«Martina Fischer/Ljubinka Petrović-Ziemer Forschung DSF Nº 36 Dealing with the Past and Peacebuilding in the Western Balkans1 Martina ...»
Strengthening the rule of law and setting up a functioning police are as important as providing the domestic war crimes chambers with the necessary staff, resources and equipment. It is not surprising that reports by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe (CoE) still insist that authorities must investigate and prosecute threats and intimidation against witnesses and ensure witness security in accordance with the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Resolution 1784/2011) that regards the protection of witnesses as a “cornerstone for justice and reconciliation” in the Balkans.50 Effective and reliable police capacities are needed to guarantee that the courts’ decisions can be implemented. Providing these state institutions with reliable staff and expertise is a prerequisite for effective accountability.
Finally, an ongoing challenge is to find appropriate forms of information and dissemination of the evidence established by the domestic courts and fact-finding mechanisms. As outlined by Dvornik (2013, 130), profound research on war events, causes and dynamics, and good media reporting on the courts’ findings and decisions are preconditions for awareness-raising: “TJ institutions (…) need transparent and well-crafted information.
Policies and editors should instruct journalists to investigate further, beyond what the prosecutions and defence present in the courtroom. At the same time, we have to be aware that provoking open public debates cannot be reduced to PR strategies and proper 49 According to OSCE current estimates indicate that Bosnia alone has 1,300 cases involving some 8,000 suspects in its backlog of war crimes cases, see http://www.oscebih.org/Default.aspx?id=70&lang=EN. Around 1,500 open cases remain to be processed in Croatia, see http://www.osce.org/zagreb/57732.
50 See https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1904893.
media coverage. Efforts by historians, lawyers, educational authorities and teachers are needed as well to contribute to constructive processes of dealing with the past” (Dvornik 2013, 130).
Beyond strengthening the domestic capacities for prosecution of war-related crimes, more needs to be done in order to complement the punitive approaches with measures for restorative justice and restorative forms of truth recovery.
Establishing restorative forms of justice In his address before the UN General Assembly on 9 October 2009, ICTY President Robinson concluded “that the international community has forgotten [the victims].
Currently, there is no effective mechanism by which victims can seek compensation for their injuries, despite the fact that their right to such compensation is firmly rooted in international law”.51 He emphasised that compensating victims of crimes in the former Yugoslavia should complement the Tribunal’s efforts, as “justice is not only about punishing perpetrators but also about restoring dignity to victims by ensuring that they have concrete means to rebuild their lives” (ibid.). He called upon the General Assembly to support the establishment of a claims commission.
Compensation and finding solutions for refugees and internally displaced persons forms another challenge. Regional cooperation on these issues has been strengthened through various declarations by governments in the region and facilitated by international actors.52 In this context, it is noteworthy that at the time of finishing this report, international donors met at a conference in Sarajevo organised by the governments of BiH, Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro and pledged 300 million euros to help refugees in the Balkans to find durable solutions. The money supports a programme to provide homes for 74,000 displaced people and proper housing and assistance to the tens of thousands who are still living in poverty and dire conditions.53 The field research revealed that more than 15 years after the Dayton Accords that ended the war in Bosnia, not much has been done in terms of compensation of victims of war-related crimes, either by international or by local institutions. National TJ strategies so far have not strongly focused on this issue. If mentioned at all, the issue of reparations remained mostly on the level of announcements. It is therefore not surprising that many of our interviewees insisted that it is time to proceed and take practical initiatives to provide redress for the civilian victims of war crimes. A challenge is to convince policy-makers that this needs to include all victims, regardless of their sex and “ethnicity”, and that this requires social policies and opportunities for psychosocial rehabilitation for war invalids, refugees and displaced people, and families of missing persons.
51 See http://www.icty.org/sid/10244.
52 The Sarajevo Declaration of 31 January 2005, the Belgrade Joint Communiqué of the Governments of Serbia and Croatia of 25 March 2010, and the Belgrade Declaration of 7 November 2011.
53 See http://www.unhcr.se/en/print/media/news-articles/artikel/faeb953eff2462123f18bc55d8fad581/donors-pledgemore-than-300-million.html.
Dealing with gender-specific violence and serving gender justice Gender issues are on the agenda of local and international actors, as our field research revealed. International actors and local CSOs alike very much appreciate the fact that the ICTY has classified rape as a war crime, and that it established new standards and reformed court procedures with regard to sexual violence and gender-specific war crimes.
It is reported that these norms have also informed the practice of the domestic war crimes chambers (see Petrović-Ziemer 2013a, 31). But international observers are convinced that the courts in the region still need to be much more sensitive to the special experiences of victims and witnesses of such crimes (see Fischer 2013a, 75). CSOs emphasise that women’s groups in all three countries – together with international women’s activists – were successful in pushing for rape to be classified as a crime against humanity (PetrovićZiemer 2013b, 50). International representatives in Bosnia report that the film “Grbavica”54 (by Jasmila Žbanić) together with NGO campaigns has addressed some of the taboos and helped to ensure that some compensation for raped women has been fixed in legal regulations (see Fischer 2013a, 86). However, compensation is still outstanding in many cases. Expectations were raised when the EU Delegation in Bosnia together with the UN and the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Human Rights announced that they would develop a strategy to support women in claiming reparations. But there are no indicators that the situation improved during the reporting period for this study.
In view of the lack of compensation for victims who have experienced sexual violence, and in particular in view of the poor living conditions for women who were raped during the war, both CSOs and international representatives point to major deficits with regard to gender justice. In this context, it is surprising that gender issues are not mentioned more explicitly by the interviewees in the context of REKOM. Thus, the fourth hypothesis – assuming that the supporters of REKOM expect a REKOM to cover this issue area – is not proven. Instead, after finishing the field research of this study, it became obvious that several women’s groups in the region intend to address these issues via an additional initiative, proposing the establishment of a “women’s court” for the countries of former Yugoslavia that should serve accountability not in a judicial but in a moral sense, following the example of the international Russell Tribunal.
Using street arts and performance, women’s groups from Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia have started a public campaign for such a symbolic truth commission that would deal with the violation of women’s rights during and after the recent wars.
CSOs also stress that addressing war-related gender-specific violence still faces a great many taboos. Women’s groups in all three countries concede that they themselves had to 54 The film awarded a Golden Bear at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival. It tackles the relationship between a Bosniak woman who was raped during the war and her teenage daughter. The film outlines the individual trauma as well as the existing taboos in society. Campaigns by the Association of Women of Srebrenica and Medica Mondiale could achieve that the Bosnian Parliament formally acknowledged raped women as “war invalids” and decided that they should receive compensation, similar to that payable to the men who fought in the war.
55 See http://kvinnatillkvinna.se/en/print/3795.
learn that the scope of assistance should be broadened: Although rape was committed more systematically against women, men (soldiers and civilians) also became targets of sexual violence in the wars of the 1990s (see Petrović-Ziemer 2013b, 61), and the impact of these various forms of violence on societies needs further analysis. We can therefore conclude that gender justice will remain a particular challenge for the implementation of TJ strategies on both a regional and a national level. In order to advance policies in this field, it is also necessary to overcome policies of unequal treatment of civilian and military war victims.
Support for trust- and relationship-building Initiatives for trust-building and relationship-building need to encompass cross-border activities, as well as bridge-building efforts within the countries in the region, and they need to put a particular focus on divided communities and on youth. As has been shown by the field research, improving relations between young people in the diverse countries of the former Yugoslavia is a particular concern. While those who experienced the war as adults still remember the cultural bonds (or even Yugoslav identities) from pre-war times, postwar generations have grown up with separate group identities and regard themselves as members of different societies. Therefore, initiatives that facilitate cross-border encounters and interaction between young people can help to create new relationships and question stereotypes. Many interviewees in this study have suggested that the “two-schools-underone-roof system”, established after the war in Bosnia, should be reformed. This proposal sounds very reasonable but at the same time one has to take into account that lack of trust and persisting fears, as well as prejudices against the “others”, form important motivations for people to support and maintain this system. Just changing the system will not transform these perceptions.
However, the task of trust- and relationship-building in divided local communities and contested political structures requires specific approaches. Given that different constituencies construct separate identities, lacking knowledge of and cultivating many stereotypes about each other, learning about the “others” is definitely important. But finally, as the field research revealed, interviewees from all samples have stressed that a lack of security and economic perspectives also forms an important obstacle to reconciliation.
Therefore, setting up legitimate and functioning state institutions and advancing economic development must form the basis for restoring trust and relationships in divided communities.
Learning in view of diverging memories: questioning exclusive forms of • remembrance Given that memories have a strong influence on relationships and form an important part of a socially constructed understanding of reality, shaped by culture and learning, discourse and belief (Miall 2004), it is quite obvious that the attitudes of people and narratives of different constituencies in the region will not change over the short term, even if an excellent database on past events and effective fact-finding mechanisms are established.
However, memory is open to learning in the long run if the institutional and political framework is favourable and supportive of such a process. Learning processes that aim to promote acceptance or even empathy for different interpretations of the past can be enhanced either by cultural initiatives, or media productions, or formal and informal education.
International actors can support this with initiatives in the field of culture and peace education. A particular challenge is to provide spaces where different historical narratives and war experiences can be reflected on and discussed. Such debate might help to break down victim identities and support the search for more inclusive and alternative cultures of remembrance. Another challenge is to further develop and integrate elements of peace education in order to increase skills in nonviolent conflict transformation in formal and informal education for young people and adults. Such education needs to offer alternative forms of communication and interaction and, at the same time, to address identity formation: Offering alternative forms of identification beyond being victimised, beyond ethnic or religious belonging, and also beyond militarised masculinity.