10 January 2002, Volume
DO GENOCIDE CHARGES AGAINST MILOSEVIC UNDERMINE THE REPUBLIKA SRPSKA?
Part I. Part II will appear on 17 January 2002.
A recent broadcast of RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg with:
In Sarajevo: Stjepan Kljuic, president of the Republican Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina and member of the wartime presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina and
In Banja Luka: Igor Radojicic, secretary-general of the Democratic Socialist Party of the Republika Srpska.
Mr. Kljuic, do you think the genocide charges, if proven before The Hague tribunal, might confirm the allegations of those who claim that the Republika Srpska is founded on genocide?
The Dayton peace accords established the Republika Srpska, so it would not be in legal danger if the genocide charges were proved. A revision of an international agreement is hard to bring about. All those who signed the Dayton peace accords would probably have to meet, but most of them have already left the political stage.
Another point is that there is no desire on the part of the international community to do such a thing, since the international community is far from being united.... I doubt that such a heterogeneous international community would return to the Dayton agreement and revise it.
Therefore, if Milosevic's responsibility for the genocide were proved, such a verdict by The Hague tribunal would hardly jeopardize [the legal basis of] the Republika Srpska as an entity. It could only be called into question if it fails to modify its structure in order to create conditions to enable all ethnic groups living there to enjoy their [legitimate] rights.
The disclosure of the genocide charges against Mr. Milosevic set off many discussions in the Republika Srpska. There has been some excitement since some politicians raised the question of whether a verdict confirming that Milosevic had committed genocide might threaten the constitutional basis of the Republika Srpska.
However, I find such fears unfounded. The Hague tribunal is trying individuals, not states or other collective bodies. In this particular case, Mr. Milosevic has been indicted as an individual, and this is why -- from a legal point of view -- a verdict that confirms his responsibility for genocide could not affect either Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state or the entities that comprise it.
Even if somebody tried to question the [legal basis of] the Republika Srpska by referring to that verdict, I think that it would be futile. This is because Dayton...established the present Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the powers that guarantee that agreement have no interest whatsoever in changing the present organization of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
I must say that some people know how to use the line that "we will be threatened if Milosevic is sentenced".... It would be enough for a certain number of them to start not only to defend Milosevic, but also to make them really worried about him.
A possible genocide sentence will not change a thing until we face each other and say the truth to each other. And the truth is that what happened to us is fascism, that this war cost us all dearly. And who was able to launch this war? Only the one with the power, the army, and the weapons to do so.
After the indictment for genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina was read, Slobodan Milosevic commented that it was an attempt to falsify history. Mr. Radojicic, what do you think about that indictment?
I think that we need to determine the facts about what really happened in this region. I also think that The Hague tribunal needs to be impartial.
The objectivity of The Hague tribunal is often questioned in the Republika Srpska. The dominant opinion here is that The Hague tribunal is biased against the Serbian side. Of course, one should not try to establish a sort of a balance or try to present all sides as equally responsible for the crimes. Every particular crime must be punished, but...the entire truth must be disclosed.
Talking about responsibility for the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, one should not forget the responsibility of the leadership of Bosnia-Herzegovina at that time. I am talking about all those who were part of the leadership of the state, as well as the leaders of the major political parties. [Editor's note: this would include Kljuic, who was the Croatian leader at the outset of the conflict. He later broke with the Croatian nationalists and emigrated for a time to Australia.]
The nature of the war, which Mr. Kljuic has already mentioned, is going to remain a point of contention among us in Bosnia-Herzegovina for a long time. Unlike those who consider it an act of aggression, we in the Republika Srpska tend to think that what happened was really a civil war, or maybe even an interethnic war.
Mr. Radojicic, you did not answer my question: What do you think about Carla Del Ponte's claim that genocide was committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina?
War crimes were committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The question is whether all those crimes can be labeled genocide. I am not ready to agree with such a harsh judgment.
I would like to make a comment about what Mr. Radojicic said about the bias of The Hague tribunal. It is true that, in the beginning, there were more Serbs -- and Croats -- than others in The Hague. Let me tell you why. Both the Serbian and Croatian sides ignored The Hague tribunal for quite some time. Their leaders did not want to cooperate, refusing to provide necessary information about the crimes committed against their own peoples. Later they realized that The Hague tribunal is a serious institution, so they started to send information about the crimes committed by the third side. However, it took them a long time to get to that point.
Therefore, the issue is not that The Hague tribunal is biased, but that for years the authorities of [the Croatian para-state of] Herceg-Bosna and the Republika Srpska did not want to cooperate.
However, what is essential for me is that all those who broke the laws of war -- as well as other laws -- must be brought to justice. Once we realize that, we will no longer count how many criminals from this or that side ended up in The Hague. Instead of that, we will create a dividing line along which honest people will face those who committed crimes.
Mr. Kljuic, do you think that genocide was committed during the war?
It certainly was genocide, since entire villages and towns were destroyed, and one ethnic group was attacked in an organized way. What was done here was the most serious crime since World War II. Maybe the crime was even more serious than that committed during World War II.
I cannot agree with Mr. Radojicic's claim that there was a civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. To tell you the truth, I would never shoot anybody, and I would never seek to conquer a town. I was living in Sarajevo when they started to shoot at me, so I defended myself as best as I could.
In addition, there are some UN Security Council documents that refer to aggression. I must say that what Milosevic did was a major evil, and that will easily be proven through the testimony of many witnesses. [The aggression] was well prepared in advance.
Finally, I witnessed some of the events. I participated in the talks with Milosevic when he offered to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina. I must say that he was well-informed; he was familiar with the places and areas he was carving up. Of course, I told him to find another partner. Therefore, the evil that happened to us was planned, and that is Slobodan Milosevic's sin.
The international court in The Hague did not indict Slobodan Milosevic for the events in Bosnia until 2001, and the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina ended six years ago. For the first few years after the end of the war, Mr. Milosevic's position within the international community was quite different. If it were not for the failure of the [early 1999] Rambouillet talks and for the events in Kosovo, it is quite possible that Mr. Milosevic would have never been indicted.
On the other hand, if [Croatian] President [Franjo] Tudjman were still alive, he might have met the same fate as Milosevic.
Finally, perceptions have changed regarding Mr. [Alija] Izetbegovic, too. He was a favorite of the international community for years. But the issue of both his responsibility, as well as the responsibility of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, for the wartime events and crimes has been raised not only here in the Republika Srpska, but also by many international analysts.
What happened here was not a crime of only one ethnic group against another. People were not killed here only because they belonged to a certain ethnic group.
That was a difficult, dirty war, in which many events are hard to explain. [Such complex events can hardly serve as a basis for] launching legal proceedings. This is why it would be hard for me to accept the idea of genocide.