criminals everywhere: In the end we’ll get you.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “This an historic day for international justice.”

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, “Almost 16 years after his indictment for genocide and other war crimes, his arrest finally offers a chance for justice to be done.”

And finally European Commission Chief Jose Manuel Barroso said, “This is an important step forward for Serbia and for international justice.”

On the other hand, we have Osama bin Laden, world terrorist leader, mastermind of terrorist attacks, responsible for the deaths of thousands. Found and killed on site in Pakistan. Also hiding in plain sight. Here’s what some of those same leaders had to say about his death.

David Cameron – “It is a great success that he has been found and will no longer be able to pursue his campaign of global terror.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “Personally, I am very much relieved by the news that justice has been done to such a mastermind of international terrorism.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said, “a significant success for the security of NATO allies and all the nations which have joined us in our efforts to combat the scourge of global terrorism.”

And European Commission Chief Jose Manuel Barroso said, “Osama Bin Laden was responsible for the death of thousands of thousands of innocent people, it was a military operation and I think it is important for the world to know that we are stronger if we fight clearly determined, terrorism.”

I’m sure you can see my question coming. Why do Mladic’s multitudinous horrific crimes warrant international justice and why don’t Osama bin Laden’s equally horrific crimes warrant the same?

Who decides who gets access to justice and who just gets killed in cold blood? Are their crimes that different? Is it because one wore the uniform of a country’s armed forces and the other appointed himself a warlord? Is it because Mladic was indicted by the International Criminal Court of Justice and bin Laden wasn’t?

Revenge or justice? Who decides?

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