The Social Affairs Unit

Print Version • Website Home • Weblog Home


Use the buttons below to change the style and font size of our site.
Screen version     Print version:   
April 19, 2010

In the case against former Bosnian Vice-President Ejup Ganic, war crimes legislation is being used by perpetrators of genocide to prosecute a victim of genocide - argues Brendan Simms

Posted by Brendan Simms

Brendan Simms - Professor in the History of International Relations at the Centre of International Studies at the University of Cambridge - examines how war crimes legislation is being abused to prosecute and persecute a victim of genocide for trying to defend himself and his people.

In early March of this year, the former Bosnian Vice-President Ejup Ganic was arrested at Heathrow by British police. He was returning from a Degree ceremony at the private University of Buckingham, which he attended as President of its partnered institution, the University of Sarajevo School of Science and Technology. Ganic had been a frequent visitor to Britain, but this seems to have been his first trip since the War Crimes Section of the Serbian Prosecutor's office (re-) opened the case into the deaths of Yugoslav People's Army soldiers in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo in May 1992. Last Tuesday, a London court, acting on Home Office advice, agreed that the process to extradite Mr Ganic to Serbia could go ahead.

Ganic's treatment is scandalous at several levels. Firstly, he was not allowed to contact anybody for three days, not even his lawyer or the Bosnian ambassador. He was not permitted to keep any personal belongings in the cell, not even pen or paper. This was a clear breach of the stipulations of the Extradition Act of 2003, part 4 Section 171, which sets out the rights of the detainee.

Secondly, Serbia's warrant against Ganic violated the Rome Agreement between Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia in 1996. This stipulated that signatory states would ask the opinion of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) before indicting nationals of another signatory country. In fact, several years before, the ICTY had investigated the charges against Ganic and stated that he had no case to answer. His arrest is based purely on a bilateral agreement signed between Serbia and the United Kingdom in 2002.

The charges themselves are a travesty. Ganic is accused of having masterminded an attack on a Yugoslav Army column leaving Sarajevo on 3 May 1992, violating an agreement to release the garrison bottled up in central Sarajevo in return for the release of Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic who had been kidnapped by Yugoslav troops on his return from peace negotiations in Lisbon.

Let us leave aside the nature of this "agreement", which was extracted under duress by a force which had unsuccessfully attempted to take Sarajevo by storm the day before, was in league with Bosnian Serb militias shelling the city from the surrounding hills, was illegally present on Bosnian soil and was holding its President unlawfully. The simple fact is that Ganic himself, though nominally in charge of the country during Izetbegovic's detention, had no means of communicating with anybody, not least because the Serbs had destroyed all communications links. Thus far, the Serbian government has supplied no evidence that soldiers were murdered after surrendering, or that Ganic had any part in the attack at all. It is therefore astonishing that the Home Office and the courts have allowed the case to get as far as it has.

What is even more worrying about al this, is the light it throws on Serbian politics. Elements within the Serbian establishment, are still wedded to the agenda of the 1990s. The Serbian warrant stated that the alleged crime had taken place in Sarajevo "Serbia" despite the fact that Bosnia-Herzegovina had already been recognised as a sovereign state, and the fact that Bosnia had never been part of even the pre-1992 Yugoslavia. Astonishingly, the London Judge did not throw the case out on the simple ground that the warrant was invalid.

More generally, the pursuit of Ganic is designed to suggest a moral equivalence between Belgrade/Pale and Sarajevo, and to excuse the continuing failure to arrest Radko Mladic for his involvement in the Srebrenica massacre of July 1995, when about 7,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered in cold blood. No wonder that Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco, President of the laywers Committee for Human Rights of Serbia remarked, even before the arrest, that "the investigation looks like some political demonstration by the Serbian prosecution".

The advocates of international law speak of it as the "gentle civilizer of nations", which will constrain the strong and protect the weak. This noble aspiration has often been confounded by the practical application of the reciprocal regimes agreed by international community. These have tended to hobble the powerful and goodwilling - who wants to be accused of war crimes while conducting a humanitarian intervention one could duck out of - while doing little to deter the powerful and ill-intentioned, in Darfur and elsewhere.

If few could object to the detention of Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet for two years (though some did), the threatened arrest of Tsipi Livni, Foreign minister of a democratic state trying to defend itself from terrorist attack, on the basis of a warrant obtained by pro-Palestinian groups, began to ring alarm bells. But even in their worst dreams, the sceptics cannot have imagined that the war crimes legislation so painstakingly enacted over the past fifteen years or so would actually be used to prosecute a victim of genocide for trying to defend himself and his people.

The author thanks Miss Katie Jenner for research carried out in support of this piece.

Dr Brendan Simms is Professor in the History of International Relations at the Centre of International Studies at the University of Cambridge and co-President of the Henry Jackson Society.


Comments Notice
This comments facility is the property of the Social Affairs Unit.
We reserve the right to edit, amend or remove comments for legal reasons, policy reasons or any other reasons we judge fit.

By posting comments here you accept and acknowledge the Social Affairs Unit's absolute and unfettered right to edit your comments as set out above.
Comments

If few could object to the detention of Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet for two years (though some did), the threatened arrest of Tsipi Livni, Foreign minister of a democratic state trying to defend itself from terrorist attack, on the basis of a warrant obtained by pro-Palestinian groups, began to ring alarm bells. But even in their worst dreams, the sceptics cannot have imagined that the war crimes legislation so painstakingly enacted over the past fifteen years or so would actually be used to prosecute a victim of genocide for trying to defend himself and his people.

Posted by: منتديات at June 24, 2010 08:17 PM
•••
Post a comment








Anti-spambot Turing code







Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, this site is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

The Social Affairs Unit's weblog Privacy Statement