Is there justice in the former Yugoslavia? When people walk free, nobody believes in the cases anymore, says Sanja Ivačić, a foreign editor for the Beta News Agency in Serbia.
“I work for an independent news agency. It was founded by a group of experienced journalists who worked for the state agency, which had a good reputation abroad. When the Yugoslav wars (1991-2001) started, it became a propaganda machine, like all state media in the former Yugoslav countries. Some journalists couldn’t stand it and stepped out.
“For ordinary people – because of the war propaganda – it is very difficult to understand that Serbian soldiers committed atrocities and crimes. The state news told us that others were committing those atrocities.
“When The Hague trials started, it was a chance for the people to hear the truth. I thought it was a very good idea to have an international court. I’m not sure if local courts were capable of a fair trial, nor if they are today.
“I‘m disappointed in the results of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Maybe the court is too bureaucratic. Maybe it’s because it is an ad hoc tribunal. It hasn’t helped as much as it should have.
“The case of Vojislav Šešelj is unbelievable. Why did the trial against Šešelj take such a long time? Why couldn’t they finish the job? He’s creating all kinds of obstacles. They just do not know what to do with him. Now they say he’s ill. Maybe he really is. The ICTY sent him home – without any conditions – and now they want him back. It’s a shame for The Hague.
“When you wait for a judgement for twelve years and people walk free, then nobody believes in the cases anymore. We’ve lost the chance to learn the truth, to face the past and teach our children what really happened.
“Those who have been on trial – from all parts of the former Yugoslavia – are heroes in their own countries when they come back from The Hague. What does that mean?
“I don’t know what justice is. It’s good it exists. I can’t imagine what would have happened without The Hague tribunal. What then? Who would have been tried then? No one. All our countries needed pressure from abroad to find them and to arrest them. Maybe that’s the positive side.”
Lead image: Sanja Ivačić (Photo: Sophie van Leeuwen/Justice Hub)
My Justice highlights the stories of individuals who work in the field of international justice or who have been affected by it and asks what does justice mean to them.