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Ratko Mladic's arrival at Hague bolsters promise of international courts

Ratko Mladic's extradition to The Hague Tuesday to face 11 counts of war crimes in Bosnia reflects a growing acceptance of seeking justice in global courts instead of the battlefield.

By Staff writer / May 31, 2011

Former Serbian military commander Ratko Mladic travels in a white armored vehicle as he is transported in a police convoy from a Belgrade courthouse and jail complex to the airport May 31.

Ivan Milutinovic/Reuters

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Paris

Bosnian Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic was placed on a Hague-bound airplane Tuesday after losing his appeal not to be sent there on 11 counts of war crimes in Bosnia. His arrival the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), set up in 1993, further legitimizes global efforts to establish laws and courts to prosecute crimes that for most of human history took place with impunity and were usually resolved by wars, treaties, time, and forgetting.

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Attempts at such forms of international justice have been fraught, imperfect, often highly political, expensive, and selective, many jurists will agree. But in the past two decades, the world has increasingly viewed referrals to The Hague of those accused of large-scale atrocities as the norm – a sea change in the way the world does business. Libya's Col. Muammar Qaddafi is under investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Sudan's President Omar Al Bashir has been indicted for war crimes in Darfur.

At The Hague, Mladic, who was in hiding for 16 years, will join his war-partner Radovan Karadzic at the same suburban jail where former Serb President Slobodan Milosevic died in 2005. Mr. Milosevic was the acknowledged mastermind of the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

“The ICTY [tribunal] has always seen these three as the most significant players,” says Mark Ellis of the International Bar Association in London. “Mladic is indicted for direct responsibility. He is the individual closest to the orders being given. I think if the court had failed to try all three it may have been seen as a failure.”

Mladic is expected to face 11 counts in leading a “criminal enterprise” that involved the Srebrenica massacre, the siege of Sarajevo, and other crimes of “ethnic cleansing” that brought years of carnage and terror to Europe, a short plane ride from cities like Vienna and Geneva.

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