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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.

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“Justice is sometimes slower than you would like … there are a lot of holes and weaknesses in the system,” says Mr. Ellis. “But we are moving from impunity to accountability. Those that commit heinous crimes can no longer easily think they will get away with it. For those of us who watch this, it is really a remarkable development.”

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Mladic was captured last week at a small farmhouse in the Serbian region of Vojvodina near the city of Novi Sad. For at least five years, until Mr. Milosevic was sent to The Hague after a mass rejection of his rule in Belgrade, Mladic was often hiding in the open, seen at weddings and on the ski slopes. For the past eight years, he has been fully a fugitive.

His arrest lifts the prime argument against Serbia joining the European Union – both The Netherlands and possibly Ireland were ready to deny Belgrade candidacy status. Mladic's arrest was announced by Serb President Boris Tadic on Thursday even as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was headed to Belgrade to issue a warning that Serbian candidacy talks next fall were in jeopardy. However, Mr. Tadic insists the arrest was not linked to EU candidacy issues.

Since the formation of UN tribunals on Yugoslavia and Rwanda, a significant set of international justice measures and mechanisms has emerged. These include the ICC, which was created in 2002, The Hague trial of Liberia’s Charles Taylor, the development of legal principles like “universal jurisdiction,” and the UN Security Council’s recent willingness to refer individuals – and even heads of state – to The Hague.

The Yugoslav tribunal has indicted some 161 people and has been slowly shutting down. But it and other courts have developed rules, procedures, jurisprudence, and other experience and tools necessary for handling fair trails.

Ana Uzelac, an expert on the Yugoslav tribunal, argues that while it is folly to assume international courts can solve all problems or be expected to arrive on the world scene in a state of perfection, progress can be seen.

“There is a new legal-political paradigm that if you do bad things and you are small or mid-sized, you go to The Hague,” she says. “We aren’t going to go back on that now. Is this justice? People argue that Srebrenica happened after the [Yugoslav] tribunal was formed. But this is not convincing. Bringing Mladic to justice offers a great deal of legitimacy. However delayed. We can say, ‘Look, he is here at The Hague.’ That is an important message to send.”

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