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New Series no.11/12 August - November 1999
Are corruption and criminality Bosnia's worst disease?
by Muhamed Filipovic

I wish to begin to by saying that I do not consider corruption and criminality to be the most diseased aspects of our general condition. I consider most diseased the condition to be found in certain heads – heads which do not understand democratic thought, heads which believe that by winning political power they have won the state itself and that all posts in the state apparatus consequently belong to them, since the state is now their private property – as are the souls and the rights of the people themselves. I consider most diseased the rule of conservative, retarded, nationalistic – and for Bosnia destructive – ideas about how a person is above all a representative of his or her nation, and only secondarily a human being. I consider most diseased the rule of people who serve other states, other political leaders and interests, rather than their own country and the interests of its people as a whole, while nevertheless taking the functions of the whole into their own hands. I consider particularly sick the idea that people cannot live together because they are of different confessions and nationalities – an idea upon which much of our prevailing legal and constitutional order is based and in accordance with which our country is divided in the way it is. This enumeration could go on forever, ending finally with the sickness represented by corruption and criminality as a logical outcome of all the afore-mentioned illnesses: a symptom, in fact, which can either reveal or conceal those principal illnesses, depending on the angle from which we view it.

That is why I accord secondary importance to the public struggle against corruption and criminality, especially the kind that is being waged today, by the kind of people who are waging it and in the way that it is being waged. The struggle against corruption and criminality is waged only through the media, where it is often reduced to accusations that are frequently impossible to sustain for lack of proof, thus demeaning its whole purpose. It is waged in a manner that allows those whom it targets to claim that they are actually the victims of hatred, and that they are being targeted for suspect reasons and without any evidence – because they are Muslims, or because they fight for an united Bosnia – and that all the charges are instigated by foreigners, because they themselves are against arbitrary foreign rule: i.e. against a situation in which foreigners hold power but have no responsibility for the existing state of affairs, for our lives or for our property, and are not even subject to our laws, nor subject to any law, but are themselves corrupt (is not the best proof of this the fact that Westendorp's salary, for example, was 46 times larger than that of a full professor at the University of Sarajevo?). In the case of Serbs or Croats, they claim they are being attacked for their commitment to their respective national causes. The result is a deepening of hatred and suspicion, on which the protagonists count, since only hatred and suspicion keep them in office.

This is why all this is a wrong form of struggle, in my view: one that strengthens the very people against whom it is waged. That is why I say that it is the responsibility of the courts, the police and the public prosecutor to wage the struggle against criminality, and that in this they must enjoy full public support. For it is dangerous not only that this struggle is being waged incompetently, but also and especially that it is being waged by the very people who are themselves responsible for creating endemic corruption in the first place, as a general aspect of the state and legal system. If the police, the public prosecutor and the courts are unable to function, which is obviously the case, then we must ask who is preventing them from doing so. This leads us to the logical answer that the cause of corruption and criminality is the same in all totalitarian or semi-totalitarian states.

In the previous system too, it was never possible to achieve much success in fighting corruption and criminality, since these grew out of the nature of the system itself and were expressive of its internal relations. Numerous missives from Tito or from various central or executive committees, resolutions that were passed, public campaigns in the style of `If you have a house, give up your flat', and so on – all were fruitless. Since we live in a totalitarian system, further embellished by a total and planned social anarchy, it seems obvious to me that the origin and cause of all corruption and criminality is the state itself, the state such as it is, created by foreign gentlemen but also by our own oligarchs, who have gone along with the botching of the country just in order to remain in power. This love of power, in other words, is the real source of criminality and corruption.

Dayton and our present state

It is not possible to prove conclusively, in fact, that the existence of corruption and criminality presupposes a criminal regime, since the one does not follow logically from the other. Especially when the criminality in question is identified as the work of an individual. However high up the social and political ladder an individual may sit, the ladder will always find a way of distancing itself from the behaviour of unworthy individuals. It is possible, however, to deduce from the proven fact that the regime is criminally organized, and rests upon the systematic violation of law and constitution, that criminality is its inevitable outcome, and that we cannot get rid of it unless we first get rid of the regime itself. From the point of view of public interest, this regime is worse than useless. It has appropriated the property of citizens, which used to be social property managed by them, and appointed its own people to run it as if it were its own private or corporate asset. The fact that it is so fragmented – divided into so many legal sub-systems, police authorities, etc. – makes any rational struggle against criminality impossible in practice. The regime has demolished our state and opened it up to a criminal transfer of property, which in the four years since the end of the war has been the main source of illegal acquisition of wealth. By stubbornly maintaining a situation in which for seven years now it has been able to control – use, pillage and misuse – the private property it has seized from citizens, this same regime is committing the greatest crime of all.

If a regime – and this has been true of our regime ever since the establishment of democratic rule – systematically violates and usurps the rights of citizens, violates the constitution instead of defending it, and concentrates all power in the hands of a small number of people who conduct the affairs of the state as if it were their own private business; if the state's financial transactions are conducted purely in private, i.e. without access for, or control by, any legally established state body; if no one from the regime has ever questioned this; if they all, or nearly all, have participated in the creation of this anarchy, which functions in accordance with the rule of `take what you can and steal as much as you can' – then what can one say about the struggle against those who can be identified as criminal or corrupt? At most it will be reduced to a few exemplary actions, in which those who are the main creators of the criminal system will appear as the champions of justice.

This is why, in my view, the real struggle against criminality in our country must be waged first of all on the terrain of political criminality – where it is possible to identify clearly and precisely all those acts, all those measures, which have been anti-constitutional and illegal, and which have signified the introduction of extreme subjectivity and planned anarchy into the affairs of the state. I believe that the existing system of political power is the prime, the greatest and the most serious cause of all aspects of criminality, which means that people often act in a criminal way without even being aware of the fact – convinced that they are simply exercising power in the way that is customary, that what they do is in the nature of power, all power, since they have known no other power but an undemocratic and totalitarian one. This is why, in my view, we must change the system of power, change the general situation in the country, even at the price of changing one of its root causes, i.e. the Dayton agreement, which as every child knows has created or helped to create this miserable state of affairs in which we and our country find ourselves.

Muhamed Filipovic was B-H ambassador in London 1995/6.

Translated from a longer interview in Dani (Sarajevo), 5 November 1999.

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