Today is a great day for international justice. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb general charged with ordering the infamous genocide at Srebrenica, has been arrested in Serbia after sixteen years as a fugitive and will be extradited to the U.N. war crimes tribunal at The Hague.
Mladic is accused of being responsible for the deaths of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the attack on Srebrenica, Bosnia in 1995. Peacekeepers who were supposed to protect the town were unable to prevent the massacre by Mladic's forces.
Serbia's government was quick to trumpet the news of Mladic's capture. "We have ended a difficult period of our history and removed the stain from the face of Serbia and the members of our nation wherever they live," said President Boris Tadic.
The arrest of Mladic sends a clear message to other tyrants around the globe who have committed similar crimes: there is no impunity for international lawbreakers and those responsible for genocide and mass atrocities. Whether it is President al-Bashir in Sudan or Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, those leaders and officials responsible for crimes against civilians will not be able to escape justice forever.
As it happens, I attended an event this morning at the Brookings Institution about the future of Europe and European foreign policy. Not surprisingly, the subject of Mladic's arrest came up. The panelists agreed that not only did this represent a victory for international justice, but also demonstrated a key power of the European Union even in these difficult times: its ability to influence the behavior of prospective member states, such as Serbia, and help guide them down a positive international path. Serbia had been under intense pressure from the EU to capture Mladic if its hopes of joining the European Union were to reach fruition. Today, as EU foreign policy chief Baroness Catherine Ashton arrived in Serbia, the news of his arrest was announced.