The fate of the Butchers of Bosnia might have a lesson for others

The Bosnian war(1992-1995) remains one of the darkest chapters in recent history. Atrocities were committed during this conflict that would fit in with a medieval world rather than the last decade of the 20th century.

Perhaps the most shocking atrocity of this war was the massacre in Srebrenica. This town in Eastern Bosnia had been declared a safe zone by the United Nations. However, the Bosnian Serb army led by General Ratko Mladic disregarded this and overran the town in July 1995. And then as the UN military contingent deployed to protect the enclave watched helplessly they separated males from the age of 12 upwards from their families and led them away.

According to witnesses, girls as young as 13 were raped by Serb soldiers, some were hanged from the trees. Mladic personally assured the women that their men would be safe and sent them off on foot to walk to the next Bosnian held town. And then over the next three days the Serb army systematically tortured and killed 8,000 men and boys, burying their bodies in unmarked graves in leveled fields so that they are never discovered.

Well they were and on Wednesday Mladic was convicted for this and nine other crimes and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mladic thus joins his partner in crime Radovan Karadžić who was sentenced to 40 years in prison last year.

While we can say that these sentences are only academic and symbolic as there are hundreds, maybe thousands, others who committed unspeakable atrocities during this war and will never be caught or punished yet it does send a message: that no matter how imperfect is this world and even if the majority of those who do evil get away and die peacefully in their beds justice, does catch up with a few and they have to pay for their crimes.

Karadzic and Mladic evaded capture for over a decade and must have thought they will never be caught, but they were wrong.They were caught like rats and will now die in prison.

And maybe, just maybe, their fate will make anyone who is contemplating acts of evil against others get a doubt in his head and think that it is not a guarantee he will get away with it. To quote words of Sahir when he delivers a warning to such men:

ḳhuunḳhuddetāhaijalladoñ kay maskankāsurāġh

[No matter how much one hides in their safe houses
Blood spilled itself leads justice to the doors of butchers]

lay kay harbuuñdnikaltīhaihathelīpecharāġh

[No matter how much masks and makeup you put on
Every drop of blood becomes a search light]

Tum ne jisḳhuunkomaqtalmeIñdabānāchāhā
aajvokūcha o bāzārmeiñ aa niklāhai

[The crimes you tried to hide by burying underground
Today everyone in the world knows about them]

Zulmphirzulmhaibarhtāhai to miTjaatāhai
ḳhuunphirḳhuunhaiTapkegā to jumjāyegā

[Brutality is finite, when it exceeds a limit it is erased
Blood is blood, once spilled it leaves stains forever]

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