Charles Crawford: Bosnia will be the real loser in this messy legal battle

Share
Related Topics

Once more, the London courts may find themselves making far-reaching legal rulings with momentous political implications for other countries. In 1998, the alleged crimes of Augusto Pinochet became the focus of the courts right up to the House of Lords when the former Chilean dictator was arrested in London.

Now we face the startling possibility that charges laid by Serbia against Ejup Ganic and the events of the Dobrovoljacka Street killings in Sarajevo in 1992 will turn into another protracted, bitter Pinochet-esque legal drama. A magnificent opportunity for top lawyers, but not a process likely to promote peace and reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia.

In April 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina proclaimed itself independent of what remained of Yugoslavia. This forced to the fore the status of Yugoslav military forces loyal to Belgrade but still on Bosnia's territory.

A violent lunge by the Yugoslav Army (JNA) aimed at seizing key Sarajevo buildings was beaten back. The JNA barracks in Sarajevo were then surrounded by Bosnian forces on 2 May. Meanwhile, Bosniac leader Alija Izetbegovic was captured by JNA soldiers at Sarajevo airport. The UN negotiated an arrangement with the Bosnian leadership – including Presidency member Ganic himself in Izetbegovic's absence – to free Izetbegovic in return for safe passage by the JNA soldiers out of Sarajevo.

It all went wrong. Bosniac forces attacked the JNA convoy – led by UN personnel flying UN flags – at point-blank range, reportedly killing a score or more (the numbers of casualties are hotly disputed). Izetbegovic escaped.

This action from the start was claimed by the Serbs to be the highest perfidy. Ejup Ganic, one of the most "Western" and indeed "Yugoslav" of the Bosniac leadership, was accused by the Serbs for ordering or at least presiding over the killings. He denied responsibility.

In the countless subsequent horrors of the Bosnian conflict culminating in the Srebrenica massacre, this episode has faded from memory in Western capitals. But Serbs in Bosnia and Serbia have not forgotten Dobrovoljacka Street.

Political tensions between Bosnia and Serbia are running high. Serbia commendably has sent to the Hague Tribunal an impressive number of its former political and military leaders. But General Mladic, the Serb accused of the worst crimes of all, is still at large. Until he faces justice, Serbia's moral case for winning Mr Ganic's extradition hovers just above Absolute Zero.

That said, the Bosniacs too have shown themselves unable and unwilling to confront massacres committed by their side. Mr Ganic will have all the resources he needs to fight extradition. Belgrade too will strive to insist that he be handed over.

If the issue is not resolved quickly a long and brutal legal battle will ensue. Just what neither Bosnia nor Serbia need.



Charles Crawford served as British Ambassador in Sarajevo from 1996-98 and then in Belgrade from 2001-2003. He has written extensively about former Yugoslavia on his website www.charlescrawford.biz

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Web developer (C#, MVC4, HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, Jquery)

£30000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

Senior Automation QA Engineer (Java, Selenium WebDriver, Agile)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Senior A...

Web developer (C#.NET, ASP.NET, MVC3/4, HTML5, CSS3, JAVASCRIPT

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the country's Independence Day in New Delhi, India  

With Modi talking tough and Sharif weak, the India-Pakistan love-in could never last

Andrew Buncombe
At the time of the investigation Patrick Foster published a statement on Twitter, denouncing the “unnecessarily heavy-handed police investigation”  

Long-term bail allows lazy police and prosecutors to leave cases to gather dust

Oliver Wright
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment