bosnia report
New Series No: 27-28 January - May 2002
 
Milosevic's crimes and the existence of RS
by Ivan Lovrenovic

The way in which the ‘Bosnian indictment’ formulated by the Hague Tribunal against Slobodan Milosevic has been received in Sarajevo and the Federation points to a rather unusual state of mind, which can be described only as a form of collective lethargy. For anybody who has read the text, anybody in Sarajevo or elsewhere who has experienced and remembered the time to which the indictment refers, can hardly fail to have a strong reaction. Yet no such reaction has been detected here so far. Here and there a newspaper comment, an analysis in Slobodna Bosna, the whole indictment printed as a supplement in the last-but-one issue of Dani - and that’s about it.

It was different in Banja Luka and Republika Srpska. The top people over there obviously understood very well what an unpleasant and dangerous effect this indictment could have on Republika Srpska, as a product of genocide; hence, on the structure of its authority. Entity prime minister Mladen Ivanic’s legal advisor, Srdjan Djordjevic, was the first to speak about it. He delivered a warning to the media in a juridically rational form: that Milosevic’s indictment for genocide, crimes against humanity etc., in B-H makes serious difficulties for RS and its political status.

The list of Milosevic’s Bosnian sins and crimes compiled by Carla del Ponte’s team is the most comprehensive and deadly prosecution document from The Hague to date. These are its main counts in the original: Genocide or complicity in genocide; persecutions; extermination, murder and wilful killing; unlawful confinement, imprisonment, torture, wilfully causing great suffering, other inhumane acts; deportation and inhumane acts ( forcible transfers); wanton destruction, plunder of public or private property; cruel treatment, attacks on civilians. It is as if I am reading some hellishly accurate and exhaustive scenarist’s inventory of the evils ‘unleashed on the land’. In the indictment, Milosevic plays the role of both leader and participant in an activity described as a ‘joint criminal enterprise’, and all the main protagonists, from Karadzic to Krajisnik, from Arkan to Seselj, are listed there by name. The genesis of the Serbian para-military and para-state structures in Bosnia-Herzegovina is precisely described, as is Milosevic’s role in it all, including his role in transferring JNA forces to B-H and then transforming them into the ‘Serb Army’. There follows a topography of genocide and crime in countless parts of B-H, likewise described in detail. Nor is the infamous 25 March 1991 meeting between Tudjman and Milosevic at Karadjordjevo left out, where they discussed the partition of B-H.

 

In the six appendixes of the indictment, individual crimes are listed, located and documented: twenty-five murders ‘not related to detention facilities’; twenty murders ‘related to detention facilities’; thirty-one ‘detention facilities’; forty-five examples of ‘forcible transfer’ (with the total number of expelled: 268,050); forty-seven victims of ‘Sarajevo sniper incidents’; and twenty-six individual or mass casualties of ‘Sarajevo shelling incidents’. The 5 February 1994 mortar-shell massacre in the Markale market is also listed, which the propagandists of Karadzic and Milosevic strove so hard to present as a morbid act by the defenders themselves.

The road to ultimate justice for Slobodan Milosevic is long and uncertain. Yet, after such an indictment, any outcome of the trial other than his being simply set free (which is hard to imagine as a realistic possibility) ought to result in some kind of redefinition of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s grotesque politico-territorial disposition, as being a direct product of the ‘joint crime enterprise’. Otherwise the entire trial, and even the whole conception of the Hague Tribunal, would turn out to be ironically pointless.

***

The Bosnian indictment against Slobodan Milosevic contains one rather curious detail. Under the heading ‘General legal allegations. Additional facts’, item 78 reads: ‘On 12 May 1992, at the 16th Assembly of the Serbian People in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Radovan Karadzic announced the six strategic objectives of the Serbian people in B-H. These objectives included the eradication of the Drina River as a border between the Serbian states. During the same session, General Ratko Mladic told the Assembly that it would not be possible to separate Serbs from non-Serbs and have the non-Serbs simply leave the territory. He warned that attempting this process would amount to genocide.’ With his talk about ‘separating Serbs from non-Serbs’ and the inconvenient circumstance that non-Serbs would not leave willingly, Ratko Mladic thus very well knew how things would be in practice; and his statement bears indisputable witness to the fact that he even knew how they would be described according to the laws of war. It is not hard to imagine the look of icy contempt on his face, as he confronted the ‘uninformed civilians’ in the Pale assembly with the consequences of the bloody business upon which they had embarked; he was obviously ready, but did not wish to shoulder them alone. There is something of Shakespearean madness and irony in this image and in this fact. Three years later, Srebrenica in July 1995 is merely the final, orgiastic act of that ‘madness of the blood’: ‘separating Serbs from non-Serbs’.

Translated from Feral Tribune (Split), 15 December 2002

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