The Mladić Appeal Verdict

Genocide and the Last Chance for Bosnian Reconciliation

James Gow

The Appeals Chamber verdict in the trial of Ratko Mladić is the last chance to secure a guilty verdict of genocide for the events in 1992.  Those events were widely labelled ‘genocide’ and actually spawned the creation of the Yugoslavia Tribunal. It has been a profound irony that ‘genocide’ led the UN Security Council to create the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and yet that body has not reached a single guilty verdict for genocide in 1992. It might be all the more ironic — though perhaps pitiful is a more appropriate term — that Mladić, the Serb Bosnian military commander, clearly knew that genocide was the right term, warning the Serb Bosnian assembly on record that they were ordering was genocide. Yet, he was acquitted on Count 1, genocide in 1992.

Photo of Ratko Mladic
Ratko Mladić

Absent a guilty verdict, reconciliation in Bosnia will certainly remain impossible. The world and its news agencies may have forgotten places such as Prijedor in Northern Bosnia. The Siege of Sarajevo and the act of genocide at Srebrenica in Eastern Bosnia overshadow them and dominate global memory. Among Bosnia’s Muslims, though, they are unforgotten.

The unforgotten events included the images of emaciated bodies at barbed wire fences— images that shocked the world and prompted newspaper headlines such as ‘Belsen ’92.’ The pictures of camps in and around Prijedor in northern Bosnia were distressing. In those camps behind the fences and in many places outside several thousand Bosnian Muslims were murdered, while tens of thousands were forced out. And those were not the only camps. Neither were they the only sites of murder, rape and abuse — across Northern and Eastern Bosnia, variations on the theme played out.

It is hard to conceive that there has been no conviction for genocide — the intent to destroy in whole or in part a legally protected community. Without doubt, part of the Bosnian Muslim community was physically destroyed, as well as the communities themselves and ways of life. They were killed because of who and what they were — not for any other reason. In a sense, that was confirmed in guilty verdicts for ‘murder as ethnic persecution’ as a crime against humanity. That other great international crime has equal standing in law, carrying equal penalties. But, its focus is to protect individuals, not designated groups. Individuals were found to have been murdered because they were Muslim. Yet, those murders were not judged to be partial destruction of the group. Destruction of Muslims collectively was not the intention, this outcome suggests, even though Muslims were killed qua Muslims, as part of the named Muslim group.

The initial trial of Mladić concluded in its judgement on 22 November 2017 that there was evidence, according to the majority of judges, that the actus reus, the grounds for a genocide conviction were present: there had been the intent to kill Muslims as part of the group. Yet, the three judges all agreed that a test of ‘substantiality’ to confirm genocide beyond reasonable doubt had not been met. In effect, this meant that not enough Muslims had been killed for the judges to be certain ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that they had been killed because they were Muslims and as an attempt to destroy the group. Somewhat absurdly, the murders treated in Count 1, genocide in 1992, was measured as a proportion of the whole Muslim population of Bosnia, while the confirmation of genocide at Srebrenica were treated as a proportion of the Muslims in Eastern Bosnia. But, the impression that is left is that it was never the ‘intent’ — the word in the definition of the crime — that mattered. It was a matter of numbers accomplished: 5000 plus physically destroyed at Srebrenica (the number of actual murders listed in evidence, though the actual figure is 3000 higher) constituted genocide; 1500 in and around Prijedor over a few days did not — that figure was not a sufficient number of murders to be certain enough of the intent. The only way to prove intent, then, was to have murdered a large enough number of the target community.

So, the initial trial judgement threw a thread to the Appeals Chamber, giving it the chance to do that which happened many times in the Appeals Chamber at the Yugoslavia Tribunal: to pick up a theme and more radically to set the bar, widening the scope of international criminal law. In this case, the thread is there for the Appeals Chamber to reach a guilty verdict. Yet, that may be unlikely. The ICTY closed its doors at the end of 2017. The appeal has been heard by the ‘MICT’ — the International Residual Mechanism of the International Criminal Tribunals. This is the body created by the UN to tidy up any leftover business from the Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals. To date, the MICT has gone in the opposite direction to the expansionist tendencies of the ICTY Appeals Chamber under President Theodore (‘Ted’) Meron. It has further retracted the scope of the law.

So, while the last chance to convict for genocide in 1992 remains, that outcome simply seems unlikely. Indeed, while it is impossible to imagine that the Appeals Chamber could overturn the guilty verdicts on the ten other counts handed to Mladić, as the Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz confidently declared, it is by no means impossible. Brammertz continued to hope that there would be a ‘double’ conviction — but the hope did not match the conviction regarding confirmation of guilty verdicts.

The Yugoslavia Tribunal closed its doors in 2017 without securing a genocide conviction in relation to events described as ‘genocide’ in 1992. In some sense, that brought into question its very existence, despite its enormous success otherwise. It could even suggest that the court was founded on a false premise — with implications — for all the other international criminal bodies formed in its wake, including the permanent International Criminal Court, all of which have been sharply shaped by the ICTY’s jurisprudence on genocide.

Unless the Appeals Chamber verdict on Count 1 reaches a guilty conclusion, there will be no chance of reconciliation. Indeed, even if it does, the continuing doubts and contestation around Srebrenica suggest that even a guilty verdict will leave ethnic Serbs contesting the judgement, just as Muslims and others have continued to question the not-guilty outcome. But, it is certain that those who survived the Prijedor events cite their experience to confirm genocide: they know that what they experienced was intended as genocide, that what happened to them was because they were Muslims and part of Muslim communities that were to be destroyed to make way for an ethnically purified Serb polity. Until there is acknowledgement of that suffering and its memory, reconciliation and a genuine political settlement in Bosnia will not be achievable. Without the guilty verdict for 1992, the events will remain unforgotten, business will remain unfinished, Bosnia will remain unsettled and the crime will remain unforgiven.

New study published: New Bearings in Post-Conflict Evaluation

Tiffany Fairey, Rachel Kerr, Jelena Petrović and James Gow, New Bearings in Post-Conflict Evaluation: A Principle Based Approach (London: King’s College London, 2020).

New Bearings in Post-Conflict Evaluation, directly responds to the question posed to us that was the prompt for the Art and Reconciliation programme of research.  In 2015, UNDP (Western Balkans) asked us to develop research to address its need for ‘a codified body of knowledge pertaining to reconciliation’ and to develop ‘appropriate frameworks to evaluate post-conflict reconciliation.’ In spite of a great deal of effort and billions of dollars spent funding reconciliation projects, including arts-based projects, there was little concrete evidence of positive outcomes. The question was posed in an even more direct way by of the participants at a workshop we convened in Belgrade, who asked, simply, ‘What works?’

As we set out to answer this question, our research highlighted a disjuncture between how reconciliation is conceived and practised in arts-based peacebuilding, as an implicit goal of long-term, process-focused community engagement, and how reconciliation projects are required to account for themselves by international donors in short-term, quantifiable results. The challenge of evaluating reconciliation lies in finding ways to bridge the gap between the divergent ways that reconciliation is understood, practised and consequently measured, and in assessing not only ‘what works’ but ‘why and how’.

The study addresses this critical question by proposing Four Principles to guide the evaluation of reconciliation projects. These principles are offered as a non-prescriptive framework to underpin the planning, design and implementation of monitoring and evaluation activities using methods such as Theory of Change.  They aim to act as a guide for practitioners seeking to understand the key ideas and values that underpin the increasing array of alternative approaches to evaluation and to provide a set of criteria against which practitioners can develop evaluation best practice.  They are:

  1. Evaluation is co-created via the active and transparent participation of all stakeholders

Evaluation should be co-created, involving the active participation of all stakeholders: from local communities, project participants and beneficiaries to project organisers and donors. Transparency about what each stakeholder’s contribution consists of can ensure tokenistic modes of participation are detected and avoided.

  1. Evaluation is embedded, continuous and longitudinal

Evaluative thinking and learning needs to be embedded into organisational culture. It should consist of continuous, collaborative assessment cycles that are integrated into ongoing internal project processes and strategy to build formative, summative and longitudinal learning over time.

  1. Evaluation is context driven

Evaluation methods, design and strategy must be shaped by the specific context rather than pre-determined through the application of standardised modes and frameworks. Multimodal methods can capture contextual complexity by generating multiple forms of data from varied perspectives.

  1. Evaluation is independently peer evaluated and shared

Evaluation should be independently audited and peer evaluated by an external pool of non-commercial peer practitioners, specialists and funder evaluators drawn from local, regional and international levels (rather than corporate consultancy firms). Evaluation findings must be shared and communicated to ensure accountability and that learning is distributed and applied.

These principles are offered from a starting point that asserts reconciliation is understood as a multidimensional process rather than a specific end point, a process that is dynamic and that varies across context and time. Reconciliation activities are understood as contributing to a longitudinal, locally embedded and multi-generational process. Evaluation itself is seen as an ongoing learning process rather than solely as a definitive assessment on a specific activity. Most importantly, is understood that evaluation must account to affected communities as much as it accounts to donor priorities.

Read it here.

Unreconciliation in the US – Civil War, Statues  and Slavery in 2020

Detail from the Robert Gould Shaw, 54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial, by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Boston Massachusetts. The memorial commemorates Col. Shaw and the members of his regiment, the first all-black volunteer unit to fight in the US Civil War, who died in the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, 18 July 1863. Photograph: James Gow ©
James Gow

Unrest and iconoclasm  spread across the United States  — and the world — in June 2020. The immediate prompt was video of a white police officer killing a black man in Minneapolis.  In a wider sense, however, the eruption of anger is evidently, a manifestation of unreconciliation — it is the continuation of the unreconciled US Civil War. It is a product of the post-Civil War reconciliation  between the North and South. That reconciliation between Unionists and Confederates, in the United States, apparently so successful, was, in truth, incomplete and at the expense of those whose profoundly unequal status had been the cause of the war: Americans of African heritage, over four million of whom had been slaves.

Reconciliation and reunion were sealed across the Unionist -Confederate  divide. The country was reunited, as fraternal engagement among former enemies and the interests of business and economy, both North and South, urged reconciliation. This movement was also fuelled by Unionists’ weariness of the hard work of enforcing emancipation . Finally, rebellion and recalcitrance in the defeated Confederate states, a factor in the North’s weariness, shaped the  reconciliation that occurred. As a result, the past was accommodated and the future became the focus. Five decades after the end of the war in 1865, the sides appeared to be reconciled and to share an understanding that, somehow, both sides had fought nobly in a family feud that had been necessary for national development, but was over and everyone could move on together.

The reconciliation achieved set aside the issues of slavery and black freedom , suggesting a blurred moral equivalence between the Northern and Southern sections. By the time President Woodrow Wilson was speaking at a Peace Jubilee on the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the first southern President in half a century, slavery was forgotten and not mentioned; race was a single, passing mention among other issues dissolved in the reformed nation. By that time, white domination had been largely restored de facto in the South, despite the compound effects of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the US Constitution, which, along with the Union’s programme of ‘Reconstruction’ to enforce emancipation, proved insufficient to prevent the emergence of ‘Black’ codes and ‘Jim Crow’ laws and practices across the South. These constrained the electoral and civil rights of black citizens, and left them economically shackled, even if the legal bonds of ownership had been removed.

The reconciliation that occurred was possible because it was made between equals — the white soldiers and business people on either side. Black soldiers were increasingly overlooked, forgotten and excluded from reconciliation ‘soldier only’ events, focused on heroism and honour. And just as black soldiers were overlooked, forgotten and excluded, so was the issue at the very core of the war — emancipation.  In a sense, this was the reconciliation that was possible. It was also the reconciliation that was necessary to America’s growth as a continental empire. That empire enabled the US to become an economic giant. These were undoubtedly its strengths and made it desirable. It was the ‘right’ reconciliation because it was the one that was achievable in a short time. Yet, it was also the wrong reconciliation, leaving those who had been saved from slavery behind. The key issues of slavery and race at the heart of the civil war were unreconciled.

Reconciliation, then, by-passed the core matters of the war — issue of the status of black citizens that some would perceive as continuing as de facto slavery and of emancipation. It represented suppression of emancipation, the very essence of the struggle, and it came at the expense of the Union’s programme of ensuring compliance in secessionist states as a condition of their rehabilitation in the Union. It was also accompanied by notions of ‘Redemption’ in the South and the emergence of a story telling of victory in defeat, the narrative of the ‘Lost Cause’. These were factors that undermined the reconciliation, making it partial, and, despite the declarations and celebrations that accompanied it, left the country unreconciled.

The compromised and partial reconciliation rendered emancipation unfinished, fermented un-reconciliation and engendered a continuing struggle. That struggle included violence at Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, when three individuals were killed in protests about removing a statue of Robert E. Lee — even though Lee, commander of Confederate forces, was a great figure of the reconciliation.  Those killed there were, indeed, the latest victims of the US Civil War, albeit none was killed in a Blue Unionist, or Gray Confederate, uniform. Nor were they killed by anyone wearing those uniforms. But, they were losses in a cold war that continued after the formal end of armed hostilities in 1865, under the umbrella of incomplete, if not derelict, reconciliation — linked to the failure fully to address the status of those who had been the very reason for the war. Collective emotion can take a long time to change — far longer than the intellectual process of acknowledging evidence and changing one’s mind — and far longer than the rational acceptance of physical loss. Hurt can last.

A century after Lee surrendered his forces, effectively ending the Civil War, President Lyndon B. Johnson finally ensured full legal emancipation with voter rights legislation in 1965. The longer-term effects of the 1965 full guarantee of electoral freedoms and voting rights included the election of President Barack Obama, the first black person to hold that office, and also of black office holders in many Southern cities, elected by black majorities. Mayors and legislatures, representing ideas and sentiments among their communities, sought to remove statues that were taken to symbolise the Confederacy and white domination. They rejected those symbols; and debates swirled around Charlottesville, Richmond, Dallas, New Orleans and other cities, where Confederate memorials were being challenged and, in some cases, torn down. These acts of popular democracy were hard to deny — even if considered historical reflection might offer alternative paths and frames. Whichever the path to reconciliation, the undeniable truth was that the US remained unreconciled, over a century and half beyond the end of the Civil War and its limited postbellum reconciliation.

That reconciliation was purchased at the price of the continued subordination and suffering of African Americans. That devil’s deal came to be exposed in the twenty-first century, as a consequence of the full legal protection of emancipation finally cemented in 1965. A true — perhaps third — redemption will recognise the essential historical contributions of the enslaved to the prosperity and success of the American state. The history of African Americans ’ contribution to American success is not marginal, but, rather, underpins the American story. Not only their history, but their self-respect and also that of whites must be redeemed, possibly in some tangible form. America can redeem itself — its history and its future — by including all American history and all the American people. The reconciliation of all persons will require the integration of African Americans into commercial and cultural life. For they are as yet unreconciled.

This article is based on research for ‘James Gow and Rana Ibrahem, ‘The Unreconciled US Civil War’ in Rachel Kerr, Henry Redwood and James Gow eds. Reconciliation After War: Historical Perspectives on Transitional Justice New York: Routledge, 2021.

James Gow is Professor of International Peace and Security, Co-Director of the War Crimes Research Group at King’s College London, and Non-Resident Fellow at the Liechtenstein Institute at Princeton University.

New Article: ‘What Works? Creative Approaches to Transitional Justice in BiH’.

The latest article on Art & Reconciliation research is now out and available for free download. Featuring in a Special Issue of The International Journal of Transitional Justice, guest edited by Cynthia Cohen, on ‘Creative Approaches to Transitional Justice: Contributions of Arts and Culture’, the article by Tiffany Fairey and Rachel Kerr discusses two arts-based initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina. You can download the article here.


Scholars and practitioners of transitional justice have begun to seek alternative approaches in the arts and culture as a means to pursue core goals of peace and reconciliation. This Special Issue asks what creative approaches can do that conventional transitional justice mechanisms cannot, and invites us to reflect on the possibilities, and the potential challenges, risks and constraints. In response, this article discusses two arts-based initiatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina, one involving a national museum, the History Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one with a Bosnian peacebuilding organization, the Post Conflict Research Centre, that provided opportunities for plural, dialogical and localized forms of transitional justice. Analyzing the question of what worked in these two distinct initiatives, we highlight four common qualities and offer them as non-prescriptive ‘good-practice principles’ in strategic arts-based peacebuilding practice: iterative working over time; carving space for plural, locally driven narratives; amplifying the capacities and networks of local actors; and context-driven project design.

Art & Reconciliation activities delayed due to COVID-19

Art & Reconciliation have won follow on impact funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Global Challenges Research Fund to build on our collaboration with the Post Conflict Research Centre (PCRC). Over 2020 and into 2021, PCRC will be producing two new publications with their Balkan Diskurs correspondents covering national and regional topics ranging from Bosnian fashion designers to arts and music festivals and youth activism. The new publications build on the success of the 2019 publication of the Bosnian edition of ASBO magazine and will be disseminated thorough out BiH. Art & Reconciliation researchers will be working alongside PRCR to research and evaluate visual peacebuilding strategies. Activities have been delayed due to COVID-19 but it is hoped they will be underway soon.

AFZ installation joins the permanent collection of the History Museum of BiH

A permanent installation curated by Crvena on the Women’s Antifascist Front of Yugosalavia opened at the History Museum of BiH on December 5th 2019.  Titled, “What has our struggle given us?”, the installation is part of The Living Museum commissions which has seen artists critically engage with artwork and materials from the History Museum archives. The installation critically explores and reflects on the heritage of Women’s Antifascist Front of Yugoslavia presenting photographs, documents, posters and newspaper articles in a series of themed sections. The exhibition represents a rich and vital contribution to the telling of the history of women’s organising and struggle.

Read more about the exhibition in this feature in the Oslobodenje.

Living Museum exhibitions feature in Bosnian media

Living Museum commissions and exhibitions have garnered extensive coverage in the Bosnian press including an editorial written by the British ambassador, Matthew Field, in Oslobodjenje.  See via the links below or go to English translations:

Mi Gradimo Prugu, Pruga Gradi Nas’ (We Build the Tracks, the Tracks Build Us)

Friday 1 November saw the opening of our 6th exhibition in collaboration with the Historijski Muzej (Historical Museum) of Bosnia and Hercegovina in Sarajevo. This exchibition, ‘Mi Gradimo Prugu, Pruga Gradi Nas’ (We Build the Tracks, the Tracks Build Us) is the second in the series for the ongoing ‘Living Museum‘ project, which began in February 2019.  The project is a collaboration between the Muzej, King’s College London and University of the Arts London, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council/Global Challenges Research Fund as a follow-on from Art and Reconciliation.  It seeks to excavate, curate and open new conversations about Yugoslav history through the Museum’s extensive collection of socialist art.

The opening was a tremendous success, with very many people attending and even made the front page of Oslobojenje!  It showcased the work of four students from the Academy of Fine Arts in Sarajevo, Esnar Hadžić, Faras Ramadanović, Stefan Savić and Marina Krsmanović, together with work by artist-in-residence, Milena Michalski, ‘In a different light’.

The students’ work was in response to the art collection held by the Museum, some of which is currently exhibited in the ‘Living Museum’, together with  artworks commissioned in response to it, in the exhibition ‘Savrameni Kontekski: Oslikavanje Socijalističkih Slika (Contemporary Contexts: Reimagining Socialist Images) by Dženan Hadžhasanović, Smirna Kulenović, Milena Michalski, Andrea Mirnić and Meliha Teparić (more details to follow!).

Visit the Museum’s facebook page for more photos and info:



VEM+ Exploring Exclusions

The VEM network based within the Faculty of Social Sciences & Public Policy aims to create spaces of knowledge-exchange and research excellence around visual, embodied and art-based methodologies within, across and beyond Social Sciences. The network was founded by Drs Negar Elodie Behzadi and Jelke Boesten, both in the Department of International Development at King’s College London. It expanded over the summer to include other scholars in the Faculty of Social Sciences and Public Policy at King’s.

Rachel Kerr and Henry Redwood were part of the VEM’s first major project, VEM+, where collaborating artists were invited to take up residency at King’s for 2 weeks in July 2019 in Somerset House studios, working directly with researchers.

Henry Redwood worked with Belgrade-based artist Vladimir Miladinović on the project //Undiscernible//. 

//Undiscernible// builds on a two year collaboration, which began with Art and Reconciliation when Vladimir was one of the artists commissioned by the Historical Museum. It explores how aesthetic approaches to the legacies of war might open up new modes of engagement with, and ways of imagining transitions to, peace.

Henry and Vladimir focus on a series of intercepted cables linked to the case at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia against General Ratko Mladic. About a third of the intercepted cables are described in the documents as ‘undiscernible’. This leads to questions both about the nature of this ‘proof’ and the question of the role that this proof plays in contemporary society.

The project draws inspiration from Vladimir’s use of ink-wash drawings based on archival material relating to the war in the former Yugoslavia, to ask difficult questions about how particular knowledges of (past and present) violence are produced, and what this means for how societies reconstitute themselves after violence.

Photograph by Lyanne Wylde

The results of the collaborations are currently being shown in The Exchange space in Bush House (until 7 November).

Exhibition: Exploring Exclusions

1 October  to 7 November 2019

This exhibition presents the work of four artist/researchers collaborations (below) on questions of exclusion, stigmatisation, marginalisation, conflict and violence at the School of Social Science and Public Policy (SSPP).

Find out more here.