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Considering the power of her signature, one must wonder: Is the pen now mightier than the sword?

Of course, we can look at Libya, Syria and Sudan to find examples of modern war crimes and atrocities, but we can also look to the march of justice - and the advent of lawyers and prosecutors - for progress in the arrest of some of the most powerful men in modern history.

After the arrest of Slobodan Milosevic came the arrest of former presidents Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Charles Taylor of Liberia. They were followed with the arrests of Chad’s former president, Hissene Habre, Cambodia’s Khieu Samphan, the former president of the Khmer Rouge, and of course, Radovan Karadzic.

In each case, men who were once deemed untouchable - like Mladic - have been brought to justice, not by the sword, but by the pen. Lawyers and their investigative colleagues have built criminal cases and applied to judges to approve indictments and sign arrest warrants, leading to the arrests of a former strongmen.

With a stroke of a pen, impunity is slowly being banished from the world. Of course, impunity will not disappear overnight and it may always endure somewhere, but Ms. Malovic’s signature demonstrates that once powerful men, bent on mass slaughter and destruction are increasingly facing justice in the courtroom, rather than exile in a well-appointed villa.

The proceedings in The Hague will not be lost on a new generation of lawyers and prosecutors, determined to bring an end to impunity, or those in danger of falling victim to the world’s thugs and mass murders.

To the world’s victims, Mladic’s initial court appearance is a sign of progress. To the world’s perpetrators like President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan and Col. Moammar Gadhafi of Libya, it is a warning. Despite your swords, pens are ready and your days are numbered.

Mark V. Vlasic, an adjunct professor of law at Georgetown University and a partner at Ward & Ward PLLC, served on the Slobodan Milosevic and Srebrenica genocide prosecution trial teams at the U.N. war crimes tribunal.