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From Bosnia to Myanmar

  • Published at 11:31 am October 25th, 2017
  • Last updated at 12:39 pm October 25th, 2017
From Bosnia to Myanmar

In the 2007 film The Hunting Party, veteran American war journalist Simon Hunt, played by Richard Gere, is assigned to a war zone. There, Hunt has an affair with a local Muslim woman. Subsequently, he travels to a place near her village to report on a Serbian military build-up.

Before he reaches, the Serbs commit a massacre in the village, which is supposedly under the UN protection. The journalist finds the dead body of his pregnant girlfriend, raped and shot at the abdomen. He vows revenge on the Bosnian Serb political leader Dragoslav Bogdanovic, known as “the Fox.”

Later, in a classic conservative move on live news, a network anchor asks Hunt to elaborate on how the Serb attack may have been a reaction to Muslim provocations from inside the village. It was then that the journalist totally loses his composure and ruins the broadcast as well as his career.

In the fall of 2000, Hunt tricks his former cameraman and his assistant to go after the Fox, who is now wanted for war crimes for a $5 million bounty on his head. The trio gets caught by the Fox’s bodyguards.

A group of CIA operatives rescue them before they are executed, but allows the Fox to flee the scene. It becomes evident to the trio that, even in the international community, there are people who do not wish the Fox to be tried.

The journos successfully capture the war criminal and instead of trying to claim the bounty, they release him in Polje. By then, the village is home to only surviving family members of Bogdanovic’s war crimes, and the political leader is left to be lynched by the vengeful mob.

A message comes up on screen: “In theory, the official hunt for war criminals in Bosnia continues to this day. However, the two most wanted men -- Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladić -- continue to elude the US, UN, EU, NATO, the Hague, and all in the civilised world who claim to be looking for them.

In the 10 years that Radovan Karadzic has been on the run, he has published two books and one play. If only the international community opened a summer stock theatre, things will take a turn ... But they’re probably too busy searching for Osama Bin Laden.”

The reality

Karadžić was arrested in Belgrade in 2008, a year after the movie was in the theatre, and Ratko Mladic was arrested in 2011.

In 2016, Karadzic was found guilty of genocide in Srebrenica war crimes and crimes against humanity -- and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). During the first hearing at the tribunal, he stated that he had made a deal with US diplomat, Richard Holbrooke, which was why it took 13 years to bring him in front of the ICTY.

He made similar accusations against the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The ICTY has scheduled its judgment in the trial of Ratko Mladić on November 22. Another Serbian, Slobodan Milosevic, was also charged earlier by the ICTY with war crimes including genocide and crimes against humanity in connection to the wars in Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo.

Of course, he was not convicted as he died in prison. However, in 2007, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled separately in the Bosnian Genocide Case that Milosevic and others in Serbia had committed a breach of the Genocide Convention by failing to prevent the genocide from occurring and for not cooperating with the ICTY in punishing the perpetrators, in particular General Ratko Mladic, and for violating its obligation to comply with the provisional measures ordered by the court.

Like the Bosnian case, the world community at this stage will perhaps shy away from charging the perpetrators of Rohingya genocide in a real international criminal tribunal

From Bosnia to Myanmar

The UN has reckoned the recent events in Rakhine province in Myanmar as a “textbook case of ethnic cleansing,” while an Italy based organisation, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) on September 22, found Myanmar guilty of the crime of genocide against the Kachin people and other Muslim groups, including the Rohingya.

In a unanimous decision, a seven-member bench of the tribunal, said the Myanmar Army was committing the crimes in the “context of official duties.”

It can be mentioned here that the expert witness panel included, among others, Myanmar human rights activists Kyaw Win and Dr CR Abrar, who is a professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka and director of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU).

Nevertheless, like the Bosnian case, the world community at this stage will perhaps shy away from charging the perpetrators of Rohingya genocide in a real international criminal tribunal, at least not until a sequel of The Hunting Party is made.

But there are things Bangladesh can do in the meantime.

So far, Bangladesh has played calmly in the face of all types of provocations from Myanmar, including repeated airspace violations by the latter’s helicopter gunships. A war cry even became audible in the arena of social media inside Bangladesh, but the government remained cool.

It is quite reasonable to not even consider war for a country like Bangladesh that has 170 million mouths to feed. I think no country actually wins in a war.

However, Bangladesh really needs to play hardball to exert enough pressure on Myanmar authorities so they concentrate on national integration with a view to solve problems with a dozen of separatist groups, especially the Rohingya, which has been a pressing issue for Bangladesh for decades.

Along the current diplomatic maneuvers, calling for the trial of Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and her generals for the crimes against humanity could be one such move.

Md Ashraful Haque is an independent analyst.

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