What Praljak’s Death Means for Those Still Waiting for Justice

Slobodan Praljak, a convicted Bosnian Croat war criminal died after drinking poison as he was declared guilty in the International Criminal Tribunal. Praljak was the commander of the Bosnian Croat Defence Forces and failed to prevent murders, attacks on members of international organisations, and the destruction of the Ottoman Old Bridge as well as numerous mosques. When he discovered that his forces were rounding up and systematically executing Muslims in 1993, he did not make any effort to stop the slaughter.

Slobodan Praljak, from CNN
Old Bridge, from Visit Herzegovina

Praljak was charged on 26 accounts, with some listed below;

  • Persecutions on political, racial, and religious grounds
  • 9 breaches of the Geneva conventions
  • Rape, forcible transfer, imprisonment

Upon hearing the news, Croatia’s president criticised the court’s ruling as a “deep moral injustice” against Praljak, stating that “the verdict incorrectly assesses the role of Croatian leadership in the war.”

From BBC News

The Bosnian Conflict is a little-known stain on European history; it was part of a wider conflict that came after the breakup of the former Yugoslavian Republic. From 1991-1995 there was a concentrated effort by Eastern European countries such as Croatia and Serbia to ethnically cleanse Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia of Muslims. This led to Srebrenica —  “the worst [massacre] on European soil since the Second World War”, with between 7,000 to 8,000 Muslim men and boys being murdered by the Serbian army within a week. Overall, the conflict led to more than 100,000 people dying and 2.2 million being displaced (most of these being Bosnian and Croat Muslims). Genocidal rape was one of the main tactics used in the conflict, approximately 12,000 victims were identified by the UN Human Rights Commission, with some of the victims being girls as young as 12.

Srebrenica Anniversary funeral, from Al Jazeera
From the Congress of North American Bosniaks

Twenty years later, Bosnia has made some progress. Every year on the anniversary of the massacre (July 11th), funerals take place in a town near Srebrenica, as more and more mass graves are uncovered annually, as Serbian soldiers dug up and moved many of the graves to avoid indictment. Approximately “six thousand two hundred and forty-one” of the 8,000 victims have been identified. However, Praljak’s death will not satisfy those who have waited twenty long and torturous years for justice. Though the Old Bridge destroyed by his soldiers has been rebuilt, the lives of Praljak’s victims along with those of the other war criminals cannot be.

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