Justice finally caught up with Bosnian war crimes fugitive, 63 year old Radovan Karadzic, who was arrested by Serbian police, while illegally practising medicine in Belgrade.
Hands dripping with Bosnian- Muslim blood, psychiatrist Karadzic, a former Bosnia Serb leader, is the main architect of the Bosnian Genocide and crimes against humanity committed during the 1992- 1995 Bosnian war.
Karadzic is to be extradited to the Hague, to face justice in a move many have lauded as international justice at work.
The irony if not really interesting is that Karadzic, will be incarcerated in the same cell his political mentor, former Serbian leader, Slobodan Milosevic, died in while also on trial for Genocide, in 2006.
News of Karadzics arrest was received with jubilation by Bosnian Muslims who since Monday, jammed the streets of Sarajevo in celebration.
Here in Rwanda, Muamer Pekaric yet another survivor, of the brutal atrocities inflicted upon the Bosnian Muslims had reason to join his country people in celebration.
Thirteen years back, Bosnian Pekaric witnessed his country burn to ashes; today he stands tall as he proudly narrates his country’s recovery – a story of unity and reconciliation from a bitter past.
Even to date, bodies of the men and boys who were murdered at Srebrenica by Karadzic are being reburied after being reunited with their families following their identification using DNA technology.
“Genocide is an ugly word. It describes the deadliest instincts that humanity has retained. Whether it be in Bosnia or the 100-day killing rampage that was the Rwandan genocide, it shows the depth of the ability of humanity to hate,” Pekaric who is studying economics in Tripoli, defines Genocide from his own personal experience, while visiting The New Times offices in Kigali.
Bosnia is one of the several small States that emerged from the break-up of Yugoslavia; which was composed of ethnic and religious groups that had been historic rivals, even bitter enemies, these were Serbs (Orthodox Christians), Croats (Catholics) and ethnic Albanians (Muslims), descending into the horrors of the 1992-1995 genocide that claimed over 200,000 lives, with more than 20,000 missing also feared dead, and two million people displaced.
Pekaric is one of the few Bosnian survivors to have visited Rwanda; he was in the country to join the Islamic Community sponsored by The World Islamic Call Society to participate in the end of 100 days commemoration of the Rwandan Genocide.
Formed in 1972, the World Islamic Call Society is an international organization based in Libya, uniting Muslims globally to find lasting solutions to community problems; it also seeks to support Islamic societies in identifying Islamic civilization and culture in the world.
Accompanied by the Mufti of Rwanda Sheikh Swaleh Harelimana, head of the Rwandan Islamic Community, Pekaric gives an account of the Bosnian Genocide.
Pekaric says, while Bosnia and Rwanda share a history of genocide, Bosnia’s conflict was religious centering around three main ethnic groups; the Serbs, Croats, and Muslims (Christians vs Muslims) leading to the genocide while Rwanda’s genocide was ethnic based.
The genesis on the Bosnian mayhem
Pekaric recalls that during the early days of the Genocide, as the Serbs gained ground, they began to systematically roundup local Muslims in scenes of mass murders; using all sorts of weaponry, mass shootings, forced repopulation of entire towns, and burning up concentration camps targeting mostly men and boys.
“The Serbs also terrorized Muslim families into fleeing their villages by using rape as a weapon against women and girls,” Pekaric relives the horrific ordeal.
The Moslems had established secret camps but still, these were discovered and targeted as mass killings went on including the destruction of Moslem mosques and Bosnian, historic architecture.
International community ignorance or complicity?
Pekaric recounted how like Rwanda the international community abandoned Bosnians during their time of need, “there are very many similar issues that Rwanda and Bosnia have in common, the UN and other world superpowers ignored what was happening in Bosnia, a similar case with Rwanda.”
In a case of ‘too little too late’, the UN finally responded by imposing economic sanctions on Serbia, while deploying its troops mostly on humanitarian grounds to protect the distribution of food and medicine to displaced Muslims, with restrictions against militarily interference.
Thus they remained ‘steadfastly neutral’ no matter the carnage; this is more like what happened here when Romeo Dallaire could not intervene to stop the crisis yet he had the troops and weapons, Pekaric draws a comparison with Rwanda.
Belatedly, the rest of the world’s attention turned to Bosnia, now teetering on the brink of complete collapse having been classified a failed state, after most of the damage had been done.
As the Genocide gradually ended in 1995 a new alliance unifying Bosnian Muslims and the Croats against the Serbs was created. However, this new Moslem-Croat alliance failed to stop the Serbs from attacking Moslem towns in Bosnia, which had been declared by the UN as safe havens.
A total of six Muslim towns had been established as safe havens in May 1993 under the supervision of UN peacekeepers.
At one point some of the worst Genocidal activities of the four-year-old conflict occurred when the Serbs systematically selected and then slaughtered nearly 8,000 men and boys between the ages of twelve and sixty.
In August 1995, effective military intervention finally began with a massive NATO bombing campaign in response to the killings at Srebrenica, targeting Serbian artillery positions throughout Bosnia. The bombardment continued into October.
By the end of the bombardment, Serb leader Milosevic was ready for negotiations which started in the United States in November, 1995 – leading to a peace accord.
Main terms of the agreement included partitioning Bosnia into two main portions known as the Bosnian Serb Republic and the Muslim-Croat Federation.
According to Pekaric, the agreement also called for democratic elections and stipulated that war criminals would be handed over to the International Criminal Court for prosecution.
Comparison of Bosnia and Rwanda
He says that there are startling similarities between Bosnian and Rwandan genocides.
“I want to make this a point of emphasis; I have been following up President Paul Kagame’s courage the reconstruction and how the communities reunited again, this is the same case with the Bosnian President Haris Silajdzic. It is interesting how the two Presidents have taken the same route after their countries have gone through almost the same trouble,” says Pekaric.
“I was personally impressed that somewhere in the world there was another President determined with the will to reconstruct his country - Bosnia and Rwanda have a lot in common,” said Harelimana.