A Country Unmasked
Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror and Atrocity
Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals
Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice
Kosovo Report: Conflict, International Response, Lessons Learned
For Humanity: Reflections of a War Crimes Investigator
In an interview with Le Figaro in December Vojislav Kostunica, the president of Yugoslavia, objected once again to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Among other failings, he said, it was biased against Serbs. Yet he apparently felt he could not rule out every attempt to confront the crimes of the past. As an alternative to sending his predecessor, Slobodan Milosevic, to The Hague, Kostunica said he supported a Yugoslav inquiry modeled on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
The TRC has aroused interest in many places, though not everyone sees such a commission as a substitute for trials. In Yugoslavia, the man who has done most to make people aware of the TRC has been Veran Matic, the country’s best-known independent journalist. His Radio B92 was outspoken and irreverent throughout the years of Milosevic in the face of constant harassment, and the station continues in its independent and critical ways since his ouster. At Matic’s initiative, Alex Boraine, deputy chairman of the South African Truth Commission, visited Belgrade in October 1999, nearly a year before the elections that brought Milosevic down, to talk about what happened in South Africa. Matic also arranged the publication in Serbian translation of Country of My Skull, a beautifully written and emotionally intense book about the TRC by Antjie Krog, an Afrikaans poet who reported on it as a radio journalist for the South African Broadcasting Company. It is one of a se-ries of translations published by Matic that examine accountability for crimes against humanity, including such classics as Karl Jaspers’s The Question of German Guilt and Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem.
Veran Matic is trying to make Serbs think about their responsibility for what happened in the countries of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. So far there is little indication that they have begun that process. President Kostunica, for his part, seems mainly intent on arguing that only Serbs should sit in judgment of their fellow Serbs. He criticizes the Hague tribunal, claiming that it is a tool of the US and that its chief prosecutor, Carla del Ponte of Switzerland, does not respect the presumption of innocence. (When he saw her in Belgrade on January 23, their meeting ended in an impasse. Del Ponte says that the new Yugoslav president refused to acknowledge that Serbs committed any war crimes whatever, and that he portrayed Serbs exclusively as victims.) Kostunica has also talked about the possibility that a Serbian court might try Milosevic for corruption. Serbia’s new prime minister, Zoran Djindjic, has said that Milosevic “will first have to answer in Serbia for all the terrible things he has done—starting from corruption, crime, election fraud, and ordering murders,” apparently referring to a number of gangland-style shootings of former Milosevic associates.
What both men fail to acknowledge is that Milosevic’s crimes against Serbs are dwarfed by what he did to non-Serbs. The Hague tribunal has publicly indicted him for …
This article is available to subscribers only.
Please choose from one of the options below to access this article:
Purchase a print premium subscription (20 issues per year) and also receive online access to all all content on nybooks.com.
Purchase an Online Edition subscription and receive full access to all articles published by the Review since 1963.