Accessibility links

Breaking News

South Slavic: January 17, 2002

17 January 2002, Volume 4, Number 2


Part II. Part I appeared on 10 January.

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.

RFE/RL: Mr. Radojicic, was ethnic cleansing carried out in the Republika Srpska or was it not? Those who believe so say that, according to the present structure of the population, the Republika Srpska is almost ethnically pure, while according to the 1991 census, the structure of the population of the region that is now called the Republika Srpska was completely different.

Igor Radojicic: I would not confine myself to the Republika Srpska. If you compare the ethnic structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina from 1991 with the present, you will see that the so-called "leopard skin" has changed dramatically. Let me just tell you that the number of Serbian inhabitants of Sarajevo has decreased to one-tenth of what it was before the war, which is part of the indictment against Mr. [Alija] Izetbegovic [for war crimes recently] prepared by the Republika Srpska.

The figures are probably similar in the Republika Srpska regarding the non-Serbian population. The ethnic map of Bosnia-Herzegovina changed considerably during the war. There was a huge ethnic displacement, sometimes by force, sometimes because people fled their homes since they felt insecure. The ethnic map of Bosnia-Herzegovina has been fundamentally changed, and one should not limit this remark to just one entity.

RFE/RL: So you do not think that the extent of ethnic cleansing in the Republika Srpska was greater than in other parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Igor Radojicic: That is hard to compare. There is no doubt that there was a huge displacement of the population, based on ethnicity. Whether more people left Banja Luka or Sarajevo, whether some 10 or 12 percent have remained...I find basically irrelevant, since the figures are enormous. We are talking about a massive displacement of the population.

Stjepan Kljuic: I cannot agree with Mr. Radojicic. First, I think that no one left his home of his own free will. First we have to address the issue of who started it all. Without the fascism, the planned ethnic cleansing, and Slobodan Milosevic who implemented it, the ethnic structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina would not have changed. It is not true that people from Banja Luka and Sarajevo left their homes under the same circumstances. Bosniacs [i.e. Muslims] and Croats were killed, robbed, and expelled from the Republika Srpska.

Mr. Radojicic, you have to understand how it started and who was the victim, since I deeply believe that both you and your party are oriented toward democratic values. Everything that followed was a result of aggression. You certainly know with whom the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) openly sided. At that time, it was the fourth-largest conventional military power in Europe...

Don't you find the fate of Srebrenica -- let us mention only that one crime -- sufficient evidence for The Hague tribunal that genocide was committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina?

But that is not the point. The point is that in the Republika Srpska there is still no critical mass of people able to accept Srebrenica as their own tragedy. Believe me, neither the Serbian people -- nor any neighboring nation -- can rest content until the Serbs condemn those who committed the crime.

RFE/RL: Mr. Radojicic, is there readiness in the Republika Srpska to accept the truth about Srebrenica?

Igor Radojicic: The essential thing about learning the truth is that it allows the population [as a group] to avoid being blamed for the crimes committed by individuals during the war.

This is why I insist on viewing the totality of events in Bosnia-Herzegovina, although the focus is once again on the Republika Srpska, thanks to the indictment of Milosevic. Not a single crime -- wherever committed and whoever the perpetrator -- should remain unspoken. Otherwise, that could create the impression that some are allowed to commit crimes and go unpunished, while others are not.

The other thing is playing with the number of victims. Let us take the example of Jasenovac [where pro-Axis Croat forces killed Serbs, Jews, Gypsies, and opposition Croats during World War II]. While in the Republika Srpska we speak of some 700,000 victims -- which is the figure that was accepted before the [1991] war [according to communist-era historiography] -- during a recent ceremony in Croatia -- when materials were given back to the Jasenovac museum -- 80,000 victims was the official figure mentioned (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 December 2001).

As far as your question, Mr. Karabeg, is concerned, I can tell you that the public in the Republika Srpska is gradually coming to understand the facts about the last war. I am talking about the fact that crimes were committed, and that some of those horrible things were done by members of the Serbian people.

That is the result not only of the functioning of The Hague tribunal, but also because many documents have been published.

However, something else is also called for: that responsibility is also established regarding all those from other parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina who committed crimes. This is why we are so interested to see the reaction of The Hague tribunal to the serious accusations -- and evidence -- [compiled recently in Banja Luka] against the former Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, primarily against Mr. Izetbegovic.

If The Hague tribunal is willing to start an investigation into the responsibility of Izetbegovic and the members of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina -- as well as of the military leadership of both the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Croatian Defense Council (HVO) -- then public opinion here will start to change...

RFE/RL: Mr. Kljuic, Mr. Radojicic has said that the truth about their own crimes would be easier to accept in the Republika Srpska if The Hague tribunal accepted, for instance, the indictment against Alija Izetbegovic prepared by the authorities of the Republika Srpska. Do you consider that indictment valid?

Stjepan Kljuic: I do not want to talk about Izetbegovic.... [But it must be noted that] the authorities in Sarajevo have organized two trials [of Muslims for crimes against Serbs or Croats], which is something neither Herceg-Bosna nor the Republika Srpska have done so far....

RFE/RL: Mr. Radojicic, do you agree with Mr. Kljuic's approach that one should primarily get to grips with one's own crimes, and only then think about what others did?

Igor Radojicic: One should put one's own house in order first. However, it takes time....

Stjepan Kljuic: It is very difficult for me to talk to someone who does not understand the meaning of the destruction of [the 16th-century] Ferhadija [mosque in Banja Luka], or of what happened to Vukovar or Dubrovnik.

We cannot say, "Forget what happened, let's move on." The point is that fascist behavior was there for all to see. Milosevic orchestrated an evil process -- regardless of whether he did it on his own or there was a brain trust behind him, as some indications suggest.

However, no verdict by The Hague tribunal will change a thing until people from the former Yugoslav region face the truth. What is needed is that a citizen of Banja Luka, for example, will say one day: "I feel ashamed because I watched them destroy Ferhadija and I did nothing to stop them."