Search This Blog

Friday, May 3, 2013

ILLOGICAL PARALLELS in the Balkans Part 1

The scene

"I could see Territorial Defense soldiers push the rifles through the windows of civilians cars, which were part of the convoy, and shoot (...) I saw blood flow down the windshields. It was definitely the worst day of my life."

 Eyewitness account, Canadian general Lewis McKenzie - from the book

" Peacekeeper: The Road to Sarajevo”

This shooting of army personnel took place in broad daylight, under the noses of the UN forces, which helped to negotiate a safe passage for the soldier & officers of the Yugoslav Army, (JNA).   The fatalities not only included Serbs, but also Croats and Albanian service personnel of the JNA. Yet to this day, not a single person has been found responsible for the shootings, as in 2003, the ICTY ruled out that there was no ground for prosecution for anyone involved. Their decision was based on the fact that both parties were at war with each.   So what was the point of the UN, the Bosnian leadership and the Yugoslav military authorities in negotiating a safe passage in the first place?  Why was there a need for the JNA to have a safe passage out of Sarajevo, primarily because they had been besieged by the paramilitary Bosnian Territorial Defense Force. The JNA had wanted to get themselves out of the frying pan, only to end up in the fire (line of other TDF units), despite the personal assurances given both by UNPROFOR & also by President Izetbegovic,(no less), that the JNA forces would be given safe passage out of the city. 

"At that moment, units of the Bosnian Territorial Defense forces were blockading six army bases in Sarajevo, and it was expected that the Yugoslav Army would leave Sarajevo -- and Bosnia -- by the end of May." Jovan Divjak.

To add insult to injury, those behind shootings, deny any wrongdoing and justify their act by stating that they were provoked into this doing this.  The massacre took place on 3 May 1992 in Sarajevo, on Dobrovoljačka street.  If I was in the shoes of a senior officer during the conflict, I’d be naturally inclined to consider the expression “Once bitten, twice shy.  I’d be reluctant to consider any offers of safe withdrawal, given the likely bloody response.  However, it was not the only massacre that took place at that time, as another happened 12 days in the eastern town of Tulza and this was actually shown live on TV. 

The circumstances were exactly the same as in Dobrovoljačka ulica, in that it was well-planned ambushed service personnel, including medical staff.  At least 50 were killed and a number of the wounded were summarily executed and hundreds were taken into captivity. Bosnian authorities, say that they acted in self-defense and that Yugoslav soldiers fired first, yet the video does not show this at all. In fact the video shows a very different picture of the ambush. To quote the senior commander of the JNA in Tuzla, “If I had anticipated an attack, I’d have withdrawn the troops during the night.” 

Given that ICTY ruled that it was legitimate to attack retreating, unarmed army units, is it any wonder that a precedent has been set for future conflicts?

“Bitten more than twice now, very reluctantly shy” springs to mind. The bloody scenario was set in 1992 and no doubt heavily influenced later activities by all participants in the conflict. Let’s give the example of the withdrawal of an entire, armed Division of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ArBiH), but this time in July 1995.

There is a need for an honest appraisal of the facts, as well as allowing a degree of the truth about what happened during the war in Bosnia-Hercegovina, to come out.  True and meaningful reconciliation between peoples cannot be achieved without this. However this cannot be possible if some “war crimes” are less significant than others or indeed that some “war crimes” are thoroughly investigated & evaluated by the international community, and others are brushed under the carpet by the ICTY and other national courts.  There is a need for a balanced-focus approach towards implementing justice, not biased witch hunts.  

I'll you leave with the General once more:

 If I could convince both sides to stop killing their own people for CNN, perhaps we could have a ceasefire.
Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, United Nations Protection Force, Sarajevo, July 1992

No comments:

Post a Comment