Friday, March 02, 2007

Squaring the Circle: Full text

Full text of the Guardian Comment is Free Squaring a circle of hell See the link below.

The ICJ ruling was confusing, but at least Serbia is guilty of something. Unfortunately, they aren't the only ones.
Ian Williams

The ICJ judgment on Serbia's role in the Bosnian genocide was, as the diverse comments on this site have shown, confusing. Its demand for proof of clear instructions from Belgrade to the perpetrators of "acts of genocide", would have exonerated Adolf Hitler from the Holocaust - the even that inspired the genocide convention. The officers were seconded from the Yugoslav Army, paid by the Belgrade government and in constant communication with it. What is more, the Court itself found that Serbia is effectively sheltering those responsible even now.

Even so, the verdict was far from "Not guilty"; it was more like the Scottish law verdict of "not proven". It held that Serbia was guilty of not stopping an "act of genocide", in Srebrenica, which implies there was a chain of command responsibility going all the way back to Slobodan Milosevic. In fact, Milosevic did not appear to be motivated by the type of ethnic bloodlust of the more extreme Serbian nationalists, but he certainly tolerated it when it was politically expedient. He knew what Mladic was like and left him in charge.

On the other hand, by hedging on the question of Serbia's direct responsibility for genocide - and in particular by refusing compensation - the court has achieved two positive outcomes: it has avoided collectively punishing a people for deeds conducted by a state; and it has perhaps stopped sowing even more seeds on the ever-fertile soil of Serbian victimhood.

And by failing to go the whole way, the judges may have avoided the automatic dismissal of their findings. In fact, in any other circumstances - bearing in mind Washington's persistent hostility to the ICJ - the concept of the court as an American plot would be amusing. But that certainly was a common Serb view.

Judging from the behavior of Serb nationalist politicians and those who vote for them, there is only a slender likelihood of acknowledgement, let alone contrition, from a disturbingly large proportion of the population. It was, after all, the sense of victimhood that Milosevic so cynically exploited to maintain power. Even at this stage there is opposition to the Serbian parliament expressing contrition, and until the government hands over the perpetrators wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal it stands condemned by the verdict for violations of the genocide convention.

If Serb citizens, as individuals, have been spared the taxpayers' burden of paying reparations to the State of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia should recognize a debt to the individual victims, the orphans and widows of the massacre. Compensation and pensions for the victims would be a gesture that showed they were not just saying "sorry" in a half-hearted effort to comply with the Court.

And there should be others embarrassed as well. If Serbia is guilty of failing to prevent an act of genocide in Srebrenica, then so is the international community, whose forces set up alleged safe havens and refused to defend them; those who refused air strikes in support of the UN peacekeepers in the town; those who collaborated with the Serb forces during the war in maintaining the sieges of the Bosniak enclaves.

Perhaps even more responsibility rests with those at Dayton who rewarded the ethnic cleansers with control of half of Bosnia, including Srebrenica. Even though the Republika Srpska is rushing to apologize for the massacre, its very existence in the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina enshrines the apartheid principles of the ethnic cleansers. It is well past time to revisit the whole ramshackle arrangement, and integrate the country.

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