There is no peace for victims of crimes committed by Serb military forces  

Central news of RTRS, the public broadcasting service of the entity Republika Srpska, broadcast on February 20 and 21, provided detailed information about the travel of a team of doctors from the University Clinical Centre Banja Luka, led by the Director Vlado Đajić, to the Hague, in order to examine ”the state of health and treatment methods in case of the general Ratko Mladić at the detention unit of the Hague Tribunal”.

A journalist of RTRS, Gvozden Šarac, did not say a word about who Ratko Mladić was and why he was behind the bars. Or, to be more precise: He failed to say that Mladić, a commander of the Bosnian Serb Army, was given a final life sentence by the Tribunal in the Hague for war crimes, and, in addition to other crimes, was also found guilty of the crime of genocide committed against at least 8327 Bosniak men and boys in Srebrenica in July 1995.

The Hippocratic oath obliges doctors to approach the treatment of every person equally. However, the travel of doctors from Banja Luka to the Hague, in addition to ethical connotations, had a much deeper political meaning for the public. The reason for this is the fact that, once they carried out an examination and controlled medical documents, they simply stated that Mladić was provided with an adequate medical treatment.

Since Gvozden Šarac was mentioned, it should be explained that the medical team from the University Clinical Centre was accompanied by a team of reporters of RTRS, a public broadcasting service that is financed by all citizens of the entity Republika Srpska. We repeat, all citizens, meaning also survivors and families of survivors of Mladić’s crimes. However, RTRS, which is fully alienated from citizens and their interests, does not care about it at all. We could therefore witness all the pathos while Šarac lamented Mladić’s destiny. He concluded his lamentation over the ”their wrongfully convicted general” with the statement that ”as much as doctors are professionals, it was difficult to suppress emotions, when it came to general Mladić”.

While speaking about emotions, Šarac certainly did not mean to say that the doctors, while standing in front of Mladić, asked themselves what kind of man, what kind of personality, was able to order the killing of more than eight thousand unarmed men, prisoners of war. And what kind of alleged general and commander was he, given the fact that he did not demonstrate a shred of honour of an officer and turn himself in, after an international indictment for war crimes was brought against him.

Let us recall the fact that the first indictment against Mladić was brought on July 24, 1995. However, immediately after the end of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the arrival of IFOR to our country, he left Bosnia and Herzegovina and was fleeing the justice under the protection of military and security services in Serbia. He was arrested only in 2011, when the authorities in Serbia were of the opinion that it was better to hand him over to the Hague Tribunal to maintain their international reputation.

However, during the war and post-war period, Serbs on both sides of River Drina have seen Mladić as a hero. For this reason, not even all the documents, witness statements or almost seven thousand graves in Potočari have not changed this perception. Graffiti with his image and message ”a hero, not a criminal” can still be found throughout Republika Srpska and Serbia.

There has been no empathy for the victims of Mladić’s crimes, or their family members, among the Serb public, with only rare exceptions, and 29 years have passed since the end of the war.

Gvozden Šarac therefore stuck a finger in the eye of the families of victims for the umpteenth time by reporting on this and publicly mocked their feelings. Gvozden Šarac is the personification of the Serb politics that denies genocide, concentration camps for non-Serbs, and ethnic cleansing committed by members of the Bosnian Serb military and police forces. They have never cared about victims or their families. For them, both the dead non-Serbs and those that survived, and especially those that returned to their homes after the war, are a burden, and they do not even hide how unbearable it is for them. It is therefore not surprising that nobody from the management of the SDS, PDP, DNS, SNSD came to bow before the victims in Potočari. Just as they have never visited gravesites in Kozarac, Hambarine, Keljani, and Jakarina kosa near Prijedor. And just as they disapprove of any mentioning of Bosniak victims in Višegrad, Zvornik, Korićanske stijene, etc.

Victims of Serb crimes therefore have not found peace. Instead of this, the majority of Serb public are doing their best to destroy the peace of the dead. To kill them all over again and destroy the little peace their families have left.

Both the dead and the living deserve the much needed peace, given the fact that so many years have passed since the end of the war, and instead of building a co-existence, instead of willingness to face the past, to clearly distance themselves from crimes and criminals, they are continuously revising history and trying to convince both themselves and others that ”all Serbs are Ratko Mladić, Radovan Karadžić and numerous other convicted war criminals”.

Mothers, sisters, wives, brothers and sons of victims are therefore expecting any compassion in vain. They are calling upon the mighty to stop denying the evil that was committed, but both their tears and pleas are in vain. No mother from Srebrenica, who lost her family, no mother or father from Prijedor, no matter how sick they may be, no matter what a difficult life they lead, will unfortunately never be visited by doctors from Republika Srpska. They will also not be visited by Serb mayors of municipalities in which they live or employees of social welfare centres. They are invisible, or, if they need help, they already have ”their own in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and they should take care of them”.

The victims were also let down by the judiciary in the country, since two and a half years have passed since the amendments to the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which were imposed by the former High Representative, Valentin Inzko, at the end of his mandate. They provide for sanctions in case of denial of genocide and glorification of war crimes and criminals.

Numerous criminal complaints made by individuals and associations of citizens are still kept in prosecutors’ drawers, covered by dust.

It is not likely that non-Serb victims that survived torture and detention at detention camps and families of those who were killed will live to see a Willy Brandt among Serb politicians, who will get on his knees at a place of suffering and bow before the victims. What is even more tragic is the fact that the biological clock of survivors and families of victims is inevitably ticking, and many of them are still searching for the remains of their sons, husbands, brothers, etc. And who knows whether they will manage to find them and put them to rest, so that both can finally find some peace.

Gordana Katana, a Bosnian and Herzegovinian journalist and civic activist. During her career, she worked for several Bosnian and Herzegovinian and international media outlets, such as the daily newspaper Oslobođenje, IWPR, Reuters, VOA, BHT1, and Federalna TV. She is currently the executive editor of the web portal, a correspondent of the Belgrade daily newspaper Novi magazin and the head of the association of citizens Radnička solidarnost in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her career as a journalist focuses on analytical reporting on all key political topics in the post-war Bosnia and Herzegovina, war crimes investigations, facing the past and culture of remembrance, feminist, labour and anti-fascist struggle.

  1. Dnevnik 2, RTRS, 20.02.2024. (↩︎
  2. Dnevnik 2, RTRS, 21.02.2024. (↩︎
  3. International residual mechanism for criminal tribunals, United Nations, MLADIĆ, Ratko (MICT-13-56), (↩︎
  4. Amendments to the BiH Criminal Code: Genocide denial is punishable, Paragraf, 26.07.2021. (↩︎
  5., Inditment confirmed against Vojin Pavlović who glorified war criminals, 30.01.2024. (↩︎