Very brutal criminals are facing justice. On Nov. 22, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) sentenced Ratko Mladic to life in prison. His crimes during the Balkan ethnic wars of the 1990s include murder of over 7,000 men and boys in Srebrenica. Mladic fled in 1997 and was arrested in 2011.

In March 2016, the ICTY convicted his associate Radovan Karadžic of genocide. He was President of the Bosnia Serb Republic (Republika Srpska), a territory seeking to join Serbia.

Karadžic, arrested by Serbian authorities in July 2008, was a principal instigator of violence by the Bosnia Serb regime during the vicious warfare of the earlier decade. Ingenious disguises and a network of sympathizers permitted him to remain free for 13 years.

In July 2011, Serbia government officials arrested Goran Hadžic. He was a principal leader of Croatia’s Serbs during the ethnically based war and mass murders in the Balkans during the 1990s.

Hadžic was captured at Fruška Gora Mountain north of Belgrade. Before indictment in 2004, he lived relatively openly in the northern Serbia city of Novi Sad, despite having a price on his head.

With Hadžic’s arrest, all 161 individuals indicted for war crimes by the ICTY had been captured. The government of Serbia, whose predecessors initiated that war, has played an important positive role.

Serbia’s government deserves credit for arresting nine suspects during the first decade of the 21st century. At the same time, ethnic nationalism remains strong. Karadžic, Mladic and other leaders of the Balkan fighting are heroes to many.

Also in 2008, accused Serb war criminal Momcilo Jovanovic was captured while visiting a graveyard in the village of Vitomirica in Kosovo. He was arrested by local police and transferred to the custody of international investigators, in an orderly manner. A warrant for his arrest had been issued by the ICTY unit located in Priština.

On the other side of the Yugoslav ethnic divide, Croat Miroslav Bralo was a member of a military police unit of the Defense Council of Croatia. The unit, dubbed “The Jokers,” was feared for brutal interrogation methods. They operated in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Targets were Bosnian Muslims, including children. In April 2007, Bralo was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

“Operation Storm” was led by Croat General Ante Gotovina in the summer of 1995. The strike seized the province of Krajina from Serbs. The commander was congratulated by Croatia President Franjo Tudjman as hundreds of thousands of Serbs fled their homes.

The operation left one 150 people dead and razed villages. Gotovina was convicted of war crimes, but that was overturned in 2012 and he was released. Guilty verdicts of other Croats stand.

Americans tend to divide the world into “good guys” and “bad guys.” Serbia’s President Slobodan Miloševic exploited ethnic conflict, becoming the villain of the resulting media melodrama.

However, while most of those convicted are Serbs, both sides committed crimes. During World War II, Germany found Croatia a fruitful recruiting ground. In the latest war, some Croat soldiers carried Nazi battle flags. The tangled nature of this conflict should encourages realism among people given to simplistic worldviews.

By definition, the rule of law applies uniform standards to all parties, and puts weight of proof on the prosecution. The process can be slow and frustrating, as in the Balkan war cases, but encourages integrity. The ICTY fosters rule of law.

— Arthur I. Cyr is Clausen Distinguished Professor at Carthage College and author of “After the Cold War.” Contact at acyr@carthage.edu.