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Globalization and politics

Patricia Alonso
Journalist

Freelance journalist based in Istanbul. Keeping an eye on Turkish politics and development.

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piqer: Patricia Alonso
Wednesday, 24 April 2019

How Can Human Beings Commit Such Atrocities?

They call him the Butcher of Bosnia. General Ratko Mladic was one of the architects of the Srebrenica genocide in 1995, where it is estimated that more than 8,000 Muslim men and children were killed by Serbian troops.

Mladic was on the run for 16 years, but he was ultimately brought to justice in The Hague. Two British filmmakers covered the trial for over five years, with exclusive access to both sides. The result of that coverage is the recently aired PBS film, The Trial of Ratko Mladic.

On this First Person podcast, Sarah Wildman discusses with Rob Miller, the film's co-director and producer, the fundamental questions about genocide brought up in the documentary: Why did it happen? How can human beings commit such atrocities? What constitutes justice for victims?

Many of us are familiar with, or at least have some understanding of, what happened in Bosnia in 1995. But war crimes have different layers that need to be addressed and understood better so that they never happen again.

The podcast starts with a brief introduction to the conflict and why, after 16 years on the run, Serbia decided to track down General Mladic and bring him to justice: It was one of the main demands of the European Union if Serbia ever wanted to be part of the group.

They also discuss some of the hardest stories portrayed in the film and how victims cope with testifying in the trial. 

But perhaps the most interesting discussion is about how they tried to create a balanced film by also including General Mladic's human side. It is indeed quite controversial, but Miller argues that it was natural for them to follow both sides of the conflict.

"We decided to humanize him because he is a human being."

To understand what happened and to learn something from this conflict, the filmmakers argue, we need to accept Mladic's humanity. It's not enough to call him a monster. He is a human being. But what leads some human beings to act this way?

How Can Human Beings Commit Such Atrocities?
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