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South Slavic: February 17, 2005

17 February 2005, Volume 7, Number 6


Part IV.

A program by Srdjan Kusovac of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service.

RFE/RL: One of the questions that must be asked in this discussion is how important the Hague-based war crimes tribunal is for those researching the breakup of former Yugoslavia and the Balkan wars in the 1990s.

Zijad Sehic: I would like to make a comparison between the Nuremberg tribunal in 1945-46 and the Hague tribunal. They were both designed as instruments aimed at establishing the historical truth about certain events. However, the Hague tribunal has declared that its most important goal is to ensure [its impact on the study of the legal aspects of]...the conflicts in former Yugoslavia.... Its archives are supposed to be moved to Budapest and opened in 2010...and be accessible for future historical research.

Rados Ljusic: ...In addition to the public information available in The Hague, what might be of interest is what took place behind the scenes at the tribunal. But those documents are presumably somewhere in Washington or Moscow, and it is there that one must some day look for the relevant documents....

Serbo Rastoder: For me, the Hague tribunal is a very important source of information for research.... In every conflict, and especially in those in the region of former Yugoslavia, the primary historical sources will be those directly involving the protagonists.... This will be the best documented conflict in the entire history of this region.

Furthermore, the very essence of historical research as an academic discipline is very similar to a trial. Accordingly, the trials that have already taken place will have a certain influence on the process of making some [historical] judgments.

Finally, some current findings and casualty statistics are likely to be revised in the future as history is reexamined and rewritten. But unlike the history of World War II, which recently has been shown to have been distorted by the [Partisan] victors who wrote their books after the conflict, the tribunal's findings are likely to remain above question because they are unbiased....

RFE/RL: All our guests agree that in the foreseeable future information will emerge shedding new light on the events concerning the breakup of Yugoslavia and the wars that followed. But they also agree that such information is unlikely to change our basic understanding of events.

Sabrina Ramet: I have read more than 20 memoirs by various actors in the conflict. I am [now] reading the memoirs of Raif Dizdarevic, who was the president of the collective presidency, and also those of Janez Drnovsek, who is currently president of Slovenia and was also very active politically at the time of the breakup.� The same goes for the memoirs of Croatian President Stipe Mesic, of former British Prime Minister John Major, and of various others. But the huge amount of information in these memoirs has had little impact [on my overall understanding]....

Sehic: The danger remains that files will be taken away and cease to exist. And there will always be the problems of relevance and credibility of those records that remain....

Ljusic: Most records will become available, but I do not think they will substantially change our understanding of the events that took place in our region during the 1990s. It is possible that British, Russian, or American files might bring something more important to light.

Rastoder: It is absolutely impossible that a new document of fundamental importance will turn up, but there certainly will be many new documents explaining or giving further information about certain details. These include the development of various individuals' and groups' positions and war aims, as well as their activities....

Ivo Banac: In 30 or maybe 50 years some new evidence might come to light, but nothing that will force us to give up our basic theories about the conflicts....