This Week Around the World
March 20, 2021

Week of March 20 – March 24, 2021

During the last week, there have been two significant events in two major regions of the world: the death of Slobodan Milosevic (“the Butcher of the Balkans”), which marks the end of one of the most important international trials since the Nuremberg Trials following World War II and the swearing in of Chile’s first female president, Michelle Bachelet. Both of these of these events not only have important political implications for Europe and Latin America respectively, but for the rest of the world, including Canada.

Slobodan Milosevic has been on trial, at The Hague, since February 2002, for 66 counts of crimes, ranging from genocide (in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo) to crimes against humanity. He was accused of orchestrating the brutal ethnic cleansing campaign against non-Serbians during the breakdown of the Yugoslav federation, in an effort to create a “Greater Serbia.” During the decade of conflict from approximately 1989 – 2000, he oversaw approximately 250,000 deaths before he was arrested and brought to trial.

Mr. Milosevic was found dead, in his cell, on Saturday, March 11, 2006, from what appear to be natural causes. He had been on trial since February 2002 and was the first sitting head of state to ever be indicted for war crimes, which has been considered a significant achievement in itself. For many of Milosevic’s victims though, a sense of justice has been lost. The importance of the his trial, however, has not been wasted, as it has hopefully marked the end of genocide and ethnic cleansing in Europe and serves as a message to all leaders around the world that crimes against humanity will not be tolerated.

Chile has also sent a message around the world over the last week. The newly sworn-in president is the daughter of a military advisor to socialist president, Salvador Allende, who was tortured (and soon died) by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, 32 years ago. Ms. Bachelet has a strong memory of her country’s painful history, as both her and her mother were also held at an infamous torture centre and eventually fled the country in exile.

Ms. Bachelet has committed herself to continuing to move Chile away from its violent and tumultuous past, by promising to govern in a more open way and to allow for citizens’ groups to have a greater say in the political system. Her commitment to openness has already been witnessed by the selection of her cabinet – half are women and only two of her ministers have previous ministerial experience.
Her inauguration was attended by 120 representatives around the world, including 30 heads of state (Governor General Michaelle Jean was present), Spain’s Crown Prince Felipe, as well as U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, who was noted as saying, “a wonderful day for Chile and for all the women of the world.” I would quite agree with Ms. Rice and firmly believe that Ms. Bachelet has the potential to set a tremendous example for Latin America and for the rest of the world.
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