Ratko Mladic. Arrested. The meaning of this is something I cannot fully understand, as I have never experienced anything close to the horrors that he inflicted on the people of Sarajevo. Symbolically, his arrest is significant for those that were victims of his actions, their families, and the people of Bosnia – past, present, and future.
The thousands of people killed, families lost, infrastructure destroyed, and sheer trauma endured have gone unpunished through traditional methods of justice thus far. Mladic has been extradited to The Hague, with the intention that he will be prosecuted through the methods of the international community.
While it is appropriate that Mladic be prosecuted for the crimes he committed, it is questionable as to whether extradition to The Hague is the best option for the imposition of punitive justice measures. In a symbolic sense, Mladic being prosecuted in the international arena will be extremely beneficial to numerous people and communities. This includes Serbia (especially in regards to their bid for European Union membership), victims of his atrocities in Bosnia, perpetrators of these atrocities, and those members of the international community that did nothing to prevent the atrocities and may have since been living in guilt.
However, chances are great that the trial of Mladic will never be completed, especially as news of his treatment for cancer has come to light. In my opinion, Mladic will not be held personally responsible for his crimes through the international justice system. What is the more important use of the justice system in regards to punishment for great atrocities: purely symbolic acts, or an actual conviction? In terms of trauma healing, the symbolism of his arrest is much more important to those affected by his actions, as it brings a sense of closure to the situation. However, if a verdict in the trial of Mladic is not completed, he will never truly suffer retribution for his actions. The question is whether the healing of those affected by his actions or punitive measures enacted by The Hague are more important.