The news media has widely reported the capture yesterday of the notorious Bosnian Serb war criminal, Ratko Mladic, wanted for his leadership role in the massacre of 7,500 men and boys from the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995. He will now be handed-over to the International Criminal Tribunal to face trial. It’s justice long overdue.
Concurrently, yesterday saw the capture of one of history’s worst mass killers since Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, and yet it’s a story you have to search for diligently, since it’s been so grievously under reported by Western newspapers in their callous, ethnocentric dismissal of third world people. Do they not value their own lives, too?
In any event, the UN announced yesterday the arrest of 52 year old Bernard Munyagishari in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was wanted for genocide and crimes against humanity in Rwanda in 1994. Bad as Mladic’s crimes are, they pale in the context of Munyagishari’s chilling machete bloodbaths, resulting in the massacre of 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in 1994, while the Western world and Africa itself looked the other way. Obviously, white, European Yugoslavia and African politics were in play, not the black members of a minority tribe in a distant country once colonized by the Belgians. Former President Clinton, however, did recently express regret for his administration having looked the other way and the American government has been offering a 5 million dollar reward for information leading to his capture.
A former teacher and soccer coach, Munyagishari became the major leader of the Hutu militias that carried out the genocide taking place in just 100 days between April and June 1994. He also co-founded the Interahamwe, a militia whom he stocked with weapons. Their specific mission was to capture, rape, then murder Tutsi women.
Munyagishari will be extradited to Tanzania, where he will stand trial before the Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Since 1994, it has rendered 46 judgments, with 8 acquitted and 9 under appeal. Recently it sentenced army general Augustin Bizimungu to a 30-year term for preparing lists of Tutsis to be executed. Unfortunately, there are still nine other major players being sought, among them Felicien Kabuga, a financier at the time. A number of Hutu militia may have emigrated to Canada.
It’s been 17-years, confirming that often the wheels of justice grind slowly and, alas, sometimes not at all. What sticks in my throat, however, is our frequent Western indifference and ignorance, for cruelty has no border. I remember the poet Yeats’ trenchant observation of volatile contemporary life: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” We are all brothers and sisters, whatever our color, ethnicity, religion, or politics. The horrors of Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo retain their indelible wounds and cry out for justice, but do those of the third world bleed any less?