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South Slavic: July 18, 2002

18 July 2002, Volume 4, Number 23


Part II.

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.

Beriz Belkic: I am sick and tired of explaining some things over and over again. People in Bosnia-Herzegovina actually had no choice. All possible measures were taken in order to avoid the war. Different forms of federal organization were proposed, but what was missing was the political will to democratize former Yugoslavia.

The regime in Belgrade had its own concept, the concept of domination, which they intended to impose using the army. People in Bosnia-Herzegovina were offered a choice between two options: either to accept Belgrade's orders and become second class citizens, or, like others did, to give themselves a chance to decide their own fate....

Zivko Radisic: What we are discussing now is the issue of what caused the war. We were prisoners of extreme national views here, and to a large extent still are.

The fact is that such a policy was launched in late 1990 and in 1991. It does not matter who was the first to start it: the [Croatian] HDZ, the [Muslim] SDA, or the [Serbian] SDS....

We have all paid the price.... There were 185,000 Serbs in Sarajevo before the war, and now there are fewer than 25,000 left.

Beriz Belkic: Mr. Radisic, Sarajevo was under total [siege] for 1,600 days. One should be glad that its citizens did not all go crazy.

RFE/RL: Let us go back to the charges. Mr. Radisic, what would happen if the Hague tribunal declared [Former Yugoslav President Slobodan] Milosevic responsible for the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which seems quite probable? Will that influence the verdict of the Hague [International] Court of Justice [where Bosnia has filed its complaint], since Milosevic was president of both Serbia and [starting in 1997] Yugoslavia?

Zivko Radisic: As far as Bosnia-Herzegovina's charges against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia are concerned, nothing will happen. The International Court of Justice in The Hague and the Hague war crimes tribunal are two completely different institutions, and there are no legal ties between them....

Beriz Belkic: The [Bosnian] charges were brought against the political structures of the state [that violated international laws and norms, not against a country or its people].

Zivko Radisic: I wish we had the text of the [Bosnian] charges here. On Page 789, the Republika Srpska is called a "surrogate state," made by ethnic cleansing, genocide, and aggression, and without any international standing or legal basis.

That was written in the amendment to the charges made on 23 April 1998, after the Dayton agreement was signed, and therefore constitutes a direct attack on both the existence of the Republika Srpska and the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which was set down in Dayton.

This is why, as a member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, I considered [the charges] a threat to the vital national interests of the Serbian people in Bosnia-Herzegovina....

Beriz Belkic: We can keep burying our heads in the sand and deny that what happened did happen.... People did not leave home for no reason.... We have to face the facts and offer some sort of justice to those forced to flee.

RFE/RL: So, you think that the charges represent a sort of compensation to the victims.

Beriz Belkic: I am convinced they do....

RFE/RL: There have been some suggestions that a deal might be made between Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. According to these reports, Bosnia-Herzegovina might withdraw the charges in exchange for a big concession by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Mr. Radisic, was such a possibility ever discussed?

Zivko Radisic: Not by the Presidency. As a member of the Presidency, I do not know anything about it....

Beriz Belkic: That is correct.

RFE/RL: So, the reports are pure speculation?

Beriz Belkic: Well, the source might be outside the Presidency....

RFE/RL: There is no single politician in the [Muslim and Croat] Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina who would advocate dropping the charges. In the Republika Srpska, however, all politicians want the charges dropped. Can a state so divided function normally?

Zivko Radisic: I think it can, since we are [all] determined to build a state based on the rule of law.

Beriz Belkic: The two points of view become irreconcilable only when people become polarized and subject to manipulation.

Let us let things take their course before the court. I like to ask: "What if the International Court of [Justice] in The Hague rules that there was no aggression [by Belgrade against Bosnia]?" Therefore, let's let the court do its job and wait for the decision.

But one thing must be said: These are charges made by one state against another state, not against a people or against the Republika Srpska, since in that case, our state would be suing itself. I assure you that once we realize that, everything becomes clear.