Serbia: Reactions to the ICJ Verdict

[Note: A roundup of the English-language blog posts on the ICJ verdict ran on Global Voices this past Wednesday, here.]

Serbia is proclaimed not guilty for the crimes that happened during the Bosnian war – and this is echoed in the country’s news and talk show programs this week. Lately, one could feel a clear “denying guilt” tendencies displayed by everyone who took part in the conflict. That is exactly what has been happening during the last decade, since the end of Bosnian civil war. But debating who is guilty doesn’t solve the issue. It widens the gap between people. People who identify themselves as Muslims, Serbs, and Croats have all evidently committed terrible crimes during the nineties.

After the International Court of Justice (ICJ) verdict, Serbia's Liberal Democratic Party offered a declaration to be voted by Serbian parliament, which contains an official apology for the Srebrenica massacre (recognized as an act of genocide by the ICJ). The party is supported by numerous non-governmental organizations that seem to promote Serbian guilt. They triggered strengthening of an opposing wave of nationalist movement represented by the Serbian Radical Party, allegedly formed by the domestic secret service during the last decade. Both SRS and Kostunica’s DSS agree to condemn all the atrocities which occurred during the civil war, but would not accept the blame for the Srebrenica massacre. President Boris Tadic will probably try to find a balanced solution.

All political structures would like to take some kind of formal action, but any real determination to solve the problem in its essensc doesn’t exist. What we need is a conversation between the common people who took part in the dispute.

In his blog post called Nation and Simplification, Goran Miletic from Serbia doesn’t seem to agree with the ICJ verdict. Among other things, he writes (SRP):

[…] Once upon a time, there was a big eight-floor-high building [each floor representing a republic], where eight brothers lived with their own families. During the time, and because of certain changes, some of the families decided to live on their own by forming separate flats. The dominant older brother with his huge family didn’t like the idea [so he sent the young leaders to other flats, so they would proclaim their own space]. […] As the time went by, things got tougher, so [Slovenia], who lived at the ground floor [joined the EU building]. [And the people from the Serbian floor started supporting and executing the killings of other floor members…] […]

Spiridon argues that Serbia doesn’t need worse punishment than today’s state:

Serbia has so many problems. There is nobody to blame for the current stage. Current and old political scenes are “black without any white”. Srebrenica crime deserves public and, if you will, official apology. The fact that you feel bad that the nation went trough this without a punishment was nicely commented by Virtualni Vasilije:

“The whole situation fits to my opinion that the major number of these NGOs would like things to seem much worse than they really are. If the situation is better, there is no need for financial support for most of the Non-governmental organizations which exist at the moment. There is no glimpse of will for justice and real fight for humanitarian rights…”

Think abut the babies in a Tirsova [hospital] if today’s reps of political garbage don’t think about them. In case we are forced to pay war damage to Bosnia, the burden wouldn’t be felt by your, [Boris] Tadic’s or [Vojislav] Kostunica’s back. […]

Snezana7plus is bitter because of blog author's words:

Mister Miletic,

As you try to simplify the issues here, I would like to get an explanation of some attitudes.

For example, in that big building […] where the Serbs who respected all other nations lived, the ones who protested against [Slobodan] Milosevic, who suffered because they didn’t want to take part in the war, who went out to be the victims themselves, who even today have many difficulties with the crazy [“politicians”].

You know, I don’t feel right when Americans put me at the same floor and bombed me, it comes even harder when Europe does it, but it is the toughest when someone from that big building does it.

[you say]:
“I really believe that you guys who are reading this aren’t killers, but didn’t some of you stand quiet when you should have spoken up?”

If you believe – you believe, there is no need for you to REALLY believe.

Wise people say, when somebody says “but,” everything before that word can be erased.

Dj responds with a spree of questions:

Am I guilty if my brother rapes my cousin?

Am I guilty if my sister hits a small child with a car at a pedestrian crossing, and if she had stolen the car from my aunt?

Can I be guilty, if my mother goes mad and kills my father?

Am I guilty just a bit if my grandmother refuses to give a medicine to my grandfather, and so he dies?

Where does my guilt stand in the case if my spouse’s mother uses an illegal gun I didn’t know about to shoot a man who tried to rob her?

Am I normal if I don’t feel guilty in any of these cases?


  • I am a Bosnian. Not a “Bosniak” Muslim, not a Croat Catholic, not a Serb Orthodox. Why should I call myself Croat or Serb if I wasn’t born in either of the two countries? Neither were my parents or grandparents.
    Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox or Jewish? Nope. Neither one. I’m a secular mut. Plain Bosnian. I lived through the war, smack in the middle of it, in Sarajevo.

    I feel terribly sad and disappointed that, once again, the good didn’t win over the evil…
    We didn’t plan it. We didn’t ask for it. We didn’t “imagine” these things happening to us and we sure didn’t do this to ourselves! Our population literally got halved within three years (mortality + emigration)… and after all this suffering we needed some kind of closure. I needed some kind of closure, and for everyone to stop calling what happened a freakin’ civil war.
    There was nothing civil about it. GENOCIDE!
    Sarajevo was under siege. The longest siege in the history of human kind and 1395 longest days of my life.
    1395 days I was hungry.
    1395 days I was cold.
    1395 days I was scared.
    1395 sunsets and sunrises that I thought might be my last.
    1395 times a sniper shot at me and missed.
    1395 kids that weren’t so lucky…
    And today… today I got nothing to feel better about!

    … but, I was there, I lived it, I KNOW THE TRUTH, I will never forget and I know what I’m going to tell my children.

  • johnnykola

    vedrana, sve sto mogu napisati je da si totalno u krivu, u gresci. i njami ce ti to potvrdit.:)

  • Ana J.

    Vedrana, I know that terrible things were happening in Sarajevo from 1991 until 1995. I suppose that Sarajevo and Mostar were two cities that suffered the most during that time. They were also cities that had the biggest heart in old Yugoslavia, which is extremely sad. The genocide was happening in Sarajevo, but the genocides and fights were happening also in western Herzegovina and all other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina and also Croatia between all three sides. I don’t want to count the crime here and to measure who was the most evil, crime is crime and human life is human life!!! The sad story is that this stupid war created the enormous hate between people that are having the same roots, and which are the same in almost everything: language, culture and characters, except in religion. There were terrible things also happening in Bosnia, Herzegovina and Croatia during the WW2 and now again 1991-1995, I am just wondering whether those people in BiH and Croatia will ever start living together as brothers, which they are no matter how much they hate or love each other. I know in my family people that have survived Genocide done by Croats Ustase in NDH during WW2 and they still talk about that all the time in their homes. The God is one no matter whether we are Catholics, Orthodox or Muslims either by birth or by choice, and He can never forgive hate in human heart and doing evil things by humans.

  • Ana Jancic

    And it is also not important whether the West will make Serbia guilty for the genocide anymore, as much as it is important that internal conflicts between people within ex-Yugoslavia to be solved. That hate between people that are having exactly the same heritage, but which have received different religions because of certain unfortunate historical conditions need to be removed and all wounds that have been made in WW2 and in recent war need to be healed ones and forever, and it has to be initiated by people in Yugoslavia, not by some external western forces.

  • Ana Jancic

    Vedrana, the genocide in Sarajevo has been done, but also there have been genocides in western Herzegovina and in different parts of Bosnia and Croatia done by all three sides. I don’t want to measure here who is more or less guilty, the crime is crime and the human life is human life. I suppose the worst things were happening in Sarajevo and Mostar, and it is really sad, as they were the best two cities in BiH before. I also have many friends that came from war who are either Serbs, or Muslims or mixture or Serbs, Croats and Muslims. I also have family members who survived genocide done by Croats Ustase in NDH during WW2, and they can never forget that. They just talk about those tortures every single day in their homes.

    It is not important whether the West will make Serbia guilty for the genocide anymore, as much as it is important that internal conflicts between people within ex-Yugoslavia to be solved. That HATE between people that are having exactly the same heritage, which have received different religions because of unfortunate historical conditions need to be removed and all wounds that have been made in WW2 and in recent war need to be healed ones and forever, and it has to be initiated by people of good will in ex-Yugoslavia’s countries, not by some external western forces. As they are all brothers no matter how much they hate or love each other.

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