The arrest of Jovan Divjak: the victim becomes the criminal

Author: Sonja Biserko
Uploaded: Saturday, 09 July, 2011

We reproduce this urgent appeal on behalf of a number of Belgrade NGOs to mark the scandalous fact that, as Serbian president Boris Tadic is welcomed in Sarajevo on a state visit, the 'symbol of resistance to Serbian aggression in Bosnia' is beginning his fifth month on bail in Vienna awaiting extradition on a Serbian warrant.

 The arrest of Jovan Divjak symbolizes the continuation of the counterproductive behaviour of Belgrade when it comes to interpreting the recent past from the nineties. After the arrests of Ejup Ganic, Ilija Jurišicand recently Tihomir Purda, who were arrested and acquitted for lack of evidence, the ‘Divjak case’ only deepens the mistrust of the countries in the region towards the intentions of Belgrade. Such behaviour places Belgrade in the role of prosecutor and defines the character of the war as one in which Serbia, in its version of events, had a minor role.
The arrest of Jovan Divjak is a tremendous scandal, given that this man is the symbol of resistance to Serbian aggression against Bosnia. As a Serbian general, he opposed the siege of Sarajevo from the beginning, which is why he enjoys undivided respect in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Jovan Divjak has always been Belgrade’s target. He was not arrested in 2005, when he was in Belgrade; instead, his case is now being activated when Belgrade is undertaking a systematic revision of the history of the nineties. With such behaviour Belgrade is building its lead position in the region on all the wrong foundations.
Both the international community and the ICTY hold responsibility for this behaviour of Belgrade officials, since they concede to these policies in order to pull Serbia closer to the EU. Their approach, however, loses meaning since it compromises principles, distorts facts, and transforms the victim into a perpetrator.
We demand that the Austrian authorities immediately release Jovan Divjak and that Interpol re-examine all the warrants put on their list by Serbian authorities. We want to know what are the criteria that are taken into consideration when similar demands from countries, in this case, Serbia, are considered.
We demand that the Serbian government stop with its policy that further increases distrust between countries in the region, particularly from Bosnia-Herzegovina, and give up on its demand for Jovan Divjak’s arrest.
We also demand that officials in the Serbian government distance themselves from Miloševic’s policies, such as their policy of relativization of responsibility for the wars in the nineties.
In addition, we remind government officials in Serbia that their most important commitment has to be the arrest and extradition of Ratko Mladic, indicted for the genocide in Srebrenica, to the ICTY. That will be the only step that will contribute to the restoration of confidence between Serbia and her neighbours, especially Bosnia-Herzegovina.
    * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
    * Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco Foundation
    * Center for Cultural Decontamination
    * Civic Initiatives
    * Civil Right Defenders, Serbia
    * Women in Black
    * YUCOM
    * Youth Initiative for Human Rights
This comment appeared in Spirit of Bosnia vol 6, no 2, April 2011
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