The Yugoslav tribunal has not been undermined by the death of Slobodan Milosevicby Tim Judah / April 23, 2006 / Leave a comment
Ever since the death of Slobodan Milosevic on 11th March, commentators have been twittering about the failure of the Yugoslav tribunal and the further blow that Milosevic has dealt it by dying. They are mainly talking nonsense.
The UN’s international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, to give it its full name, which is based in The Hague, has been from its beginning in 1993, an experiment. What else could it be, since international justice, from the Milosevic case to Saddam to the international criminal court, is a form of evolving law? Clearly the Yugoslav tribunal has made some bad mistakes, and it has been highly bureaucratic. But all too often, those who dismiss it are ignorant of the effect it has had on real people and places.
A few weeks ago I took a bus from Sarajevo to Belgrade. A couple of hours after we left, the bus stopped at a gleaming, brightly lit new petrol station so that passengers could go to the toilet and have a cup of coffee. Along the road it was very dark and there was no other traffic. For a few minutes I just stood there, straining to see what I could in the hills, remembering the wartime Serbian checkpoint here and above all trying to remember all of the awful things that happened nearby.
We were at Konjevic Polje, a village built around a crossroads. One way leads to Belgrade, the other leads to Srebrenica. At the beginning of the Bosnian war in 1992, Konjevic Polje held out for some months before falling to Serb forces who needed this strategic location. When Bosnian Muslim-held Srebrenica fell in the summer of 1995, thousands of its men fled this way. Many of them were caught close by, rounded up and then executed. A few miles away, up the road at Kravica, you can find the hangar where 1,500 were mown down in cold blood. The bullet holes are still visible.
Kravica was raided by Muslim forces on Orthodox Christmas day in 1993—49 Serbs were killed. The next village is Hranca. I remember seeing here, right at the beginning of the war, the little body of seven-year-old Selma Hodzic, who had been killed the day before by Serbian paramilitaries.
The Hague matters to people around here. On Srebrenica, for example, a finding of genocide has already been handed down. Emir Suljagic, a Srebrenica survivor…