Charles Crawford: Ejup Ganic and the 1992 Volunteer Street Massacre

Share
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 www.charlescrawford.biz

React Now

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

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: NON-CONTENTIOUS (0-2 PQE) - A rare opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Financial Analyst

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Financial Analyst is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Secretary

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: Calling black people 'coloured' removes part of their humanity

Yemisi Adegoke
 

Dippy the Diplodocus: The great exotic beast was the stuff of a childhood fantasy story

Charlie Cooper
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness