Ukraine is Mostar

By Yulya Makarevych

April 4, 2023

(Krzyżowa, Poland) Today we all observed the trial  of Slobodan Praljak at the Model International Criminal Court (MICC). Praljak is the Bosnian Croat general who served in the militia Croatian Defence Council during the Bosnian war (1992-95). He is charged with the destruction of the “Old Bridge” in Mostar, built in 1566 by the Ottoman Turks, an historical, cultural treasure that had significant meaning to all the people in that city. The prosecution admits that there is no proof that Praljak gave the order to destroy it; however, they strongly believe that he could have prevented the bridge’s destruction. The defense claims the destruction of the bridge was a terrible accident, and Praljak’s colleagues were at fault.

However, having attended the trial, I completely agree with the prosecution team, and I think that Slobodan Praljak should be sentenced to life imprisonment. 

Why do I feel this way? Because I see — and feel in my heart — the connection between the war in former Yugoslavia and what is happening today.

I am Ukrainian. What is happening in Ukraine is the same as what happened in Mostar. The war crime that happened there, so many years ago, is the same that is happening today to me and my community. We are going through the same experiences that happened to the people who suffered from the destruction of the bridge. Can you believe that in the 21st century, one cruel nation is trying to erase everything that is connected with another? Before the 24th of February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, I did not believe that anybody could be so ruthless. But after seeing the cultural destruction in Ukraine of famous architecture and monuments, places which had great meaning to the people of my country, I now feel that the Russia Federation is a pure evil. 

However, there was another, greater crime in Mostar, as in Ukraine. There is something more important than any cultural and historical sites. This is, of course, the crime of destroying human lives. Along with the bridge that was destroyed, many people died. They deserved to live, but the generals decided otherwise. Is this fair? I do not think so. 

After listening to the arguments in court, I believe that Praljak is guilty: he meant to destroy the bridge. My experience as a Ukrainian lets me truly feel how terrible this crime is, because it is happening to me, now. This is why I support the strongest punishment for Praljak.