REGIONAL REPORT:

Joining the Milosevic indictments for alleged crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo reinforces the prosecutor's case for genocide in Bosnia

REGIONAL REPORT:

Joining the Milosevic indictments for alleged crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo reinforces the prosecutor's case for genocide in Bosnia

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005

Bosnia: The Greater Serbia Project


The decision to prosecute former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic in a single trial will help to prove that he planned to establish a Greater Serbia and in doing so strengthen efforts to convict him for genocide in Bosnia, Federation politicians say.


The so-called "Greater Serbia Project", it's argued, encompassed a clearly defined plan by the Serbian authorities to annex Serb-populated areas of neighbouring Yugoslav republics. It revolved around the expulsion of other ethnic groups.


Many non-Serbs were killed in the ethnic cleansing of Croatia, Kosovo and Bosnia, but only in the latter were they murdered on such a large scale to justify genocide charges.


The Greater Serbia Project, devised by Serbian intellectuals, was championed by Milosevic and his cronies as means of fueling the nationalist frenzy that helped to bring them to power.


A huge array of organisations and individuals were enlisted to implement the plan - details of which are likely to be revealed in the Milosevic trial, providing vital evidence for the genocide charges.


Alija Izetbegovic, former Bosnian president and wartime leader, says prosecutors need to chart the course of Milosevic's ethnic cleansing - and the best way of doing that is by joining in the indictments for Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.


Another supporter of a single trial is Kasim Trnka, the lawyer in charge of Bosnia's attempts to sue Yugoslavia for aggression. "Milosevic's trial will prove that the BiH [Bosnia-Herzegovina] charges against Yugoslavia are well founded," he said.


Niko Lozanic, a member of the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, presidency in Bosnia, said Milosevic had the same aims in Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina - namely aggression and the creation of a Greater Serbia.


"Even in the past the HDZ believed that Milosevic should face a single trial because more or less the same things are involved in each of the indictments. He is guilty of genocide in Kosovo as well, so there is no reason to treat that separately," he said.


But there are some opposed to the joint trial. Mirko Pejanovic, head of the Serb civil council, believes Milosevic should face a separate prosecution for his alleged crimes in Bosnia, given the scale of the crimes concerned.


"What happened in BiH was a consequence of a separate project of ethnic division and genocide, all aimed at carrying out the project of Greater Serbia" said Pejanovic.


Kada Hodzic, a member of the Association of Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa, would also prefer a special Bosnia trial. She lost her son and husband in the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 and argues the "crimes, massacres and genocide in BiH" require separate treatment.


"But the most important thing is that Milosevic is at The Hague and that he will be tried," she added.


Other observers in Sarajevo suspect the joint trial is a ploy by the tribunal to shore up an otherwise shaky Kosovo indictment. They argue prosecutors do not have enough evidence from the province to prosecute Milosevic if the case was to be heard in isolation.


Some suspect that Kosovo Albanian leaders may use the conviction of Milosevic for crimes in Kosovo to strengthen their claims for independence. Bosnia's representatives have never supported the province's secessionist demands, fearful they would prompt Republika Srpska to do the same.


Meanwhile, some in the latter are afraid the very existence of the entity, already damaged by the genocide conviction against the Bosnian Serb wartime general Radislav Krstic, could be called into question if Milosevic too is convicted on that charge.


There have been no official reactions in Republika Srpska to the decision to prosecute Milosevic in a single trial.


Outside the Serb entity, many people, especially the victims of crimes, have high expectations of the Milosevic trial. They hope it will shed light on the scope of the crimes he committed in Bosnia, particularly the genocide, they believe, he perpetrated against the non-Serb population.


Amra Kebo is an IWPR's Assistant Editor in Sarajevo and editor of the daily Oslobodjenje. She is also a member of IWPR's war crimes reporting network.


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