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October 11, 1994
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 160
Stojan Cerovic's Diary

Candidates For The Hague Court

It is nice to look forward to the end of the war, but the recent visit of Hague Prosecutor Richard Goldstone to Zagreb, Sarajevo and Belgrade reminded many participants in the war that they would not find peace in peacetime. The newspapers carried a picture of a large building in The Hague which is being reconstructed and adapted to fulfill the modest requirements of its future tenants. They know what they have done without the court telling them; they know why they did what they did; and they also know that the court will not be able to appreciate their motives and justifications. This is why they hope that nothing will happen, at least not for the time being.

But, life can be unpleasantly long, and this is something that those who cut short the lives of others still have to discover. Crimes grow cold with time, and they are judged according to civic, peacetime laws, and so become unreasonable and incomprehensible. They also have to be lived with over the coming decades while seeing everything turn out differently and the holy goals of the war fade and slowly pass into oblivion.

According to experience from previous wars, very few criminals were later able to function as normal human beings. This is the reason why some rifles in a firing squad have real bullets and others duds, so that each of the executors can tell himself that it wasn't his bullet that killed. In this case, many would probably feel better if they were given medals for courage and so became heroes or patriots; this is what would have happened if the international public hadn't become involved and the International Tribunal for War Crimes not been established. The court could go on working for years, waiting patiently for all of the criminals. Not all will be brought before the court, but it will help turn glory to shame here, so that we may learn once again that we must not lie to ourselves over who did what in this war.

This is one of the inevitable steps on the road to being accepted by the world again, regardless of what our Federal Minister of Justice may think of the matter. Our feelings of justice may differ somewhat from others'; our deeds might look nicer to us than to the rest of the world and vice versa; but we cannot have morals and laws contrary to the rest of the world; we cannot proclaim that which is considered a crime elsewhere to be an accomplishment and at the same time be part of that same world. The Hague is an opportunity for us to recall international norms which we derided while we were busy with great national undertakings. I don't believe that the Ministry of Justice's resistance will last very long. It will certainly last less than the Court, which will survive many ministers. The reasons for not recognizing the Hague Court are characteristic. It is claimed that it is not a standing court, that it has been set up ad hoc, just because of this war of ours, which means that it is not independent. If only those being tried at Nuremberg had thought of this!

It is said that we will try our criminals, as if a war as criminal as this one would have been possible if there had been normal courts and laws here in the first place. Some of this might not have happened had there been a fundamental change of authority here, but what regime will voluntarily judge its men and allow an independent court to follow the line of guilt even to the very top of the regime. This only happened to a US President, but he managed to avoid jail and retired. On the other hand, the courts in Italy recently managed to clean up the entire structure of state authority on corruption charges.

I think that in this parish of ours no difference is made between God's and man's justice. This is the reason for a tendency towards absolute justice, and since this is not possible, then everything goes and all courts are equally good or bad, and no one is better than anyone else and none can judge others, so that there is no justice. God's justice serves only to justify man's injustice. This is why our Ministry of Justice demands a standing court and complains that war criminals have not yet been tried, i.e. it demands total justice in order to avoid all justice.

Human justice is more practical and realistic than God's. It aims at satisfying a general feeling of justice and in well-organized states it keeps expanding, even though it still often stops short before the doors of the big and the powerful. That is why former US President Richard Nixon got off, and it is possible that the Hague Court will have to look the other way if it is proved that the biggest offenders are simply inaccessible, unlike the ones in Nuremberg.

Realistic limits will be established, so that we can expect haggling of the sort: give us ten middle ones and the small fry and we will abandon claims for the big ones. There will certainly be a lot of wrangling over extradition and I won't be surprised if many a swaggering volunteer soon stands in line for plastic surgery. The current rejection of Hague-meted justice only means that this too will become the subject of trade and barter aimed at lifting sanctions, something which cannot be criticized. One trades with what one has and we have unnecessarily large stocks of patriotism of dubious quality.

As far as I know, they would also like to judge their criminals by themselves in Zagreb and Sarajevo. They too are afraid that the Hague Court might not handle them with the necessary care, but prosecutor Goldstone said that Croatia and Bosnia have agreed to cooperate. This is because they have nothing to trade with, i.e. they have nothing to ask for in return. But Milosevic is capable of turning everything into politics and can count on the fact that wrangling and stalling over various extraditions might open up new possibilities for finishing some business at home. I don't think that he will allow any automaticism and will want to have the final say on who will and who won't be extradited. It could happen that candidates for the Hague become the regime's staunchest supporters, because a war crimes' mortgage is the strongest guarantee of absolute loyalty and the best qualification for carrying out state business.

On the Serbian side, this sequence of developments is still part of dreams and wishes. For all who have violated International Humanitarian Law, who ordered, allowed, participated, didn't prevent or butchered someone on their own initiative, the choice still hasn't narrowed down to the moment when it becomes necessary to visit a ministry, office, administration---or The Hague. As long as the Bosnian Serb Republic is around, one need just cross the Drina River.

In this state, which outlaws running from justice and law have closed off, there is no fear of The Hague, but there isn't much else either. It is difficult to get out of the Bosnian Serb Republic, but it is certainly more spacious than that jail in the Netherlands. I don't know if the food is better, and as far as women are concerned, it doesn't really matter. Bosnian Serb Assembly Speaker Momcilo Krajisnik said that they were building a state in macho style, which means that there is no place or work for women in it. The way things stand, they will purge the state sexually, claiming that they are fighting against fundamentalism. In this way, a paradise for male Serbs will be created across the Drina River, and Serbia and the rest of the world can die of jealousy.

It has occurred to me that the late Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) leader in Croatia Jovan Raskovic knew what he was talking about when he said that only homosexuals were still not against the Serbs. He probably understood the hidden nature of the national movement three years ago and realized where things could end.

Apart from liberating themselves of women, Momcilo Krajisnik said from the male side of the Drina River, that they would not agree to any kind of a confederation with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but only a single state. If this should prove impossible, they will allegedly adopt the reserve option of an independent state, one which tipped the scales long ago, i.e. since it became obvious that some women on the Yugoslav side of the Drina River were demanding to have a say in matters.

I see that I have reached the end, and that I haven't managed to get worried or excited over the fate of the independent media or the possibility of new elections. I certainly wouldn't wish to spit into my plate, but I don't feel that anything particularly dramatic is happening to the media. The main job has been done long ago; who survived---survived, and I don't know what else there is of great importance that the independent media could publish or broadcast, something that hasn't been said and that the authorities wish to prevent at all costs. And what kind of a change would we feel if elections were scheduled soon or if they weren't? Haven't we proved that we are thick-skinned and can endure anything?

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