Karadzic verdict did not bring justice.
The night before Radovan Karadzic’s verdict, I laid in bed to the sound of a thunderstorm. Maybe it was the thunderstorm itself or the fact that in the morning his verdict would finally be delivered, but I’d close my eyes and picture myself as the scared little girl I was growing up in Sarajevo during the genocidal war of Aggression perpetrated by Karadzic and his fellow Serbs against the Bosnian Muslims, Catholics, and other non-Serbs. I pictured the way I felt waiting to hear if my father was dead or alive, the way I felt growing up to the sounds of snipers and grenades instead of lullabies, and the hunger and fear I had waiting for my luck to be over and for me to become just one more of the children killed by Serbian snipers in Sarajevo. Two hours before the verdict was to be announced, I finally fell asleep.
I dreamt about Bosnia, the land I was once privileged to live in, the land that was taken from me. I dreamt about the family I never got to know, those we buried and those we still have not found. I dreamt about the dead in Sarajevo, in Foca, in Srebrenica, in Visegrad, in Zvornik, in Brcko, in Prijedor, in Doboj, in Gorazde, and in so many other places throughout the beautiful and destroyed Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I woke up just in time to hear the verdicts on the 11 separate counts of crimes against humanity, two of them counts of genocide. The first hit the hardest when they found him not guilty of genocide in 7 different Bosnian municipalities. My stomach dropped. The ICTY chamber concluded that while Karadzic was guilty of murder, extermination, forcible removal, and execution; he was not guilty of genocide. Maybe it’s the word the genocide that seemed harsh to them; but the formerly mentioned crimes definitely constitute a genocide. After all what is genocide if it is not murder and extermination?
Families and survivors in seven separate municipalities in Bosnia did not get to see justice, but I continued watching in hopes that the Sarajevo and Srebrenica verdicts would be different. The ICTY Chamber declared that they found Radovan Karadzic guilty in orchestrating the Siege of Sarajevo and that he was instrumental in the “criminal enterprise of terror” against the civilians of Sarajevo. It was yet another conviction of crimes against humanity. Then finally the Chamber delivered the verdict on Srebrenica: Guilty.
Radovan Karadzic was found guilty on 10 out of the 11 counts against him for crimes against humanity, including genocide, terror, persecution, and forcible removal. He was given a 40-year sentence, with credit to the time served since his capture in 2008. Some people rejoiced. Some felt justice was served.
I did not. 40 years for 11,541 murdered in Sarajevo, 8,372 murdered in Srebrenica, over 100,000 murdered throughout Bosnia, over 50,000 raped throughout Bosnia, over 1.2 million displaced. 40 years for all of those crimes is not justice. 40 years in a cushy prison is nothing. A lifetime in prison is not enough for the crimes committed by Karadzic and his ilk.
Some Bosnians feel that small victories are still victories that should be celebrated. When a verdict is handed out for genocide; and the Judges make statements such as “conflict” instead of War of Aggression, when they say “criminal enterprise of terror” instead of terrorism, when they say “forcible removal” and “extermination” instead of genocide, it is difficult for me to find any victory in that, even a small one. When genocide is deserving of a 40-year sentence, it is difficult for me to find a victory in that. When we still have not buried our dead, when we find new mass graves each year, when the genocide that occurred throughout the land is diminished, when rape survivors are forced to live next to their rapists, when genocidal war criminals are still celebrated in Serbia and Republika Srpska, when Republika Srpska (an entity carved out of the genocide of the Bosnian people) still exists, when war criminals get let off with a few years served, when school homes are named after genocidal war criminals, when we say that Karadzic is responsible for Srebrenica but not for the genocides in other cities and villages; it is hard for me to find a victory in any of that. It is difficult to find justice in any of that.
Radovan Karadzic was sentenced to 40 years today, but the Bosnian people have been sentenced to a lifetime of pain, grief, and a life without their loved ones. The mothers of Srebrenica have been sentenced to lives without their children. The children of Sarajevo have been sentenced to lives without their parents. All throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnians have been sentenced to a lifetime of mourning.
We have been sentenced to mourn the 100,000 murdered, the 1.5 million displaced, the over 50,000 raped, the hundreds and thousands of childhoods lost, the thousands of mosques and cultural sites destroyed, the thousands and thousands of those tortured. So, please excuse me if I do not feel that 40 years is justice served for the pain that my fellow Bosnians and I continue to carry on our back each day.