26 May 2011


MLADIC ARRESTED. Former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic, who is charged with "orchestrating the largest mass killings of civilians in Europe since World War II'', has been detained by the Serbian Security Intelligence Agency. Mladic was first indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal in 1995, and will be extradited to the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. He has been a fugitive in the intervening years, hidden by Serb militant supporters. A Washington Post article describes the arrest.

Mladic was one of a triumvirate of Serb leaders who ordered or participated in genocide, and the last to be apprehended by authorities. He is pictured above, at right, beside former Serb politician Radovan Karadzic, who remains in custody. The third war criminal, former Serb President Slobadan Milosevic, died in his cell in 2006 before his trial could be completed. All three men were Serb leaders during the bloody and vicious Bosnian Civil War which raged between 1992 and 1995, after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. The multiethnic region was inhabited chiefly by Muslims, Orthodox Serbs, and Catholic Croats. It was during this conflict that the term "ethnic cleansing" first entered public awareness, as a polite euphemism for genocide.

According the the Washington Post, the arrest of Mladic has been hailed by "Western governments and human rights activists as a landmark in international justice. They said it would send an unmistakeable message to other leaders -- including Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir and Libya's Moammar Ghaddafi, two leaders charged with mass atrocities by the International Criminal Court -- that they will ultimately be held accountable." Time will tell. Too many national and revolutionary leaders have literally gotten away with murder over the years, by virtue of their international political alliances or the natural resources they control.

SUICIDE KITS. A NYTimes article describes a rekindled "debate over the ethical and legal implications of what it means to assist a suicide." The context is the online purchase of helium hood kits (see image below) by those who feel that their lives are too painful or troubled to want to continue living. Assisted suicide is legal in the states of Oregon, Montana, and Washington, so long as the patient requesting it is of sound mind, and suffers from a terminal illness.

It is a vexing issue on many levels. How do you tell the loving relatives of someone who has been in a coma for years, with no prognosis for recovery, not to pull the plug and end the emotional and financial misery? For those with severe Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, terminal cancer, AIDS, and other debilitating conditions, death would be a release from suffering. Yet our society has strict laws and stricter ethical standards when it comes to ending the life of another, for whatever reason. Most of us internalize those standards, and so face a wrenching dilemma when a loved one is living in misery, with no end in sight.

There are no easy, one-size-fits-all answers. We each must come to our own resolution. Yet there ought to be a national standard for assisted suicide, so that individual states (and individual families) do not bear the brunt of the decision. The laws in Oregon, Montana, and Washington strike me as a humane, balanced approach. Each of us is entitled to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Should we not also be entitled to decide when to end our lives, humanely and free of pain?

No comments:

Post a Comment