HAIKU (MAUI), HAWAII GLOBAL AFFAIRS
An update to "Beat Swords into Plowshares"-essay
Once Unrepentant General Repents, Apologizes to All War Victims
But English-language media ignore the news; Only Dutch papers report the apology
HAIKU, Maui, July 4 - The once unrepentant Serb General Ratko Mladic, charged with war crimes in Bosnia, who railed against the presiding judge in his second public appearance at the Hague War Crimes Tribunal on July 4 (see Serb General Ejected from Courtroom), made an extraordinary turn-about-face when he showed up in the same courtroom on Dec 8 for a status conference. He repented and apologized to all innocent war victims.
"I'm sorry for the innocent people who were slain on each side of the conflict in former Yugoslavia." Mladic said during the status conference in the Trial Chamber. "I want to bow my head to all those innocent people. I did not want that war. I cannot stand the mention of war anymore."
Mladic also asked the judge for a list of all those killed in the war, regardless of their ethnicity or whether or not they took part in the war, so that he could "bow to the innocent victims."
In our June 2 TiM essay "Beat Swords into Plowshares", that's exactly what we suggested that Mladic and other defendants should do:
"The time has come for the Serb wartime heroes to stop blaming others for their failures, to tell the full truth, confess their wrongs, offer amends to the victims, and then accept judgment standing upright again. At least, that's what this writer would do in their shoes." (an excerpt from "Beat Swords into Plowshares")
The Dutch judge Alphons Orie, who presided over the session, was not very impressed by the apology, according to the Dutch media. He pointed out to Mladic that during the preparatory sessions mainly logistical issues were involved; an apology is something (to save) for the trial, he said. Mladic's trial is scheduled to begin Mar 27, 2012.
English-language Media Silence
Remarkably, not a single major English-language media organization that we are aware of carried the news of Mladic's apology. Had it not been for a Dutch friend of mine who knew about my interest in the case, this writer would not have heard about it, either. This friend ended up translating the Dutch reports (left photo) for us because we could not find anything about it in the English-language papers. Yet six months ago, major global media headlines were screaming in bold print with news of Mladic's arrest last May. The establishment "lamestream" press used it as another opportunity to heap the blame on the Serbs, as if by reflex, just as they did during the war.
Such a contrast in treatment of news, slanting it to fit one's point of view, is only the latest example of how major media manipulate the information. It was rare in this writer's experience as war correspondent that they would be caught in outright lies and fabrications, although that did happen, too. Usually, they did it by only presenting one side of a story, while omitting the other. Such as showing the damage caused by a mortar, for example, but not who fired the shell. The default was it was always the "bad" Serbs. And now we see the same thing happening in this case with Mladic's apology. Only the "bad" news about him gets reported, not his repentance.
Meanwhile, Mladic continues to raise the issue of his failing health in his occasional courtroom appearances. Indeed, he appeared emaciated compared to the way he looked six months ago, when he first was first whoen in public view at the Hague. Check out these photos and judge for yourself. The left one was taken June 3, the right one on Dec 8.
Mladic told Judge Orie that he had lost 20 kilos (over 40 pounds) while in prison. But the judge rejected his appeal for more medical tests, saying that he had been examined by doctors and his condition was seen as "good enough" to attend the preliminary hearing, according to a major Dutch newspaper report (see Mladic betuigt spijt om slachtoffers oorlog - in Dutch, we're afraid, thought we do have a rough translation - click on left photo to see a scanned story; also see Mladic Trial, by SENSE agency). The judge rejected any new medical examinations.
Such a cavalier attitude by the court is nothing new at the Hague. A number of Serb defendants have died while incarcerated there. The most notorious of those was Serb President Milosevic who also complained about a lack of medical care he was (not) receiving for his heart condition. He died in 2006 (see Milosevic: Who Says There's No Death Penalty at the Hague?, Mar 2006, also see "Put the UN Justice on Trial" - TiM Bulletin, Aug 1998). Will Mladic be next?
Offer to Help and Ensure Fair Trial
When the news broke of Mladic's arrest and extradition to the Hague, this writer wrote to the War Crimes Tribunal offering to assist with Mladic and Karadzic trials as a witness and/or advisor to the defendants, should they choose to meet with him. Here's an excerpt from that June 1, 2011 letter:
On June 15, the TiM editor also wrote to Gen Ratko Mladic at the Hague in Serbian and extended the same offer to him. As of this writing, we have not received a personal reply. But Gen Mladic's last week's stunning apology in court does suggest a significant change of heart has already taken place in him.
Karadzic Trial Testimony
As for the trial of the other "star defendant," the former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, this writer has been in phone and email communications with the War Crimes Tribunal since about September. It now appears likely that the TiM editor will be at the Hague to meet with Karadzic and his defense team, and possibly also give testimony in court, in the second half of February. Karadzic was arrested and extradited to the Hague in July 2008. We will keep you posted on further developments from time to time.
Bob Djurdjevic is a former war correspondent from Bosnia and Serbia. He is also a writer, musician, a thrice-ordained Inca-trained shaman and a business consultant based in Maui, Hawaii.
Also check out... Beat Swords into Plowshares at the Hague (June 2), Humane Sides of Accused War Criminals, Sometimes Truth Hurts, But It Always Sets You Free (June 6), Milosevic: Who Says There's No Death Penalty at the Hague? (Mar 2006); "Put the UN Justice on Trial" - TiM Bulletin (8/17/98); Rise and Fall of General Perisic: From Hero to Snitch (Mar 2005); The End Game Is Near: Kosovo, Montenegro Next Serb Dominos to Fall? (May 1996); "The Woman Who Broke Gen. Mladic's Heart" (Mar 1996); Bosnia: What’s the Full Truth? (Letter to Wall Street Journal, Feb 1996); Bosnia War Diary (July 1994); All in a Day's Work (Karadzic) (July 1995); Wartime Diary Notes about Karadzic, Krajisnik (May 1994); "Collateral Damage" Hits Home (9/11/11)