The delivery of Ratko Mladic to The Hague yesterday sends a chilling message to those suspects wanted by the ICC: you can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape justice. Mladic was wanted for allegedly masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in which 8,000 civilians were reported killed. He was indicted by the UN International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in 1995.
The ICC and its ad hoc and hybrid predecessors rely on the cooperation of governments and international and regional organizations to carry out their orders, such as arrest warrants. Opponents to our advocacy claim that these courts are impractical and useless because governments will not provide this enforcement. But they do. The government of Serbia was under enormous pressure to arrest Mladic if it wanted to be considered for European Union membership. The Mladic arrest support the reality that that arrest warrants can be enforced through international and bilateral pressure on the target state.
Like Radovan Karadzic, his co-indictee, he evaded justice for over a decade and this loomed over the Tribunal as it began completing its mandate. The ICC will not face this kind of deadline. An important distinction of the ICC, compared to the ICTY and other tribunals like it, is its permanence. The ICC will not be shutting down anytime soon, and it will exist long after certain suspects have fallen from power or get pushed over the border from a nation no longer a safe haven.