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South Slavic: July 11, 2002

11 July 2002, Volume 4, Number 22


Part I.

A recent interview on RFE/RL's Radio Most (Bridge) by Omer Karabeg of RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service with Zivko Radisic, the Serbian member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Beriz Belkic, the Muslim member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

RFE/RL: Mr. Radisic, you have repeatedly said that you do not consider valid Bosnia-Herzegovina's case before the International Court of Justice against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [stemming from the 1992-95 war]. You say that this is because it lacks a proper legal basis. What makes you think so?

Zivko Radisic: First: I have been a member of the Presidency for four years now, and I still do not know who brought the charges. Was it the Presidency? If so, which one, and when? The truth is that more than 30 transcripts and minutes of the Presidency meetings are missing. It might have happened during some of those meetings.

The second thing is that, according to the [1995] Dayton peace accords, 15 days after establishing the first [postwar] Presidency, all international agreements were supposed to have been reconfirmed to ensure continuity. In the case of these charges, it was never done.

The third thing is that in March 1998 -- in Dayton-era Bosnia -- the charges were amended without a previous discussion, and that [document] was never ratified.

Finally, the fourth and fundamental reason why I cannot accept the charges is that they seek to proclaim the Serbian people the aggressor and the Republika Srpska an artificial state produced by ethnic cleansing, genocide, and aggression.

These are the reasons why I have raised the question of both the legal and the fundamentally [political] natures of the charges. As you know, the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska backed me, and the issue was proclaimed a matter of vital national interest.

Beriz Belkic: As far as the validity of the charges is concerned, the International Court of Justice in The Hague has confirmed it. Mr. Radisic's arguments have already been used by the defendant -- the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.... As far as the fourth reason is concerned -- and Mr. Radisic considers it fundamental -- nobody has ever said or thought that the entire [Serbian] people should be considered an aggressor.

RFE/RL: Mr. Radisic claims that the Presidency established after the Dayton accords has never approved the charges. Was such approval necessary?

Beriz Belkic: I have just told you that the validity of the charges cannot be determined by one of the two parties to the dispute but only by the court....

Zivko Radisic: I agree with Mr. Belkic that only the decision of the International Court of Justice is the relevant one. We are going to accept any decision by that court.

I would just like to make two brief comments. I would be grateful if no one ever considered me a spokesman or representative of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. I am defending here the Bosnia-Herzegovina made in Dayton, which means the three equal, constitutional peoples and the two entities: the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska.

Mr. Belkic has just said that no one has ever denied the Republika Srpska's right to exist. However, a month ago there was an article in the Sarajevo press by Mr. [Haris] Silajdzic -- the founder of your party, Mr. Belkic -- claiming that the charges against [former President] Slobodan Milosevic before the international war crimes tribunal are proof that everything created by aggression and genocide -- and therefore the Republika Srpska as well -- cannot be considered legitimate.

I categorically condemn such a statement. Please, Bosnia-Herzegovina cannot exist without our mutual respect and esteem.

Beriz Belkic: Until the Constitutional Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina's [recent] decision to proclaim all three peoples fully equal on the entire territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina and until the constitutions of the entities were modified accordingly, what we actually had here was a sort of apartheid and a classic violation of human rights.

The process of democratizing the entities has just started, but I am convinced that no one can complain about the legal basis of either entity now. What Silajdzic was talking about was the former mono-national entities, in which the members of other nations were undoubtedly second-class citizens....

Zivko Radisic: I agree that basic human rights were violated extensively in all of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and that the problem, unfortunately, still exists. However, much has been done and is being done to promote the rule of law.

But let us go back to the charges regarding genocide and aggression and what lies behind them. It is well-known that literally everybody was at war with everybody else here.

Before leaving Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mr. [Wolfgang] Petritsch published a very important book: "Bosnia-Herzegovina, from Dayton to Europe" [editor's note: the original is "Bosnien und Herzegowina. Fuenf Jahre nach Dayton. Hat der Friede eine Chance?" (Klagenfurt: Wieser Verlag, 2001)]. In his book, he claims that there was a war within a war here, that everybody was at war with everybody else.

There were not only the Serbs fighting the [Muslims], there were also the [Muslims] fighting the Croats, the Serbs fighting the Croats, the [Muslims] fighting the [Muslims], etc. What we had here was a merciless war with elements of national, religious, and civil war. Future generations will have to determine the truth about it.

RFE/RL: As I understand it, the way you see the charges is based on your understanding of the nature of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Zivko Radisic: Exactly.

Beriz Belkic: Let me first tell you something about the entities. They were essentially discriminatory. I do not intend to weigh on a scale how much discrimination there was in the Republika Srpska, and how much in the Federation [of Bosnia-Herzegovina]. People already know that.

However, I am going to talk about the way the entities were organized, about their constitutions that brazenly enshrined discrimination. That is the essence of the issue.

As far as this "war within a war" story is concerned, that, of course, existed. But we have to remember where it all started, which forces and political programs were behind it all, what their goals were, and finally, how it all started in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Slobodan Milosevic's trial is surely very important for clarifying everything that happened in Bosnia-Herzegovina because he was head of state.

We can spend hours here talking and presenting our arguments, but we will never agree, since everybody has his own understanding of the war. This is why it is very good that there is the International Court of Justice in The Hague as well as the war crimes tribunal, so that they can judge when we cannot agree. Let them do their job so that they can set down the markers that will eventually show us the way to understanding what really happened here.

Zivko Radisic: There were two alternatives in former Yugoslavia. One sought to preserve the former Yugoslavia, while the other one wanted to create new states out of the constituent republics. In the case of Bosnia-Herzegovina, two peoples outvoted the third one. That is the truth.

But let us not go back to 1991 or 1992. What we have now is Bosnia-Herzegovina as our joint state. It needs to be built by strengthening our mutual tolerance and confidence, as well as by suppressing hatred. Relevant institutions, including the International Court of Justice, should determine the truth about what actually happened here.