photos by Bruce Sterling
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This morning, The Hague tribunal commenced the trial of Ratko Mladic, ex commander of the army of the Serbian republic in Bosnia. Mothers of the slain gathered in front of the court.
Twenty years ago, Mladic started his criminal activities, while still an officer of the army of disintegrating Yugoslavia. A year ago, Mladic was arrested, after years of concealment, mostly within Belgrade. Today Mladic, aged 70, is sitting in the court neatly dressed as a civilian, without his legendary military cap.
As the judge reads the indictment, Mladic cheerily waving to the audience and even applauds certain parts of the recitation. “The wolf loses his hair but not his character,” as the Serbian proverb puts it.
The indictment precisely proceeds as a short elementary lesson of the bloody fall of Yugoslavia.
Ratko Mladic is facing 11 charges: ethnic cleansing, genocide, crimes against humanity, torture, sexual violence, the wanton destruction of the urban fabric of Sarajevo, and so forth.
The maps of the indictment are a trail of blood. The borders of these maps were the major outcome of the Dayton peace treaty of 1995, signed a couple of months after the genocide of Srebrenica.
A witness appears to describe the concentration camp where she was systematically raped. I didn’t even look at their faces when they would enter the room or go out. They had killed my whole family: I was the only survivor. I was just asking the same question day after day: why?
These people lived together for centuries, and then, in a burst of bloody disaster, some became criminal nationalists when their neighbors, now demonized as Others, had to be annihilated at their hands. There is little going in the Hague courtroom that wasn’t described by Hannah Arendt during Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem in 1963.
It outdoes Hollywood, though. Angelina Jolie’s recent movie, “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” is a pale replica of this horror reality-show, live from the Hague.