After Reconciliation. On the Closure of the ICTY in The Hague

The court house of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague – Photo: Julian Nitzsche [CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

With the conviction of Ratko Mladić and sentence of life imprisonment imposed in November 2017 by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, one of the main people responsible for the crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been called to account. The former Bosnian Serb general was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the genocide in Srebrenica, the siege of Sarajevo and further crimes against humanity.

The extent of the sentence will give some satisfaction to many of the victims. Mladić, however, has not accepted his guilt. He insulted the judges, disrupted trial proceedings and showed himself recalcitrant in confronting reality. This unites him with other defendants indicted by the UN Tribunal. The former Bosnian Croat general, Slobodan Praljak, dramatically staged his rejection of the court in an absolute act of defiance. As the appeal judgment was delivered he declared, „Slobodan Praljak is not a war criminal“. Then, in full view of the astonished judges and the world public, he drank poison and subsequently died. The Serbian warmonger, Vojislav Šešelj, praised the act of suicide as ’heroic’. He knew the Croatian defendant from his own internment in The Hague. This blogpost reflects on the closure of the ICTY, its achievements, and its legacy.

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History as Elephant in the Room: Observations from Serbia’s Memory Lab

Where does a contemporary history of Serbia begin? How is the Yugoslav legacy reflected within it? And does all the talk about memory and forgetting in post-conflict societies really help to answer these questions? With such doubts I left for Serbia this October. For the past six years, I have participated in excursions about memory culture across the post-Yugoslav region. Most of the study trips were organized by “Memory Lab”.

logo310This is a network of individuals interested in the culture of dealing with the past in Western Europe and the Western Balkans. Since our first meeting in Sarajevo in 2010, forty memory activists and analysts have travelled together to explore how the societies in Western Europe and the western Balkans perform their history. We have visited Bosnia and Hercegovina, Croatia, France, Germany and the German-Polish borderland, Kosovo and Macedonia, Belgium; and in 2016, our joint study trip has lead us to Serbia.

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Croatia: Living the Past, Not Confronting It

Coat of Arms of the Republic of Croatia - by Croatian Parliament - ZAKON O GRBU, ZASTAVI I HIMNI RH TE ZASTAVI I LENTI PREDSJEDNIKA RH which based its decision on the design by Miroslav Šutej F.C.A. proposals. MaGa (based on Decision of the Parliament) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Coat of Arms of the Republic of Croatia – illustration: Croatian Parliament – ZAKON O GRBU, ZASTAVI I HIMNI RH TE ZASTAVI I LENTI PREDSJEDNIKA RH which based its decision on the design by Miroslav Šutej F.C.A. proposals. MaGa (based on Decision of the Parliament) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Like every country and its society, Croatia has a complicated and somewhat disputed 20th century history. As a country achieving independence in 1990s, Croatia was present on the historical and geographical crossroads of various empires and states, like Austro-Hungarian and Turkish Empires. Through a long process of the complete formation of its national identities through culture, art, religion and political struggle, Croatia was a relatively dependent entity for a long time, either in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Kingdom of Yugoslavia or socialist Yugoslavia.

When socialist Yugoslavia fell apart, or was torn apart (as some historians claim), falling into civil and international war, Croatia, as well as some other former Yugoslav countries, looked back into its past in order to find its foundations, on which it can historically, ideologically and, most importantly, symbolically lay on. Today, Croatian society faces considerable historical revisionism or even forgery – especially with regard to remembering the crimes at Jasenovac concentration camp.

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