Saturday, December 29, 2012

Peter Lippman Bosnia Travel Journal: Entry # 10

Hello folks,

Here is my last report concerning my recent experiences in Bosnia-Herzegovina, but not the last report in this series. After I left Bosnia in mid-November I spent some time in Macedonia and Kosovo, and then visited the Society for Threatened Peoples in Göttingen, Germany. So there will be a couple of reports about those visits as well.

This posting covers a couple of issues that arose just before I left the country about a month ago. I met with Belma Žiga, who works with a foundation that serves marginalized groups. I also share some notes on the search for missing persons. There's a section on the recent arrest of a Belgrade tycoon who has ties to Fahrudin Radončić, Bosnia's new Minister of Security. I end with an introduction of the new campaign, the March 1st Coalition.


I have developed a rather finely-tuned internal meter that detects how effective, useful, and honest the work of a non-governmental organization is. Along with exposure to NGOs comes a certain amount of skepticism, as I've observed that everyone in the "third sector" knows the right things to say to foreigners, and everyone knows how to fill out an application form for support from an international humanitarian agency. These are the ABCs of NGO work - but also of humanitarian profiteering. NGOs are to be found at every point along the spectrum from altruism to exploitation.

Once in a while you find an NGO that is doing exemplary work. I found one almost inadvertently, an organization whose members I visited only because of the irresistible invitation of a friend. But by the time I left the meeting, I was inspired.

The Foundation for aid to victims of war "Krila Nade," or Wings of Hope - Bosnia, has been working to help people in Bosnia-Herzegovina since the war period. Founded by a Dutch organization of the same name, Krila Nade became completely independent in 2004. Since then it has concentrated on service to people in Sarajevo Canton. The organization defines its updated mission as one of "empowerment and social inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups, particularly women, youth, and children through the promotion and protection of human rights and mental health and support of education."

I spoke with Belma Žiga, psychologist and staff member of Krila Nade, about what this means.

Žiga described a "multi-system, interdisciplinary model of social inclusion" implemented by Krila Nade. The organization employs a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and an educational consultant or "pedagogue."  "We work to educate people regarding the role of psychologists and therapists, to reduce the amount of stigma associated with therapy."

Krila Nade is the only center in Sarajevo where one can choose different forms of psychotherapy. Each year, over two hundred clients receive psychotherapy or counseling there.

In addition to providing therapy, Krila Nade implements projects on several fronts including employment assistance, summer school and special school sessions, adult education, and creative workshops. As usual, implementation of projects depends on available funding. One successful program that had to be terminated was the support of a dentist who volunteered to tend to clients' teeth without compensation. Materials were also donated. Through this program over a thousand uninsured children received dental care over a period of three years. Another now-defunct program brought disadvantaged children to the mountains, in wintertime, for lessons in skiing and snowboarding.

The work that most fascinated me involved pilot projects in elementary schools. Ms. Žiga told me that the organization's project of "integration and inclusion," supported by the Soros Open Society Foundation, is called, "Redefining culture, policy, and practice in elementary schools in Sarajevo Canton."

Ms. Žiga repeatedly used the term "inclusion." At first I assumed that this referred to the inclusion of non-Muslim students in the learning process in the predominantly Muslim-populated school system of Sarajevo Canton. I found out that "inclusion" referred to something much more basic.

In previous reports I have mentioned problems with the educational system in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Lessons tend to be delivered as packages to be consumed by students without their active participation. "Inclusion" refers to participation, active learning that is necessary for a more effective education. Ms. 
Žiga explained, "Inclusion is a process of addressing and responding to the diversity of needs of all learners through increasing participation in learning, culture, and communities, and reducing exclusion within education and exclusion from education. There is a need to be responsible in the schools for inclusion of all different aspects of diversity; not just children with special needs, but also for gifted children."

I remember from my own school experiences that questioning was at times a risky thing to do; most students accept without resistance the social processing that is the main goal of education. By they time they reach high school, critical thinking is non-existent, or at least heavily suppressed.

In recent decades there has been a widespread fight against this anti-thinking form of education in the West. In Bosnia, Krila Nade is trying to introduce independent thought by way of active learning in some of Sarajevo's schools. The organization is implementing a ten-month pilot program in two elementary schools. The program introduces a method of self-evaluation called "Index for Inclusion," and it provides school psychologists as well. One goal of the pilot program is to assess policy, culture, and practice in those two schools.

Regarding this project, Ms. Žiga explained, "In the schools, students are passive, and there are human resources that are not used. The students are not involved in the educational process; they do not participate actively and cooperatively in the learning process.

"Students at all levels, from age six to 25, are passive. They only try to repeat what they have learned. So this results in a situation where, when they finish school, they have a low level of self-confidence.

"We have hoped to get the Ministry of Education involved and to have them recognize the value of this type of work. But the Ministry of Education, as soon as we mentioned psychologists, they stopped the discussion and said, 'We have pedagogues, don't mention psychologists.' That was the end of this. So we did not ask for permission to have our psychologists in the schools. You have to break the rules."

In Bosnian schools, there are problems that are more striking than the simple, old-fashioned system of rote learning. There is the notorious practice of corruption - especially in the universities - where students are compelled, at times, to buy passing grades with money or sex. I can't help but think that if students were trained to question and to use their critical thinking capacities from an early age, they would not put up with such practices. 

Krila Nade aspires to develop an educational culture in schools, to encourage teachers to use the mental resources available to the students. "It's not so hard," Ms. Žiga saidAfter describing to me the school projects of her organization, she asked me, "Do you think we are too ambitious?" I said, "You are subversive, and for that, in order to fight the brainwashing, you have to be ambitious."

Q: Do you get a good response from the teachers?
A: "They are tired of seminars about stereotyping and about special needs. They act like they know everything - as if they are from Star Trek. But, for example, they are not prepared to deal with autistic children, or with ADHD.

"We made a survey with a questionnaire and asked what the teachers wanted to learn, what they lacked in their work, and what they felt they had to contribute. But in their responses, they were not interested in a gender workshop nor in active learning. There is a lot of work being done on active learning, but the teachers are not using this knowledge in practice. There needs to be more effort."

I left the Krila Nade office promising to try to help the organization in any way I could.

For more on Wings of Hope, see


There's not much in Bosnia-Herzegovina that's more painful for the survivors of the war than not knowing where their missing loved ones are. At the war's end there were some thirty thousand people missing in Bosnia. Finding them has been an excruciatingly slow task, especially in the first few years after the war. At that time, it was dangerous to venture into "enemy" territory and search for mass graves. Those who knew the location of such graves were not talking. And when graves were found and remains were exhumed, there was no scientific way of establishing the identity of the remains until the introduction of DNA matching technology at the end of the last century.

In spite of this, a number of courageous people dedicated their lives to the search for the missing. It is hard for me to imagine spending my days, for years on end, braving the scorching sun or the chilling cold - and sometimes the glare of watchful neighbors - to scrape in the ground for the bones of the missing. Yet people like Amor Mašović, Jasmin Odobašić, and many others have done just that. In performing this work over the past seventeen years, they have brought a measure of comfort, for example, to the widows of Srebrenica, by making possible, so far, the identification of the remains of over six thousand victims of that notorious set of massacres.

Prijedor municipality is another area where several thousand victims went missing, and investigators gradually discovered mass graves there as well. Dozens of mass graves were discovered in that municipality.

Both with the war crimes related to Srebrenica and to Prijedor, the fact of "secondary graves" has made identification of the victims so much the harder. Secondary - and sometimes even tertiary - graves are the result of the excavation of remains from one mass grave and their removal to one or more additional sites in order to conceal the crime. Such an additional crime upon a crime tended to mix up the bones of the victims, so that it has not been unusual for one person's remains to be found in two or even more sites. It has been unusual, in fact, to find a complete set of remains in one place.

In order to make a DNA identification, relatives have to provide blood samples. For the more than 30,000 missing, to date over 90,000 samples have been received from survivors, many of whom have moved to exile in the far corners of the world.

These are some of the factors that complicate the effort to soothe a survivor's anguish by providing her with remains to give a proper burial. For this effort, those who search for the remains deserve praise and admiration.

I spoke with Jasmin Odobašić, former deputy head of the Muslim Commission for Missing Persons. Until 2008, there were three missing persons commissions, one for each of the main ethnicities in Bosnia. In that year the commissions were mothballed in favor of a nationwide Missing Persons Institute. Odobašić became head of a department in that Institute, under the direction of Amor Mašović.

Upon my meeting Odobašić, he immediately showed me some photos of himself, his brother, and his father, black and blue after having been beaten at the police station in their pre-war home town of Prnjavor. Before the war Odobašić was an attorney and the deputy director of a factory in that city. As a member of an elite Muslim family in Prnjavor, Odobašić and his relatives were targeted by the separatists who wanted to intimidate Muslims into leaving. They were not put into a concentration camp, but they were taken to the police station every day, and put to physical labor as a way to humiliate them.

He showed me his photographs and said to me, "This is why I'm searching for the disappeared."

Odobašić was rescued from Prnjavor via prisoner exchange in 1994. Immediately after the war he became engaged in the search for the missing. Since he was from the Krajina, he employed his knowledge of that region and its people to search for mass graves more effectively. Under his leadership, teams of searchers discovered the hidden resting places of over four thousand victims in the northwestern part of Bosnia alone.

Mr. Odobašić spoke to me about the graves he had helped to discover in Prijedor: "We first went to Prijedor illegally, without permission from the local authorities, in 1998. There was the big grave in Stari Kevljani where 456 remains were recovered and of those, 352 were identified. In Jakarina Kosa 373 remains were recovered, of which 296 were identified.

"In Stari Kevljani the graves were six meters down. That site was discovered in 2000, but not exhumed until 2004 because of lack of funding. We were able to identify the specific bulldozer that was used in that grave from the scrape marks, and we determined that there was only one such bulldozer of that type in the municipality.

 "The people who were killed at Omarska concentration camp were taken to Tomašice, which was a primary grave site. Later those remains were moved to the mine at Ljubija, in 1994."

Odobašić has written one book about the exhumation process - published at his own expense - and is compiling another: "My book will be about one thousand graves in the Bosnian Krajina. There were 1,025 graves in the region, and 4139 remains that were recovered. In Prijedor alone there were 1962 remains recovered; of those, 1463 were identified. All these graves that were discovered have been noted with GPS locations.

"There were traces of the remains - sometimes they were not even completely buried. You found a skull with gold teeth. There were pits near Ključ. There was a five-month-old baby and a four-year-old boy. We found documents as well."

I asked Odobašić how the mass graves were found: "I got information from survivors, witnesses, and returnees. There were some Serbs with a conscience. There were other Serbs who would give information in return for a favor. There were others who would get drunk and start bragging in a kafana, and someone would hear the information and convey it. And then there are people who will sell the information."

Odobašić noted that at times, he had received instructions - including from the international community - only to search for the remains of Muslim victims: "From 1996 to 1998 no one allowed me to exhume Serbs and Croats, nor were they [searchers from those ethnicities] allowed to exhume the others. We were not allowed to exhume at Briševo [village in the Prijedor municipality, location of a large massacre of Croats]. But a victim is not an ethnicity; a victim is a victim. Every mother cries the same.

"Then we found nine Croats, and I wrote to the OHR, 'I made a mistake; shall I return the remains?'  In one mass grave I found fifteen Muslims, eight Croats, and one Serb.
I have found around 200 Croats, and I found some Serbs around Mt. Ozren."

Odobašić has become a controversial figure in the realm of the search for the missing. After many years of work, in 2010 he was removed from his job at the Missing Persons Institute when he made some public statements criticizing his colleagues. His accusations have included venality and delay of identifications, among other things. These are, naturally, shocking assertions. Of such behavior, Odobašić says, "It is not unusual to steal from a store, or on the stock exchange. But stealing from the dead - never, that is a sacred question."

I have heard the kind of accusations Odobašić leveled before. My "honesty meter" gave him a strong reading for sincerity. But upon looking into his statements, I realized that I would have to dig much deeper in order to know the whole story.


A couple of weeks ago, the man often known as the "richest man in Serbia," Miroslav Mišković, was arrested and jailed on corruption charges. This is interesting on a number of levels; the move has domestic and regional implications, and it certainly pertains to Bosnia.

I wrote about Mišković in 2008, when his economic forays into Bosnia-Herzegovina were being revealed (see Some of the wording that follows comes from that earlier writing, as it is still valid.

This month Mišković, his son Marko, and nine other influential players in the Serbian economy have been charged with criminal activities in connection with the privatization of road-building companies.

The owner of the complex of businesses called "Delta Holding" first became known to the broader public when he served as deputy prime minister of Serbia for a time under Milošević. Mišković served as Milošević's main economic advisor and was, it is alleged, one of Serbia's main wartime financiers. Since Milošević's fall in 2000, Mišković has donated funds to various political parties, including the Serbian Radical Party (SRS). This is the SRS that, led by Vojislav Šešelj (now on trial at The Hague), organized paramilitary formations that rampaged, murdered, burned, and committed rape during the wars in Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo.
Delta is Serbia's largest private company, and the fourth-largest in the country after several state-run firms. A December 14th news article read, "Employing about 5,000 people, it operates through 76 different subsidiaries, dealing with farming, food production, retail, export-import, representation of foreign companies, consumer goods, car sales, real estate, financial services, and insurance."

Sometimes called the "true owner of Serbia," Mišković is the owner of four large retail chains in that country, and he has worked tirelessly to expand his empire into the rest of the former Yugoslav republics. To date, Mišković owns property in Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania, and Bosnia. He does business in Croatia and Switzerland, and as far away as Russia.

In 2007 Mišković was listed as one of the thousand richest people in the world. He has specialized in buying weak companies and, often as not, turning their prime real estate into shopping centers. In Serbia, Mišković's sway is such that foreign companies that wish to build shopping centers in Belgrade are forced to build them on the periphery of the city, giving Mišković an effective monopoly in the more lucrative areas - where he prices his goods at 20% above the market rate. Mišković is said to control 70% of Belgrade's retail market.

The present charges against Mišković and his business partners hold that they withdrew money and property from privatized companies and, in this way, stole some thirty million euros.

Investigative journalists discovered some of Mišković's crooked dealings several years ago, but his power over the media (through purchasing advertising, among other things) was such that the information was swept under the carpet. One crooked practice involved buying failing companies that were located on very favorably located property in exclusive neighborhoods, without paying for the valuable land, only for the derelict building. Then, instead of reconstructing the factory or other productive company, Mišković would tear it down and build a shopping center or apartment building.

Serbian tax laws have allowed Mišković to buy a state company through one of his off-shore holdings without being required to pay taxes on that acquisition.

Mišković's wealth led to great political influence. He donated to those in power and to the opposition parties as well, thus buying a say in how governments were formed at various levels.

The financial manipulations by Mišković are far more involved than what I have related here. But how and why did he get into trouble? The fact that Mišković was taking advantage of the Serbian economic system in such a crooked way, and costing the state budget so many millions of euros, was something that was bound to get him in trouble as soon as the authorities worked up the resolve to take action. One component of that resolve is that there is a new government in Serbia, headed by the extreme right-wing leader of the ironically-named Serbian Progressive Party Tomislav Nikolić. 

Nikolić's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Aleksandar Vučić, is the head of Serbia's campaign against corruption. It is apparent that as Nikolić's new government has gotten underway, pressure from the European Union has helped to breathe some life into that campaign. What better way to show your sincerity to the club you wish to join than arresting your richest embezzler?

In this, there is a close parallel to the jailing of Croatia's former prime minister, Ivo Sanader. Croatia is set to become a member of the European Union in the middle of 2013. Sanader unexpectedly resigned without explanation from his post in 2009. The next year he was arrested in Austria for high-level corruption charges leveled by the Croatian authorities. Just last month, he was sentenced to ten years in jail.

This looks good to the EU. The question is, when can Bosnia-Herzegovina ingratiate itself with the EU by arresting its most corrupt tycoons?

Just the other day, on December 21, the US Ambassador to Bosnia Patrick Moon came up with a bright idea. Speaking to the Bosnian daily Avaz, he said, and I quote from an internet news posting, ".corruption in Bosnia was visible at all levels and that ordinary people rightfully expected something to be finally done about it. The political leaders must notice that, they must speak against corruption and corruption cannot exist in government, Moon said, adding that corruption should not be prosecuted selectively and that such measures should taken against everyone if there was evidence of it." (See

Hallelujah - Patrick Moon has, as they say in Bosnia, discovered hot water!!

There's such a broad field of corrupt tycoons in Bosnia that one could hardly know where to start. How about arresting RS President Milorad Dodik? Such a move would not only remove a very corrupt individual, but would also, perhaps, take some of the wind out of the sails of the Serb separatist movement, of which Dodik is the foremost proponent.

On the same day that it occurred to Ambassador Moon to light a fire under the corrupt operators of Bosnia, Dodik was agitating against corruption in his own entity. The press agency Fena announced that Dodik has commanded the RS special prosecutor to work more effectively in breaking up organized crime and in fighting grave economic corruption. He cited public dissatisfaction with a special prosecutor's progress in anti-corruption work, and criticized that office for intimidating the free press, which he called "absolutely unacceptable."

I don't see why intimidating the free press in the RS should be a problem, since there is none.

Nor have I ever heard of an economic criminal (nor a war criminal, for that matter) arresting himself in the RS, but it appears that things are taking a turn for the better.

President Dodik commented on Mišković's arrest, saying that "every fight against corruption is important," but that Mišković's guilt had yet to be proven. Dodik praised Mišković's investment in the Republika Srpska, and said that "it would be good if Serbia had more investors like Mišković."

Perhaps a better parallel to Mišković than Dodik would be Fahrudin Radončić, a corrupt tycoon who has entered into politics in the last couple of years, and who was just recently appointed to the post of Minister of Security. Radončić is sometimes called "the Mišković of Bosnia."

It's a good parallel - Radončić even has business dealings with Mišković. This relationship goes back to 2007, when the two businessmen formed a company called Prezident Realty, together with an off-shore firm based in Belize named Vanity International Corporation.

The story gets even richer as it is revealed, by Bosnia's top intelligence agency SIPA, that the owner of this off-shore company is Naser Kelmendi who, as I described in my first report in this series, has been blacklisted in a report signed by President Obama as one of Europe's top narco-traffickers. During a political shake-up last summer a raid was conducted on several gangster outfits in Bosnia, and Kelmendi has been on the lam since then, allegedly back in his Kosovo home.

Kelmendi is an old friend and business partner of Radončić, as I have written before. Once Kelmendi imported a couple of reinforced Jeep Cherokees with bullet-proof glass from the US and supplied one of them to Radončić.

Prezident Realty has purchased land in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Tuzla. In Sarajevo, Prezident bought a furniture factory called Standard, with the intention of tearing it down and constructing a shopping center.

Here's a timeline that tracks some of Radončić's progress from rags to riches.

--1970s: After finishing trade high school in business in his native Montenegro, Radončić finishes a college degree that qualifies him to be an art instructor.
--1977: Joins the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and remains a member for the next twelve years.
--1978 to 1991: Works as a journalist and editor in the capital city of Montenegro.
--1991: Moves to Sarajevo (carrying his belongings, everyone says, in two plastic bags), founds Avaz publishing house and company for real estate and hotels.
--1993-1995: With financial help from the Bosniak nationalist party SDA, expands his holdings into a media empire including the influential daily newspaper Avaz.
--Mid-2000s: In Sarajevo, with money illicitly granted from the Federation of Bosnia's Development Bank, builds tallest tower in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
--June 1, 2012: Social Democrat Party announces break in Parliamentary coalition with SDA and formation of new coalition with Radončić's SBB (Party for a Better Future).
--June 1, 2012: On the same day, President Obama signs blacklist that names Radončić's friend and business partner as a top drug trafficker in Europe.
-- June 1, 2012: Also on the same day, President of the SDP Zlatko Lagumdžija proposes Radončić for the post of Minister of Security.
--July 2012: Radončić divorces his wife Azra, a hairdresser who had never paid taxes.
-- July 2012: Radončić sells Avaz business complex to his ex-wife Azra for 200 million KM.
--October 7, 2012 (election day): Fahrudin Radončić walks into the voting station holding hands with Azra Radončić.
--Late November, 2012: Radončić is appointed Minister of Security. In a financial disclosure form, he reports his monthly income as 1404 KM. In the same disclosure, which asks if any member of his family owns or manages any private firm, he answers "no."

Other nicknames for Radončić: "The Donald Trump of Bosnia." "The Berlusconi of Bosnia."

So you have a triangle composed of a high-level Montenegrin/Bosnia media/real estate mogul turned politician (Radončić), a high level ("controversial") Serbian businessman (Mišković), and a high-level Kosovo Albanian/Bosnian drug lord gangster (Kelmendi).

One is in jail. One is (safely) on the lam. One is Minister of Security.

Ah, well. I guess it will be "malo sutra"- a colloquialism meaning, roughly, "never," or, "that'll be the day" - before Radončić is arrested. Sadly, Bosnia-Herzegovina's just not that ready to go to Europe.


This posting wraps up my series of reports on justice and activism in Bosnia-Herzegovina. I can't finish the series on Bosnia, however, without telling you about one very interesting development: the March 1st Coalition. Those who are interested in the fight for justice in Bosnia will want to follow the progress of this important campaign.

On December 18th, representatives of 27 non-governmental organizations met in Sarajevo and signed an agreement to form the March 1st Coalition. Many of the leading lights of the human rights movement were there: Edin Ramulić of Izvor (Prijedor); Munira Subašić of the Mothers of Srebrenica organization (Sarajevo); Bakira Hasečić of Women Victims of War, Hajra Ćatić of Women of Srebrenica (Tuzla); and Hatidža Mehmedović of the Association of Srebrenica Mothers (Srebrenica).

The new coalition will campaign to register voters in the locations where they voted before the war - thus the name March 1st, referring to the last time that people voted before the war, in 1992.

The campaign is reminiscent of the recent registration campaign "'Glasaću za Srebrenicu" (I will vote for Srebrenica), which I described in my third report in this series. Then, activists led by Emir Suljagić registered several thousand displaced Srebrenicans to vote in their home municipality last October. The result was a victory for the independent mayoral candidate Ćamil Duraković, who was unanimously backed by all the political parties that do not deny that genocide took place in Srebrenica. After months of appeals and delays, just this month the Central Election Commission found it within itself to give a final confirmation to the electoral results.

The March 1st Coalition's tactics will be similar, though much grander in scale. Here, the campaign's goal is not only to elect favorable candidates in the upcoming 2014 general parliamentary elections. The goal is to make it possible for enough officials to be elected in the Republika Srpska and at the state level for there to be a change in the constitution.This is truly an ambitious project that could, theoretically, unblock the political stalemate and end the crisis that has been in force in Bosnian politics ever since the Dayton agreement was signed.

Emir Suljagić, initiator of the new campaign, explained that the primary goal was to elect five favorable representatives to the state-level Parliament from the RS. The presence of this many "pro-Bosnian" officials in the entity and state-level parliaments would make it possible for lawmakers to cooperate in clearing hurdles to membership in the EU. Some of these hurdles involve constitutional change, particularly in response to the 2009 decision by the EU Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. That court found the Bosnian (Dayton) constitution to be in violation of international human rights conventions because it discriminates against minorities. There are rational solutions to this problem, but they have been blocked since the decision was made.

The Coalition must work at several tasks in order to succeed. In violation of Dayton's Annex 7 guaranteeing freedom of movement, there are laws in preparation in the RS to prevent people from registering in the place of their choice. The Coalition will have to fight against these laws. The Coalition will also have to ensure, as was done in Srebrenica, that there is a solid electoral coalition of candidates who are not destroying their chances by competing with each other. At present there are enough sympathetic voters in the RS to guarantee three favorable representatives in the state-level Parliament. Suljagić reckons that an additional 80,000 to 100,000 voters would make the election of two more representatives possible.

Another task is to establish in the Federation Parliament a law that supports returnees to the RS, as was done in the case of Srebrenica in the recent campaign.

The biggest job will be registering voters from the diaspora to participate in this campaign. In the recent municipal elections, out of 1.5 million Bosnians in the diaspora, only some 35,000 voted.

It is hoped that all the political parties in Bosnia that do not deny genocide will participate. This includes the SDP, whose behavior this year has been so unprincipled as to bring its participation into question. This is particularly important as SDP President Lagumdžija holds the post of Foreign Minister, and he could thus have an influential role in promoting the registration campaign abroad. I would not personally bank on his cooperation; however, on December 13th the SDP publicly announced that the party would support the campaign.

RS President Dodik has, naturally, come out in opposition to the campaign, saying, "It is obvious that the atmosphere is being created to repeat what happened in Srebrenica. We will certainly not allow a new campaign."

Suljagić brushed off Dodik's words, saying that "Dodik is not in a position to threaten anybody, let alone the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He is only the president of one of two entities in the state of Bosnia, in which there are more hungry than there are satisfied people. If I were in his place, I would take care to preserve the loyalty of his praetorian guard, that is, the Ministry of Internal Affairs [the police], whose pay he recently, once again, reduced by ten percent, because that is the only thing that stands between him and the anger of the people."

Suljagić commented that the presence of the critical number of favorable representatives in the state-level Parliament can lead to the creation of the "foundation of a renewal of Bosnian-Herzegovinan society on the principles of tolerance, truth, justice, equal rights, and the protection of human rights on the whole territory of the state."

These are, of course, admirable goals and the campaign is, in a way, a rare attempt to strike back and the separatists and plunderers who have been tearing the country apart for the last twenty-odd years. One only wishes that the idea had been promoted immediately after the war, but the campaign is worth watching.

For a television screening of the public founding of the campaign (in Bosnian), see

Late news: A December 25th news post reported that police officials in Srebrenica were harassing members of the March 1st Coalition in that city by coming to their homes late in the evening and questioning them about the location of some of their fellow members. One policeman threatened to issue an arrest warrant for members who were not immediately located. A communiqué from the Coalition condemned the police actions as police harassment of non-Serbs and likened atmosphere in the Republika Srpska to apartheid.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Peter Lippman's Bosnia Travel Journal: Entry #9

Hello folks,

Here's another report on things I saw and heard in Bosnia-Herzegovina. This one starts with a discussion of activism in Bosnia, especially in Sarajevo. The second part relates some little-known information about the process of refugee return to Zvornik and Srebrenica, comparing the two. The report winds up with news about recent activity in the Prijedor municipality.


What needs to be the target of activism in Bosnia? In my series of reports so far I have particularly focused on the campaign for memorialization of the war crimes that were committed. It is my opinion that for justice to be achieved, the atrocities that people endured have to be recognized; the criminals have to be legally processed; and the victims have to have the possibility of commemorating the history of their suffering publicly.

There will be more discussion of these things. But there are also other targets of activism. The protest against the destruction of Picin Park, as described in my fifth report, in fact opened the door to protest against corruption, profiteering, and cronyism. And these phenomena are what's really behind all the other problems in Bosnia - even behind the historical revisionism and denial as well.

Grassroots activism occupies a small place in the modern history of the country; the dominant model for political change is top-down. Non-governmental organizations, often called the "third sector," tend to replicate this hierarchical model, sometimes in the extreme. While the personality cult of Tito is gone, the rule of one "big man" has often simply been replicated at lower levels - from the local party boss all the way down to the bus driver. NGOs exist along an entire spectrum from the altruistic to the profiteering. For the most part, their relationship to activism is tangential.

Activism in Bosnia-Herzegovina has its ups and downs, and developing a grassroots movement in Bosnia is a matter of reinventing the wheel in very adverse conditions. It is not unusual for an independent project to arise in one location, where it will last a while, and then either cooptation by authorities or lack of skilled leadership will lead to its demise.

I spoke with Darjan, a Sarajevo activist with the organization Akcija Građana (Citizen Action), and formerly with Pokret Dosta (the Enough! movement), which I have described before. Darjan mentioned the height of grassroots activism in Sarajevo, which took place in February of 2008. At that time, somewhere between six and ten thousand people came out to participate in a march in protest of an epidemic of street violence in the city. Not long before, 17-year-old Denis Mrnjavac had been stabbed to death by unknown attackers while he was traveling in a streetcar. There were many other such lethal or dangerous incidents that had taken place in that period. Pokret Dosta was the leader of this protest, along with several other protests in the year or so before and after that event (See

As with the activism around Picin Park in Banja Luka, protests about the street violence were an entrance into protests about other grievances such as utilities price hikes and, generally, about corruption. Dosta built a network in several cities around the country. Unfortunately, the movement lost momentum and today, if it exists at all, its activity has been reduced to the painting of graffiti around Sarajevo.

Darjan said, "I split from Dosta because I saw that there was decreasing interest in actually changing things." He mentioned that at its height, Dosta had "about fifty good activists." But he faulted the leadership for lack of transparency.

Discussing the situation of activism on a larger scale, Darjan said, "The problem in Bosnia is that we're not one society. We have the societies centered around Banja Luka, Sarajevo, and Mostar. And the public opinion that could influence the government does not exist. There is not a network established for collaboration among people."

"There are problems in organizing and promoting change. The Serbs from Sarajevo went to Višegrad, Pale, and other places. Many villagers came to Sarajevo. They think that things are great for them here, because they have running water and other amenities. They don't know that they have the right to call for more."

"In 2008 there were the demonstrations, and afterwards there were four people who lost their jobs because of being involved in the protest. There were a couple of people who had been working in the tourist industry; they lost their jobs.

"We held preparatory demonstrations to the big one for three months, every weekend. There were marches. In that time, there were never more than three thousand participating. Meanwhile, there were always more than that number in the kafanas of the city.

"At one point in the demonstrations some people threw some rocks. [One of the leaders] called for people to go home. That was the end of it. He should have organized people to come back, to continue the protests.

"Safety on the street is a big problem. But if the Reis [the leader of the Islamic community] called for a protest because people are eating cvarci [fatback, a pork product], there would be more people on the street. As activists we are outsiders, marginalized. And meanwhile, in the schools they are not teaching critical thinking.

"In Western Europe after World War II, democracy developed. People had more rights, and women's rights improved too. Here after the recent war, they did not even prohibit those who started the war from participating in politics.

"The first post-war election took place in 1996 - that is unfathomable! They gave the election to the idiots. And since then, we've been running around in the same circle.

"As for those leaders who keep being elected, they are not actually in favor of Bosnia-Herzegovina becoming part of the EU, because then rule of law would be implemented. And they would be the first to go to jail."

I asked Darjan about the work of Akcija Građana.

"We started as an informal group, working on that basis for six months in 2008 without registering. Then, we had a referendum within the group about registering. I was not in favor of registering, but we did. By registering, we legitimized the system. And they are the ones who make the rules of the game. Then, we got support from the Open Society Fund - but they don't try to influence us.

"We were arrested at Butmir base [headquarters of the EU military operation in Bosnia, on the outskirts of Sarajevo] when there were the negotiations there in 2009. They held nine of us for two hours. We displayed a banner that read, 'For us, it's fine this way' [satirizing the position of the leading politicians]. That is, it's fine for them if we remain in this black hole, where money laundering is common, as are trafficking of drugs and women, and the leaders can take pleasant vacations.

"We had gone to Butmir a couple of days in advance to let the authorities there know that we were going to come and make a protest. They showed us an area where they were going to let us stand. But when it came to the demonstration, it didn't work out that way. We were arrested. But the media never covered this, not even for one minute of air play. They just weren't interested.

"Now our work is going slower, and there is a lack of results. We have decided to orient ourselves towards high school students, doing workshops with them. Then, once these people come to the University, there will be activists. As it is now, activism is weak and there is no action. In Sarajevo there are about 3,000 students in the University. If there were that many activists, it could be enough for a revolution, a strike at the system.

"We had a chance in 2008, but we didn't know what to do. They called us mercenaries."

Q: Are there any effective NGOs working in Sarajevo?

A: Activism can exist in an NGO. But for now, the NGOs are only involved in humanitarian work. The majority of the NGOs are family arrangements.

[I am conveying Darjan's opinion here; I don't mean to dismiss some Sarajevo NGOs that are actually quite effective in their areas of focus.]

Q: What are the themes of your discontent now?

A: We are calling for responsiveness. For example, in Sarajevo the water supply lines, the transportation, and the security situation - these are all in disastrous shape. There are guns and knives on the streets, stabbings in the streetcars. The cultural institutions are deteriorating too: The museums, the libraries, the galleries are all closing. Even in the war it wasn't this bad.

"All the aid gets stolen. They steal from the state companies, and from the state budgets; then they build villas for themselves. Seventy percent of the funds from the IMF go to pay pensions and salaries rather than towards investment. We are headed in the direction of the situation in Greece.

"We have wasted a good opportunity to make progress, to make a European city of Sarajevo, instead of the biggest village in the country. People here do not accept others, different people. We have lost our educational system, our health system, and our morals. Then, we have taken the worst from the West and from capitalism: corruption, the bad health coverage. .When I come from Vareš to Sarajevo, it is like coming to a different world.

"There can be no revolution here. All the state companies are here, so there are well-paid people here. Those who work for the companies vote, and the large number of marginalized people do not vote. Nor do many of the women vote either.

"Educated people have left here. Out of 35 people from my elementary school, there are six who have stayed. Of 32 from my high school, 15 have stayed. I am 34, so half of my life has been spent in waiting, watching from one election to another.

"There is much poverty, but people are religious. They say, "Ako Bog da [If God grants]." And I ask a villager, "Did God ever give you a cow?" You won't get anything, if you don't do anything.

"Discontented people in the city are inclined to torch and wreck things, not to build things. We simply haven't come back to our senses here. Gras [the city's public transportation company] raised its prices. There was talk of a boycott, but it didn't lead to anything. In Sarajevo there is more involvement in drinking coffee and in betting than in activism.

"If someone comes to Sarajevo they notice these things: beggars, the ruined buildings, and the shiny new glass buildings."

For more on Akcija Građana, see


During my time living in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1997 and 1999, and for several years afterwards, I paid close attention to the return of refugees and internally-displaced persons to their pre-war homes. For approximately seven years after the war, return was the most important and compelling movement, from the grassroots on up. International and domestic leaders were themselves pushed and prompted by movement from the grassroots. Intelligent (and sometimes charismatic) people who had been high school teachers, social workers, or office workers before the war were galvanized to lead their communities back home. People like Zulfo Salihović, Hakija Meholjić, Vahid Kanlić, and above all Fadil Banjanović "Bracika" stood out as the individuals who expressed the determination of their constituency to achieve their right to return.

Return essentially wound down ten years ago, with few exceptions. Some return took place in nearly every one of the 140-odd municipalities throughout the country, but in many cases it was mere symbolic return. There were places where there was almost no return; other places where, say, twenty percent of the displaced returned, and a few places, such as Prijedor and Zvornik municipalities, where there was a truly significant amount of return, approaching fifty percent of the pre-war population.

In Srebrenica return took place late, and it was weak. On the other hand, in nearby Zvornik, significant return took place in nearly every village in the municipality.

It is interesting to compare the two returns. I won't go into great length on this here, but I will share a couple of points of comparison, and then some of the observations of journalist Hasan Hadžić, who was closely involved with Bracika in the return movement in northeast Bosnia from the beginning.

I have written at length about return to Srebrenica here: and I have written before about Bracika here:

First of all, return to Srebrenica was fiercely obstructed by the Serbs who controlled that municipality. In response to this obstruction, the international community placed sanctions on Srebrenica, and basically turned its back on the town for several years. Meanwhile, it was difficult in any case to mount a movement, because the male population was decimated. There were survivors, but among them there were also some 6,500 single mothers. The overwhelming number of families without male heads made it difficult for potential returnees to prepare to clear the rubble from devastated property and to plan to rebuild, let alone to do any extensive farming.

These things are obvious. But behind the scenes, I had periodically been hearing about obstruction against return from the other side - from the leaders of the Muslims within the Croat- and Muslim-controlled Federation, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people from the Republika Srpska had taken up temporary residence during the war. I heard, even from former members of the Muslims' ruling SDA party, that members of the SDA were acting to discourage people from returning to Srebrenica.

The apparent reason for this was that it was useful to the SDA to have what was called a stable, ethnically-homogenized "voting machine" present in the Federation, in order to keep that party in power.

Meanwhile, Bracika and his fellow activists, early on, were putting themselves in harm's way to establish a foothold for return in the outlying villages of Zvornik municipality. This movement began almost immediately after the war's end.

It helped that those villages were right across the inter-entity borderline from the Federation, thus relatively easily accessible to would-be returnees. On the other hand, displaced Srebrenicans had to travel across many kilometers of hostile territory, at quite some danger, in order just to visit their pre-war homes.

Hasan Hadžić spoke to me about his work with Bracika, about the various manifestations of obstruction to return, and about differences between return to Zvornik and Srebrenica.

"Bracika was my brother. The strongest movement for return was here in Tuzla.

In 1996, in Tuzla, we formed the office for return, while in Sarajevo they were doing the opposite. We exerted pressure in 1996 to create that office.

"We were in Sapna [in the Federation] and we could see them blowing up houses right next to Sapna, in Jušići [a village in Zvornik municipality, in the Republika Srpska, where some of the first return efforts took place].

"On the Serb side, authorities were spending money for the displaced Serbs to stay in the Republika Srpska. They built hundreds of settlements, for example, they built one at Branjevo [site of one of the Srebrenica massacres]. They spent millions on this.

"In Jušići we went step by step. There were special [Serb] police forces who were drawing guns on us. They beat older people and women who were staying in one return house. Then some of our people started throwing rocks at the police and defending themselves with toljage [clubs]. When this happened, the IFOR [UN troops] troops came in a transport vehicle. It was exciting.

"During our early return attempts, they killed a man in Gajevi near Koraj, near Lopare. They shot at our column of people. This was in the fall of 1996.

"At the higher levels, there was a General in IFOR who criticized us, saying that we were a 'military operation.' But it wasn't true, of course. At the middle level of IFOR there were Majors who understood us better and knew this was not a military operation, and they supported our drive for return. They patrolled and helped. When we returned to Mahala, our men were coming with clubs and rocks. We knew we could fight because the IFOR soldiers were behind us.

"That General was telling us to go slowly. But you can't, it would not have worked. Bracika had a tactic: first we went to clean the cemeteries. If we had waited for permission, it would never have happened.

"People were already leaving the country, and we couldn't afford to wait. So we took those risks. Then other people around the country saw what we were doing and that it had worked, and took similar moves, such as in Goražde.

"One of the differences between Zvornik and Srebrenica was Bracika. But the government really never supported return.

"Bracika was a man of the people. He returned with his daughter and put her in the school with the Serb children. Sadik Ahmetović [former vice-mayor of Srebrenica] never did that. Neither did Šefket Hafizović or Hasan Bećirović [other highly-placed SDA officials from Srebrenica]. They would come to Srebrenica like tourists for two or three days and then return to Sarajevo for džuma [Friday prayers].

"But Bracika's returning, with his daughter, sent a strong signal to the displaced people that he was sincere. There were 700 people who were killed in that area, but return still happened!

"More people returned to two or three villages near Zvornik than to the whole Srebrenica municipality. But Srebrenica is the cash cow."

By this, Mr. Hadžić meant that a disproportionately huge amount of international resources for return and reconstruction went to the Srebrenica municipality. In my own opinion, this took place because the international community, in its various forms, somehow decided to expiate its guilt for the destruction of Bosnia-Herzegovina particularly in Srebrenica, while ignoring the possibility for recovery in some other parts of the country. So large amounts of international aid were channeled to that area (and even larger amounts promised). An arguably huge amount of that aid never reached the people it was intended to help.

Speaking of the return effort to Srebrenica, which started in earnest in 1999, Mr. Hadžić said, "Hakija [Meholjić, wartime police chief in Srebrenica and a postwar leader of return] was returning people, and Adib Djozić was coming out in a jeep and scaring people, saying 'They will kill you.' Then people would go back where they were. Djozić worked for the Ministry of Refugees in the Tuzla Canton.

I asked Mr. Hadžić about statements I had heard to the effect that the SDA, in the early period of return, was trying to dissuade displaced Srebrenicans from leaving the Federation and returning home. He answered, "We went to Vozuća with Hakija and Bracika to encourage people to return to Srebrenica. Then Djozić and Bečirović came in immediately after that and broke things up. Having people return didn't suit them."

When people talk about encouraging return today, they mean making the return that has already taken place sustainable. Because of discrimination and difficult economic conditions it is not uncommon that people who have returned will pick up and leave again, as I have previously described - preferably for another country.

On this issue, Mr. Hadžić said, "Return has ended. There is much money for sustainable return that has come to the Ministries, but none of it is getting to the actual places of return. It is being spent on things unrelated to return. For example, the authorities in Sokolac used money for return to fix the water supply system. And in Prusac they fixed a road. Neither of these things was related to return communities."

For English translations of a couple of Mr. Hadžić's articles, see



In my sixth report, I wrote about events in Prijedor municipality, in northwestern Bosnia (see Prijedor municipality is a special and important place in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The crimes that were committed there during the war reached extreme heights in the terror that they spread. Thousands of people were tortured or murdered, and many more expelled.

These things happened in many parts of Bosnia. But Prijedor is special for another reason as well. Expelled citizens of the municipality were in the forefront in return to their homes soon after the war. And because there is that returnee population - and because some of them are brave enough to represent their community in the face of repression, and to fight for the rights that they know they have - Prijedor municipality happens presently to be one of the most active locations of human rights struggle in the country.

Because of this, and because of the wrongs that were committed in the municipality during the war, it is important that people who believe in solidarity around the world support Prijedor. Those who care about Bosnia-Herzegovina should notice Prijedor, should pay attention to what is going on there, and should find out how to support that struggle.

People occasionally say, "Too much support and resources went to Srebrenica, to the detriment of Prijedor and other places in Bosnia." I would not say that there has been too much attention upon Srebrenica, but there has simply not been enough support or attention to Prijedor and other places. It is as if the world, especially international officials who make decisions about allocation of resources, expiated their guilt on Srebrenica, and then turned their backs on the rest of the country. Well, we don't have to do the same thing.

There is news on the human rights front in Prijedor.

At the beginning of December, a "Committee for Commemoration of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Mistreatment of Innocent People of Prijedor Municipality," composed of eight local non-governmental organizations, announced a plan to hold a demonstration and march in protest of ongoing discrimination against Croat and Bosniak survivors of the war. The event was announced for International Human Rights Day, December 10th (the anniversary of the UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights - see

Here's part of what the Commemoration Committee wrote in its announcement: "Employment that was forcefully taken away [from expelled citizens of Prijedor] has not been restored; the municipal government invests the least amount in (returnee) settlements where the infrastructure and all buildings were completely destroyed. The discrimination against civilian victims is particularly obvious. The possibility for them to achieve any of their rights is obstructed in every manner. The municipal budget apportions funds exclusively for the Serb soldiers and their associations. Monuments are pointedly erected to fallen Serbs in public places, in front of schools and institutions, in a way that intimidates members of the other ethnicities and minorities. The government has erected a terrifying monument to Serb soldiers at the place where thousands of women and children from Prijedor suffered, at Trnopolje camp. At the same time it forbids the construction of any commemoration at the largest places of suffering and torture in Prijedor municipality, notably the death camp at Omarska. In the city itself there is not even the smallest marking that would commemorate the suffering of non-Serb civilians. (.) A particularly grave rights violation has been noted against more than a thousand disappeared Prijedorans. Besides all other human rights, they have been denied the right to identity and to a dignified burial."

This announcement was posted on December 5th. On the 8th, it was announced that the Prijedor police department had prohibited the march component of the action.

The Commemoration Committee protested this prohibition, mentioning that, on May 23rd, the police had forbidden the organizations of returnees and war survivors from marching to commemorate the wartime murder of 266 women and girls in Prijedor municipality. In response to the banning, the Commemoration Committee accused the Prijedor government of repression and of promoting apartheid in the municipality. A statement also recalled the wartime murder of some 800 prisoners at Omarska and Keraterm, as well as of 200 more prisoners killed in a massacre at Korićanske Cliffs.

Following the prohibition of the demonstration, the police also called some of the event's organizers for "informativni razgovor," or interrogation. The Commemoration Committee vowed to resist the repression and these grave violations of rights. Edin Ramulić, activist with the Prijedor association "Izvor," refused to respond to the police's invitation to interrogation.

Ramulić stated that there was no point in cooperating with the police, when their dictates were inconsistent and made no sense. In May activists had been prohibited from gathering on the town square, with the excuse that the situation was "not favorable for security considerations." Now the police department was saying that they could gather, but would not be permitted to make a march of one hundred meters down the pedestrian zone and back.

Ramulić further commented, in connection with previous appeals of such rights violations, that "going into a legal process makes no sense, because there are no sanctions." The activists had appealed to the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, to the OHR, and to foreign Ambassadors, all without results. Foreign officials had even addressed the problem with Mayor Pavić, but the repression - and attacks by extremists - just worsened.

Ramulić also noted that even Bosniak members of the municipal council for whom returnees and survivors had voted turned against them. They did not work to defend the activists, and some of them tried to persuade the activists not to use the word "genocide" in their public statements. Earlier this year, Mayor Pavić had prevented a demonstration and threatened prosecution of activists because of their use of this word. Ramulić said, "Some of those politicians are close to those who rule the RS; probably the explanation of this [behavior] is that they are prepared to do anything in the interest of their own political privilege."

It is not unusual to hear phrases from activists in Prijedor characterizing their Bosniak representatives on the municipal counsel as "collaborators" and "sellouts." Some of those officials, upon the banning of the march, gave mild statements to the effect that, "We will get to the bottom of this."

Amnesty International condemned the banning of the march (see, as did several domestic human rights NGOs.

When International Human Rights Day arrived, some of Prijedor's activists decided to march in spite of the ban. Seven young people walked through the snow, with tape symbolically covering their mouths, carrying a banner that read, "Where human rights are violated, civil disobedience is a duty." Of the marchers, two were Bosniaks from Prijedor, and two were Prijedor Serbs. There were two Bosnians from Slovenia who marched in solidarity, and one from Sarajevo.

In nearby Banja Luka, members of the human rights organizations Oštra Nula and the Helsinki Citizens Assembly stood prominently in the main square in solidarity with the activists of Prijedor. The Prijedor Commemoration Committee held a news conference and stated, "On the international day for the protection of human rights, the police in Prijedor have placed themselves above the law on public gatherings in the Republika Srpska and have prohibited a peaceful march, without any legal basis. The police have shown that they work according to the dictates of the local government and that they are an important instrument in the establishment of apartheid."

Meanwhile, RS President Milorad Dodik marked Human Rights Day, saying that "in recent years the Republika Srpska has created an environment in which all of its citizens can realize their human and civil rights, as foreseen by the European Convention on Human Rights and other international documents. We have succeeded in achieving high standards and we will continue to do all that is necessary to, first of all, improve the economic and social position of citizens, which will be our priority in the coming years."

One of the Prijedor marchers, Emir Hodžić, wrote a statement shortly after the action, describing his position: "If the right to free and peaceful gatherings is guaranteed in the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the constitution of the Republika Srpska, who has the right to violate that right? Once again the Prijedor police have tried to show, on the day when the entire world celebrates human rights as the heritage of civilization, that Bosnia-Herzegovina is an absurd state."

Speaking of the action of the multi-ethnic group, and the response from local citizens, Hodžić wrote, "As a Prijedoran, I saw in front of me concerned citizens, not Serbs nor Bosniaks. I saw the faces of people who see and know that discrimination on an ethnic basis or the prohibition of association lead to nothing good, and at that moment, I felt hope. I felt that I was among my people, that we all speak the same language, and that we all understand the difficult path before us.

"Our symbolic civil disobedience echoed around the country. Our fellow citizens from Banja Luka.heard and conveyed the message by going out onto their streets. Various associations and workers for human rights around the country also sent support and solidarity. Again I felt hope, again I saw my people. We understood each other.

The full article by Hodžić is available, in Bosnian, at An article showing a photo of the march, with an accompanying video, is available at

Shortly after the protest action in Prijedor, the Society for Threatened Peoples, based in Göttingen Germany, posted an "Appeal to Members of the EU Parliament, the Council of Europe and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in Vienna." The Appeal, signed by Tilman Zülch for the Society, and Milada Hodžić for the Prijedor organization Izvor, was sent to seven hundred officials of the European Union, to the OHR in Bosnia, and to the Bosnian Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees. It was also sent to the mayor of Prijedor and the president of the RS. It is available in English at


While the action in Prijedor was taking place on Human Rights Day, a more general action was undertaken in Sarajevo, Banja Luka, and Mostar. In these cities activists from the regional NGO Youth Initiative for Human Rights staged mock burials, complete with coffins and a funeral march, to bury the human rights and freedoms that they say no longer exist in Bosnia-Herzegovina.


On December 19th, in Sarajevo, a dozen young people staged a mock protest against the end of the world, slated for December 21st. Five hundred people signed onto their Facebook page. In a statement, the group explained, "We have gathered here today in order to make fun of some people, especially the Americans," adding that there was no chance that the world was going to end. The protestors proved this assertion by displaying a can of liver paté whose expiration date was marked as the year 2013.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Peter Lippman Bosnia Travel Journal: Entry #8

December 13, 2012

Hello folks,

Here's another report on Bosnia. I just returned home last week, but I have a few more things to share, probably a few more reports.

After I left the Krajina I took one more trip: to Travnik in central Bosnia, and to Mostar. This report will be about things that I saw and heard in those places. I'll also mention a few recent political occurrences.


I went to visit my friend Ivo, a musician who is active in the local Croat community.

By way of background, before the war central Bosnia was one of the more ethnically-mixed regions, with large communities of Muslims, Serbs, and Croats living together or close by each other. When Serb separatist forces attacked Bosnia-Herzegovina and took over two-thirds of its territory in the spring of 1992, many (but not all) Serbs left the parts of central Bosnia that were not taken over by Serb forces. Those places included Travnik, Bugojno, and Zenica.

When Croats and Muslims began fighting each other intensively in the spring of 1993, central Bosnia was divided up into Croat- and Muslim-controlled areas that were often quite near each other. The three above-mentioned cities remained under Muslim control, while in some cases nearby towns (such as Vitez, Nova Bila, and Novi Travnik) came under Croat control. Much displacement had taken place by then. Some Croats and Serbs in areas controlled by the Muslims stayed put, but thousands left. When the fighting was officially ended a year later, "notional" freedom of movement was reestablished. But to a large extent the population was divided ethnically, even though the ethnic groups still lived relatively near each other.

So far, this description of events sounds almost clinical, bland enough for consumption by young children. But war is organized murder, and in central Bosnia, it was the goal of the Croats and Muslims each to take as much territory as possible from the other - if necessary, by killing each other, the people with whom they had been neighbors for many centuries. Although the end of the war within a war brought the formation of the Croat- and Muslim-controlled Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (one of Bosnia's two entities), not all of the damage has been repaired, and not all of the missing have been found.

One regional characteristic of the Croat-Muslim conflict in central Bosnia was the presence of the mujahedin - militant Islamic fighters primarily from Arab countries. These volunteer troops were only loosely under the control of the Bosnian army, and often under no control at all. Ideologically driven, on average they committed more war crimes than the other Muslim troops, although native Bosniaks also participated in these crimes on numerous occasions.

Central Bosnia has a rich history of Franciscan missionary presence dating back well before Ottoman times. One of the sadder occurrences of the Croat-Bosniak conflict was the tendency of the mujahedin to take over, or at least attack, some of those monasteries.

Ivo and his family live in the same house they lived in before the war. He was a young boy when the war broke out. In order to escape the fighting between the Croats and Muslims, his family traveled north to Croatia, passing over Mt. Vlašić, through Serb-controlled territory. Ivo told me that the Serbs, in the territory they controlled, allowed the women and children to leave, but not the men.

Ivo's house was damaged during the war, and rebuilt afterwards. I asked him if there were many Croats who came back. He said, "No, they didn't want to live among the people who killed them - although a lot of the killing had been done by the mujahedin, not by the local Muslims. They committed a big massacre nearby."

More Croats have left since the war. Ivo said that about one third of his family was abroad. I asked if people were leaving because of discrimination, or because of the lack of work. He said that it was more because of lack of work.

Ivo took me on a guided tour of several of the Croat community centers, schools, and churches in the area. He was on familiar terms with all of these places and the people in them. First, he showed me the Gymnasium. This public school run by the Catholics is famous throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina for the quality of education provided there, and the number of Muslim students who attend is not small.

The superintendent at the Gymnasium was careful about security, only letting us into the building when Ivo phoned the priest and got permission. He took me into the chapel, a restored area. He told me that during the Tito era it had been used as a sports hall.

Upstairs, we looked through a window to the inner courtyard where Ivo showed me the difference between the restored part of the building complex that was under church control, and another section of the complex, which was a government-run school. The church-controlled part was painted and all spruced up, and the rest was drab and falling apart. There were something over 1,200 students there.

In the evening we went to Mihovilo church, built in 1868. It was one of the first churches that the Ottomans permitted to be built in the municipality. The inside of this church had been wrecked during the war, but not the building. The Franciscan friar at Mihovilo told me that before the war there had been about 5,000 members of the parish, but now there were around 2,000. In the entire Travnik municipality, he said, now there are around 15,000 Catholics.

I asked the friar if people had left because of discrimination or because of the lack of work. He said that there was a "mixture of problems." There are some Croats who work abroad for a while and then come back. There is not so much farming anymore in the villages; more people are involved in businesses in Vitez.

We continued on to Brajkovići monastery. On the way, Ivo told me that there was a massacre of Croats at Bikos, and the remains of the 23 victims have not been found. The friar from Brajkovići, Fra Leon, showed me the matica, the book of family records, from 1879. It was saved by a monk during the war. There were recordings of families and their important events - births, weddings, funerals, from those early dates.

The Bosnian army took over this church and stationed troops there during the war, and did some damage.

We went further on, to Guča Gora. I met Fra Branko. He told me that in 1853 the Ottomans gave permission to build the church, and it was finished in 1859. Things were better under the Austrians, he said, although in World War I they took the church bells and melted them to use the metal for weapons. The Partisans bombed it in 1945, and then it was restored. There were "crypto-Catholics" in the Tito era. When Fra Branko finished showing me around he said, "That's the story.and I'm getting old."

Mujahedin occupied the monastery at Guča Gora and defaced the art works in the interior extensively. They threw paint on the mural, created in 1974, that dominated the altar. After the war, when the monks came back and began repairing the monastery, they learned that the mural could not be restored, so they decided to leave it as it was. The mural is an attractive, colorful and modern painting, in some parts reminiscent of Latin American murals. Somehow, the dark red, almost maroon paint splattered across the mural does not destroy it. The color blends with the rest of the painting and, naturally, adds another layer to the history of the institution and its art.


Mostar is the most notoriously divided city in Bosnia-Herzegovina. You don't see any boundary, but the signs of separation between Croat and Muslim are clear. During the war most Croats who lived on the east side of the Neretva River moved to the west side, and most Muslims who lived on the west side moved east. After the war there was quite a lot of return of displaced people to the surrounding villages in Mostar municipality, but not much within the city itself. So today you have the Muslim-dominated east side, including the incredibly lovely old Turkish area with its famous reconstructed Stari Most, the Old Bridge. And on the west side you have a pleasant, but much more prosaic - and larger, and more economically developed - Croat-controlled area.

I have written about Mostar in previous years, describing the splitting of infrastructure - schools, utilities, cultural events, and most other social activities, into two cities. (See, also The international community has fought against this division, to no avail. The local politicians, mainly representing Croats and Muslims, go back and forth about how to solve the problem. But as in most of the rest of the country, behind all this it seems that they are satisfied with the problem as it is, as long as they have a way to take home a hefty paycheck and keep their people safely separated from each other.

This year Mostar was a special case because, among other things, it did not participate in the nationwide municipal elections. The local political situation was simply too blocked. Local Croat and Muslim politicians could not - and still can't - agree on how to reform their government. To put it briefly, after the war Mostar was divided into six municipalities, three Croat-dominated and three Muslim-dominated. Each municipality got an equal number of representatives in the municipal assembly. But, since there were very unequal populations in the six municipalities, this violated the principle of "one man - one vote" (and women, too). So in 2004 the international community abolished that setup. Now the Muslims, since they're in the minority, would like to retain that old system, and the Croats insist on a more proportionate system of representation. For the time being, there is an acting government, but the city is not prepared for new elections.

I spoke with Marko Tomaš, a journalist in Mostar. He explained some things about the blockage with the city government: "In 2004 [High Representative] Ashdown abolished the six-municipality arrangement of Mostar in order to force the unification of the city government and of the state companies. The city government has been united but the unification of the companies has not been possible to implement; it can't be done today as things stand.

"After the war, the Bosniaks were in favor of the unification of the city and for one-man, one vote. Now it is the opposite, because they are afraid of being outvoted. Because it is considered that there is a majority of Croats.

"The Croats are in favor of there being one municipality; this gives them the opportunity to out-vote the Bosniaks. As a solution, there could be six municipalities but having them vote as one electoral unit. A solution is possible, but there are no parties in Mostar that are willing to be partners in finding this solution.

"One solution would be to have the census and then to determine representation according to that result. The OHR should implement this. It is idiotic to say that a Croat majority will lead to the eradication of the Bosniaks in Mostar. There is always this kind of radicalized speech before the elections. Presently the membership of the City Council is still determined by the 1991 census. But it is not acceptable that a voter who lives in the US, etc., should determine what goes on here. Nor is it essential, for that matter, that Mostar be established as the stolni grad [capitol city, administrative center] of the Croats. What is important is to mobilize the potential of the city and the surrounding region."

Q: What is that potential? 
A: "The economic capacity of the region must be organized better. For example, the infrastructure must be better organized. We need to work with the budget to simplify procedures for development. It is the same at the state level, but Mostar has some of the highest potential in the country.

"First the city administration should be rationalized, including transparency. There needs to be more of a city plan because now, everything is done on a semi-legal basis. For example, they sold the old hospital in a matter of three days, and it was turned into a business center. This happened three years ago. It should have been preserved as a historical site. But since it was sold, then the investor should have been responsible for the infrastructure on the entire block, but this did not happen. As a result, the city had to take care of the water supply and the sewer system, and I'm sure that this cost the city at least a million KM."

Q: But the present semi-legal arrangement is useful to those who would perpetrate economic crime, isn't it?

A: "A big investor could straighten these things out. But now there is no urban plan. On the other hand, the east side is protected as a historical site, and so there is less investment there, because of all the rules. For example, the Robna Kuća [department store] has been sitting empty and unrepaired. An investor would be responsible not only for the business space, but also for the upper levels of the building, which is residential space. There were seven floors, and whoever undertook to reconstruct the building would be responsible for the entire building.

"There is great economic potential around Mostar, especially in agriculture. The talk about industrialization is just stupidity. It wouldn't be competitive. For now, there is no chance of that. Also, there could be a heightened potential for winter tourism here in the Mostar region. But no one knows about this.

"The managers sold the aviation company [Soko, sold off by Dragan Čović, president of the most powerful Croat nationalist party] for one KM. With zdrav razum [rational thinking], why couldn't we manufacture bicycles and streetcars? Instead, the present dynamics make it easy for a few people to get very rich.

Q: Is Aluminij [the aluminum smelting company based in Mostar] an exception?
A: The continued existence of Aluminij is not an exception. It was preserved because it was in the interest of some Croatian businesses for it to continue to supply raw materials. Aluminij is still just a supplier of cheap raw materials. It sells them to another BiH firm, which then sells them to a company in Šibenik. Each transfer results in profit for the middleman."

Q: Do the ordinary people understand the criminality behind the general lousy situation here?
A: "I'd say it is half and half. Many people are politically blind. It is a problem that there is no party in existence to articulate an alternative political vision. This should have been the SDP, but that has not been the case for a long time.

"There has been a large amount of money from the international community that has been donated to the NGO sector. But that sector has for the most part not done useful work. NGO workers hold conferences and speak in a language that ordinary people do not understand. People consider the NGOs elitist. And the international donors determine what their politics should be.

"All that's left that has potential for change are some of the media, primarily in the internet. This is possibly an arena where, at least in the urban setting, some movement could be made to bring us out of a standstill. But the population of BiH is 40% computer illiterate."


I spoke with another journalist, Predrag Zvijerac, who works for the Dnevni List. We talked about the conduct of politics on the national level. Predrag said, "Bosnia-Herzegovina has always been about exploiting the resources. This especially has to do with electrical energy. None of the leaders really care about Bosnia entering the European Union. And the SDP-SNSD collaboration has a lot to do with selling off the remaining state companies, such as BiH Telekom, so that they can get the money."

Addressing the bloated governmental system throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina, Predrag said, "We have around three hundred members of the three parliaments [at the state level and the two entities], and each member gets around 4,000 KM per month. But all the decisions are made among the leaders of five or six parties, in a kafana. For example, Džombić [Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska] and Nikšić [Prime Minister of the Federation of BiH] came to an agreement about the Elektroprenos [electrical transmission company] in a kafana called Aleksandar, in Laktaši. These were the vice-presidents of the two strongest parties. So these agreements are arrived at on the basis of a narrow party interest (stranokracija).

"There was an agreement between the RS and Serbia to build a dam on the Drina. That was retracted (with the RS having to pay Serbia 500,000 KM); now they are negotiating with a German firm. All of these kinds of maneuvers mean that the domestic politicians are not interested in joining the EU, which would prevent them from continuing to operate this way.

The government must be reformed to be less expensive and more efficient, better functioning. The excess must be removed. For example, there are too many ministers. Reducing the number of Cantons would be good, too.

Doris Pack [EU delegate for relations with Bosnia] came and said that we don't need ten Ministries of Education, and we don't need ten Ministries of Justice either.

An example of the poor administration of this country is that we have to make a law about what kind of tires people are allowed to use, at four levels: the two entities, the state, and the District. It can happen that these laws can be contradictory. In the RS darkened windows are forbidden; in the Federation they are permitted. The laws should be the same throughout the country."

Q: What's the situation in Mostar?
A: "You know that there were no elections. Mostar is one of the only cities that are a Dayton category [i.e., the city's political arrangement was determined at the Dayton negotiations]. Politics was determined here by virtue of an external agreement. Now, the domestic leaders don't want to be dictated to by the international community.

In one electoral zone in Mostar, there are fewer voters but they have the same number of representatives as a much bigger one. It is hard to resolve this when all parties have a very firm position. The SDA is strong here. The central SDA in Sarajevo does not wish to intervene.


In previous postings I have described the new alliance between the Social Democratic Party (SDP) headed by Zlatko Lagumdžija, and the Party for a Better Future (SBB - this title sounds even stupider in English than in Bosnian) - headed by the media tycoon and Bosniak nationalist Fahrudin Radončić.

It had been rumored that Radončić, friend to gangster and drug lord on the lam Naser Kelmendi, was to be appointed to the post of Minister of Security in the reshuffled state-level cabinet of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Later it was rumored that he would not be so appointed.

As it turned out, in late November Radončić was indeed appointed to this post. It's hard to be surprised by the depth of cynicism displayed by the gangsters they call politicians in Bosnia, but this move, straight out of Animal Farm (on steroids), took my breath away.

The appointment was the result of the formation of a new government coalition both at the state level and in the Federation (one of Bosnia's two entities), after the SDP which had gained a plurality of votes in the national elections in 2010, broke in June with the SDA (Muslim nationalist party), its erstwhile coalition partner. The SDP formed a new parliamentary majority with the SBB, the two leading Croat nationalist parties, and the two leading Serb nationalist parties, the SDS and RS President Milorad Dodik's SNSD.

The new coalition thus brings Bosnia back to a political situation similar to the prewar years of 1990-1991, when the nationalist parties collaborated to run Bosnia.into the ground. The difference now is that Lagumdžija's SDP has shown itself to be a completely opportunist sellout.

One commentator, discussing the "party-ocracy" (stranokracija), said that the parties that behave in this rock-bottom unprincipled manner are not political parties but, better put, "political corporations." That phrase rather bypasses the deeply ingrained political element in political processes in Bosnia. But a mafia can be a corporation.

This whole situation reminds me of a statement in Munir Alibabić's book, U Kandžama KOS-a (In the Claws of KOS), 1996, where he wrote, "Fascism is the highest form of organized crime. Considered from many aspects, these two [phenomena] cannot be separated; a two-way cause-effect combination is in question. Fascists are the implementers of high-intensity plunder, from industrial equipment to raw materials for energy production...humanitarian relief contributions, and they control the trade of drugs and narco-routes, and take over housing and other state resources. And where are those key players located? Right there where the alliance between the government and underground is created, where the roles of "consigliera" or "cepa" [plumber] are decisive. Through them the division of the country into three was talked up and then realized." (p. 233)

I think that Alibabić's description of the wartime and immediate postwar situation still applies today, although at present, the term "fascism" is not as intuitively applicable as it was during the war. The rest is accurate, down to his mention of the nexus between the politicians and the drug lords.

Back to Radončić, one interesting aspect of his appointment is that he did not pass through the customary security investigation. Much about Radončić's life is known - especially in the past twenty years since he arrived in Bosnia from his home country of Montenegro (via Croatia). But Bosnia's top investigatory agencies did not find it within themselves to investigate, in a timely manner, twelve years of his life from the period before he came to Bosnia. However, in this case, Bosnia's national police organ SIPA (equivalent to the FBI) let the investigation slide, and Radončić became Minister.


Somewhat before Radončić's appointment, on November 13th, High Representative Valentin Inzko gave his annual report on Bosnia-Herzegovina to the UN Security Council. In the report, Inzko particularly focused on the anti-Bosnian behavior of the leaders of the Serb-controlled entity, Republika Srpska. He criticized President Dodik for working to weaken government at the state level by rolling back powers that were appointed at that level as a result of a struggle over many years' time. Dodik has also recently revived a proposal to dissolve the Bosnian army. This seems nice, but given the surroundings in which Bosnia finds itself, would be equivalent to sending a bleeding swimmer into shark territory.

Inzko quoted Dodik as saying, "Bosnia and Herzegovina is a rotten State that does not deserve to exist"; also "Bosnia and Herzegovina constantly confirms its inability to exist. Bosnia and Herzegovina is definitely falling apart and it will happen sooner or later. As far as I am concerned, I hope to God it dissolves as soon as possible."

In answer to this kind of statement by Dodik - and a similar one by Serbia's Prime Minister Nikolić ("Bosnia is slowly falling apart."),Željko Komšić, Croat member of Bosnia's three-part presidency and a former member of the SDP, said in an interview, "Bosnia is not falling apart and will not fall apart. When you think about the enemies and occupiers that Bosnia has faced over the centuries, the present adversaries are small in comparison." (My paraphrase, from a recent interview with Komšić.

The Russian Ambassador to the UN objected to Inzko's criticism of Dodik and, echoing Dodik's theme, called for the abolition of the Office of the High Representative.

The High Representative's criticisms were incomplete. He did not address the budding collaboration between the SDP and Dodik's party. As I described in my previous posting, agreements that have been reached in the rubric of this collaboration will lead to accelerated plunder of the nation's wealth - for the political corporations.

And economist and commentator Svetlana Cenić, former Minister of Finance for the RS, responded to Inzko's report by pointing out that for the last six years, the OHR was "simply an observer," not using its powers to correct any problems. "The international community is satisfied when democratically-elected representatives come to power, but when they do not fulfill their promises, that's not a concern," she said.


In my last report I mentioned that the results of the elections in Srebrenica were still - this was late November - not confirmed. Well, now there has finally been definitive movement. The results are good, but maybe, ultimately, quite bad.

In mid-November the Central Election Commission (CEC) confirmed the Srebrenica elections on a 5-2 vote, with the head of the Commission, Branko Petrić, voting against the flow. That confirmation was appealed before the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which rejected the appeal, throwing the decision back to the CEC. Right around that time, some members of the CEC were replaced. Just before my last report, I had heard a worrisome rumor that some of the new members would vote against a re-confirmation of the elections.

However, that did not happen. The CEC re-confirmed the elections in late November, again with a 5-2 vote, whereupon Dodik announced that he would appeal the CEC's decision before the Appellate Division of the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

Meanwhile, also in late November, Emir Suljagić and two other activists from "Glasaću za Srebrenicu" (I Will Vote for Srebrenica), the organization that campaigned to register absentee voters for the elections, were summoned to the Srebrenica police station. An order had come down from the District Prosecutor in Bijeljina for interrogation (informativni razgovor - "informative conversation") about the activities with regard to the campaign. 

There had been rumors that Suljagić was arrested, but the level of harassment in this case was somewhat lower than that. The three activists were questioned as if they were under suspicion for committing some criminal offense with regard to the recent elections. The odd thing, as one activist pointed out, was that there was no official criminal investigation underway. The activists criticized the RS prosecution office and the Srebrenica police for posing questions that there was no way the activists could answer, and in general, for threatening their right to free association. 

In response, Suljagić announced the filing of a criminal complaint against the District Prosecutor in Bijeljina for discrimination and harassment. 

Animal Farm on Steroids

When the CEC, in late November, re-confirmed the Srebrenica elections and Dodik took the decision on appeal to a higher court, I was discussing this situation with a friend. My instinct told me that the Srebrenica elections would ultimately be re-re-confirmed and it would be settled. But I wrote my friend, "If Dodik loses this one, he has other ways to screw Srebrenica." 

This turned out to be correct. While the case was waiting to be appealed, in the first week of this month the Srebrenica branch of the SDP announced a local coalition with that municipality's SBB and the two main Serb parties, Dodik's SNSD and the SDS. If this red-black coalition goes through, it will control fourteen out of 23 seats on the municipal council. The Bosniak parties (SDP and SBB) will have four seats, and the two nationalist Serb parties will control ten. 

This is the way that the pro-Bosnian, anti-denial forces that fought so hard to defeat the deniers of genocide could be defeated after their victory. By combining with the Serb nationalists, the SDP, which gained only two seats in the election, would reverse the results of the October elections. 

It is shocking, but it shouldn't be surprising because, in a way, this behavior is simply parallel to what the SDP has been doing on the national level since last summer. Still, for this sell-out to take place in Srebrenica, world symbol of genocide - and after such a sustained and valiant effort by the human rights activists - is particularly revolting. I am personally taken aback because some of those SDP members are friends of mine from the time when they were in the forefront of the campaign for return. It is hard for me to accept the fact of such cynicism and compromise, even though I know that it is politics. This is about slamming the main Bosniak party (the SDA, rival to the SDP) and gaining power. However, with four out of fourteen seats, I don't imagine that the SDP and its SBB cronies will really have that much power. 

Emir Suljagić, the Sarajevo survivors organization Mothers of Srebrenica, and other activists all condemned the proposed coalition. Winning mayor Ćamil Duraković, an independent, vowed to resign if the coalition comes about. As of this week, Duraković is calling for a meeting of the parties that supported him during the elections, recalling that the SDP and the SBB were among those parties. And in Sarajevo, SDP President Lagumdžija announced that the SDP supports Duraković. But, he said, local party officials should decide the configuration of the coalition in Srebrenica municipality. Which may turn out to be equivalent to saying that the SDP does not support Duraković. 


Finally, this week, the extended battle over the Srebrenica elections has come to an end. On Monday Dodik's appeal was rejected by the Appellate Division of Bosnia's court. The next day, the Central Election Commission confirmed the results for a third time, this time with a 4-2 vote. 

There is no more obstructionist recourse available to Dodik's party and to the Coalition for the RS. The only way they will be able to neutralize the results of the September elections will be to form the red-black coalition with the SDP. It remains to be seen whether that will actually take place, but I would not be at all surprised, at this point, if it does. 

Editor of the Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje Vildana Selimbegović discussed the role of the international community in this fracas. Referring to the i.c. officials as people who "for years now have had no confusion about whether genocide was committed in Srebrenica," she said that "as long as Lagumdžija and Radončić, dealing on Srebrenica, have the opportunity to do a favor for Dodik to the detriment of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the international officials working in our country can peacefully explain to their own governments that great progress has taken place in dialogue, and that even greater progress has taken place in the preparedness of the political leaders to behave responsibly." 

And the four-legs sit down with the two-legs.


The ICTY (International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) has finally issued a verdict in the case of Bosnian Serb general Zdravko Tolimir, in custody since 2007. Tolimir was on trial for genocide and crimes against humanity at Srebrenica. He was the intelligence chief for General Ratko Mladić's operations in eastern Bosnia. Prosecutors said that he was part of a "joint criminal enterprise" to execute and bury thousands of Muslims from the Srebrenica enclave, and he was Mladić's right-hand man in this endeavor. 

One article describing Tolimir's role read, "It was his men ... who were at the detention and execution and burial sites, making sure that murder operation did its evil work until the last bullet was fired and the last body buried," the prosecution said.

Tolimir was quoted as saying, in his own defense, that Serb forces were merely "fighting against terrorist groups." 

On Wednesday it was announced that Tolimir had been convicted of genocide and that he was sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes committed not only at Srebrenica, but at another enclave as well. The Žepa enclave fell shortly after Srebrenica, and from Žepa, all the Muslim inhabitants were expelled. Tolimir's convictions were for "genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war, as well as extermination, persecutions, inhumane acts through forcible transfer and murder as crimes against humanity."

The determination of Tolimir's participation in a joint criminal enterprise (JCE) was crucial because, since he was a commanding officer and not a foot-soldier actually pulling the trigger, "intellectual authorship" had to be proven. The two JCEs on Tolimir's head were the murder of men and boys from the Srebrenica enclave, and the expulsion of civilians from the two enclaves. 

The decision is hugely important because it adds to the official case history of genocide as a crime that has been recognized to have taken place in Bosnia. Several war criminals have already been convicted for genocide in the case of Srebrenica. But Tolimir's conviction for genocide in Žepa is a new and important legal achievement, because the crime there involved mass expulsion, rather than mass murder. This conviction helps to reinforce the fact that the legal definition of genocide does not involve numbers, but the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide lists "Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part." The forced expulsion of an entire enclave should arguably fit into this category. 
(Look at to see the entire Convention.) 


From an unidentified source: 
"In the Bosnian towns of Banja Luka, Doboj, Bijeljina and Prnjavor, supporters of Radovan Karadžić put up posters on 20 Nov 2012, calling on the public to join in congratulating the former RS President and war crimes indictee on his patron saint's day (krsna slava). The posters display a photo of Karadžić on the left side, a picture of the Archangel Michael on the right side, and a cheering, flag-waving crowd below."

I don't have the source for this article at my disposal presently, but here are a couple of photos of the posters: 

Karadžić, currently on trial at The Hague, was the wartime president of the RS, and one of those most responsible for the ethnic cleansing and mass murder that resulted in the towns listed above becoming mostly empty of non-Serbs. So I suppose the people who live there, who support that result, have reason to cheer, wave flags, and celebrate Karadžić's saint's day. 


Bileća is a town in eastern Herzegovina, between Gacko and Trebinje in the territory of the Republika Srpska. I've only passed through, but I had the impression that it's a dismal, unhappy place. That impression may be affected by the fact that one of my Bosniak friends spent time in a concentration camp there during the war. 

Last week the local government in that municipality decided to remove a statue commemorating the Partisans who fought and defeated fascism during World War II. The monument to the 650 fighters who died liberating Bileća will be replaced it with a statue of the Chetnik leader General Draža Mihajlović, the monarchist leader who started out fighting the Nazis, but finished the war collaborating with them against the Partisans. 

Justifying this move, the mayor of Bileća said that there was "nothing strange" about it, and "If the Partisans could make a monument to Partisans, then the Chetniks can make a monument to the Chetniks." The chairman of the organizing committee for the monument's construction declined to say how much this monument would cost the town. But he said, "What they're saying about rehabilitation of fascism is just a communist prejudice."

This glorification of fascism is all the more sad because four years ago there was a proposal to erect a monument to a true hero, the Trebinje citizen Srđan Aleksić. Displaced citizens of Bileća living in Sarajevo had sent the proposal to the then mayor of Bileća. During the war Aleksić, a Serb, had stood up for his Bosniak friend who was being physically attacked by Serb nationalist extremists. Aleksić thus saved his friend, but he himself was beaten to death. 

Since the war, monuments to Aleksić, his bravery, and to the co-existence that he represents, have been erected in a number of cities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and even in Serbia. But not in Bileća.


For a bracing outburst of truth against Serbian denial, read this posting by Danica Drašković (if you can read Serbian): 

Drašković, wife of Serb nationalist leader Vuk Drašković, said, "We went into Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and finally into Kosovo. And what did we do? We were defeated everywhere, driven out of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, and of course from Kosovo. We left the traces of bloody crimes behind us that are now being uncovered at the Hague Tribunal, at the trials of our political and military commanders. For twelve years we have been stretching out our defeats; we don't admit that we are guilty, that we are criminals, aggressors, that we have sent the army and criminals to other countries and killed, plundered, torched, demolished, and raped." 

As the introduction to this interview noted, Danica Drašković spoke "without too much tact, saying what the great majority of Serbs do not wish to hear."

It's just ironic, or strange, that Vuk Drašković, a novelist by profession, was himself the leader of a Chetnik band during the war in Bosnia. And before the war, he was instrumental, through his novels, in creating the atmosphere of hate that paved the way - even before President of Serbia Slobodan Milosevic became powerful - for the destruction of Yugoslavia. Since the war he has been the ultimate political chameleon. It seems that his wife is accompanying him on that winding path.


In a counterpoint to the opening of this posting, the Associated Press reported that on November 22, in Zenica, central Bosnia, Muslim imams and Franciscan priests played a football (soccer) match together. Proceeds raised through admissions to the match went to fund a new kindergarten. Over four thousand people paid to watch the game, in which the Catholic priests won 5-3.