Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

The genius of Carla del Ponte

Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), is complaining that Serbia is unlikely to arrest the fugitive Bosnian Serb indicted war-criminal Ratko Mladic because the prospect of Kosovo’s independence being recognised is ‘distracting’ Belgrade. “Politically it is a very delicate situation,” del Ponte told Reuters in an interview; “In the end the Kosovo decision, in my personal evaluation, prevents the arrest of Mladic.”

What she is saying is that Serbia should be rewarded for its failure to arrest Mladic by having the recognition of Kosovo’s independence postponed. You couldn’t make it up. Serbia’s not-very-bright retrograde nationalist prime minister, Vojislav Kostunica, could almost intepret this as an incentive to avoid arresting Mladic in the hope of getting Carla’s help in further postponing the recognition of Kosovo.

Del Ponte’s disastrous tenure as chief prosecutor has witnessed the failure to indict almost any senior figure from Serbia or Montenegro for war-crimes in Croatia or Bosnia – a handful of secondary figures were indicted, but not a single member of the political and military leadership in Belgrade that planned and carried out the aggression against Croatia and Bosnia, other than the deceased Slobodan Milosevic; the failure to convict a single member of this leadership; the failure to arrest the top Bosnian Serb war-criminals, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic; and a political deal between the ICTY and Belgrade that prevented Bosnia from using the uncensored minutes of the Yugoslav Supreme Defence Council as evidence in its case against Serbia for genocide at the International Court of Justice, something that was very likely responsible for Serbia’s acquittal. All this is, of course, not solely the fault of del Ponte; her senior colleagues at the ICTY share responsibility, as does the international administration in Bosnia and the international community in general. But she has played a major role in these fiascos. I have explained the ICTY’s failure in greater detail here and here.

There are various possible explanations for the failure of Serbia to arrest Mladic, of which the most convincing, in my opinion, is the one given to me by a Serbian journalist whom I recently met; she told me that Mladic could provide evidence of Serbia’s involvement in the Srebrenica genocide, thereby challenging Serbia’s acquittal by the International Court of Justice, and that therefore the Serbian government will never allow him to fall into the ICTY’s hands. But whatever the truth, we can be sure that the failure to arrest Mladic is not due to the ‘distraction’ of Kosovo. Why, in Milosevic’s day, the Serbian security services had no difficulty bumping off any number of senior officials, no matter what kind of ‘distraction’ the regime was faced with elsewhere…

Saturday, 8 December 2007 - Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Croatia, Former Yugoslavia, Kosovo, Serbia

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