PEEK

Only 35 Years in Prison? For Crimes Against Humanity?

Vanja Petrovic: The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal's recent sentencing of Milan Martic is an injustice and an insult to his victims.
As I read the following words in a Washington Post about the recent sentencing of Milan Martic to 35 years in prison for war crimes and crimes against humanity, a nasty, disgusting chill ran through my body, and I'm still fighting it off.

During Milan Martic's trial in the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, he said that "all he did was to protect the citizens of Serb Krajina regardless of where they were from."

There are so many levels of why this statement is absolutely disgusting and insulting. I'm numbed by where to start. Maybe it's because I was born to a Croatian mother and a Serbian father that the recent ruling strikes me as such an injustice to his victims.

So, I could splash expletives all over this page, but I won't do that because that would be immature and not very constructive.

Instead I'll begin by saying that I don't understand the notion of saying that a specific section of land belongs to a specific group of people. The statement is all the more confusing when you realize that Croatians and Serbians are essentially the same people, separated only by a slight variation in religions in which most don't even truly believe.

Martic was sentenced to 35 years in prison on Tuesday, and I believe that a New York Times quote explicitly exposes the sheer idiocy of the whole situation:
The Yugoslav war crimes tribunal convicted a wartime leader of Croatia's rebel Serbs of murder, torture and persecution Tuesday and sentenced him to 35 years in prison for a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign of non-Serbs in Croatia.
He got 35 years for 16 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity? He got 35 years for "murder, persecution, torture and deportation of Croats, Muslims and other non Serb civilians during the early 1990s?"

Martic was a major player in displacing tens of thousands on non-Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia. He admitted to ordering an "unlawful shelling of the Croatian capital Zagreb in 1995, in which 7 people died and more than 200 were wounded."

How do you sleep after sentencing a war criminal so such an insignificant prison sentence? He committed crimes against humanity ...

I don't know how I feel about the idea of an international court. There is a danger that it could become the arm to carry out the will of the most powerful country and keep the rest of the world in check. But at the same time, if you're going to have one, at least have it stand for something. Don't hand out sissy little prison sentences to individuals who deliberately committed crimes against vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and civilians. If the court is going to do that, we might as well not have a court at all because the message being sent in this recent ruling is that it lacks the power to really be effective.

The message being sent is that war criminals will only be kind of held accountable for their actions.
Vanja Petrovic is an editorial intern with AlterNet.
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