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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The Strange Case of Miro Barešić – Reflections on a Controversial Memorialisation in Croatia

On July 31, 2016, Tomo Medved, the outgoing Minister for War Veterans in Croatia, visited the village of Draga, located near the Croatian coastal town of Sibenik. Here he delivered a remarkable speech, stating that:

Miro Barešić is one of the greatest Croatian patriots whose work and sacrifice we have to respect. For years, in the diaspora and in the Homeland War, he fought for a free and an independent Croatia and never gave up on his ideas, although he felt the injustice that was systematically inflicted on Croats. Like many other immigrants, who were willing to give their lives for Croatia, he was a ‚defender before defenders‘. He returned from Paraguay, even though he knew that in Croatia there are people who persecuted him, but he participated in the war and experienced the realization of his dream. Thank you, Miro, for an independent, sovereign and free Croatia.

The speech was held on the opening ceremony of a monument dedicated to Miro Barešić, a Croatian soldier in Croatia’s 1990s war, who was killed in combat against rebelling Croatian Serbs in 1991. The phrase ‘Homeland War’ that Medved used, is the official name used in Croatia for the 1990s war, in which Croatian forces fought against the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) and rebelling Croatian Serbs.

The war started in 1991 and ended in late 1995. Most fighting ceased after August 1995, when Croatia sucessfully conducted the notorious military campaign „Oluja“ (Storm), which was – during and in the aftermath of the operation – accompanied by crimes against local Serbs. The word „defender“, how Medved referred to Barešić, is also an official and widely used term in Croatia for Croatian 1990s war veterans – not for rebelling Serb soldiers. Therefore, how people in Croatia refer to the War and to the soldiers who fought in it, says a lot about the existing narratives of the war. And this is particularly true in the strange case of Miro Barešić …

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Wem gehören die Nationalhelden des Zweiten Weltkrieges?

Der „Tag des weißen Bandes“ in Prijedor zwischen der Erinnerung an die Partisanen des Zweiten Weltkrieges und an die Opfer des Bosnienkrieges

Als eine Gruppe junger Aktivisten im Kontext einer Gedenkfeier in der Gemeinde Prijedor (Republika Srpska) Ende Mai 2015 ein Foto in dem sozialen Netzwerk Facebook postete, verbreitete sich dies wie ein Lauffeuer. Darauf zu sehen war das Denkmal des ehemaligen Anführers der Partisanen, Mladen Stojanović – an dessen Arm ein weißes Band, das allen voran als Symbol für die Opfer des Bosnienkrieges in Prijedor gilt. Das Foto stieß eine neue und hitzige Diskussion darüber an, ob die Nationalhelden des Zweiten Weltkrieges exklusiv den Kriegsveteranen der damaligen Zeit gehören.

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