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Why Insist on the Surrender of Ratko Mladic?

New York Times, May 2006

International Herald Tribune, May 2006

Posted: 19 Nov 2006  

Timothy William Waters

Indiana University - Maurer School of Law; Max Planck Institute (International Law)


This article argues that the European Union is mistaken to link accession negotiations with Serbia to the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general accused of war crimes. There are advantages to not insisting on arrest: Negotiated reforms could begin in earnest, and might make Serbs eventually turn their backs on Mladic and what he represents. But instead of having an open-eyed debate about the benefits and costs of arrest, Europe is making three lazy assumptions about the role of international justice in transforming societies.

The first is that arresting a war criminal is a small price to pay for integration. But while linkage might speed Mladic's arrest, it also risks backlash. Is Mladic's arrest worth endangering the integration of 8 million people in a region that badly needs stability?

The second assumption: Mladic's arrest is necessary to prove that Serbia is serious about transforming. But is extracting Mladic under pressure going to change Serbian values? The EU should ask if a deeply brutalized society like Serbia's is a worthy partner for integration, regardless of the disposition of one war criminal.

A third assumption underlies the other two: that Europe's demands are natural and uncontroversial. In fact, Europe's demands are discretionary, and denying this stifles debate about real costs. Mladic's arrest is controversial in a Serbia otherwise eager to integrate. Serbia's integration into Europe is vital, and that is precisely why Europe needs a rational debate about what it should and should not ask of Serbia.

Keywords: European Union, EU, Serbia, Bosnia, Yugoslavia, accession, integration, transitional justice, international criminal law, war crimes, Mladic

JEL Classification: Z00, P30, P39, P33, P20, P29, N40

Suggested Citation

Waters, Timothy William, Why Insist on the Surrender of Ratko Mladic?. New York Times, May 2006; International Herald Tribune, May 2006. Available at SSRN:

Timothy William Waters (Contact Author)

Indiana University - Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Ave.
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

Max Planck Institute (International Law) ( email )

Im Neuenheimer Feld 535
69120 Heidelberg, 69120

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