As I got on the computer this afternoon, I saw an article about the trial of Ratko Mladic, a Serbian millitary commander on trial for crimes against humanity commited during the Bosnian war. The Associated Press article reports that, almost 20 years after the Bosnian war, he has finally been brought to trial. He is being held in a Dutch jail, “receiving food and medical care that would likely be the envy of many in Bosnia.”
Ratko Mladic is regarded as a hero by many Bosnian Serbs, but he is hated by the Bosnian Muslims and Croatians, who were the victims of his atrocities.
“Whenever I go to Sarajevo, I kills someone in passing,” he is reported to have boasted.
One thing I found fascinating was the fact that victims of the atrocities were in the courtroom, and at times they shouted at him, condemning his actions.
Proving that life imitates art, I saw a German movie called Storm a few months ago that was very similar to this scene. It’s about a woman who is trying a Bosnian Serb for crimes against humanity committed during the war. When one of her witnesses kills himself, she realizes that he was protecting his sister, a Bosnian Muslim who married and is living in Germany. His sister was kidnapped and put in a rape camp in a city named Villina Kosa during the war. The movie follows her attempts to get her to testify in the trial, as well as the United Nations attempt to sweep these new allegations under the rug.
Storm is a great movie in the classic court room drama tradition. At one point, the movie seems to slow a little bit as the attorneys attempt to deal away the rape camp allegations. However, those scenes are interesting for a different reasons.
First of all, I learned that the Bosnian war crimes trials were the first time in history that rape was prosecuted as a war crime. That, in and of itself is very interesting, the idea that countries and people finally realize that rape can be used as a weapon of war, an attack on the civilian population. My greatest regret when I was living in South Korea was the fact that I never went to see the comfort women protest in Seoul. Every Wednesday, the surviving women who were kidnapped and put in Japanese rape camps during WWII go to protest before the Japanese Embassy. They want an apology and financial compensation, neither of which they will ever receive. I couldn’t help thinking about those women while I watched this movie.
Second of all, it brings up the problem of war crimes prosecution. As one of the characters says, there are thousands of Bosnian Serbs who grew up in the 20 years since the war, who are not responsible for anything that happened in the war, who want to be members of the European Union and all the benefits that that membership grants. They do not want to be counted as the same people who commited the atrocities in Bosnia and Kosovo. One Serb said, “We want to be the country of Novak Djokovic, not Ratko Mladic.”
The movie is very compelling, and I definitely recommend it to everyone.