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Serbia: Return to the past?

 
 
nimh
 
Reply Wed 17 Aug, 2005 04:37 am
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Type: Discussion • Score: 3 • Views: 4,630 • Replies: 40
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Wed 17 Aug, 2005 10:07 pm
bm
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 04:06 pm
Fair is fair ... where there is bad news, sooner or later there is also good news, and that, then, should be mentioned too.

Especially if all you need to do is copy and paste an email you already wrote at work.

Last December didn't just bring the arrest of [long-sought Croatian war criminal] Ante Gotovina in Tenerife -- I was also struck by a succession of articles about war crimes trials within Croatia and especially Serbia itself, which seemingly are really getting into gear.

Collated below are summaries of news items on five of those trials, three focusing on war crimes in Vukovar, Zvornik and Lovas respectively, and two separate cases (in Serbia and Croatia) on the videotaped slaughter of 6 Muslims in Srebrenica; then further below are also three items on Gotovina's arrest.

Life in Serbia and especially Bosnia may not exactly be rosy; progress is troubled. But when it comes to processing the recent past, I'd never have dared hope for a string of war crimes trials within Serbia itself, just ten years after the end of the Bosnian war.

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Landmark war crimes trial under way in Serbia
2005/12/28 · Southeast European Times

The trial of six men charged with war crimes committed in the Bosnian town of Zvornik in 1992 marks the first time a case has been transferred from the UN war crimes tribunal to a Serbian court. Branko Grujic, the former mayor of Zvornik has been charged in connection with the slayings of at least 22 Muslims and the expulsion of 1,822 others. Charged alongside him are former territorial defence commander Branko Popovic and four members of the Yellow Hornets paramilitary gang. According to the indictment, Grujic and Popovic failed to prevent the Hornets from carrying out a campaign of murder, rape and abuse against Muslim civilians after Serb forces took Zvornik in April 1992. The local SDS leadership, aided by paramilitaries, conducted a systematic campaign of deportations and property confiscation against the Muslim population in the town and surrounding villages. A major concern is the possibility that journalists might reveal the identities of protected witnesses, as recently happened in Croatia.

Court sentences Vukovar war crimes convicts
2005/12/13 · Southeast European Times

The Belgrade District Court's War Crimes Council has reached its first verdict since its founding in 2003, sentencing 14 people found guilty of war crimes against Croats in 1991 to a total of 231 years in prison. The suspects were on trial for the summary execution of Croatian prisoners, who were taken to the Ovcara farm outside Vukovar and shot to death after the town fell to Serb forces. All of the indictees were members of the Serb armed units in Croatia, under the command of the former Yugoslav People's Army.

Inquiry into Lovas war crimes case under way in Serbia
2005/11/29 · Southeast European Times

Serbian war crimes prosecutors are working with counterparts in Croatia to investigate 1991 atrocities in the Croatian village of Lovas, where some 24 civilians were killed when the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) ordered them to walk through a minefield. On 10 October 1991, JNA soldiers, local territorial defence units and the "Dusan Silni" paramilitary group attacked Lovas, killing 30 residents. They then reportedly subjected its non-Serb population to forced labour, torture and rape. Many of the perpetrators are said to remain at large in Serbia.

Croatian court jails former paramilitary member over Srebrenica killings
2005/12/30 · Southeast European Times

The Zagreb County Court sentenced a Croatian Serb to 15 years in prison for his participation in the killing of six unarmed Bosnian Muslims near Srebrenica in 1995 and for torturing Croatian prisoners in 1991. Slobodan Davidovic was arrested in June after television stations across the former Yugoslavia broadcast a videotape showing members of a Serb paramilitary police unit cold-bloodedly killing six young, unarmed Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica. The footage prompted the arrests in Serbia of five other former members of the paramilitary unit. The Serbian authorities wanted to try Davidovic along with the other suspects, but as a Croatian citizen he could not be extradited. Therefore, the Zagreb County Court took up his case. The 15-year prison sentence Davidovic received includes a nine-year term for the October 1991 torture of Croatian Army soldiers in a makeshift prison.

Serb Says He Followed Orders in Killings
2005/12/21 · The Guardian

A Serb militiamen, on trial in the videotaped killings of Bosnian Muslim civilians in Srebrenica, admitted shooting but said he was following orders. The landmark trial opened Tuesday, after the June broadcast of a 1995 video showing six people being taken from a truck, their hands bound, and then sprayed with machine gun fire. Pero Petrasevic said that the commander of the "Scorpions" paramilitary unit, Slobodan Medic, ordered the killings and demanded that they be videotaped, so Medic could show the video to his superiors, who ultimately ordered the slaying. Medic told the court Wednesday that his unit was under the command of a Bosnian Serb general, but he denied ordering to shoot the Muslims and added that if he had known the video would become public, he would have "killed like a rabbit" the soldier who filmed it. As many as 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed when Serb troops overran Srebrenica.

Serbian party urges determined action to arrest Mladic
2005/12/19 · Southeast European Times

In the wake of a damning report on Belgrade's co-operation with the UN war crimes tribunal, a party in Serbia's ruling coalition is urging determined action to arrest Mladic. "This is the last moment for all democratic forces to assume full responsibility for the future of Serbia," stated the SPO of Serbia-Montenegrin Foreign Minister Vuk Draskovic. "We must send a clear message [..] that all suspects will soon end up in The Hague." The call followed UN war crimes prosecutor del Ponte's description of Serbia's co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague as having deteriorated in recent months. According to Nenad Cenak of the League of the Social Democrats of Vojvodina, Serbian Prime Minister Kostunica is to blame. "It is not complicated to find and deliver Ratko Mladic," he said. "The problem is that Vojislav Kostunica does not dare extradite Mladic" because it is not in his "political interest".

Croatian fugitive general seized
2005/12/08 · BBC News

A Croatian general charged with war crimes has been arrested in Spain, the UN's chief war crimes prosecutor says. Ante Gotovina - the third most-wanted suspect from the Balkan wars - is accused over the death of about 150 Serb civilians during a Croatian offensive in 1995. The indictment also accuses him of co-ordinating a campaign of plunder and looting throughout operations in ethnically Serb areas of the region. The Croatian government's failure to arrest the general had hampered the country's entry talks with the EU. Croatian PM Sanader said that "those who believed us when we said that Gotovina was not in Croatia have today received the final and complete confirmation."

Top Croatian War Crimes Suspect in Custody
2005/12/08 · BIRN Balkan Insight

The arrest of general Gotovina, announced today by the ICTY's chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, was received in Croatia with relief that the Gotovina saga was finally over. One source said he was delighted because the arrest meant Croatia's security services were finally under civil control. The hunt for the fugitive moved into high gear in the autumn. With hours to go before the start of the October meeting where EU leaders would consider whether to open accession talks with Croatia, Del Ponte received confirmation that Gotovina had been located, so she told the leaders that Croatia was now "cooperating fully". At the time, her claim was greeted with scepticism; many suggested she had changed her position under pressure. Since its creation, the ICTY has issued 161 indictments. Just six fugitives remain at large, all Serbs, including Karadzic and Mladic. Today Del Ponte said she intended to give a negative assessment of Serbia's cooperation with the tribunal at the next session of the Security Council.

Croat war crimes suspect heads for Hague: source
2005/12/09 · ABC News

Croatian General Gotovina will leave a Madrid jail for The Hague war crimes court on Friday, it was said. Spanish Interior Minister Alonso said Gotovina had travelled through Asia, Latin America and Europe before police tracked him down in Tenerife. He had 12,000 euros in cash and two false passports filled with visa stamps "from Tahiti, Argentina, China, Chile, Russia, Czech Republic, and the last stamp is from the island of Mauritius." Croatia presented evidence of Gotovina's stay in Spain to chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor del Ponte when she visited Zagreb in September.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 04:08 pm
Yer openin' a small, but violent, can of worms here, Boss . . . the pro-Serbia, war crimes apologist crowd here will get ya . . .
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littlek
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 07:01 pm
We have a serbian war crimes apologists here?!?!
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2006 07:09 pm
littlek wrote:
We have a serbian war crimes apologists here?!?!


I kind of doubt it. They are all stuck in the 14th century and operating a computer would a bit beyond their ken.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Jan, 2006 08:41 am
Oh yes we do. There is/was this one guy who was able to turn any topic into a discussion of Serbian victimhood, the Serbs as last great white hope against Muslim encroachment, and Clinton's evildoings in that regard. Dont remember ... is it Gunga??

There was also another guy who said he'd worked in Bosnia and apparently returned rather embittered, but at least he spoke cohesively - we just disagreed (sharply).
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Jan, 2006 09:03 am
There have been, and continue to be, more than one Servian war crimes apologists at this site. I agree with Habibi, Gunga seems very much like the member (whose screen name i forget) to whom i used to refer as the Christian Soldier, because of his avatar piccie.

I got Gunga started on the poor, poor Serv victims once, and he trotted out all that old crap, not excluding the hysterical and hateful attack on Clinton.
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ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Jan, 2006 11:54 am
swolf - I'm pretty sure that's the character.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 11 Jan, 2006 11:55 am
Good call, Sweetiepie Girl, that's the culprit indeed . . .
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Jan, 2006 08:55 am
Meanwhile, here's a pretty good case study on how corruption and politics interact in today's Serbia - echoes of earlier, similar goings-on in Slovakia, Bulgaria, Lithuania...

Quote:
IN DEPTH: Serbia Declares War on Phone Tycoon
(by BIRN Balkan Insight)

[My] summary:

The Serbian government's crackdown on Mobtel boss Bogoljub Karic is motivated by politics, not a desire to end corruption, critics say. It is fending off accusations that it failed to investigate the dealings of the tycoon turned politician until he allegedly tried to buy the loyalty of the ruling party's parliamentary deputies.

Karic himself fled the country. The government has placed his huge mobile phone company under the control of the state-run PTT. It launched a probe into the ownership structure of BK TV, his national TV station.

Karic's rise was meteoric, as he amassed wealth under the Milosevic regime. He also founded Astra Bank, for which the National Bank of Serbia has issued nine liquidation orders since the fall of Milosevic, the first eight of which were overruled by the Supreme Court.

In 2000, the new democratic government of Djindjic pledged to crack down on the Milosevic-era tycoons, and Karic's name was often mentioned. But nothing happened.

A major development was Karic's decision to found his own party, the Power of Serbia Movement (PSS), and stand in the 2004 presidential campaign. He finished third, promising support for farmers and the poor. Surveys put his party in third place, close behind the Radical Party and the Democratic Party. It has no distinctive political platform, operating simply as a front for its leader.

Karic's relations with the government deteriorated sharply when he embarked on a campaign to recruit sitting parliamentary deputies. In December, this led to the formation of a new parliamentary caucus, which seriously undermined the government's wafer-thin majority.

Verica Barac, president of the Council Against Corruption, is suspicious of the government's sudden concern over Mobtel, noting that the Council presented it with details on irregularities a year before. "Political interests are at work here," she says.

In an opposing view, Karic entered politics in the first place to stall a government crackdown on his business empire, and is claiming political persecution now that he is facing prosecution.
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kosmos-SErbia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Jan, 2006 10:24 am
It's all kinda true but...
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Tue 31 Jan, 2006 04:09 pm
Bookmark
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Feb, 2006 02:16 pm
Hmmm. What will Rugova's death mean for the future of Kosovo?

Anybody came across a good overall political situation analysis recently? I'm on a lookout for one for my boss who'll be heading to Kosovo in a few weeks.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Fri 3 Feb, 2006 06:09 pm
dagmaraka wrote:
Hmmm. What will Rugova's death mean for the future of Kosovo?

Anybody came across a good overall political situation analysis recently? I'm on a lookout for one for my boss who'll be heading to Kosovo in a few weeks.

Hmm... good one. In-depth analysis, I dunno. Journalistically speaking, this is an overview in Balkan Insight of possible political scenarios that could be triggered by the status talks: Comment: Tough Road Ahead For Kosovo Talks.

Balkan Insight (of the same makers as IWPR) also currently has a special on Rugova's demise (five articles).

I saw that IWPR itself suspended the publication of its Balkan Crisis Reports last November ... Sad
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 07:22 am
More hopeful signs when it comes to Serbia's efforts (or those of some in Serbia, in any case) to get to grips with its past.

(I tried to create a 'short' version, though it's still pretty long -- for the full text click the headline).

See also:
- FILM REVIEW: GRBAVICA - Sarajevans acclaim first film about rape victims
- INTERVIEW: 'If what we have done is political, I don't care'


Quote:
Serbs Divided Over Rape Film

Rave reviews for controversial movie hint at changing attitudes to war crimes in Serbia, but Bosnian Serbs refuse to show it.

By Dragana Nikolic Solomon in Belgrade and Gordana Katana in Banja Luka (Balkan Insight, 9 Mar 06)

Civil rights activists and movie buffs have hailed a decision to show a harrowing film in Belgrade about a Bosnian rape victim. They greeted the premiere as a sign that Serbs are becoming more willing to acknowledge the extent of war crimes committed in Serbia's name in the Nineties.

By contrast, nervous distributors in the Bosnian Serb entity, the Republika Srpska, RS, refused to show the film at all, citing fears of uproar.

Grbavica, by the Sarajevo director Jasmila Zbanic, and winner of this year's Berlin film festival, had its first screening in Belgrade on March 6.

The film about a Bosnian Muslim who gave birth to a child after being raped in a Serbian detention camp won a standing ovation in the Serbian capital, in spite of its deeply controversial theme.

Zbanic made no apologies for the unequivocally political message of her film, saying she hoped it would remind moviegoers of the fate of thousands of Bosnian women raped during the 1992 to 1995 war. [..]

Belgrade media commentators accused the director of instigating a witch-hunt against Serbia, while tabloids rubbished her claim that Serb forces raped as many as 20,000 women.

Oscar Film Private Enterprise, the only film distributor in the RS, decided not to show Grbavica. The company's director, Vlado Ljevar, said after the film was shown to a test audience of about 40, they concluded that a screening would be counterproductive and would not be economically viable.

"We don't want to screen a film that would provoke Serbs and cause a revolt, while we would stand to make no money from it," Ljevar said.

However, some RS analysts said the decision not to show Grbavica in the RS only drew attention to the Bosnian Serbs' unwillingness to come to terms with the horrors of the war.

Srdjan Puhalo, director of the Banja Luka-based polling agency, Partner, told Balkan Insight that the failure of RS intellectuals and non-governmental organisations, NGOs, to react was as worrying as the decision not to screen the film.

"The intellectual elite has kept quiet, keeping a lid on the topic and pretending it never happened," Puhalo said. [..]

By contrast, a defiant atmosphere attended the first screening in Belgrade, where film-goers, civil society activists, actors and film makers gathered in force.

A clutch of hard-line nationalists who tried to disrupt the projection, shouting "Serbia" and "traitors", was quickly ejected. [..]

Human rights activists in Serbia hailed the decision to show Grbavica in Belgrade as a milestone in the battle to get the public to confront the legacy of war crimes.

"We have won," Natasa Kandic, director of the Humanitarian Law Centre, said. "War crimes are no longer a taboo in Serbia."

Most of those attending said they were impressed by the film, and the decision to show it.

"Serbia has proved itself a healthier society after the showing of this film and the way in which it was received," said Milan, a student.

Kandic said she thought public opinion had begun to shift in Serbia last June, after the liberal B92 station showed a video of an elite police unit, the Scorpions, brutally slaying six young Muslim men from Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia in 1995.

Although the video and film are encouraging signs, Kandic pointed out, there remains a long way to go.

While a liberal-minded minority appears ever more confident of demanding full access to the facts, their opinions are far from universal, as the continuing electoral strength of the hard-line nationalist Serbian Radical Party, SRS, goes to show.

Verbal, and even physical, attacks on the members and property of NGOs dealing with war crimes is on the rise in Serbia. "Now the animosity is more apparent," says Kandic.

Most human rights activists freely admit that only a fraction of the public feels a responsibility to tackle the war crimes issue.

Moreover, they say the political elite has not done much to distance itself from the ideology of Slobodan Milosevic's era.

"The state has not opened the issue of war crimes as a national issue," Kandic said.

Although the Serbian courts had processed several war crimes trials, Kandic added, the crimes were treated as isolated incidents, not as part of an official campaign.

"The strategy is to acknowledge only individual crimes and shield the Milosevic-era institutions that were involved in the war," Kandic concluded.

Even that limited degree of objectivity about Serb war crimes remains unthinkable in the RS. [..]

However, Oskar may have been unnecessarily timid. An opinion poll conducted recently in the RS media suggested most young people had no objections to the film being shown in the RS.

Andrej Nosov, of the anti-war NGO Youth Initiative from Belgrade said he was not surprised. Young people all over the region are far less frightened of confronting uncomfortable facts about the war than their elders, he said, adding, "They are ready to acknowledge the crimes committed in their name."
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 07:31 am
By the way, a contention that Serbia is returning to the past suggests that they had at one time left it behind. No evidence of that being available, i find the core thesis rather absurd. The Serbs have never abandoned the notion of "Great Serbia," and have ever been willing to march over the corpses of anyone who stands in their way. I am personally unconvinced that this attitude has changed in contemporary Servs, and the evidence of the ludicrous fantasy descriptions of Serv history provided by members here does nothing to convince me otherwise.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 07:50 am
Setanta wrote:
By the way, a contention that Serbia is returning to the past suggests that they had at one time left it behind. No evidence of that being available, i find the core thesis rather absurd. The Serbs have never abandoned the notion of "Great Serbia," and have ever been willing to march over the corpses of anyone who stands in their way. I am personally unconvinced that this attitude has changed in contemporary Servs, and the evidence of the ludicrous fantasy descriptions of Serv history provided by members here does nothing to convince me otherwise.

Though I share your sympathies, I'd contend that you are misinterpreting the title of the thread, and projecting a more blanket assertion on it than was ever there in the first place.

I chose the title at the time in specific reference to the article I posted then, which noted some specific, mounting signs of a return to the Milosevic-era: Milosevic-era officials being rehabilitated and regaining influence, pressure on independent media resurging, gatherings of radical nationalists increasing, nationalist rhetorics applied in domestic politics becoming more fierce again, a continuing unwillingness to prosecute Milosevic-era crimes.

Some of those developments have since been reversed: see the articles about budding Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung through criminal trials and now, movies too, on Serb-committed war crimes. Others continue unabated. It is quite obvious that Kostunica is made of different cloth than Djindjic was - he is more nationalist, less inclined to take on the Milosevic-era people and machines head-on, if at all.

You're right, of course, that Serbian nationalism remains, and has never really been gone - obviously. But its appearance and strength of expression goes up and down like the tide. Directly after the ouster of Milosevic, it was at a low. By the time I posted the original article of this thread (about half a year ago) it was on the up and up. Now, signs are contradictory, but with an escalation of the Kosovo talks on hand and the Montenegrin independence referendum set to take place in a few months' time (not to mention Milosevic's death), you can bet it will get a distinct upwind now.
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 10:39 am
Well, i disagree, in that i don't see that the Servs ever did more than publicly pay lip service to deploring Milosevic's program, and the behavior of the Bosnian Servs and the "Tigers." People who knew to much continued to disappear even after Milosevich was in custody, and new elections in Servia did nothing of apparent substance to end the overweening nationalism which has ever been the curse of the Balkans. Servs in Kosovo continue to whine about "ethnic cleansing" practiced against them.

I see whay your intended point was, i just contend that any suggestion that the virulent nationalism which has characterized Servs since they first appeared on the historical stage has never departed, but was only briefly sublimated by regimes which hoped for weatern aid.
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dagmaraka
 
  1  
Reply Tue 14 Mar, 2006 11:21 am
I think you see it way too darkly, Set. There are signs of healing within Serbia, and many progressive, peace-oriented movements as well. Official rhetoric is one thing, real people quite another.
Not to imply that all is nice and well in Serbia, but... things aren't black and white either.
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