The arrival of former Bosnian general Ratko Mladic in the Netherlands to face war crimes charges at the Yugoslavia tribunal in The Hague receives widespread coverage in the papers.
The Volkskrant focuses on the former general’s home for the next months: ‘Mladic in one of the most humane prisons in the world’. The Yugoslavia tribunal’s prison complex in Scheveningen permits its 36 inhabitants to ‘roam their floor freely’, cook meals, play sports and use the computer albeit without access to the internet.
The paper comments that the UNDU (United Nations Detention Unit) houses 36 prisoners awaiting trial for genocide, rape, murder and hate mongering: ‘Serbs against Croats, Croats against Bosnian Muslims, Macedonians against Albanians, Albanians against Serbs. The prisoners are living together in an odd kind of harmony’.
It goes on to quote American lawyer Julian Davis Mortensen who says: ‘Against all expectations there are no ethnic ghettos here. Croats, Muslims and Serbs are coming together in a way that is unthinkable in their homeland. How can that be?’ And Bosnian Serb Goran Jelisic, who is serving a forty year sentence for murders committed in Brcko: the prisoners ‘have made peace with each other all the while worrying that the people back home will do the same.’
‘Under lock and key’ is the Telegraaf’s headline. It carries a blow-by-blow account of Mladic’ arrival in Scheveningen. The paper comments on the presence of hundreds of journalists and a number of members of Dutchbat, the Dutch Nato contingent in Srbrenica. The prison gates saw a gathering of Mladic supporters as well as a group of Bosnians who said they wanted to be there when he was handed over.
All papers carry the story of Mladic’ precarious health. According to Trouw, the former general was operated on in 2009 and subsequently underwent chemotherapy.
In the NRC, columnist Elspeth Etty quotes former defence minister Joris Voorhoeve who said when asked what he felt when Srbrenica fell and thousands were killed: ‘To us, living in a democracy, it is very difficult to imagine that people can treat each other so inhumanely.’
It is the starting point for a though provoking column in which Etty argues that ‘living in a democracy does not mean that such crimes are unthinkable here’, the Dutch crimes in Indonesia being a case in point. She also warns that international law is ‘under pressure’ and that Rutte’s cabinet is willing ‘to change international treaties or guidelines if new national policies contravene them’ which could endanger the human rights of minorities.
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