What does the verdict against Ratko Mladić mean?

The United Nations-backed International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia has sentenced Ratko Mladić to life imprisonment. The former Bosnian Serb commander was found guilty of being chiefly responsible for the Srebrenica massacre and other war crimes. Nevertheless there is no sign of the Serbs taking a self-critical look at their past, commentators complain.

Open/close all quotes
Novi list (HR) /

Serbia's guilt swept under the carpet

The judgement against Mladić failed to clearly apportion blame to Serbia and the policies of then president Slobodan Milošević, Novi list concludes and examines why:

“This disappearance of Milošević from the judgement is probably the result of the changed political situation in which the Hague Tribunal finds itself shortly before its closure. It is increasingly evident that the court is losing the support of the Western powers that no longer want The Hague to put pressure on Serbia. ... Because they don't want to put any pressure on [Serbian President] Vučić, their key figure in the Balkans”

Trud (BG) /

No trace of remorse

The sentenced war criminal Mladić is still a hero for many Serbs, columnist Blagovest Benichev writes in Trud:

“A day after the sentence was handed down the Cyrillic transcription in the Serbian Wikipedia article about Mladić was changed briefly from 'Ratko Mladić' to 'A Serbian hero'. Such provocations are part of everyday life in Serbia. When I drove across Serbia to Bosnia and Herzegovina, shortly before the border I was surprised to see a huge billboard in the middle of nowhere bearing the words: 'Welcome to the Republika Srpska'. You can see similar signs everywhere in Bosnia, as you enter every town from the Serbian border to Sarajevo.”

Oslobođenje (BA) /

Confrontation with the past

The verdict against Ratko Mladić could help the Serbs to come to terms with their crimes - provided they want to, writes Oslobođenje:

“Nine out of ten Serbs in Serbia not only deny the genocide in Srebrenica, but also don't believe that massacring 8,000 Bosniak civilians is a heinous crime. In the minds of the Serbs, Mladić's victims don't even exist because they were simply collateral damage in the Serbian people's 'fight for independence'. ... Building monuments for war criminals like Ratko Mladić won't help the Serbs to see the truth. Only through confronting their past and openly recognising their innocent victims can this be achieved.”

Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

All criminals must pay for their crimes

The guilty must be tracked down and held to account even in difficult circumstances, Ilta-Sanomat writes:

“The idea of justice means that generals and politicians must assume just as much responsibility for their actions as normal criminals. Until now, however, few tyrants or generals with bloodstained hands have had to answer for their crimes. Some of those responsible are fanatics driven by nationalism, ideologies or beliefs. Even suicide bombers and their backers need no fear judgement. Nevertheless justice must be done. Otherwise any remaining hope that there really is an international community will fade and die. Those who commit atrocities must be tracked down and brought before the courts where the laws and not blind vengeance rule the day. With Ratko Mladić this is now the case.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Rallying cry against racism

The ruling against Ratko Mladić is a warning to us all, Der Standard believes:

“The mass murder that Mladić was responsible for was preceded by a massive anti-Muslim propaganda campaign. Bosnians with Muslim names were labelled as extremists, radicals and terrorists. The people were told that they all represented a threat. That gives one pause for thought in view of the prejudices and growing animosity Muslims face in Europe today. In 1990s Bosnia-Herzigovina we saw how hostility against certain groups can be fuelled to such an extent that after a while no one even questions it any more, with the worst possible consequences. For that reason the Mladić judgement is a warning to us all to treat people not as members of this or that group but as individual citizens.”

Delo (SI) /

Nothing but empty symbolism

The judgement won't really achieve anything, Delo laments:

“Today, 22 years after the worst crimes committed in Europe since World War II, the most important question is how the judgement will benefit the families of Mladić's victims. Unfortunately, it is little more than a symbolic gesture. Yes, one of the chief executioners responsible for the butchery in the Balkans got his just punishment. But does that mean that the violent ideology he championed for so long - and which he implemented with his bloody deeds - will be forgotten? Not by a long shot. In trying to ensure that the dead would not be forgotten, the international community has forgotten the living. Regardless of their ethnic origin or religious affiliation, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina are the hostages of cannibalistic elites.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Warmonger still has supporters

Despite his conviction Ratko Mladić is still a hero for some politicians, Večernji list complains:

“While the media, and even Serbian outlets, haven't stooped so low as to defend Mladić, the politicians couldn't restrain themselves. Mladen Ivanić, a member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina who is regarded as moderate compared to [the president of the Republika Srpska] Milorad Dodik, has already assured Mladić of his support in appeal proceedings with the remark that such a sentence could lead to new political tensions in Bosnia. If it were up to him no doubt murderers, rapists and thieves would be released so that their family members or nations needn't feel offended.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Settling scores with the Serbs

The scales of justice at the Hague tribunal are tipped in the West's favour, Rzeczpospolita believes:

“The most important Serbian military leaders and politicians were sentenced there or died in their cells. Yet the tribunal has found few representatives of other Yugoslavian peoples guilty, and those who were found guilty were low in rank. However the Yugoslav Wars were not just the result Serbian nationalism or Serbian cruelty. No doubt the real reason is that the Serbs lost the conflict with the West and were an easy target. But that's no reason to think that all is well with the dispensation of international justice.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Press ahead with EU integration now

The judgement against Ratko Mladić should serve to remind the EU of its promise to the Balkan states, Il Sole 24 Ore stresses:

“Europe is trying to achieve peace in the Balkans by holding out the prospect - or the illusion - of integration in the EU. A promise that has been made more attractive by linking it to hundreds of millions of euros in funding, according to the mantra at the EU Western Balkans Summit last July in Trieste: where goods are traded, no soldiers march. ... Because Europe, by prematurely recognising states in the 1990s under pressure from Germany, contributed to the collapse of Yugoslavia. A mistake that was compensated for with military missions and economic measures. The credibility it thus gained must not be wasted now.”