«Martina Fischer/Ljubinka Petrović-Ziemer Forschung DSF Nº 36 Dealing with the Past and Peacebuilding in the Western Balkans1 Martina ...»
The societies in all three countries – albeit to different degrees – have to deal with the legacies of the wars of the 1990s on a daily basis: there is an ongoing need to search for missing persons, for management of refugee return, integration of IDPs and restitution of property. According to the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), 10,000 persons are still missing from the war in Bosnia, 2,000 from the war in Croatia, 900 from the Kosovo war and 13 from Macedonia.15 In Bosnia in particular, news magazines regularly report on exhumations, discoveries of mass graves and funerals. Authorities in all three countries have to cope with the highly sensitive task of return and reintegration of refugees and displaced persons. In Bosnia, the process of refugee return has come to an end; however, there are IDPs in collective accommodation who are still waiting for solutions. In Serbia, 52,000 Serbs who fled or were expelled from Croatia, 21,000 Serbs who left Bosnia and 210,000 IDPs from Kosovo (97,000 of whom are considered 13 During and after the military operation “Storm” hundreds of civilians were killed, and thousands of houses burnt down.
As of December 2011, 132,608 Serb minority returnees were registered by the UN Refugee Agency. See http://www.unhcr.hr/eng/images/stories/news/stats2012/unhcr_statistical_report_december_2011.pdf. However, it is estimated that approximately 50 per cent of these re-settled and the others only occasionally visit their former homes. For an analysis of the ambivalence of Croatia’s past and the policy of the Tuđman regime in the 1990s, see Ramet et al. 2007; Tanner 2010.
14 Original quote in German, translated by H. Crowe. For a detailed analysis of the discourse in Croatia, see Melčić 2007.
15 See http://www.ic-mp.org/icmp-worldwide/southeast-europe/bosnia-and-herzegovina.
vulnerable) are waiting for solutions.16 Solutions for these people depend on cross-border cooperation and the political will to deal with a number of sensitive issues (e.g. property restitution and reparations, and political representation in local communities that reflects ethnic affiliations).
Furthermore, the societies are marked by antagonisms that have developed or deepened in post-war situations, between victims and perpetrators of war crimes who have to face each other in local communities, between refugees, IDPs or returnees and resident populations, between war profiteers and those who lost their property, winners and losers of the economic transformation and, last but not least, between urban and rural cultures and populations, based on stereotyped perceptions. Tensions are often fuelled by propaganda that is based on relativisation of war crimes, competition over victim numbers, and selective remembrance.17 In some places, war criminals or suspects are still seen as heroes. This became obvious on several occasions when governments have extradited fugitives. Protests by veterans’ unions and nationalists were organised in Serbia and the RS in Bosnia after the detention of the former Bosnian Serb commanders Ratko Mladić18 and Goran Hadžić19 in July 2011. Similar reactions could be observed in Croatia when the ICTY sentenced the former commanders Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markač.20 Both were convicted of “persecutions, deportation, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, murder, inhumane acts, and cruel treatment” against Serb civilians in the Krajina region during the military offensive known as "Operation Storm" in 1995. The two commanders were sentenced on 15 April 2011 to 24 and 18 years of imprisonment by the ICTY Trial Chamber in a first instance verdict that stated that both had participated in a “joint criminal enterprise” planned by military officials and the then Croatian government led by President Franjo Tuđman (United Nations/ICTY 2011). War veterans and nationalist parties joined in public protests against the verdict and celebrated the suspects’ contribution to the “Homeland Defence War”. Public celebrations were also held when the Appeals Chamber of the Tribunal, on 16 November 2012, revised this verdict and released both commanders.21 Finally, the societies in all three countries face unresolved conflicts either at a local or cross-border level, although to very different degrees. In Serbia in particular (with regard to Kosovo) and in Bosnia, relevant politicians and media still engage in ethno-nationalistic rhetoric on a daily basis. In Bosnia, tensions are reflected by increasing numbers of hate crimes in divided communities that particularly target returnees and members of minority communities.22 Attacks are reported against minorities and vulnerable groups such as Roma, and also against homosexuals, lesbians, trans- and bisexual persons in all three countries. In Bosnia and Serbia in particular, violent incidents against these minorities have repeatedly occurred in recent years, initiated by religious and radical groups.
16 See https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1904893.
17 See Obradović 2012; Ramet 2007.
18 Ratko Mladić was Commander of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) from 1992 to 1996. He is indicted for genocide, persecutions, extermination, murder, deportation, inhumane acts, terror, unlawful attacks, and taking of hostages. http://www.icty.org/x/cases/mladic/cis/en/cis_mladic_en_1.pdf.
19 Goran Hadžić was President of the government of the self-proclaimed Serbian Autonomous District Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia (SAO SBWS) and President of the Republic of Serbian Krajina (RSK). He is indicted for a variety of criminal acts, including murder, torture, deportation, cruel treatment, wanton destruction of villages, and plunder of public or private property. See http://www.icty.org/x/cases/hadzic/cis/en/cis_hadzic_en.pdf.
20 Ante Gotovina was Colonel General of the Croatian Army (HV) and Commander of the Split Military District from 1992 to 1996, and overall operational commander of the southern portion of the Krajina region during Operation Storm.
Mladen Markač was Commander of the Special Police of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia from 18 February 1994, with responsibility for the Special Police, and also served as Assistant Minister of the Interior;
following Operation Storm, he held the rank of Colonel General. See www.icty.org/x/cases/gotovina/cis/en/ cis_gotovina_al_en.pdf.
22 In order to combat such crimes, the OSCE mission to BiH issued a handbook (OSCE Mission to BiH/ODIHR 2010) and held round tables with representatives of local authorities. See http://www.osce.org/bih/74693.
1.3. Actors in transitional justice and dealing with the legacies of the past
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has taken the lead in prosecuting war crimes and crimes against humanity and in documenting facts. It has indicted 161 persons for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of former Yugoslavia. 126 proceedings have been concluded and 64 persons have been sentenced. 35 proceedings are ongoing.23 The ICTY has set up regional offices in Sarajevo, Belgrade and Zagreb to counter a huge deficit of acceptance24 which prompted the ICTY to set up an “outreach strategy” in order to maintain closer contact to the media and civil society (Hodžić 2007a). However, as the ICTY for a long period served as the only comprehensive cross-border mechanism for fact-finding and prosecution of war crimes, it continues to be an important point of reference, also for human rights and victims’ groups. The ICTY also engaged in capacity building for domestic judiciaries and contributed to the establishment of institutions for war crimes prosecution in BosniaHerzegovina, Serbia and Croatia.
Institutions for war crimes prosecution in Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia A Section for War Crimes of the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina was inaugurated in 2005 as a permanent state-level organ designed to deal with grave breaches of international humanitarian law. Designed as a hybrid court, international staff was employed, to be phased out after a five-year period.25 In Croatia, four specialised war crimes chambers were formed in 2003 within the County Courts in Zagreb, Osijek, Rijeka and Split.26 In Serbia, a specialised War Crimes Chamber of the Belgrade District Court and a War Crimes Prosecutor’s Office were established in 2003.27 All the above-mentioned institutions were created with international support and will continue to take on a central role with regard to fact-finding and accountability. Finally, in all three countries, several thousand war crimes cases have to be concluded by domestic courts and prosecutors. Many suspects have left their former place of residence and are at large in their own or other countries. As authorities in all three countries decided not to extradite fugitives, progress in this area largely depends on the political will for cooperation among the governments in the region, as well as on monitoring by international actors and civil society organisations (CSOs).
Civil society actors: Grassroots activities at a local and regional level In Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia, a number of civil society initiatives have been working hard to counter the distortion of facts or biased politics of remembrance. Most of these organisations rely on funding from foreign donors and work without significant political support from governments and parliaments in the region. Their activities cover a variety of tasks. They focus on fact-finding, human rights and victims’ advocacy, dealing with trauma, creating empathy for different narratives and inclusive cultures of remembrance, and facilitation of dialogue.28 Their work includes collecting information and documenting facts about war victims, supporting families searching for missing persons, 23 See http://www.icty.org/sections/TheCases/KeyFigures (accessed 4.2.2012).
24 For an analysis of the ICTY’s acceptance and impact on societies in the region, see Allcock 2009; Arzt 2006; Mertus 2007; Fletcher and Weinstein 2004; McMahon and Forsythe 2008; Nettelfield 2010.
25 For an overview of the development of the judiciary in BiH, see Ivanišević 2008; OSCE Mission to BiH 2005.
26 For an overview of the development in Croatia, see OSCE Mission to Croatia 2003; 2005.
27 For an overview of the development in Serbia, see Ivanišević 2007; OSCE mission to Serbia and Montenegro 2003.
28 For an overview of CSOs’ activities in the field of dealing with the past, see Fischer 2011a; Franović 2008; Rill, Smidling and Bitoljanu 2007; Rangelov and Theros 2009; Belloni and Hemmer 2010.
marking places of atrocities, oral history projects, and advocating for alternative representations of history in schoolbooks. Some CSOs focus on peace education, dialogue and relationship-building in divided communities or between people from different constituencies. Others are working closely with the Hague Tribunal and/or national war crimes chambers, monitoring trials and providing legal, psychosocial or political advice for witnesses and victims.
CSO activities aim to complement fact-finding and dismantle discourses marked by denial.
In 2005, for instance, a video uncovered by the Humanitarian Law Center (Belgrade) provided evidence of the killing of several young Bosniaks by soldiers belonging to a special police unit (Scorpions) under Milošević’s command.29 Another example is the Population Loss Project set up by the Research and Documentation Centre (IDC) in Sarajevo. The Centre corrected the figures that were generally cited by official sources (Bosnian government sources usually quoted that 200,000-250,000 persons had been killed during the war in BiH, see Pupavac 1997,1) and finally presented a total of 97,920 war-related deaths for which data have been verified (Tokača 2008, 60). CSOs have also put a focus on gender aspects of transitional justice (Vušković and Trifunović 2008). In Bosnia in particular, NGO campaigns contributed to raise awareness and generate support for the women who were raped during the war (Baumann and Müller 2006). Other organisations engage in facilitation of dialogues and exchange of narratives; they include the Center for Peace Studies (Zagreb), the Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights (Osijek) and Miramida Centre (Groznjan), the Nansen Dialogue Centres (in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, Mostar and Osijek), and the youth group Odisej (Bratunac). Some of the CSOs focus on dialogue and community building on a local level; others have a cross-border or regional focus. One example is the regional peace work of the Centre for Nonviolent Action (CNA) based in Sarajevo and Belgrade, which has developed training formats for nonviolent action and organised public discussion forums where war veterans from different sides speak about their personal experiences (Fischer 2007c; Center for Nonviolent Action 2002). Initiatives for regional dialogue and reconciliation have also been supported by organisations with religious backgrounds and by youth organisations, such as the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (in Novi Sad, Kragujevac, Niš and Sarajevo).
Furthermore, victims’ groups, together with human rights activists and psychologists, are engaged in searching for missing persons. In Bosnia in particular, a huge number of associations of victims, detainees, displaced persons and relatives of missing persons emerged that contributed to fact-finding (Gentile 2008). Victims’ groups are influential in shaping discourses on dealing with the past. At the same time they are often at risk of being manipulated for political purposes and ethno-nationalist discourses. The same applies to veterans’ unions (Moratti and Sabić-El-Rayess 2009, 30). Only recently have victims’ associations of different (Serb, Bosniak and Croat) constituencies begun to overcome ethnic barriers and taken cautious steps towards cooperation. Both victims’ and veterans’ groups play an important role in the context of public commemorations.