I went to visit my friend Ivo, a musician who is active in the
local Croat community.
By way of background, before the war central Bosnia was one of
the more ethnically-mixed regions, with large communities of
Muslims, Serbs, and Croats living together or close by each
other. When Serb separatist forces attacked Bosnia-Herzegovina
and took over two-thirds of its territory in the spring of 1992,
many (but not all) Serbs left the parts of central Bosnia that
were not taken over by Serb forces. Those places included
Travnik, Bugojno, and Zenica.
Ottoman fortress above Travnik
When Croats and Muslims began fighting each other intensively in
the spring of 1993, central Bosnia was divided up into Croat-
and Muslim-controlled areas that were often quite near each
other. The three above-mentioned cities remained under Muslim
control, while in some cases nearby towns (such as Vitez, Nova
Bila, and Novi Travnik) came under Croat control. Much
displacement had taken place by then. Some Croats and Serbs in
areas controlled by the Muslims stayed put, but thousands left.
When the fighting was officially ended a year later, "notional"
freedom of movement was reestablished. But to a large extent the
population was divided ethnically, even though the ethnic groups
still lived relatively near each other.
So far, this description of events sounds almost clinical, bland
enough for consumption by young children. But war is organized
murder, and in central Bosnia, it was the goal of the Croats and
Muslims each to take as much territory as possible from the
other - if necessary, by killing each other, the people with
whom they had been neighbors for many centuries. Although the
end of the war within a war brought the formation of the Croat-
and Muslim-controlled Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (one of
Bosnia's two entities), not all of the damage has been repaired,
and not all of the missing have been found.
One regional characteristic of the Croat-Muslim conflict in
central Bosnia was the presence of the mujahedin - militant
Islamic fighters primarily from Arab countries. These volunteer
troops were only loosely under the control of the Bosnian army,
and often under no control at all. Ideologically driven, on
average they committed more war crimes than the other Muslim
troops, although native Bosniaks also participated in these
crimes on numerous occasions.
Central Bosnia has a rich history of Franciscan missionary
presence dating back well before Ottoman times. One of the
sadder occurrences of the Croat-Bosniak conflict was the
tendency of the mujahedin to take over, or at least attack, some
of those monasteries.
Ivo and his family live in the same house they lived in before
the war. He was a young boy when the war broke out. In order to
escape the fighting between the Croats and Muslims, his family
traveled north to Croatia, passing over Mt. Vlašić, through
Serb-controlled territory. Ivo told me that the Serbs, in the
territory they controlled, allowed the women and children to
leave, but not the men.
Ivo's house was damaged during the war, and rebuilt afterwards.
I asked him if there were many Croats who came back. He said,
"No, they didn't want to live among the people who killed them -
although a lot of the killing had been done by the mujahedin,
not by the local Muslims. They committed a big massacre nearby."
More Croats have left since the war. Ivo said that about one
third of his family was abroad. I asked if people were leaving
because of discrimination, or because of the lack of work. He
said that it was more because of lack of work.
Ivo took me on a guided tour of several of the Croat community
centers, schools, and churches in the area. He was on familiar
terms with all of these places and the people in them. First, he
showed me the Gymnasium. This public school run by the Catholics
is famous throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina for the quality of
education provided there, and the number of Muslim students who
attend is not small.
The superintendent at the Gymnasium was careful about security,
only letting us into the building when Ivo phoned the priest and
got permission. He took me into the chapel, a restored area. He
told me that during the Tito era it had been used as a sports
Upstairs, we looked through a window to the inner courtyard
where Ivo showed me the difference between the restored part of
the building complex that was under church control, and another
section of the complex, which was a government-run school. The
church-controlled part was painted and all spruced up, and the
rest was drab and falling apart. There were something over 1,200
The renowned Gymnasium at Travnik -
In the evening we went to Mihovilo church, built in 1868. It was
one of the first churches that the Ottomans permitted to be
built in the municipality. The inside of this church had been
wrecked during the war, but not the building. The Franciscan
friar at Mihovilo told me that before the war there had been
about 5,000 members of the parish, but now there were around
2,000. In the entire Travnik municipality, he said, now there
are around 15,000 Catholics.
I asked the friar if people had left because of discrimination
or because of the lack of work. He said that there was a
"mixture of problems." There are some Croats who work abroad for
a while and then come back. There is not so much farming anymore
in the villages; more people are involved in businesses in Vitez.
We continued on to Brajkovići monastery. On the way, Ivo told
me that there was a massacre of Croats at Bikos, and the remains
of the 23 victims have not been found. The friar from Brajkovići,
Fra Leon, showed me the matica, the book of family
records, from 1879. It was saved by a monk during the war. There
were recordings of families and their important events - births,
weddings, funerals, from those early dates.
The Bosnian army took over this church and stationed troops
there during the war, and did some damage.
We went further on, to Guča Gora. I met Fra Branko. He told me
that in 1853 the Ottomans gave permission to build the church,
and it was finished in 1859. Things were better under the
Austrians, he said, although in World War I they took the church
bells and melted them to use the metal for weapons. The
Partisans bombed it in 1945, and then it was restored. There
were "crypto-Catholics" in the Tito era. When Fra Branko
finished showing me around he said, "That's the story and I'm
Mujahedin occupied the monastery at Guča Gora and defaced the
art works in the interior extensively. They threw paint on the
mural, created in 1974, that dominated the altar. After the war,
when the monks came back and began repairing the monastery, they
learned that the mural could not be restored, so they decided to
leave it as it was. The mural is an attractive, colorful and
modern painting, in some parts reminiscent of Latin American
murals. Somehow, the dark red, almost maroon paint splattered
across the mural does not destroy it. The color blends with the
rest of the painting and, naturally, adds another layer to the
history of the institution and its art.
Wartime vandalism at the Guča Gora
Mostar is the most notoriously divided city in
Bosnia-Herzegovina. You don't see any boundary, but the signs of
separation between Croat and Muslim are clear. During the war
most Croats who lived on the east side of the Neretva River
moved to the west side, and most Muslims who lived on the west
side moved east. After the war there was quite a lot of return
of displaced people to the surrounding villages in Mostar
municipality, but not much within the city itself. So today you
have the Muslim-dominated east side, including the incredibly
lovely old Turkish area with its famous reconstructed Stari
Most, the Old Bridge. And on the west side you have a pleasant,
but much more prosaic - and larger, and more economically
developed - Croat-controlled area.
Destroyed house on former front
I have written about Mostar in previous years, describing the
splitting of infrastructure - schools, utilities, cultural
events, and most other social activities, into two cities. (See
The international community has fought against this division, to
no avail. The local politicians, mainly representing Croats and
Muslims, go back and forth about how to solve the problem. But
as in most of the rest of the country, behind all this it seems
that they are satisfied with the problem as it is, as long as
they have a way to take home a hefty paycheck and keep their
people safely separated from each other.
This year Mostar was a special case because, among other things,
it did not participate in the nationwide municipal elections.
The local political situation was simply too blocked. Local
Croat and Muslim politicians could not - and still can't - agree
on how to reform their government. To put it briefly, after the
war Mostar was divided into six municipalities, three
Croat-dominated and three Muslim-dominated. Each municipality
got an equal number of representatives in the municipal
assembly. But, since there were very unequal populations in the
six municipalities, this violated the principle of "one man -
one vote" (and women, too). So in 2004 the international
community abolished that setup. Now the Muslims, since they're
in the minority, would like to retain that old system, and the
Croats insist on a more proportionate system of representation.
For the time being, there is an acting government, but the city
is not prepared for new elections.
I spoke with Marko Tomaš, a
journalist in Mostar. He explained some things about the
blockage with the city government: "In 2004 [High
Representative] Ashdown abolished the six-municipality
arrangement of Mostar in order to force the unification of the
city government and of the state companies. The city government
has been united but the unification of the companies has not
been possible to implement; it can't be done today as things
"After the war, the Bosniaks were in favor of the unification of
the city and for one-man, one vote. Now it is the opposite,
because they are afraid of being outvoted. Because it is
considered that there is a majority of Croats.
"The Croats are in favor of there being one municipality; this
gives them the opportunity to out-vote the Bosniaks. As a
solution, there could be six municipalities but having them vote
as one electoral unit. A solution is possible, but there are no
parties in Mostar that are willing to be partners in finding
"One solution would be to have the census and then to determine
representation according to that result. The OHR should
implement this. It is idiotic to say that a Croat majority will
lead to the eradication of the Bosniaks in Mostar. There is
always this kind of radicalized speech before the elections.
Presently the membership of the City Council is still determined
by the 1991 census. But it is not acceptable that a voter who
lives in the US, etc., should determine what goes on here. Nor
is it essential, for that matter, that Mostar be established as
the stolni grad [capitol city, administrative center] of
the Croats. What is important is to mobilize the potential of
the city and the surrounding region."
Q: What is that potential?
A: "The economic capacity of the region must be organized
better. For example, the infrastructure must be better
organized. We need to work with the budget to simplify
procedures for development. It is the same at the state level,
but Mostar has some of the highest potential in the country.
"First the city administration should be rationalized, including
transparency. There needs to be more of a city plan because now,
everything is done on a semi-legal basis. For example, they sold
the old hospital in a matter of three days, and it was turned
into a business center. This happened three years ago. It should
have been preserved as a historical site. But since it was sold,
then the investor should have been responsible for the
infrastructure on the entire block, but this did not happen. As
a result, the city had to take care of the water supply and the
sewer system, and I'm sure that this cost the city at least a
Q: But the present semi-legal arrangement is useful to those who
would perpetrate economic crime, isn't it?
A: "A big investor could straighten these things out. But now
there is no urban plan. On the other hand, the east side is
protected as a historical site, and so there is less investment
there, because of all the rules. For example, the Robna Kuća
[department store] has been sitting empty and unrepaired. An
investor would be responsible not only for the business space,
but also for the upper levels of the building, which is
residential space. There were seven floors, and whoever
undertook to reconstruct the building would be responsible for
the entire building.
"There is great economic potential around Mostar, especially in
agriculture. The talk about industrialization is just stupidity.
It wouldn't be competitive. For now, there is no chance of that.
Also, there could be a heightened potential for winter tourism
here in the Mostar region. But no one knows about this.
"The managers sold the aviation company [Soko, sold off by
Dragan Čović, president of the most powerful Croat nationalist
party] for one KM. With zdrav razum [rational thinking],
why couldn't we manufacture bicycles and streetcars? Instead,
the present dynamics make it easy for a few people to get very
Q: Is Aluminij [the aluminum smelting company based in Mostar]
A: The continued existence of Aluminij is not an exception. It
was preserved because it was in the interest of some Croatian
businesses for it to continue to supply raw materials. Aluminij
is still just a supplier of cheap raw materials. It sells them
to another BiH firm, which then sells them to a company in
Šibenik. Each transfer results
in profit for the middleman."
Q: Do the ordinary people understand the criminality behind the
general lousy situation here?
A: "I'd say it is half and half. Many people are politically
blind. It is a problem that there is no party in existence to
articulate an alternative political vision. This should have
been the SDP, but that has not been the case for a long time.
"There has been a large amount of money from the international
community that has been donated to the NGO sector. But that
sector has for the most part not done useful work. NGO workers
hold conferences and speak in a language that ordinary people do
not understand. People consider the NGOs elitist. And the
international donors determine what their politics should be.
"All that's left that has potential for change are some of the
media, primarily in the internet. This is possibly an arena
where, at least in the urban setting, some movement could be
made to bring us out of a standstill. But the population of BiH
is 40% computer illiterate."
The Old Bridge, Mostar
I spoke with another journalist, Predrag Zvijerac, who works for
the Dnevni List. We talked about the conduct of politics on the
national level. Predrag said, "Bosnia-Herzegovina has always
been about exploiting the resources. This especially has to do
with electrical energy. None of the leaders really care about
Bosnia entering the European Union. And the SDP-SNSD
collaboration has a lot to do with selling off the remaining
state companies, such as BiH Telekom, so that they can get the
Addressing the bloated governmental system throughout
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Predrag said, "We have around three hundred
members of the three parliaments [at the state level and the two
entities], and each member gets around 4,000 KM per month. But
all the decisions are made among the leaders of five or six
parties, in a kafana. For example, Džombić [Prime Minister of
the Republika Srpska] and Nikšić [Prime Minister of the
Federation of BiH] came to an agreement about the Elektroprenos
[electrical transmission company] in a kafana called Aleksandar,
in Laktaši. These were the vice-presidents of the two strongest
parties. So these agreements are arrived at on the basis of a
narrow party interest (stranokracija).
"There was an agreement between the RS and Serbia to build a dam
on the Drina. That was retracted (with the RS having to pay
Serbia 500,000 KM); now they are negotiating with a German firm.
All of these kinds of maneuvers mean that the domestic
politicians are not interested in joining the EU, which would
prevent them from continuing to operate this way.
The government must be reformed to be less expensive and more
efficient, better functioning. The excess must be removed. For
example, there are too many ministers. Reducing the number of
Cantons would be good, too.
Doris Pack [EU delegate for relations with Bosnia] came and said
that we don't need ten Ministries of Education, and we don't
need ten Ministries of Justice either.
An example of the poor administration of this country is that we
have to make a law about what kind of tires people are allowed
to use, at four levels: the two entities, the state, and the
District. It can happen that these laws can be contradictory. In
the RS darkened windows are forbidden; in the Federation they
are permitted. The laws should be the same throughout the
Q: What's the situation in Mostar?
A: "You know that there were no elections. Mostar is one of the
only cities that are a Dayton category [i.e., the city's
political arrangement was determined at the Dayton
negotiations]. Politics was determined here by virtue of an
external agreement. Now, the domestic leaders don't want to be
dictated to by the international community.
In one electoral zone in Mostar, there are fewer voters but they
have the same number of representatives as a much bigger one. It
is hard to resolve this when all parties have a very firm
position. The SDA is strong here. The central SDA in Sarajevo
does not wish to intervene.
FOX TO GUARD CHICKEN COOP
In previous postings I have described the new alliance between
the Social Democratic Party (SDP) headed by Zlatko Lagumdžija,
and the Party for a Better Future (SBB - this title sounds even
stupider in English than in Bosnian) - headed by the media
tycoon and Bosniak nationalist Fahrudin Radončić.
It had been rumored that Radončić, friend to gangster and drug
lord on the lam Naser Kelmendi, was to be appointed to the post
of Minister of Security in the reshuffled state-level cabinet of
Bosnia-Herzegovina. Later it was rumored that he would not be so
As it turned out, in late November Radončić was indeed appointed
to this post. It's hard to be surprised by the depth of cynicism
displayed by the gangsters they call politicians in Bosnia, but
this move, straight out of Animal Farm (on steroids),
took my breath away.
The appointment was the result of the formation of a new
government coalition both at the state level and in the
Federation (one of Bosnia's two entities), after the SDP which
had gained a plurality of votes in the national elections in
2010, broke in June with the SDA (Muslim nationalist party), its
erstwhile coalition partner. The SDP formed a new parliamentary
majority with the SBB, the two leading Croat nationalist
parties, and the two leading Serb nationalist parties, the SDS
and RS President Milorad Dodik's SNSD.
The new coalition thus brings Bosnia back to a political
situation similar to the prewar years of 1990-1991, when the
nationalist parties collaborated to run Bosnia.into the ground.
The difference now is that Lagumdžija's SDP has shown itself to
be a completely opportunist sellout.
One commentator, discussing the "party-ocracy" (stranokracija),
said that the parties that behave in this rock-bottom
unprincipled manner are not political parties but, better put,
"political corporations." That phrase rather bypasses the deeply
ingrained political element in political processes in Bosnia.
But a mafia can be a corporation.
This whole situation reminds me of a statement in Munir
Alibabić's book, U Kandžama KOS-a (In
the Claws of KOS), 1996, where he wrote, "Fascism is the
highest form of organized crime. Considered from many aspects,
these two [phenomena] cannot be separated; a two-way
cause-effect combination is in question. Fascists are the
implementers of high-intensity plunder, from industrial
equipment to raw materials for energy production...humanitarian
relief contributions, and they control the trade of drugs and
narco-routes, and take over housing and other state resources.
And where are those key players located? Right there where the
alliance between the government and underground is created,
where the roles of "consigliera" or "cepa"
[plumber] are decisive. Through them the division of the country
into three was talked up and then realized." (p. 233)
I think that Alibabić's description of the wartime and immediate
postwar situation still applies today, although at present, the
term "fascism" is not as intuitively applicable as it was during
the war. The rest is accurate, down to his mention of the nexus
between the politicians and the drug lords.
Back to Radončić, one interesting aspect of his appointment is
that he did not pass through the customary security
investigation. Much about Radončić's life is known - especially
in the past twenty years since he arrived in Bosnia from his
home country of Montenegro (via Croatia). But Bosnia's top
investigatory agencies did not find it within themselves to
investigate, in a timely manner, twelve years of his life from
the period before he came to Bosnia. However, in this case,
Bosnia's national police organ SIPA (equivalent to the FBI) let
the investigation slide, and Radončić became Minister.
Somewhat before Radončić's appointment, on November 13th,
High Representative Valentin Inzko gave his annual report on
Bosnia-Herzegovina to the UN Security Council. In the report,
Inzko particularly focused on the anti-Bosnian behavior of the
leaders of the Serb-controlled entity, Republika Srpska. He
criticized President Dodik for working to weaken government at
the state level by rolling back powers that were appointed at
that level as a result of a struggle over many years' time.
Dodik has also recently revived a proposal to dissolve the
Bosnian army. This seems nice, but given the surroundings in
which Bosnia finds itself, would be equivalent to sending a
bleeding swimmer into shark territory.
Inzko quoted Dodik as saying, "Bosnia and Herzegovina is a
rotten State that does not deserve to exist"; also "Bosnia and
Herzegovina constantly confirms its inability to exist. Bosnia
and Herzegovina is definitely falling apart and it will happen
sooner or later. As far as I am concerned, I hope to God it
dissolves as soon as possible."
In answer to this kind of statement by Dodik - and a similar one
by Serbia's Prime Minister Nikolić ("Bosnia is slowly falling
apart."), Željko Komšić,
Croat member of Bosnia's three-part presidency and a former
member of the SDP, said in an interview, "Bosnia is not
falling apart and will not fall apart. When you think about the
enemies and occupiers that Bosnia has faced over the centuries,
the present adversaries are small in comparison." (My
paraphrase, from a recent interview with Komšić.
The Russian Ambassador to the UN objected to Inzko's criticism
of Dodik and, echoing Dodik's theme, called for the abolition of
the Office of the High Representative.
The High Representative's criticisms were incomplete. He did not
address the budding collaboration between the SDP and Dodik's
party. As I described in my previous posting, agreements that
have been reached in the rubric of this collaboration will lead
to accelerated plunder of the nation's wealth - for the
And economist and commentator Svetlana Cenić, former Minister of
Finance for the RS, responded to Inzko's report by pointing out
that for the last six years, the OHR was "simply an observer,"
not using its powers to correct any problems. "The international
community is satisfied when democratically-elected
representatives come to power, but when they do not fulfill
their promises, that's not a concern," she said.
In my last report I mentioned that the results of the elections
in Srebrenica were still - this was late November - not
confirmed. Well, now there has finally been definitive movement.
The results are good, but maybe, ultimately, quite bad.
In mid-November the Central Election Commission (CEC) confirmed
the Srebrenica elections on a 5-2 vote, with the head of the
Commission, Branko Petrić, voting against the flow. That
confirmation was appealed before the Court of
Bosnia-Herzegovina, which rejected the appeal, throwing the
decision back to the CEC. Right around that time, some members
of the CEC were replaced. Just before my last report, I had
heard a worrisome rumor that some of the new members would vote
against a re-confirmation of the elections.
However, that did not happen. The CEC re-confirmed the elections
in late November, again with a 5-2 vote, whereupon Dodik
announced that he would appeal the CEC's decision before the
Appellate Division of the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Meanwhile, also in late November, Emir Suljagić and two other
activists from "Glasaću za Srebrenicu" (I Will Vote for
Srebrenica), the organization that campaigned to register
absentee voters for the elections, were summoned to the
Srebrenica police station. An order had come down from the
District Prosecutor in Bijeljina for interrogation (informativni
razgovor - "informative conversation") about the activities with
regard to the campaign.
There had been rumors that Suljagić was arrested, but the level
of harassment in this case was somewhat lower than that. The
three activists were questioned as if they were under suspicion
for committing some criminal offense with regard to the recent
elections. The odd thing, as one activist pointed out, was that
there was no official criminal investigation underway. The
activists criticized the RS prosecution office and the
Srebrenica police for posing questions that there was no way the
activists could answer, and in general, for threatening their
right to free association.
In response, Suljagić announced the filing of a criminal
complaint against the District Prosecutor in Bijeljina for
discrimination and harassment.
Animal Farm on Steroids
When the CEC, in late November, re-confirmed the Srebrenica
elections and Dodik took the decision on appeal to a higher
court, I was discussing this situation with a friend. My
instinct told me that the Srebrenica elections would ultimately
be re-re-confirmed and it would be settled. But I wrote my
friend, "If Dodik loses this one, he has other ways to screw
This turned out to be correct. While the case was waiting to be
appealed, in the first week of this month the Srebrenica branch
of the SDP announced a local coalition with that municipality's
SBB and the two main Serb parties, Dodik's SNSD and the SDS. If
this red-black coalition goes through, it will control fourteen
out of 23 seats on the municipal council. The Bosniak parties (SDP
and SBB) will have four seats, and the two nationalist Serb
parties will control ten.
This is the way that the pro-Bosnian, anti-denial forces that
fought so hard to defeat the deniers of genocide could be
defeated after their victory. By combining with the Serb
nationalists, the SDP, which gained only two seats in the
election, would reverse the results of the October elections.
It is shocking, but it shouldn't be surprising because, in a
way, this behavior is simply parallel to what the SDP has been
doing on the national level since last summer. Still, for this
sell-out to take place in Srebrenica, world symbol of genocide -
and after such a sustained and valiant effort by the human
rights activists - is particularly revolting. I am personally
taken aback because some of those SDP members are friends of
mine from the time when they were in the forefront of the
campaign for return. It is hard for me to accept the fact of
such cynicism and compromise, even though I know that it is
politics. This is about slamming the main Bosniak party (the SDA,
rival to the SDP) and gaining power. However, with four out of
fourteen seats, I don't imagine that the SDP and its SBB cronies
will really have that much power.
Emir Suljagić, the Sarajevo survivors organization Mothers of
Srebrenica, and other activists all condemned the proposed
coalition. Winning mayor Ćamil Duraković, an independent, vowed
to resign if the coalition comes about. As of this week,
Duraković is calling for a meeting of the parties that supported
him during the elections, recalling that the SDP and the SBB
were among those parties. And in Sarajevo, SDP President
Lagumdžija announced that the SDP supports Duraković. But, he
said, local party officials should decide the configuration of
the coalition in Srebrenica municipality. Which may turn out to
be equivalent to saying that the SDP does not support Duraković.
Finally, this week, the extended battle over the Srebrenica
elections has come to an end. On Monday Dodik's appeal was
rejected by the Appellate Division of Bosnia's court. The next
day, the Central Election Commission confirmed the results for a
third time, this time with a 4-2 vote.
There is no more obstructionist recourse available to Dodik's
party and to the Coalition for the RS. The only way they will be
able to neutralize the results of the September elections will
be to form the red-black coalition with the SDP. It remains to
be seen whether that will actually take place, but I would not
be at all surprised, at this point, if it does.
Editor of the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje Vildana
Selimbegović discussed the role of the international community
in this fracas. Referring to the i.c. officials as people who
"for years now have had no confusion about whether genocide was
committed in Srebrenica," she said that "as long as Lagumdžija
and Radončić, dealing on Srebrenica, have the opportunity to do
a favor for Dodik to the detriment of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the
international officials working in our country can peacefully
explain to their own governments that great progress has taken
place in dialogue, and that even greater progress has taken
place in the preparedness of the political leaders to behave
And the four-legs sit down with the two-legs.
SOME GOOD NEWS
The ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia) has finally issued a verdict in the case of Bosnian
Serb general Zdravko Tolimir, in custody since 2007. Tolimir was
on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity at Srebrenica.
He was the intelligence chief for General Ratko Mladić's
operations in eastern Bosnia. Prosecutors said that he was part
of a "joint criminal enterprise" to execute and bury thousands
of Muslims from the Srebrenica enclave, and he was Mladić's
right-hand man in this endeavor.
One article describing Tolimir's role read, "It was his men ...
who were at the detention and execution and burial sites, making
sure that murder operation did its evil work until the last
bullet was fired and the last body buried," the prosecution
Tolimir was quoted as saying, in his own defense, that Serb
forces were merely "fighting against terrorist groups."
On Wednesday it was announced that Tolimir had been convicted of
genocide and that he was sentenced to life imprisonment for
crimes committed not only at Srebrenica, but at another enclave
as well. The Žepa enclave fell shortly
after Srebrenica, and from Žepa, all the
Muslim inhabitants were expelled. Tolimir's convictions were for
"genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, murder as a violation
of the laws or customs of war, as well as extermination,
persecutions, inhumane acts through forcible transfer and murder
as crimes against humanity."
The determination of Tolimir's participation in a joint criminal
enterprise (JCE) was crucial because, since he was a commanding
officer and not a foot-soldier actually pulling the trigger,
"intellectual authorship" had to be proven. The two JCEs on
Tolimir's head were the murder of men and boys from the
Srebrenica enclave, and the expulsion of civilians from the two
The decision is hugely important because it adds to the official
case history of genocide as a crime that has been recognized to
have taken place in Bosnia. Several war criminals have already
been convicted for genocide in the case of Srebrenica. But
Tolimir's conviction for genocide in Žepa
is a new and important legal achievement, because the crime
there involved mass expulsion, rather than mass murder. This
conviction helps to reinforce the fact that the legal definition
of genocide does not involve numbers, but the "intent to
destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or
religious group." The UN Convention on the Prevention and
Punishment of the Crime of Genocide lists "Deliberately
inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring
about its physical destruction in whole or in part." The forced
expulsion of an entire enclave should arguably fit into this
here to see the entire Convention.)
From an unidentified source:
"In the Bosnian towns of Banja Luka, Doboj, Bijeljina and
Prnjavor, supporters of Radovan Karadžić
put up posters on 20 Nov 2012, calling on the public to join in
congratulating the former RS President and war crimes indictee
on his patron saint's day (krsna slava). The posters display a
photo of Karadžić on the left side, a
picture of the Archangel Michael on the right side, and a
cheering, flag-waving crowd below."
I don't have the source for this article at my disposal
presently, but here are a couple of photos of the posters:
Karadžić, currently on trial at The
Hague, was the wartime president of the RS, and one of those
most responsible for the ethnic cleansing and mass murder that
resulted in the towns listed above becoming mostly empty of
non-Serbs. So I suppose the people who live there, who support
that result, have reason to cheer, wave flags, and celebrate
Karadžić's saint's day.
Bileća is a town in eastern Herzegovina, between Gacko and
Trebinje in the territory of the Republika Srpska. I've only
passed through, but I had the impression that it's a dismal,
unhappy place. That impression may be affected by the fact that
one of my Bosniak friends spent time in a concentration camp
there during the war.
Last week the local government in that municipality decided to
remove a statue commemorating the Partisans who fought and
defeated fascism during World War II. The monument to the 650
fighters who died liberating Bileća will be replaced it with a
statue of the Chetnik leader General Draža Mihajlović, the
monarchist leader who started out fighting the Nazis, but
finished the war collaborating with them against the Partisans.
Justifying this move, the mayor of Bileća said that there was
"nothing strange" about it, and "If the Partisans could make a
monument to Partisans, then the Chetniks can make a monument to
the Chetniks." The chairman of the organizing committee for the
monument's construction declined to say how much this monument
would cost the town. But he said, "What they're saying about
rehabilitation of fascism is just a communist prejudice."
This glorification of fascism is all the more sad because four
years ago there was a proposal to erect a monument to a true
hero, the Trebinje citizen Srđan Aleksić. Displaced citizens of
Bileća living in Sarajevo had sent the proposal to the then
mayor of Bileća. During the war Aleksić, a Serb, had stood up
for his Bosniak friend who was being physically attacked by Serb
nationalist extremists. Aleksić thus saved his friend, but he
himself was beaten to death.
Since the war, monuments to Aleksić, his bravery, and to the
co-existence that he represents, have been erected in a number
of cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and even in Serbia. But not in
For a bracing outburst of truth against Serbian denial, read
this posting by Danica Drašković (if you can read Serbian):
Drašković, wife of Serb nationalist leader Vuk Drašković, said,
"We went into Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and finally into
Kosovo. And what did we do? We were defeated everywhere, driven
out of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, and of course from Kosovo.
We left the traces of bloody crimes behind us that are now being
uncovered at the Hague Tribunal, at the trials of our political
and military commanders. For twelve years we have been
stretching out our defeats; we don't admit that we are guilty,
that we are criminals, aggressors, that we have sent the army
and criminals to other countries and killed, plundered, torched,
demolished, and raped."
As the introduction to this interview noted, Danica Drašković
spoke "without too much tact, saying what the great majority of
Serbs do not wish to hear."
It's just ironic, or strange, that Vuk Drašković, a novelist by
profession, was himself the leader of a Chetnik band during the
war in Bosnia. And before the war, he was instrumental, through
his novels, in creating the atmosphere of hate that paved the
way - even before President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic became
powerful - for the destruction of Yugoslavia. Since the war he
has been the ultimate political chameleon. It seems that his
wife is accompanying him on that winding path.
ODDS & ODDS
In a counterpoint to the opening of this posting, the Associated
Press reported that on November 22, in Zenica, central Bosnia,
Muslim imams and Franciscan priests played a football (soccer)
match together. Proceeds raised through admissions to the match
went to fund a new kindergarten. Over four thousand people paid
to watch the game, in which the Catholic priests won 5-3.