Articles on the Bosnia Conflict



Bosnia-Herzegovina Journal #8: Travnik, Mostar, Animal Farm
By Peter Lippman
December 13, 2012

2012 Journal index

Journal 1: Sarajevo. September 25
Journal 2: Tuzla. October 11
Journal 3: Srebrenica. October 13
Journal 4: Bratunac, Višegrad, Elections. October 26
Journal 5: Krajina - Banja Luka. November 6
Journal 6: Krajina - Kozarac, Prijedor. November 12
Journal 7: Guilt, Responsibility, and Politics. November 20
Journal 8:Travnik, Mostar, Animal Farm. December 13
Journal 9
: Activism in Sarajevo, Return to Srebrenica, Prijedor Revisited, December 19
Journal 10:
Krila Nade; The Missing; Tycoon Arrested; March 1st Coalition, December 26
Journal 11: Macedonia and Kosovo, January 2, 2013
Journal 12: The Roma of Kosovo, January 11, 2013
Journal 13: A Visit to Germany, January 29, 2013

Previous journals and articles

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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 hall.

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 students there.


The renowned Gymnasium at Travnik - partially renovated


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 getting old."

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 monastery, Travnik



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 line, Mostar


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, also 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 stand.

"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 this solution.

"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 million KM."

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 rich.

Q: Is Aluminij [the aluminum smelting company based in Mostar] an exception?
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 money."

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 country."

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.


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 appointed.

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 political corporations.

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 Srebrenica."

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 responsibly."

And the four-legs sit down with the two-legs.


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 said.

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 enclaves.

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 category.
(Look 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 Bileća.


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.


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.

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