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INFO::: Transitional Justice > Facing the Past > Hypnotized State


Facing the Past

Hypnotized State

By Bojan al Pinto-Brkic

01/17/2006, Source: Helsinki Charter No 89-90


Theologians are keeping something from us. There is an irrational trait to state power that could hardly fit into the teaching that all power is from God (agnostics would say that all power is irrational). And to prove it, you don't even have to leave your armchair. In mid-December all media carried the news that following the report of the ICTY chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte to the UN Security Council, including her negative assessment of cooperation with Belgrade since six accused of war crimes, Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic among them, are still at large, a government minister was heard to say: "All is now in our hands."

No matter whether there is a dosage of complacency in this or not, you must agree that it is unusual for the minister of the police - now you understand - to speak about the arrest of people who have gravely violated the law respected by all countries as of something that is in our hands. The International Tribunal indicted them and issued an Interpol warrant, as the Serbian government must surely now. They are here, and nowhere else. Therefore, it is assumed that the whole thing is in the hands of the government and the police. It is not that it had been passed from hand to hand and then in mid-December ended in ours... To paraphrase the minister, it has been in our hands from the very start.

The pensioners in the park, the squirrels, would be willing, but are not authorized to round up the war crimes indictees. According to the rules of state organization established several hundred years ago, that should be the province of the men in blue and their colleagues in plain clothes, employed, trained, equipped and paid by the state to go after the transgressors against the law. This may be a novelty for the government. Maybe the interior minister was too young when he was arrested for a mischief, and then he was an honest man and read nothing. Maybe... The minister of justice Stojkovic should have advised him of the nature of the business, as a senior colleague who in his long working career arrested people, banned books and, generally, did whatever was required on orders of the higher instance (who knows if even prime minister Kostunica would have evaded his attention if only his past writings on pluralism had been more interesting). What has become of the wise heads, academician Beckovic, uncle Dobrica; where are they now when they are needed the most?

It is generally considered that it is in poor taste to let the police minister reflect the government's position on so important an issue. The fact that prime minister Kostunica and vice premier Labus should find minister Jocic the most appropriate person for this assignment can only be explained by the defeat of all their hopes. The Serbian government had long cherished the irrational hope that the extradition of the remaining war crimes indictees, most important in terms of the political responsibilities and the role of secret services in the wars waged by Serbia in the formerly Yugoslav republic, would simply be forgotten. As time went slowly by, the deadlines set by the West grew increasingly flexible and, from the point of view of the prime minister and his vice premier, there was apparently no reason for the government to risk losing the parliamentary support of the socialists and radicals by arresting, e.g. Ratko Mladic.

It is highly symptomatic that the government has so far dared to make only two arrests - that of Sreten Lukic, one of those in charge of operation "Saber", and Nebojsa Pavkovic, whose arrest hardly drew a tear. Goran Hadzic and Zdravko Tolimir were within the reach of the police, but their apprehension was considered unwise. Why? Because the great minds concluded that it was possible to manipulate with the pressure placed on the government due to the important developments that followed: the start up of negotiations on the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the EU and those on the future status of Kosovo and the relations within the state union.

The matrix borders on what we might call devious. Prime minister Kostunica's, government, appearing as the last bastion of democratic hopes in Serbia, requested the postponement of the deadline for the fulfillment of its obligations to the international community, saying that its implementation of reform measures exposed it to a tremendous pressure of backward elements both in the parliament and the electorate. At the same time, it enjoyed the steady support of the socialists, and the prime minister also kept building up relations with the radicals. The citizens watched this competition in patriotism without much interest. As for the reform measures, a part of the public believes that, in line with the well-known Lenin's maxim that quantity is to be transformed into quality. You only have to ask yourself how many of the 200 laws passed during 2005 reveal the actual split with the policy of crime and plunder of the 1990s, and the answer will be the true measure of the government's reform course.

Well, that is exactly what the international community has done. Its thousands of bureaucrats paid to set the policies for Serbia and other outsiders are, at least, good in arithmetic. The government received several messages to abandon all hope of avoiding the fulfillment of its obligations and the deadlines were shortened, endangering the continuation of the stabilization and association negotiations, intended as a kind of a carrot. Not that Serbia particularly deserved it, but they reckoned that some stimulation was in order, it being the largest of problematic countries.

The arrest of Ante Gotovina, the only remaining fugitive who was not a Serb, created an additional burden. It caught Belgrade unawares. It believed that as long as Croatia, which over the past six months seriously applied itself to apprehend Gotovina, failed to produce results in cooperation with The Hague, Serbia could do likewise, although it hardly did anything, except for staging a show search for Mladic along the Kolubara.

Carla del Ponte's report to the UN Security Council put an end to the international community's honeymoon with Serbia. We will soon see how unpleasant the course of developments for Serbia will become. Let us only say that it would be wiser to hand over the remaining part of Mladic's file, than to hide the pages that accuse of doing what everybody knows we are guilty of. Prime minister Kostunica, as acting president of the FRY in mid-2002 signed the decree on the retirement of Ratko Mladic, Yugoslav Army general, assigned to the 30th personnel center: is this fact likely to shock anyone at all?

In some places, it is indeed the matter for the government to decide how to lead its country towards the future. The citizens have a myriad ways - elections e.g. are the first to cross my mind - to express their dissatisfaction, to make some change. It is interesting to see how Prime Minister Kostunica and his team behave in this situation. They have lost all hope that they would not have to arrest and extradite the war crimes indictees. At one level, they admit that they are forced to the wall, or to put it in Jocic's words, have everything in their hands. But, on a higher, rational level, the one that demands logical action, the government stalls. It will do nothing but wait to face the sanctions for defaulting on its obligations.

The seemingly perfect peace cannot be disrupted by the lack of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal in the year that will witness the creation of two new states in our immediate neighborhood, on the territory which has until recently, so to speak, been ours. Prime minister Kostunica shall in his professorial manner instruct the international community about the violation of law and the fact that the independence of Kosovo and Montenegro will open Pandora's box, while vice premier Labus will keep on tugging at the sleeves of foreigners, promising everything and anything, only to keep the G17 Plus their favorite contact address in Serbia. Other ministers shall try to leave some impression in their respective fiefs before their terms of office expire, to create themselves a chance for new employment, while Jocic will continue to fill the anthologies of political quotations with his statements.

The war crimes indictees, like hypnotists of a kind, seem to have spellbound the reality of the state that hides them.


Bojan Al Pinto Brkic



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