The guilty verdict on Wednesday of genocide and other war crimes against Ratko Mladic is reverberating throughout the world and particularly, within the Bosnian community in St. Louis.
About 70,000 Bosnians live in the St. Louis area. That’s the largest concentration of Bosnians anywhere in the world outside of Bosnia.
Mladic, 74, was a Bosnian Serb military commander who is blamed for orchestrating the murder of thousands of ethnic Muslims. Specifically, Mladic, known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” will be remembered for the murder of more than 7,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica in 1995.
A three-judge panel at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague ruled that Mladic was guilty of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and four counts of violations of the laws or customs of war.
The guilty verdict comes one year after the tribunal found former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic guilty of genocide for crimes from 1992 – 1995.
“It’s a mixed reaction,” said Nadim Ramic, a Bosnian refugee who came to the United States in 1999 after originally fleeing to Germany in 1992. “Obviously, I am glad that it’s over, that he has been found guilty of most charges. I’m also a bit disappointed that it took this long.”
Indeed, the guilty verdict comes more than 20 years after the crimes took place.
“He’s finally brought to justice but there can never be justice in cases like this,” said Ramic, a south St. Louis attorney who lives in Affton.
St. Louis businessman Nihad (Nick) Sinanovic, a Bosnian refugee, echoed similar sentiments. Sinanovic is the owner of Vega Transport, a national trucking company based in St. Louis.
He spoke with Don Marsh on St. Louis on the Air.
“For me it's very personal because my father, my uncle, grandfather and first cousin, who was 17 years old at the time, were killed in 1995 at the fall of Srebrenica by Ratko Mladic and Republika Srpska forces,” Sinanovic said. "Every time I see things like this, it brings back memories, bad memories of war, of the genocide, of loss in the family. I try to distance myself as much as possible."
Everyone deals with the trauma of war and genocide in a different way, the effects of which are widespread in St. Louis’ Bosnian community.
“What estimates show is that almost 80 percent of the community suffers some level of depression and/or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” said Ajlina Karamehic-Muratovic, a Bosnian immigrant and Saint Louis University professor who studies the mental health and overall wellbeing of Bosnians in St. Louis.
“You will not meet anyone in St. Louis who’s Bosnian who has not witnessed some kind of atrocity or seen a loved one killed. Many of them still continue to deal with it today,” said Karamehic-Muratovic, whose cousin was killed during the war.
While many in the Bosnian community agree that Mladic got what he deserved, Karamehic-Muratovic said there’s still a long way to go.
“The life sentence certainly doesn’t provide closure to those who have lost a loved one during the war,” she said. “Genocide was committed on a mass level and there are many individuals who continue to walk free who are responsible and participated in the genocide.”
Also left unresolved is the impact of the guilty verdict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where Republika Srpska is one of two constitutional legal entities in the country. The Dayton Agreement ended the Bosnian War but cemented deep divisions.
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.