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Neither forget nor forgive

Some of the Serbian paramilitary ‘heroes’ responsible for the mass murder of 192 Croatians in Vukovar in 1991 have been put on trial in Serbia.

This is a welcome development as not only does it brings bring these people to account, it will require Serbian society and the Serbian state to confront what really happened. In the absence of an externally imposed ‘denazification’ process, this could be exactly what Serbia needs and perhaps the start of a process that will de-legitimise vile creatures like Vojislav Seseji and other nationalists who do not have the widespread opprobrium they deserve within Serbia itself.

War crimes trials far off in the Hague simply cannot have the same effect as trials within Serbia itself. Forcing the painful truth to be brought out for all to see has to be a good thing as far too many people with the blood of the Balkans on their hands are still relaxing in the cafés of Belgrade. Perhaps this is the first sign that their days are numbered, but it would be premature to just assume this will be the case. Nevertheless, these trials are a very good start.

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2 comments to Neither forget nor forgive

  • Charles Copeland

    One can hardly disagree with Perry’s argument — except perhaps to state that the Serbs only sinned more than other Balkan ethnic groups chiefly because they had more weapons at their disposal. The Bosnians and the Croats are certainly no oil paintings when it comes to dealing with their local ethnic minorities. The Serbs were just more efficient in the ethnic cleansing department.

    I’m not very optimistic as to the impact of domestic war crime trials on Serbian attitudes. It is quite likely they will be perceived as some kind of quid pro quo. For 99% of the population, whatever went wrong will always be the other guy’s fault. Serbs are no more likely to believe that their lot ever committed war crimes than fanatic Zionists are to admit that Jewish terrorists are as evil as Palestinian ones.

    People get awfully hot under the collar about these ethnic issues, unfortunately.

  • What makes the cetnics different was that they were organised from the top in a systematic way rather than just local hotheads doing bad things, the later of which was (generally) the case with the Croatian and BiH forces. In fact the fascist HOS militia, the closest Croatian outfit analagous to the Serbian paramilitaries, were almost completely wiped out in Vukovar or shortly after early in the war (and in fact they were not a tool of the central Croatian HDZ government but rather the HSP party). Although all sides did some bad things, it is simply not true that everyone was as bad as everyone else in the Balkan war.