Tag Archives: Radovan Karadzic

Bosnia now: the past and the future facing each other.

On the same day that the trial of Radovan Karadzic began in the Hague, war criminal Biljana Plavsic, who succeeded Karadzic as President of Republika Srpska was released from prison, after having served seven of the eleven years to which she had been convicted by the ICTY for her role on the war in Bosnia.

These two events occurred just a few days after the failure of the Butmir talks, the latests initiative to overcome the current political situation in Bosnia, which some define as crisis, but I prefer to define as deadlock, because, unlike in a crisis, the current situation perfectly serves on of the parts involved. While the current situation doesn’t satisfy anyone, doing nothing, leaving things as they are is clearly beneficial for the leadership of the Serb entity.

Headed by Milorad Dodik, the government of the Republika Srpska is actively working towards the disintegration of Bosnia by systematically obstructing the process of decision making, proving by its behaviour that any power-sharing is worthless when the actors are not willing or at least complied to share power.

APTOPIX Serbia War Crimes Plavsic

Upon her release from prison in Sweden, Bijlana Plavsic flew to Belgrade in the jet of the government of the Republika Srpska, and upon her arrival, was warmly received by Milorad Dodik. The image of this encounter are striking: the past and the future holding hands, like a mother and her son.

Both were, at a certain point, considered by the international actors involved Bosnia as moderate politicians worth backing. This tells a lot about the fallacy of the opposition between moderates and hardliners when it comes to Serb nationalism. Their moderation, Plavsic’s as well as Dodik’s, proved to be merely tactical. Through their seemingly moderate policies, when compared to those of Radovan Karadzic and his supporters, they gave a very important contribution to advance the cause of pursuing with the goal of disintegrating Bosnia and reinforcing the homogeneous ethnic composition of the serb entity.

During the war, Plavsic, aka the ‘iron lady’, was known by her extreme nationalism and her outright racism. A Professor of Biology, Plavsic had no problem in abusing the authority of science to justify her racism, by presenting ‘ethnic cleansing’ as “a perfectly natural phenomenon” and claiming that the Bosnian Muslims were “genetically deformed material”:

That’s true [i.e. her imagination that the Bosnian Muslims were originally Serbs]. “But it was genetically deformed material that embraced Islam. And now, of course, with each successive generation this gene simply becomes concentrated. It gets worse and worse, it simply expresses itself and dictates their style of thinking and behaving, which is rooted in their genes…

This was the ‘moderate’ politician who, after the war the international actors chose to back. And when she voluntary surrendered after being indicted by the ICTY, her ‘moderation’ seemed to be confirmed.  Thus, Plavsic had as her defense witnesses prominent figures such as Madeleine Albright and Carl Bildt, whose testimony was an important mitigating factor for the judges (here, see note 20). Plavsic went as far as showing remorse and appealing for reconciliation, and the sincerity of her words was confirmed by the statement of the witness Elie Wiesel.

In fact, by pleading guilty on the count of persecutions as a crime against humanity, she managed to obtain a bargain in which the prosecution dropped all other charges, including two counts of genocide. Her plea thus represented not a positive step towards reconciliation, but a lost opportunity to prove that a genocide was committed in Bosnia, by the Serb forces against the Muslims.

Early this year, Plavsic retracted her confession, in an interview to the Swedish Vi magazine :

I sacrificed myself. I have done nothing wrong. I pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity so I could bargain for the other charges.”

By pleading guilty on crimes against humanity so that she could get away with genocide, Biljana Plavsic sacrificed herself for the sake of the Nation, but her sacrifice was obviously not as hard as the one she thought it was right to impose on her own co-nationals. Indeed, for the sake of ‘Greater Serbia’ considered that the dead of as much as half the total ethnic Serb population would be a worthy sacrifice:

There are 12 million Serbs and even if six million perish on the field of battle, there will be six million to reap the fruits of the struggle“.

So, through her ‘sacrifice’, not only she managed to get her sentence substantially reduced, but she also avoided a conviction of genocide that would contribute to highlight the illegitimacy of the very existence of Republika Srpska.

If we look at the concept of legitimacy as springing from the founding act of any politically organized society, what do we see? We see the need to deny genocide, because legitimacy is the glue that binds people together in a politically organized society, while genocide is the ‘original sin’ upon which Republika Srpska was built. If someone like Bijlana Plavsic, or Milorad Dodik for that matter, chose to oppose the warmongering faction led by Karadzic, it was because they understand that violence was merely an instrument among others to achieve a goal.

Until now, the only conviction on the account of genocide by the ICTY was the case of General Radislav Krstic, the commander of the Drina Corps. However, his conviction for genocide covered solely the case of the Massacre of Srebrenica. The chance to get a conviction for genocide on a wider area than Srebrenica was also missed at the trial of Momcilo Krajisnik, in which the prosecution failed to establish the Krajisnik genocidal intent ( read Bosnia’s ‘accidental’ genocide, by Edina Becirevic. Krajisnik was convicted to 27 years in prison, but acquitted of genocide, and as a result of his appeal, the sentence was reduced to 20 years, overturning the convictions in several charges.

This appeal revealed major flaws in the prosecution’s strategy and sparked the fear that similar or even greater difficulties will be faced to convict Radovan Karadzic of genocide(about this debate, read ‘What Karadzic Prossecutors learnt from Krajisnik Trial’, by Simon Jennings).

Thus, bearing in mind the failure of the International Court of Justice (about this, read ‘The ICJ and the decriminalisation of Genocide‘, by Marko Attila Hoare, and ‘Vital Genocide documents concealed‘, by Florence Hartmann), and the fact that Ratko Mladic is still at large and most likely will never be captured, the trial of Radovan Karadzic represents the last chance to establish through international law, the full extent of the genocidal character of the aggression against Bosnia-Hercegovina (about this, it’s worth reading this post by Kirk Johnson at Americans for Bosnia).

The stakes are high. The result of this trial cannot but have an important impact on the Republika Srpska. It is not at all a matter of ‘collective guilt’, since guilt is always individual, but it is a matter of political legitimacy. The political identity of the serb entity is being built now as if it was an alien land, but the past keeps coming back and the urge for justice won’t go away so easily, as the case of the Spanish Civil war highlights.

However, for something to change in the current trend of ‘smooth’ disintegration, it is necessary that what is called the international community, meaning the relevant international  players in Bosnia, should make a serious reflection on what went wrong on their approach both of the conflict and of the post-conflict phase. That reflection is not at all happening and the result is clearly shown in the predictable failure of the Butmir talks.

Nonetheless, I do believe there are grounds for hope, for the simple reason that the future is not written in the stars but is rather built in the present and can always be changed. I believe real change must come from within the Bosnian society. Imposed solutions have already proved their limits, but international support for change will always play a crucial role. But for change to happen, we must stop waiting for a miracle, because time is not working on our side.

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Filed under Bosnia, Genocide, International Law, Nationalism, Srebrenica

Extremists and self-isolation: the case of the daily rallies in Trg Republike, Belgrade.

It’s been more than two weeks now since I arrived in Belgrade. This is my sixt trip to Belgrade, which makes Belgrade the city I know best other than my home city Lisbon.

When I am in Belgrade I try as much as possible to live like the belgraders do. I stay at my friend Jelena Markovic, I go to the market and to the supermarket, I watch TV, read the newspaper, go to the caffee, take the bus, have family dinners (Jelena’s family adopted me, and Jelena’s mother is a fantastic cook), hang around with friends.

The only differences between my life in Lisbon and my life in Belgrade is that my husband stays in Lisbon when I come to Belgrade and that the car stays with him, so I don’t drive in Belgrade.

Not driving in Belgrade, I failed to grasp to which extent the daily rally in support of Radovan Karadzic is disrupting the routine of Belgrade citizens. That is, until yesterday…

Yesterday, about 6h p.m. as I was walking to the centre, I was surprised to see that Terazije, Belgrade’s main square, was blocked to traffic. Although I already knew about this, I haden’t yet realized what it meant to be stuck in traffic because a few dozens of people decide to make a marca during rush hour, to protest against the fact that their government, the serbian government, arrested and extradited war-crimes indictee Radovan Karadzic, something that the government was legaly bounded to do.

The rally is organized by the extremist nationalist movement 1389. Besides the daily meeting in Trg Republike, the 1389 members ‘visit’ anti-nationalist organizations, that they identify as traitors to the nation, in order to intimidate them. Last week, they visited the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, where they daubed a swastica. Some time before, they had also been at the Humanitarian Law Fund, I was informed, and I also saw on a website the photos that they took themselves of their visit to NUNS, the serbian independent association of journalists.

The traffic on Terazije was cut by the police itself, who escourted the ‘crowd’ of no more than a hundred people (I counted them myself) until Republic Square. Then, when the ‘croud’ arrived, the Soviet Union Russian anthem was played. There were participants waving the flags of Venezuela and Cuba. All of this took at least 40 minutes, if not more.

My point then is: why is it that 1389 is treated by the competent autorities as a legitimate organization? Why is it authorized to daily disrupt the routine of the heart of Belgrade in order to protest against the arrest and extradition of Karadzic, something which, it’s important to stress this, the serbian government is legally bounded to do.

Not only the rallies, which fail to attract more than one hundred participants, disrupt the routine of the city, but, above all, serve as a legal cover to acts of harrassement and intimidation against persons and organization who promote Human Rights and Democracy.

I have posted on this blog that a neo-nazi rally had been called to be held in Belgrade this saturday (11 October). Well, the rally was not authorized. That is good news.

However, the fact is that, every day, a fascist rally is held in Belgrade. It is so because it is allowed. They are allowed because they fulfil a useful function. When they ‘visit’ civic-minded organizations, they are ‘confirming’  the idea that civic minded organizations and people are really the mirror of neo-nazis and extremists nationalists. This then allows the ‘moderate’ sectors to comfortably denounce the civic-minded organizations activities as extremists and to discredit their perspective. It is important to stress that this serves the interests not only of the conservative elites, but also a part of the pro-european elite.

In fact, this is the measure of the degree of self-isolation in which the serbian elite lives. A substantial part of the political elite of the pro-european sector supports the idea that there is no need for confrontation with the past. For them the problem is not that problems exist, but that they become visible when someone decides to talk about them.

This becomes particularly clear when attacks such as the recent campaign against Sonja Biserko, which Marko Hoare analizes here, fail to provoke a strong reaction within the pro-european ranks.

Final remark:

for those who claim that 1389 has nothing to do with neo-nazis, i would be glad to show them the photos of skin-heads in their rallies, photos that I took myself. I just don’t publish them because I think there are limits to bad taste and don’t want my blog to look repelent.

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Filed under Belgrade, Serbia

Daily protests againts Karadzic arrest in Belgrade.

Please, don’t missinterpret the image. Most of the people in Trg Republike (Republic Square) are passers-by…

Here the announcement of the great demonstrations… Obviously the Belgraders couldn’t care less!

(click on the photos to enlarge)

However, the activities of the supporters of radovan Karadzic don’t satisfy themselvas with orderly demonstrations. Thus, they have been visiting various organizations that publicly call for Serbia t face its past… these are not frieldly visits. Although no incidents have ocured, these are in fact acts of intimidation directed against their liberal oponents.

Yesterday, a group of about 70 went to the office of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia.

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Filed under Belgrade, Genocide, Nationalism

Serb hero in a new poster!

I saw the new version of the classic poster on the website of the Serbian NGO Youth Iniciative for Human Rights, and I couldn’t resist ‘stealing it’.

I love this kind of ideas.

I advise those who liked the poster to go to their site and click on the image…

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Filed under Genocide, Justice, Serbia

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Bringing the perpretrators of ideologically-motivated mass crimes to Justice

Radovan Karadzic made his appearence today at the ICTY where he listened to his indictment. This happened one day after two generals, Antonio Bussi, 82, and Luciano Benjamin Menendez, 81, former members of the military junta that between 1976 and 1983 terrorized Argentina, were sentenced to life imprisonment by an Argentinian tribunal

For many years, the families and friends of those whom they sent to death demanded justice. Too many people preferred to simply forget about it, but they kept demanding justice. The courage and dignity of the mothers of Plaza de Mayo always impressed me, and when I heard about the women from Srebrenica their example immediately came to my mind.

For 30 years they kept asking for justice, fighting oblivion, not allowing anyone to forget what the expression ‘Dirty War’ meant… and these were mostly simple uneducated women, whose strength came from their sense of justice and from the fact that, having already lost what most precious they had, intimidation and fear could not silence them.

…dirty war, ethnic cleansing, somebody invented these expressions, as I was writing them I noticed how they mirror each other. What do they have in common? Their fascist essence.

Last time I was in Serbia, a person with whom I had a very interesting conversation about the question of facing the past told me about a current that I didn’t know about, who is advancing the idea that the best choice is not to face the past at all. These people, who don’t consider themselves nationalists. Those who consider themselves nationalists don’t really deny the past, because in fact they are proud of it, they are just sorry that they didn’t go far enough.

This is an argument that is being discussed among so-called moderates, who are using the Spanish case as an example. It goes like this: look, Spain didn’t face the past, and that didn’t prevent the country from becoming a democracy and a wealthy and powerful country. I will not go into this question in detail now, I’ll just remind the readers that this an argument that reveals either ignorance or the wish to falsify the truth. Spain didn’t face the past because those who didn’t want such process to happened managed to prevent it for 30 years, but now the issue is finally being tacked. Here, here and here for more…(in castellan and galego, sorry for the non speakers, the english version in wikipedia is not updated, but here’s an article from the Guardian) (I will return to this subject latter).

Those who benefit from this kind of approach, not only in former Yugoslavia or Spain or Latin American, believe that time will work in their favour.  It does, but only if the voices of the victims is silenced or ignored.

The case of the Argentine generals proves that it doesn’t have to be like that. I believe there are valuable lessons to be drawn from this. Justice will never be entirely accomplished, but at least it will be harder to falsify the past.

(photos from BBC, what’s in common between these three men, besides the fact that they are monsters? they don’t scare anyone anymore)

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Filed under Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, Justice, Serbia, Spain, Srebrenica, Violence, War

LETTER FROM BELGRADE

This is a letter I have just received from a colleague from Belgrade:
Dear all,
I would like to share with you one information that made me very happy!
Radovan Karadzic, leader of Bosnian Serbs during the war in Bosnia, indicted before the ICTY for variety of serious crimes, among other for the Srebrenica genocide, fugitive from justice for 12 years, has been arrested in Belgrade yesterday night.
During the press conference that was held a minute ago the high state officials of Serbia have stated that he was hiding in Belgrade, his identity was well hidden, he was working as the alternative medicine doctor in one Belgrade’s small doctor’s surgery (he was healing people ?!?). He was arrested in a bus when he was going to work.
I know that this all sounds a bit crazy, but it is true.
This story has 2 points:
1) Be careful in the future if you want to seek the advice from the alternative medicine doctor 🙂
2) Most important thing – the law enforcement bodies are usually very capable to do their work – it is the political will that is needed to confront the problem! That could equally be applied in the case of combating trafficking in human beings.
Warmest regards to everyone from Belgrade!

Andjelka

Andjelka, it’s just great to have friend like you. In the end it is people like you that will rescue Serbia’s lost dignity!

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Filed under Belgrade, Bosnia, Freedom, Genocide, Hope, International Law, Justice, Nationalism, Non-conformism, Serbia, Srebrenica

KARADZIC ARRESTED!

I am so HAPPPPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the news on B92.

Here in BBC.

Serbia seems to be finally chosing the future over the past! From Lisbon, I want to greet my serbian friends!

I have just returned from Belgrade, and there was indeed hope in the air. Something was changing. It’s easy to say so now, of course, but those who know me personally know that was my feeling. But as I was leaving, Jelena and I were talking about the possibility that Mladic could soon be arrested, but none of us thought that Karadzic would ever be arrested. It is an irony that it took SPS to get to power for this to happen, but it makes sense. They are cynicals, not true believers, and they will over-run any obstacle to their goals. Now Mladic and Karadic were the obstacles… Too bad for them.

I called my friends on the phone and we cryed of joy together! I am getting sentimental, what can I do?

It’s amazing how things work when there is political will to do so.

At this very moment I am on the phone with one of my friend from Belgrade. She is watching the news on TV and I am waiting for the latest developments. My friends are receiving SMS messages from all around, people are incredibly happy, and now I need to go to sleep because tomorrow there is plenty of work wayting for me, but how can one sleep with such excitement?

My thoughs now go to the little girl that photographed in Srebrenica. Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, I will print her photos and send them to her family’s address.

Good night Radovan, sweet dreams and srećni put to Holland!

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Filed under Bosnia, Genocide, Hope, Justice, Serbia, Srebrenica