On March 24, 2016, war criminal Radovan Karadžić has been convicted of crimes against humanity committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in that country in the 1990s.
Yes, I remember vividly how that war was because I was living in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina when it started. I remember what Radovan Karadžić looked like when he appeared on TV—always assure of himself, always having something to say. Always eloquent in his speech of love and hate; Love for the idea of great Serbia, hate for those he saw as a threat to it.
The things he said publicly referred to his deep belief that Serbia and its military had the right to start a war and basically do whatever they pleased with the civilian population—kill, torture, rape, loot, steal.
Sadly, this is the way aggressors and armies reason—this is what every army has done in the past 5,000 years (the year some believe Adam and Eve ate the poisoned apple and exited paradise.)
The human race conquers and starts wars because certain members want to get rich fast. The ones who want to get rich fast always invent an ideology, an idea, philosophy, a religion for their subordinates to follow blindly, in order not to mind fighting, losing limbs and lives, and remaining traumatized for as long as they live. Did you think that it’s a coincidence that presidents and high army officials never go to the battlefield?
War is a game. And this ugly game is ruining our planet, ruining our chance of survival and threatening our freedom. If you think that living without peace and freedom makes life worth living, think again—it’s the worst thing ever. Take it from somebody who’s spent some time living without peace and freedom.
Combine greed and “profitism” with the belief that one side is superior, and you’ve got a war on your hands.
But how do we get there in the first place? Who are the people who want to lead wars? Who are the individuals who carry no empathy in them and why?
These are the questions we should be asking when thinking of war criminals, and criminals in general. And this is the question I’ve been asking myself for years now when it comes to Radovan Karadžić. Who is this guy? And what happened to him in his life, in his childhood that turned him into somebody who believes in killing, massacres and genocide as the solution?
Greed and “profitism” are the root causes of wars. But to carry out wars, you need individuals who are ready to sacrifice their own lives and lives of others. The question should be—how do we prevent violence from happening? How do we prevent crimes on a mass scale from happening in the future? How do we prevent terrorism and genocide? What are the causes of violence?
It’s easy to punish a man or woman, lock them away from the public eye, close the cases and archive them. But punishment won’t prevent crime from being repeated. No, it won’t even scare off potential criminals in the future. If punishment had such high impact on our consciousness as the system would like us to believe, no war or genocide would have happened after World War II.
But wars and genocides have happened since then. Not just one or two but dozens. All around the world. So instead of repeating the same actions over and over again and expecting different results—letting wars and genocide happen, hunting down a few perpetrators, then letting it all happen again, at another time, and maybe another place—how about we begin talking to people like Radovan Karadžić? How about we look at him for what he is—a human being, just like you and I, made of flesh and bones, who was born, grew up and then became a criminal?
What happened to him that led him down that path? Did he suffer brain damage? What does he think of the war now? Did he change his opinion? What does he know about the participation of international institutions like the EU, WTO and The World Bank in the Balkans war?
And what about the secret deals that were made between the leaders of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia during the war? It would be interesting to hear what Karadžić would have to say. And he’s not the only one who participated in this war.
How about we begin the most important process of them all—the process of reconciliation? How about we bring together perpetrators and victims and letting them speak their truth in a neutral setting, letting them ask each other for forgiveness and being forgiven, and beginning to work together toward a better future?
Now that’s a platform I’d like to see Karadžić on. And all others who participated in a war. These reconciliation talks do happen. They happened in Ruanda, another country that suffered a genocide in the 1990s, and they were a success. I believe that if we made an exception a rule, it would change the world for the better—drastically.
Taking a different path—the path of crime prevention instead of punishment—is the first step in changing the world for the better. It’s the first step in understanding why individuals and the collective act the way we do, and what we can do as a society to improve our living conditions and create peace on our planet.
After all, the history of the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina is the mutual history of all of the people living in that country. It’s also the history of the Balkans, of Europe, and finally, the history of the entire human race. It’s our legacy. Like all the history of the human race, the history of one country, of one people, of one individual, is the history of the entire human race. Let’s dare to be brave and try something new, a different approach, and make our legacy be the one of peace, love and progress.
Let’s keep in mind—it’s not over yet. It’s only starting. The verdict of Radovan Karadžić came only a few days after the terrorist attacks in Brussels that took away the lives of 31 people. Barely a week after, we’ve had terrorist attacks in Pakistan that killed over 65 people. The legacy of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian war has spread all over the world 21 years after the war has officially ended. The system in which we only punish and do nothing to prevent doesn’t work. And time is running out. With the weapons of mass destruction we have created and the destruction we’ve been infliction upon our habitat, our planet Earth, we won’t have another 5,000 years to play around if we don’t change our way of thinking.