UNCG Campus Weekly

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Justice for war crimes fugitive

060111Feature_WagnerAfter 16 years, Ratko Mladic has been caught.

The headlines last Thursday (May 26) announced the news: “War Crimes Fugitive Mladic Arrested in Serbia” (AP), “Serbia Arrests ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ Ratko Mladic for Alleged War Crimes” (Fox News).

The AP story that day described him as “the ruthless Bosnian Serb military leader charged with orchestrating Europe’s worst massacre of civilians since World War II.” It referred to the well-known 1995 massacre of about 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males at Srebrenica, in the former Yugoslavia.

Dr. Sarah Wagner, assistant professor of Anthropology, has researched the forensic processes used to identify the victims of that massacre at Srebrenica. Her book “To Know Where He Lies: DNA Technology and the Search for Srebrenica’s Missing” was published in 2008 by the University of California Press. It examined not only the identification of the human remains, but the impact on the families of those massacred, as well as the larger political dynamics.

(See news release about that book, by Michelle Hines.)

Her work in this area continues.

Wagner and Dr. Lara Nettelfield are co-authoring the book “Srebrenica in the Aftermath of Genocide,” which is set to be published by Cambridge University Press next year. Cambridge University Press has published a three-part series of blog posts in anticipation of the book:

Fifteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide: Mars Mira Peace March

Fifteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide: Srebrenica Potocari Memorial Center

Fifteenth anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide: Memorial visit to Srebrenica

The blog posts, with many pictures, detail a large, commemorative peace march last year, retracing the route of the massacre victims. They describe the fifteenth anniversary of the massacre, where the remains of nearly 800 victims were laid to rest. And afterward, a memorial visit by relatives to several of the sites of the killing. At one site, the authors tell of family members encountering gun shell casings and bones that remained visible in the rocky ground. At another, the Pilica Cultural Center, a large room is riddled with bullet holes in the walls.

Wagner’s eye is not only on the massacre victims, but on those who continue to live in Bosnia, and their future. She and Nettelfield note the military gains Mladic achieved continue to hinder Bosnia’s economic and political prospects. And news reports from the past days show those living in Bosina have little anticipation that justice will be served, even if he spends his remaining years in prison. The two authors cite a returned refugee comparing Mladic’s quality of life with hers. “It’ll be like a nursing home for him. … There’s no justice in that.”

See video on Sarah Wagner’s work.

By Mike Harris
Visual: Of graves at Srebrenica Potocari memorial center, from video by UNCG MFA students Adnan Dzumhur and Alice Dull.