The Balkans: Bloggers Discuss the ICJ Verdict

Global Voices Online
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

On Monday, after nearly ten months of deliberation, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declared that the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre was an act of genocide, but that the pattern of the atrocities committed by Bosnian Serbs during the 1992-1995 war (which claimed more than 100,000 lives) was "too broad" to qualify for the definition of genocide. The ICJ also decided there was no sufficient evidence to pin the blame on Serbia.

Below is a selection of responses to the ICJ verdict by the Balkan and international bloggers writing in English.

On the eve of the verdict, Eric Gordy of East Ethnia posted this detailed analysis of what there was to expect from the ICJ and how the decision could influence the region's politics:

[...] This type of business will always be implicated in day to day politics. The Serbian Radical Party wants the country to quit the UN in the event of a guilty verdict. Afghanistan's parliament has passed a resolution granting amnesty to a whole hatful of powerful war criminals. And the general assembly of the state of Virginia has passed a resolution apologizing for slavery. Insistence on denial or opening up the books are pretty much the only options available. Time does not make anything go away.

In a comment to Gordy's post, Shaina (who blogs at Bosnia Vault) wrote:

[...] A few analysis I've read predicted a "compromise verdict"; although my own prediction is that a compromised verdict would just end up with both "sides" being unhappy; rather than just one.

When the verdict arrived, Bg anon left this comment, summarizing the mood in Belgrade:

Well we have it now - and dare I say it, a sigh of relief really.

I havent spotted any cock-a-hoping going on in the streets of Belgrade and quite right too. There is nothing to be happy about.

I think this day should be spent thinking about the victims of that pointless war and not on a sense of vindication or crippling disapointment.

In his next post, Gordy reviewed the initial reactions to the verdict in the Bosnian and Serbian political circles - and offered his own judgment:

The finding that a crime occurred but that nobody is guilty of committing it tends toward a bizarre sort of mysticism. And the finding that the Serbian state is not responsible seems to be based on a very strict interpretation of rules of evidence, in which the destruction or withholding of documentation may have proved to be an effective strategy, and indirect evidence was not treated as relevant. This seems to offer a sort of legal invitation to criminals to cover their tracks, and the precedent will probably be controversial.

He also mentioned a few other bloggers' views:

Not everyone will agree with me, of course. What I have seen in Blogland so far: Viktor Marković was hoping for a middle path and got it, while Neretva River flows colder, worried that the decision is a backhanded acquittal of Milošević. And Yakima Gulag finds the end run around the issue of guilt "lame assed" (and I have a feeling she is not thinking of an injured donkey).

One of the comments to this entry was written by Seesaw (aka Quod/Zdenka Pregelj), a 64-year-old Sarajevo resident whose photoblog offers beautiful images of the city - "the ones that you usually do not see":

[...] I am old enough to realize, few days before the decission on Kosovo, the ruling could not be different. (I live in Sarajevo now, as I did live then). I can agree on the part that Serbia did not commit genocide (what happened in Bosnia can not be compared with WWII), but to abolish Serbia from responsibilty, makes me wonder why did Đinđić bother (and got killed because of that), why did NATO bombard Belgrade... Many questions, and no answers.

(It seems Richard (H.) really and trully promissed to Radovan (K.) he will not be indicted - better to say arrested! But today this world is very far from any kind of justice. I only do hope other inhabitants in Bosnia will find the strength to live together, forgiving if not forgeting.

In his last post on the issue so far, Gordy opened up his blog to Andras Riedlmayer, a "friend of East Ethnia (and plaintiffs' witness)" - who was also cited by Bosnia Vault's Shaina, here:

A number of people on the political fringes have tried to show that a guilty verdict against Serbia would mean that Serbia is a “genocidal nation” and that the average Serb will have to bear a cross as being labeled part of a “genocidal people.”

[...] As Andras Riedlmayer explains here, in a way the the ICJ trial is not too different in concept from the trials of citizens suing towns or city halls for discrimination. An affirmation that one was discriminated against, does not render every single person in that town guilty of discrimination; but the specific people and city government institutions that are responsible for said act of discrimination.

Gordy, in the Waiting for the Verdict post mentioned above, also tackled the issue of collective blame/guilt:

[...] A guilty verdict would not change the criminal guilt of the people who ordered, facilitated and carried out crimes, nor would it change the legal innocence of the huge majority who did not. But it would mark a moment at which it would be appropriate to embark on various ways of recognizing responsibility. [...]

"You probably heard most of the news coverage on this event, but as the verdict is being read this very moment it occured to me that you maybe haven’t heard enough personal opinions on the matter, at least from the Serbian side," wrote Viktor Marković of Belgrade 2.0 in an entry titled My Verdict. Later, in the rather busy comment thread, he elaborated on his personal position regarding the ICJ's ruling:

I don’t feel guilty. But the genocide did happen. I feel ashamed for the monsters that did it and who thought they are doing me a favour by doing it. But i can’t feel guilty instead of someone else. Best and least i can do is to say that I am sorry that it happened.

That’s exactly what the court decided: Serbia is not guilty – but there was a genocide. [...]

Like i said this is the downside of the verdict – that there will always be someone to interpret this decision by saying that now, since Serbia is aquitted most charges, it is clear the genocide did not happen at all.

South East Europe Online's author - bytycci, "a graduate student preparing to start saving the world soon" - mentioned the anti-Kosovo independence rally held outside the U.S. embassy in Belgrade Tuesday in his post on the ICJ verdict; in the comments section, Bg anon argued that there was no connection between the two events; bytycci responded to that and also clarified his position on the politics behind the verdict:

I know the rally didn't have to do anything with the ICJ ruling. But it is one of the incidents of nationalist gloating in Serbia.

I am not saying that ICJ is politically motivated. I said this decision was politically motivated. It was meant to reduce tensions and say to Serbia "it's not true that the world hates you". And all it did was help the nationalists by giving them a reason to say "look we didn't do anything wrong".

More analysis, comments and links to the media coverage can be found at these blogs:

- Srebrenica Genocide Blog: here and here;

- YakimaGulagLiteraryGazett: here and here;

- 1948, an International Blog at the University of Leiden: photos and report from the Peace Palace in the Hague by Otto Spijkers;

- Publius Pundit: a post by Robert Mayer and a subsequent discussion;

- Gray Falcon: here;

- Byzantine Sacred Art Blog: here.

Finally, Neretva River wrote about a protest scheduled at the University of Sarajevo for Friday:

Meanwhile, on Friday all classes across all faculties at the University of Sarajevo will be canceled in protest of the ICJ decision, and Faruk Čaklovica, the university's rector called into question the mental health of ICJ judges.

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