Charles Crawford: Ejup Ganic and the 1992 Volunteer Street Massacre

Related Topics

The arrest of former Bosnian leader Ejup Ganic at Heathrow in response to an arrest warrant issued in Belgrade flows from events 18 years ago in Sarajevo.

Back in May 1992 the break-up of communist Yugoslavia was well under way. Slovenia and Croatia had been recognised as independent states. What of the remainder of Yugoslavia as these pieces fell off, above all the most ethnically complex (and contested) republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina?

The Bosnian Muslim (Bosniac) and Bosnian Croat leaderships pushed ahead with an independence referendum which the Bosnian Serbs boycotted, setting up a new 'Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina' (the basis for the Republika Srpska 'entity' later agreed at the Dayton Peace Talks). Feverish international efforts led by Lord Carrington tried to stop things spiralling out of control.

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 Bosnian territory.

A Yugoslav Army (JNA) barracks in Sarajevo was attacked by Bosnia forces on 2 May. Meanwhile Bosniac leader Alija Izetbegovic was captured by JNA soldiers at Sarajevo airport. The UN negotiated an arrangement to free Izetbegovic in return for safe passage by the JNA soldiers out of Sarajevo.

It all went wrong. Izetbegovic escaped. Bosniac forces attacked the JNA convoy at point-blank range, reportedly killing a score or more (the numbers of casualties are disputed). The grim story featured prominently in the much praised Death of Yugoslavia TV documentary series.

This action from the start was claimed by the Serbs to be the highest perfidy. Ejup Ganic, one of the most 'Western' of the Bosniac leadership (educated at Boston's Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology) was identified by the Serbs as a top Bosnians who had ordered the massacre. He denied responsibility.

In the subsequent horrors of the Bosnian conflict this episode has faded from memory in Western capitals. Ganic himself stayed in the Bosniac leadership through the war and into the early years of peace, presenting himself (not unconvincingly) to myself and other internationals as a genial force for common sense and moderation. He latterly has left the political scene, not being trusted by more nationalist Bosniac/Muslim parties in Sarajevo - he was, after all, born in Serbia.

Serbs in both Bosnia and Serbia alike have not forgotten the Dobrovoljacka ('Volunteer') St Massacre. Radovan Karadzic at the Hague Tribunal will insist that it echoed what happened in World War Two as Muslims fought with Nazis against the Serbs; resisting such cruelty by the Bosniacs compelled the Serbs to break with Bosnia in their "just and holy" struggle.

Why has Belgrade launched this attempt to nab Ganic now? The issue has been rumbling on for years below the Western media radar screen. Maybe Belgrade spotted the 'lawfare' issues arising in the UK over visits (or not) by Israeli politicians and decided to see what would happen.

Ganic will have all the Bosnian resources he needs to fight extradition, just as Belgrade will strive to insist that he be handed over. President Tadic in Belgrade is busy urging the Serbian Parliament to face up to the Srebrenica massacre - he loses no domestic support by insisting that those accused of massacres of Serbs also be brought to account.

If the issue is not resolved quickly by his release and return to Sarajevo, expect a prolonged and fascinating legal battle. Bosnia and its EU membership ambitions will be the loser.

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

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Read Next

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
William Hague, addresses delegates at the Conservative party conference for the last time in his political career in Birmingham  

It’s only natural for politicians like William Hague to end up as journalists

Simon Kelner
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent