Pinocchio and Little Red Riding Hood still believe in the impartiality of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). I have yet to meet either a partial or an impartial Serb that shares their sentiments. Toward the political bazaar in Hague the Serbs feel what has been hurled at them by the institution’s creators since the early 1990’s—disdain, occasional profanity, and boiling resentment. Those are the only self-defense tools available to the tired citizens of a small, impoverished country.
In August of 1992, German foreign minister Klaus Kinkel, “the father of the Tribunal”, was already imitating The Boy Who Cried Wolf when he urged for the creation of an international judicial institution that would go after the evil Serbs who were ordering and committing genocides left and right. The second president of the Tribunal presented Madeline Alright with the role of Lady Tremaine (Also known as the “Wicked Stepmother”), a warmonger who placed her aversion to Serb hygienic practices high on her long list of anti-Serb grievances. In this dystopian tale, the U.S. government, George Soros, Rockefeller Foundation, “United States Institute for Peace”, and Bill Clinton eagerly accepted the part of the Spendthrift McDuck by providing the Tribunal with both the giant stack of chips and The Playing Cards. The indicted Serb political leaders were privy to the fact that the “house” had a built-in advantage, but at the time when the U.S. hegemony was at its peak, the ICTY was the only game in town.
The recently convicted Radovan Karadzic and the doomed general Ratko Mladic, at least, found out how Pluto felt in Pluto’s Judgment Day. Many other unconvicted Serbs were executed before they were able to present their case in the ICTY’s trial in Hell.
Doctor Milan Kovacevic, indicted in 1997 by the ICTY on complicity to commit genocide and crimes against humanity, died in his cell after suffering two strokes and a rupture of an artery in his stomach.
Other inmates tried to resuscitate him while a doctor was being summoned. By the time the doctor arrived, Kovacevic was already dead. The night before his death Kovacevic suffered a serious kidney attack. After he was given an injection at the hospital, he was promptly brought back to his cell. When the inmates asked why Kovacevic did not stay at the hospital until he recovered, the doctor replied: “There was no need, he had a kidney attack. I gave him an injection and he felt better.”
Chief of police in the town of Foca and a martial arts instructor, Dragan Gagovic, indicted for war crimes in June of 1996, was shot by the French SFOR troops “in self-defense” (the troops claimed that Gagovic directed his vehicle at high speed toward them before they opened fire) on his way home from a karate practice. Five of his students (children aged between eight and twelve) were in the vehicle during the incident, and luckily none of them were hurt. State Department’s spokesperson, James Rubin, drew the following conclusion from the incident: “This action serves as a warning to all indicted war criminals to bear the consequences and responsibility for their actions.” Similarly, Simo Drljaca, a police chief in the town of Prijedor, indicted for genocide, was killed in July 1997 in the Clinton and Blair approved “Operation Tango” while swimming in a lake with his son and brother-in-law. It took four tanks and three helicopters manned by British Special Air Service commandos to shoot Drljaca dead, again in self-defense. “It was the right thing to do” is what Bill Clinton had to say about the incident. Drljaca’s teenage son was returned home from prison late that same night with visible bodily injuries. In “self-defense” the American SFOR troops also killed Krsta Micic, an unarmed man who confronted the soldiers who were harassing Bosnian Serb girls at the restaurant in the town of Ugljevik.
Dragomir Abazovic, a man sought by the Bosnian State Prosecution for alleged war crimes committed in Sarajevo, was seriously injured by the soldiers of the European Union Force (EUFOR). Injured also was Dragomir’s eleven-year-old son Dragoljub, while his wife was Rada was killed by the same culprits. EUFOR spokesman, Thomas Jem, stated that Dragomir shot himself in the head and that Dragoljub’s son and wife were shot at only after they fired their weapons at the EUFOR soldiers.
Just imagine how livid the American public would be if a group of Iraqi commandoes barged into the George W. Bush Congressional Library and Museum and executed him while he was carefully rereading The Pet Goat, or how indignant the British would be if a dozen Libyan soldiers abducted David Cameron while he was munching on crisps in a comfortable chair and savoring every word of the Three Little Pigs?
General Djordje Djukic, a man who was never indicted, was kidnapped in February 1996 by Bosnian Muslims and brought to Hague to testify against other Bosnian Serbs. Since no valuable information was extracted from him during his three-month stay in Hague, Djukic was allowed to go home to die of his untreated cancer.
Mayor of the town of Vukovar and a Croatian Serb, Slavko Dokmanovic, accused of war crimes, was secretly added to the “Vukovar indictment.” Slavko was illegally abducted and sent to the ICTY. In June of 1998, the accused allegedly hanged himself in his cell. The Associated Press wrote the following about the incident: “… Dokmanovic had complained through his lawyers of feeling depressed and had been visited regularly by a psychiatrist, but he never hinted he was suicidal. In fact, he was seen as having a good chance at acquittal.” The Hague officials claim that Dokmanovic was placed on suicide watch, but yet he was allowed to keep his tie and an electric razor. Witnesses summoned by the defense testified that Slavko Dokmanovic was in a different place at the time of the Vukovar hospital massacre, for which he was accused.
The most famous case of a Serb political leader dying in prison before the closure of his trial is the one of Slobodan Milosevic, President of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia from 1997 to 2000.In the middle of the NATO bombing of Serbia, ICTY charged him with genocide and other war crimes. He died of a heart attack in his prison cell in March 2006. Milosevic’s colleague, Zivorad Jovanovic, claims that Milosevic was not afforded with adequate medical care. Furthermore, Jovanovic explains that Russia offered its doctor to treat Milosevic, but that the Tribunal rejected the request. For a while, the only medicine that was offered to a man who suffered from chronic heart problems was one aspirin a day. Russian physician from the renowned Bakulev Institute, Dr. Leo A. Boqueria, said the following about Milosevic’s faith: “The last three years we have consistently, but unsuccessfully, insisted that Milosevic needed to be sent to the hospital so that the exact diagnosis could be found. Had Milosevic been allowed to go to any specialist clinic, such as, for example, our medical center, and received appropriate treatment, he would have lived much longer. “
The mentioned cases are only a drop in the ocean of ICTY’s transgressions toward indicted Serbs. The Hague war crimes tribunal has indicted 161 people, and more than half of them are Serbs, who have been collectively given a 1,000-year-long prison sentence. Altogether, nine people have perished in Hague (of which seven are Serbs: Djordje Djukić, Slavko Dokmanovic, Milan Kovacevic, Slobodan Milosevic, Momir Talic, Miroslav Deronjic, Milan Babic and Mile Mrksic) before their cases were brought to an end. Suffice it so say that, guilty or not, the accused should have been provided with an objective judicial setting in which they would be allowed to disprove the charges.
This imposed justice, supposedly created to maintain and restore international peace and security, and accompanied by the fact that those accused of committing atrocities against Serbs in the Yugoslav civil wars (especially the leading Albanian, Croatian, and Bosnian Muslim political and military figures) either died peacefully in their homes or continue to work as high-level government leaders and politicians in their respective countries, are the fundamental reasons why Serbs feel nothing but disdain for the ICTY. They are unwilling to accept that around thirty thousand dead Bosnian Serbs and more than half a million who were forced to leave their homes; and thousands more who were killed in Croatia (and around 200,000 who were ethnically cleansed and whose dwellings were destroyed in Croatia) deserve no justice and ought to be simply discarded like Cinderella’s old shoes.
It should then come as no surprise that the vast majority of Serbs think that the ICTY is a kangaroo court. In 2004, the research conducted by the Serbian Ministry of Human and Minority Rights revealed that three-fourths of the Serbian citizens believe that the Tribunal in Hague is a political rather than a legal institution.
The most unfortunate outcome of this absurdist tale (a thousand page Stephen King novel to the people of the former Yugoslavia and barely a haiku to the Western powers), coined abroad but carried out within the borders of Yugoslavia, is the increasingly greater chasm (As is evident from this video that shows what Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Serbs think about the trial of Radovan Karadzic) in the opinions of the people of different nationalities. The simplistic narrative of the conflict between the good and evil has left three sides understandably but uncritically imbibing the self-serving role of the unblemished victims, and it was supposed to (but failed due to the reasons mentioned in this article) burden Serbs with the kind of guilt and remorse many Germans have dealt with for decades after the Second World War. The imposed narrative of the Yugoslav civil wars has unleashed and amplified to the nth degree the already sizable animosity felt toward each other by the considerable percentage of the former Yugoslavia’s different national groups. “Us vs. Them” mentality (admittedly present in this article) is pervasive in the analysis of who should be held responsible for the breakup of Yugoslavia. While I would agree that dwelling on the past can often be paralyzing and unproductive, untimely forgetfulness and sloppy reconciliation efforts are perhaps even more dangerous. Regardless of the frequent efforts, the experience of those who have lived through the slaughter cannot be Disneyfied. The sum of intricacies in this continuing absurdist tale is astounding, and my cynical prediction—despite a genuine hope to witness the contrary–is that animosity and dwelling will continue to persist for many generations to come.