Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

International Justice/ICTY: Sep ‘08

IWPR credited with promoting the discussion of war crimes justice issues.
NGO activists across the Balkans have told IWPR that its Facing Justice radio programme is helping to prepare the ground for reconciliation in the region.

Facing Justice, a weekly programme on war crimes justice, jointly produced with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, is broadcast by the latter and also rebroadcast by many radio stations in former Yugoslavia.

Edin Ramulic, from the victims group Izvor in Prijedor, north-west Bosnia, who witnessed war crimes committed against his closest relatives and friends, says the programme is playing an important role.

“We need to talk about war crimes constantly, regardless of the fact that people in this country sometimes feel they've had enough of the subject and want to run away from the traumas of the war,” he said.

“You should continue with your work because programmes which pay serious attention to these problems are rare.

“The public in Bosnia needs to hear more about these topics, through reports that will touch their soul and make them think. Without that we will not be able to go through each of the healing phases – from facing the facts to rebuilding the trust among people of different nationalities in Bosnia.”.

Adis Arapovic, from Sarajevo-based NGO Centres of Civil Initiatives, says it's necessary to discuss war crimes issues “objectively and unpretentiously, they way Facing Justice does it”.

“Peace and coexistence are not possible without justice, justice is not possible without the truth. It is necessary for all people in Bosnia to know what that truth is so that they can accept it,” he said.

Human rights activist from Serbia and granddaughter of former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito, Svetlana Broz, says issues that Facing Justice deals with are “without any doubt extremely important for the whole region”.

“Very few programmes discuss these topics in such detail and they are necessary for the process of facing the truth about recent wars in the Balkans and reconciliation,” she said.

In a separate development, analysts have been discussing an IWPR report on a Belgrade conference on war crimes committed against non-Serb population in northern Bosnian town of Brcko in 1992.

Organisers hoped this event would encourage the creation of a regional commission to establish the truth about war crimes Bosnia and Croatia between 1991-95 and in Kosovo between 1998-2000.

As part of a plan to raise public awareness about atrocities committed during the Balkan wars, Bosnian war crimes victims told this conference about abuses they were subjected to in Brcko in 1992.

Commenting on the IWPR article, Voices of Victims Heard at Belgrade Conference, by Aleksandar Roknic, political analyst from Serbia, Dejan Vuk Stankovic, said conferences like this one are “important for establishing the truth about the wars in the former Yugoslavia”.

“However, creating a regional commission for establishing the truth about war crimes depends on the readiness of political elites in the region to accept this idea,” he said. “No matter how important this project seems to be, it will have to wait because I’m not sure that the political climate is right yet. For example, politicians in Serbia – with few exceptions – are not ready even to talk about this subject yet.”

He added that all countries in the region have to express their willingness to accept this initiative.

“The idea of such a commission is justified from a moral, legal and political point of view, but we will have to wait some time before we see it established. However, introducing this subject to the public is a step in the right direction and in that sense this conference and subsequent reporting on it can definitely help prepare the ground for that commission,” said Stankovic.