THIS month tens of thousands of Bosnians marked the 14th anniversary of the massacre of about 8000 men at the town of Srebrenica in the Republic of Bosnia Herzegovina in 1995. The Age reported that "every year, more victims' bodies are recovered from mass graves found in the area . . . This year among the 534 victims, there are 44 teenagers. Four were 14 when they were killed."
Srebrenica had been declared by the UN as a "haven", with a few hundred Dutch peacekeepers "protecting" the area. The International Court of Justice recently ruled that the massacre constituted genocide.
But it wasn't just men who suffered in the genocide. In her 1996 book Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia Herzegovina, American academic Beverly Allen writes of systematic "genocidal rape" of women by soldiers, paramilitaries and even civilians. Many took place in concentration camps while others happened at special facilities set up for the purpose in such locations as "restaurants, hotels, hospitals, schools, factories, peacetime brothels, or other buildings; they are also animal stalls in barns, fenced-in pens, and arenas".
As Allen points out, all such sexual crimes "constitute the crime of genocide as described in Article II of the 1948 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide". Yet Amnesty International noted that following the conviction last week of two Serbs at the International War Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, not a single person has been charged for mass rapes and other sexual crimes by the tribunal. In the case of the two convicted, prosecutors did not even investigate allegations of the abduction and rape of women.
One of the men believed to have orchestrated the Bosnian genocide in the mid-1990s is Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. He was arrested about a year ago and sent to the UN Detention Unit in the Hague where he faces trial at the tribunal. Karadzic's war cost about 100,000 lives, according to the most conservative estimates.
A CIA report cited by The New York Times estimates his army was responsible for about 90 per cent of all war crimes in that conflict. Yet when one compares Karadzic's treatment in custody to that of thousands of terrorism suspects since the US declared its "war on terror" after the September 11 attacks, one cannot help wonder whether genocide is regarded as a less serious crime than terrorism.
Karadzic deserves a fair trial and humane treatment in custody, and he is certainly receiving both. He has the benefit of more than 30 people assisting him, including attorneys, consultant academics and paralegals, seven of whom are believed to be paid for by the tribunal.
Among those who have helped Karadzic is Melbourne University academic Kevin Jon Heller. Writing on the Opinion Juris blog in January, Heller describes a meeting he and his assistant "Peter" had with Karadzic at the UN Detention Unit, which Heller says is "located in a very nice part of The Hague; indeed, it is abutted by a series of pretty little row houses. As an American, that was a bit of a shock - we hide our prisons in the middle of nowhere, especially those that house inmates convicted of the very worst crimes."
But what of those not convicted of the worst crimes? What about those merely suspected, as opposed to convicted, of terrorism? American prisons may be "in the middle of nowhere", but for years the CIA hid its prisoners in places whose precise location no one to this day knows except the agency, the detainee and his/her torturers.
Heller reports his client wore "casual clothes" and offered him a choice of drinks from "the blue plastic box full of drinks [and] snacks". Compare this to Guantanamo detainees, many of whom were kept in cages or metallic cells 2.4 by 1.8 metres, and dressed in orange jumpsuits, shackles and hoods.
The following scene would be impossible for a lawyer acting for a Guantanamo detainee to imagine: "He then gave Peter a Fanta grape soda - his favorite, Dr Karadzic told me - and asked me to choose between that, an orange soda, and a Coke. Following in Peter's footsteps, as I often do, I went grape."
But it isn't just Karadzic who gets the kind of treatment terror suspects can only dream of. Heller cites his assistant as follows: "Peter told me an amazing, and more than a little surreal, story about sitting with Dr Karadzic in the same room and watching Charles Taylor shoot baskets in the exercise yard."
So former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor gets to "shoot baskets in the exercise yard" while most Guantanamo inmates barely get to see sunlight an hour a day.
We don't know about how much sunlight, if any, detainees in secret CIA prisons get to see. And the thousands kept at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, often detained for years before being released without charge, don't even have access to lawyers or an appeal mechanism to challenge their detention. Then there are an untold number of terror suspects whose interrogation and torture is contracted out to foreign governments in a policy of "extraordinary rendition" started by the Clinton administration and continued under President Barack Obama.
Which all goes to show that if you are known to have orchestrated genocide and other war crimes, you can expect somewhat better treatment from the allegedly civilised world than if you are suspected of being on the wrong side of the "war on terror".
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