Lecture and Screening of the Video Documentary Animation

22 February 2016

University of Oxford, Oxford

We are very pleased to have two speakers with us today: Sir Geoffrey Nice who has practised as a barrister since 1971. He worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia between 1998 and 2006 and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević.  Much of his work since then has been connected to cases before the permanent International Criminal Court – Sudan, Kenya, Libya – or pro bono for victims groups – Iran, Burma, North Korea – whose cases cannot get to any international court.  He works for several related NGO’s and lectures and commentates in the media in various countries on international war crimes issues. 

Thank you very much for being with us.

After Sir Geoffrey Nice the next speaker is Dr. Svjetlana Nedimović, who currently works as a socio-political activist and independent researcher in Sarajevo. Her latest work on past as a political resource appeared in edited volume “African, American and European Trajectories of Modernity”.

Back in 2001 she designed and run Puls demokratije, a media and education project for students, for three years and worked on a research project “Trajectories of Modernity” at the University of Barcelona in 2012. Until 2011, she taught Political Philosophy and Theory of the State at the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, where she was also Head of the Department of Political Science and International Relations.

Prof Sir Geoffrey Nice QC

Can you hear me? If you can’t hear me, what are you going to do? Put your hands up or something like that.
How many of you are lawyers? 1, 2, 3, 4! How many of you have a family connection with Bosnia? Just a few. And about two of you. All right. I think it's probably better, really, to make this something of a seminar. So, I'm afraid, you are going to be asked questions and it's entirely up to you whether you answer them.

What was the significant word...? No. The film that you saw, it misses a couple of things that I think are quite important. I'm a visitor to FAMA, I am not, as it were, a founding member of FAMA, and I am happy to be a visitor joining them in this presentation. And there are a couple of things, I think, in the film that are important to bear in mind. One is that the International Community knew in advance that Srebrenica was going to be taken. I'm not suggesting that they knew that there is going to be a massacre, but they knew about it. That is probably quite significant. The other thing is you saw that unpleasant image of the six young chaps being taken out of the lorry and killed. You remember that? It's quite important to remember that did not happen, as it is implied in the film, in the second or third week of July. That happened at the end of July, if not even later than that. The process of killing was quite long term and quite long planned. We don't know what was happening to those six young men, boys, before they were taken by that particular unit of paramilitaries – the Scorpions, quite a long way away from Srebrenica, quite a long way away from Sarajevo, taken out and killed, in that merciless way that you saw. But it happened some time after these events and suggests a parcelling out of people and they’re being killed by these units. Maybe. I might come back to that.

What is the significant word in the title of this film? There are only two words. Genocide. Why is it significant? I’m here to challenge your perceptions. Why is the word genocide important? Would you come to watch a film that was headed “Mapping really serious crimes”? Would you? You would? You think that calling it “Mapping genocide” gets more people alerted to what happened? Why is that?

Voice from the audience: Because it’s the crime.
SGN: It’s the what?
Voice from the audience: Because it’s the most atrocious crime.
SGN: Because it’s the most… what crime?
Voice from the audience: Most atrocious crime.
Do we agree with that?
Crowd: Yes.
SGN: Who disagrees with that? Were the twin towers a genocide?
Voice from the audience: No.
SGN: When someone finally succeeds in delivering a dirty atomic bomb on a capital city around the world, would that be genocide? Probably not. So, genocide is a very, very serious crime and it’s got a certain mythical status. Would you like to know a bit more about genocide as a crime? Because you are not lawyers and even if you were, you wouldn’t know this.
Voice from the crowd: And the answer is yes.
SGN: Good. Do we all know when the word was first coined?
Voices from the crowd: Raphael Lemkin.

SGN: Lemkin in 1944/45. Now, what’s particular about genocide is the intention. You heard it before, the intention to kill a particular part or substantial part of a particular group identified by racial, ethnic or national or other characteristics. It’s basically a nut case’s crime. You can’t justify it. You’ve got to be mentally disturbed to commit it. And yet, people do commit it. So, the particular feature of genocide is that intent that has to be proven and we might get back to that as well. But everything that is covered by genocide can now be covered by crimes against humanity which requires that you do your criminal acts intentionally, but it doesn’t have this particular mental state requirement. Why did they bother to have a specific crime called genocide and was it a good thing? Well, arguably the reason they did it is a rather nasty reason. Because, after the Second World War, when the great powers were deciding what to charge the Nazi leadership with, they were troubled, they weren’t going to charge genocide, it was new, it was only a year or so old as a concept. They rejected using crimes against humanity in its broadest sets. Because, as Justice Jackson leading for America explained: if you had a crime that could encompass very, very bad behaviour, criminally awful, unbelievable behaviour, but it wasn’t connected to a war and to your participation in a war, if you had such a crime, America might be exposed for the lynching of Black men or even historically to what was done to the Native Americans. And so the crime against humanity for the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War was narrowed down and Lemkin realised this and he took his concept of genocide, which was wider, he went to the UN and he ensured that the Genocide Convention was passed and ratified. He was a strange, unusual man, old, but one member from his extended family was killed in the holocaust and indeed when he died there were seven people at his graveside. And he changed the way we think. Completely. He added a new concept. But is it a concept of lawyers (wherever you are) or is it something different? And this is a reality we now find ourselves in. Because, on the one hand you have legal findings about genocide, which are very particular, very narrow, and they are argued over day in day out, night in night out, year in year out. You have in parallel the non-lawyer understanding. That might have been the only understanding there ever was, if after the Second World War, or at the Second World War, they had a broader definition of crimes against humanity. Some lawyers think that would have been a good thing. I don’t, particularly now. I used to, but now I don’t. I think that having been given genocide in the Convention, the citizen is entitled to consider it serial, to see it charged, tried, acquitted, how difficult though it is. But that is the term, legal and non-legal, that drives your interest in this film. And that, I think, is being relied on by those who want Srebrenica to be remembered, as indeed it should be. And we’ll hear more about that from our next speaker, in one way or another, but one of the questions has to be, as we look at the film and remember what happened: Is remembering something in itself, and partly because of the label that’s on it, enough, or must more be done? And if so, what?

A few more realities about the trials in which I was concerned that included allegations against Milosevic, or genocide. He was the president of neighbouring Serbia and, as those in Bosnia who wish to have proved, it was said that Serbia proper or improper led by Milosevic, in combination with the Bosnian Serbs, was directly responsible for the genocide. And that is a remaining, existing problem for Bosnia. Right or not?

SGN: Is it a problem?
Voice from the audience: It’s a problem. One of many.

SGN: I hear speakers speak in all sorts of ways but it is one of many problems, and since I am a lawyer I’ll give you the lawyer problematic side of it. And that is that in 1993, before Srebrenica, but when other killings have happened, Bosnia brought an action in the International Court of Justice, which is a civil court, not a criminal court, which deals with things like Law of the sea and treaties of states, and cases one state brings in against another state. And Bosnia brought a case against Serbia in respect of genocide, and eventually Srebrenica was included in the allegations made, and the Court brought in a decision, very disappointing for those in Bosnia, that said: Although it did fail in some ways to deal with the investigations and the punishment, it was not guilty on genocide itself. And that is one example of how the court system that we tend to rely on, and hope will bring home what we want, has let down the people of Bosnia.

The criminal trials at the Yugoslav Tribunal, where only individuals can be tried, have their findings of genocide, but they have made no findings in respect of any individual in Serbia or from Serbia that he was responsible for the genocide in Bosnia. Some people think and they could find evidence that support that thought, but the court is behaving politically; its decisions reflect an agenda not to make things too difficult, internationally. I will not express my view on that, but I will tell you three things. In the Milosevic trial we had a terrific set of documents we’ve found, that reflected meetings between Milosevic and the President of the fellow state of Montenegro and the President of Yugoslavia. Three presidents meeting together after Bosnia had separated, and this body decided as it were what level of support they were going to be giving to the Serbs in Bosnia. The meetings were transcribed, they were verbatim accounts. We had them for use in the court, the judges could see them, we could see them, but by a deal done by the prosecutor and Serbia the best bits of the documents were blacked out from public view. So the tax payers in Serbia could not see what was done with their money and in their name, and the Bosnians could not see how it was, that bad things had been done to them by the agency or through the agency of Serbia in the support of the Bosnian Serbs.

Here is the second thing that happened in the trial and these things may only happen in trials that have big titles stuck on them, like genocide. The second thing that happened was that we knew, without any doubt, that there were telephone conversations between Milosevic in Belgrade after his meeting with Carl Bildt - which may or may not eventually turn out to be a very significant meeting. He had conversations with Mladic at the time of the killings, in particular at the time of what was happening in Gorazde or not happening in Gorazde. 

And he gave him his account, we know this, of what had passed between him and Mladic, because that much was recorded in these documents which were blacked out. It was, of course, part of the blacked out bits and we knew that those phone calls had been intercepted and somewhere, even today, there are transcripts of those intercepts. And so I tried to get them. It would have helped the trial. It would have helped the record. Did I get them? And why not? Who do you think stopped me? Who might have stopped an international court producing transcripts passing between two people possibly engaged in an enormous villainy? Who might try to stop the world of knowing about that?

Voice from the audience: The perpetrators.
SGN: Sorry?
Voice from the audience: The perpetrators.
SGN: Well, the perpetrators might have wanted to. Thank you for at least having the courage to speak.
Now we need the next example. That’s a good answer but it’s not the right one.
Voices from the audience: The UN?

Well that’s getting much closer to home, but unfortunately, if I would tell you the truth, I would be taken outside and burned at the stake or something similar. But, the International Community in one form or another, and I can’t tell you how, said no. The only reason it said no was it did not want us to know how much they knew. One of the real, horrifying realities of dealing with this sort of work is that you rapidly come to understand that victims don’t count for much. Wherever there is a political interest. Don’t believe the governments that tell you otherwise, including our own. And that horrifying message has to drive the people who are concerned about the events in Srebrenica and the memory of it and what to do about it. That should be driving us as to what we do next. Don’t rely on governments or the International Community doing anything for you because they might have interests that act in a different direction.

The third little thing I will tell you about was that terrible film of the six young men, boys, being chopped and I played a bit of that in court and then the whole film was played in Belgrade by somebody else who had it. I had the whole version of the film but I had to play a very short part to get it in the tool so I knew there would be a kerfuffle as it was, but never mind, we got around that. The whole film was played and the thinking processes in Belgrade reversed, I think pretty much over night; whereas the majority has previously said that they thought that this was all propaganda and now the majority had accepted that it did happen. Truth said, Serbia found something else to complain about in it later, but nevertheless, it had a huge effect on the public opinion. Once I was in the position to play that film later in the case, you would be surprised to know, we were about to investigate further because the film was extremely significant. It showed a paramilitary group coming from Serbia killing the young boys in Bosnia. So this was a vitally valuable piece of information going to show that which we wanted to prove, that which Bosnians still want to prove, namely that Serbia itself was directly involved in the genocide. So, will it surprise you to know that I was interested in an investigation which will take us above the leader of that? We had photographs of every member of the group. It’s rather bizarre, actually. That’s a long video about sort of a mission and there are Scorpios in it. At the beginning of it every one of them goes up to the priest, the camera over the back of the priest’s shoulder and he blesses each member of the group and before he does it the person takes his beret off, so you have a perfect police station mug shot of every person in the group. Unique. Therefore, we had to be allowed, not us, but in the event itself it was the Serbs who had to be allowed or encouraged to trial the group itself, right after Slobodan Medic, the man who was in charge of that group. But that wasn’t of much interest to us, because we know how easy it is to turn any ordinary human being into a killer in the time of war. So the horrible way the men killed the young boys; that’s not difficult to achieve, to make people do that. What we wanted to know was who further up the chain was responsible. I’m afraid to say, I think you’ll get both of the next answers right as a class, but you will only get one go for each answer. Has there been any investigation and trial of anybody above Slobodan Medic, the leader of the Scorpions, in Serbia? Answer?

Voice from the audience: No.
Well done, class. Was I allowed in the Yugoslav Tribunal to investigate above Slobodan Medic?
Voice from the audience: No.

And why? I have no idea. But I know that the legal process is subject to external pressures. I was not allowed to do the obvious and right thing to do - to investigate further. As a result of which, of course, that particular line proving accountability in Belgrade has never been pursued. Make sense of it if you can. I’m not sure I can. Now that I’ve finished I rather indulge myself by telling you all these things, but what I just told you, I hope, goes to show you the difficulties of genocide as a count, both in its origins, how it came about, and in the problems it will bring in its trail whenever it is charged and wherever there is a conviction; the way the judges describe it there, the attack is genocidal, not individuals. And then you ask yourself, was this person himself culpable for genocide. You look at his mental state and you say a) he was engaged, and b) he has this very particular intent to destroy a group in whole or in part simply because of what they were, the ethnicity they belonged to. The consequence of that road to conviction is that there will always be an appeal against conviction, and even when the conviction is confirmed, and sometimes they have been, they will linger in history doubt. Because people, if it becomes material, will always be able to say, well, maybe he actually didn’t have that genocidal intent or maybe he did. It’s difficult to prove, people don’t admit to it, their spoken word don’t announce exactly what they wanted to do, and so it’s difficult. Therefore, you’re living or we’re all living with 22 years of trials that have not brought conclusion and that will possible be argued over for years to come.

But let’s just go back for my last observations, and I hope you’ll have questions to ask later. My last observation is about that International Court of Justice case, which is the one where Bosnia failed to secure against Serbia a finding that it was directly culpable for genocide. Remember all the problems with genocide. Repeat, as far as I’m concerned, we got it, we must stick with it and we must live with what it is capable of achieving when properly deployed as a term. Bosnia has until the spring of next year to attempt to have that decision reviewed. It has until the spring of next year to try to set the record straight. And there is very little sign of government of Bosnia being about to get on with the job. Why? Don’t ask me. But it is important to bear in mind, if that were to be done, and even if it were not to be successful, what it would achieve. And it would be an effort by Bosnia to set right the record that sure is wrong. And it might use the tools of law to do something in the way of setting a correct historical record. The gentle question I must ask of this film is this: when these terrible things happened, is it enough simply to remember them as we remembered Srebrenica, twenty years after the event in July last summer, at an extraordinary event which was still highly politicized. You remember the stoning of Vucic in a graveyard. Is it enough just to remember or must there always be, in what we do looking back on these terrible events, some purposeful way forward?

Sir Geoffrey Nice QC
Sir Geoffrey Nice QC  has practised as a barrister since 1971. He worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia – the ICTY – between 1998 and 2006 and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, former President of Serbia. Much of his work since has been connected to cases before the permanent International Criminal Court – Sudan, Kenya, Libya – or pro bono for victims groups – Iran, Burma, North Korea – whose cases cannot get to any international court. He works for several related NGO’s and lectures and commentates in the media in various countries on international war crimes issues. He has been a part-time judge since 1984 sitting at the Old Bailey and has sat as judge in other jurisdictions, tribunals and inquiries. Between 2009 and 2012 he was Vice-Chair of the Bar Standards Board, the body that regulates barristers. He is also a professor at Gresham College in London.

We are very pleased to have two speakers with us today: Sir Geoffrey Nice who has practised as a barrister since 1971. He worked at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia between 1998 and 2006 and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević.  Much of his work since then has been connected to cases before the permanent International Criminal Court – Sudan, Kenya, Libya – or pro bono for victims groups – Iran, Burma, North Korea – whose cases cannot get to any international court.  He works for several related NGO’s and lectures and commentates in the media in various countries on international war crimes issues. 

Thank you very much for being with us.

After Sir Geoffrey Nice the next speaker is Dr. Svjetlana Nedimović, who currently works as a socio-political activist and independent researcher in Sarajevo. Her latest work on past as a political resource appeared in edited volume “African, American and European Trajectories of Modernity”.

Back in 2001 she designed and run Puls demokratije, a media and education project for students, for three years and worked on a research project “Trajectories of Modernity” at the University of Barcelona in 2012. Until 2011, she taught Political Philosophy and Theory of the State at the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, where she was also Head of the Department of Political Science and International Relations.

Dr Svjetlana Nedimovic

I don’t have a very exciting story to tell. What you have just heard was a proper thriller!

I have a story to tell about a society that is, despite all you have heard, trying to live as a living society. It  is not only a post-genocide society, it is also a post-war society, and a transition society, and a society whose potentials have been locked up and frozen in the period 1992-1995.

Actually, I think that more or less my talk will tell you: in the first place - no, it is not enough to remember. Secondly, there was a pre-past to what is called troubled past of Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995. There was a pre-past and there was a crime committed before 1992, I’d say. Finally, we have by now had a past between 1995 and today, 2016.
I don’t know how much you know about Bosnia and Herzegovina of today. I have to apologize if I’m saying certain things that you know about. But I have realized that I have to go into quite a bit of detail and move cautiously over this ground, because after films like this there seems to be a certain horizon of expectations as to how you are to approach the topic. There are certain grid references you have to observe. You have to move within a certain conceptual space which includes genocide, transitional justice, courts, possibly sites of commemoration, possibly guilt, justice, punishment etc.

For some time now I have been aware of the pattern and how firmly settled it is, this pattern of how you talk about a post-genocide society, but it has been rather forcefully impressed on my mind very recently, precisely after the screening of this film in Sarajevo. And it was done by a young graduate student from Sarajevo who, as it happened, had been born during the war. He is 22, 23 or something. So he reminded me, sort of reproached me that I had failed to observe the pattern, the canon on how you talk about genocide and post-genocide society. In a nutshell, one is to narrate and explore a post-genocide society by narrating genocide, by exploring genocide and by possibly 'venturing out' into how to commemorate, how to teach, how to translate the evidence into the language of younger generations, especially through the school curriculum and the school books, for example. I could see that he was quite annoyed by the fact that I was departing from the pattern.

This encounter has made me realize that we need to seek legitimation if we want to depart from the pattern of how to speak about genocide or post-genocide society. It’s almost as if we need to apologize that we are still alive, and we have been alive for 20 years and we are actually facing layers and layers of problems, some of which are rooted in the late ‘80s, the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. And I have also realized that it is not about what I am going to say, it’s simply about departing from the pattern of how one is to speak about it. People are not interested in views, they are not questioning the substance of what you are saying. They are questioning the very motion of you departing from the pattern. It seems that somehow it breaks (into) the solemnity and gravity of the narrative if you try to talk about that society as a living society. It is as if this rattle and noise of our everyday problems disturb the past. They don’t show enough respect. We don’t show enough respect if we attempt to talk about Bosnian society in a slightly broader framework.

This may sound paradoxical because it actually is a paradox. I don’t know if you understood that Bosnia and Herzegovina as a society lacks a consensus on the most minimalistic forensic truth, the most basic facts of what happened between 1992 and 1995. However our relationship with the past is highly ritualized and, I would say, routinised. And if you observe, on certain dates, and especially when it comes to Srebrenica around the 11th of July, you will see almost a perverted kind of choreography. It is a highly developed, formalized choreography, one of the 18th century court dances where every single dancer knows precisely what side to take and what to do. We know who is going to commemorate with sorrow, we know who is going to commemorate with very loud silence and who is going to 'commemorate' with even louder denial. This paradox slides into tragic absurd, when you realize that even deniers of genocide have a role to play. No matter how despicable their views may be to the larger public, they will be accepted as interlocutors. But if you try to depart from the choreography, from the pattern, if you try to speak, as I said, about Bosnian society, in a broader context of the present and sort of more distant past, you are viewed as a heretic, as someone violating the sacred ground and breaking the rules. And you need to beg to be forgiven for doing so.

However, I believe that something happened in Bosnia two years ago which ensured legitimacy of the effort. What happened roughly around this time, February 2014, which was rather warm, spring like, and proved to be good for doing solid street politics? There were massive protests all over the country. In a way, they were an attempt to engage with both the past and the present of Bosnia and Herzegovina, outside of this bracketed off interval between 1992 and 1995, and to unfreeze society and its potentials.

Before I go into what this meant and how it worked let me just tell you briefly what I’m not doing here. I’m sure you are aware of those progressivist narratives. We in Bosnia and Herzegovina tend to hear them from international officials who have a good reason to insist on these progressive narratives: “Move on!”, “Look ahead”, “You need to face the future!”, “Overcome the past!”, or even “Seize your luck!”, which was one of the slogans of their pre-elections motivation campaigns. They are practically desperate to have the past accounts settled. To the non-native speaker like myself it sounds rather terrible because it speaks of some sort of accountancy where you settle the finances, so you can move on and leave it behind. And then the past is allowed to pass. I don’t know if you are aware where this quote is coming from. “The past should be allowed to pass at some point”. It was stated by a German historian, Ernst Nolte, who actually got himself into quite a bit of trouble in Germany, and provoked a fight between the historians, social theorists and philosophers, on whether the past can ever be or should ever be allowed to pass and in what way. This was a digression just to make sure that you do not associate my words with those narratives.

Now - back to 2014. I would argue that the events of two years ago – they were not a revolution, no matter what you've heard. Even though at some point there were these optimistic accounts that there was a revolution in Bosnia, and everything was going to be different from tomorrow morning. No.

But they were revolutionary in a certain way. They were much more than what European and EU officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina  were saying. They were saying that this was a cry for good governance. They quickly translated it into a cry for good governance so that they could offer, not even three months later, a pack, a solution to the Bosnian puzzle. And the solution is a combination of shock therapy and austerity measures to a practically deindustrialized country with no production worth speaking of.  A white rabbit out of the hat.

The protests were much more than that – they were indeed revolutionary. They were revolutionary in the sense that they tried to talk about the past and the present of Bosnia and Herzegovina in a language that we practically forgot. They spoke in a rather convoluted and incoherent manner because you can imagine what a popular assembly done on the street looks like. It’s rather messy, it’s rather chaotic, and it’s rather emotional. Nevertheless they spoke the language of the totality of our loss which was reaching back to the political order, the great social order which Yugoslavia was for that part of the world. The totality of loss and also the possibility of recovery. This is the language that they spoke.

The loss of that, let us say, what was lost with the break-up of order is a historical fact. Unless you want to engage in powerlessness of nostalgia, there is not much you can do about it. There was an apocalyptic collapse of the social-political order that was a generational tragedy, but at some point you have to say: that’s it, that’s what happened. There was however something more problematic that happened, and it happened between 1992 and 1995 and then continued after 1995. That was the engineered loss of memory of the society. And by that I also mean a loss of Bosnian and Herzegovinian society. It was the engineered loss of memory, or if you want an engineered dementia of a society that no longer could draw on the political experience, on the traditions of political experience which it had. That was indeed a political experience within a rather strange experiment, if you wish, and a failed experiment of emancipation towards autonomy, in a rather controlled environment, even a very difficult environment. But that is what it was.

The loss of memory was engineered, I would argue, through let’s say a process, or two processes or perhaps you could say it was one process with two currents.

One current was the reinterpretation of the conflict. In the nutshell, the consequences were interpreted or reinterpreted as causes. The second current was the project of post-war democratisation of the state which was done on a pretty much global, general and standard model that travels around the world. Both of these currents cut off Bosnia and Herzegovina from the period before 1992 which still holds many answers to the questions we have today. It was also a repository of political experience which could have been a much more solid ground for democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina than the internationally and nationally run NGO projects of “Teach yourself civil courage in ten steps”. This was a possible source of our understanding, and we are slowly coming to that, that not reconciliation and not managing, but transformation was the key to the problem of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995. It could have perhaps saved us twenty years of instrumentalization of our past, especially the period between 1992 and 1995, and the instrumentalization of our present.

When I say that the past is being instrumentalized I think you need to understand that past is the hardest currency in Bosnian politics, which explains why the authorities, as we have heard here, are not interested in chasing up the whole story of Serbia’s role in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s sort of an ace up your sleeve which is conveniently there wherever you need it, whenever someone asks questions like “Where did all the money donated for the people affected by floods actually go?” Then all of the sudden there is someone who remembers, there is a commemoration or there is a new memorial.

Let me just explain briefly this process of reinterpretation. It is pretty much clear that in this reinterpretation, Serbs killing Bosniaks was not seen as a conflict strategy and already a product of destruction, but it was seen as a cause. So what you get is essentialization of the conflict in order to say: ''See, it’s an ethnic conflict!' It is something that cannot be but managed, controlled in a way. And it is being controlled through what was done in the second current of the process or the second process, if you wish: democratization and state-building through territorial power segregation. There are no doubts about the originators of systematic violence. I think mountains of primary sources, let alone secondary literature, testify to the fact that forces led, organized, trained by the right wing Serb party in Bosnia with the help of Serbia were engaged in mass killings as of 1992.  Here I would argue with lawyers – the same pattern was observed in 1992 in Prijedor, which is West Bosnia, and also in North Bosnia, e.g. in Bijeljina or Brčko. But we don’t have a verdict on it, that is - we don’t have the word genocide to grip our attention.

But, before there was a genus, if I may say so, with which the perpetrators identified, and before there was a genus with which the victims were identified or identified themselves, there was a whole process of destroying a society which was involved, as I said, in that strange experiment - emancipation towards autonomy.

One should not indulge in fairy tales. Yugoslavia was a complex society, it was a one party regime. It was not too keen on civil and political liberties without certain control. There were periodic liberalizations or waves of relaxing restrictions. But I think that by now, political scientists have acknowledged that we can talk about political experience outside of their neat little models. We even have their permission to talk about hybrid regimes! No matter how you call it, it was an authoritarian regime, a one party regime but at the same time, especially at the grass roots level, there was a strong experience of direct democracy in the places where it actually mattered for people, at the work place and in their communities of residence. In that sense, you had a strange combination of strict control by one party but at the same time your immediate, everyday life was an experience, however controlled, of autonomy. You were deciding, you were not an employee with a CV, you were part of the world.

This is what got omitted from all the dominant conflict interpretations, be they national or international. The conflict was appropriated, or the interpretation was appropriated for the purposes of the new political project of building a state where the main problem is how you keep under control, how you manage these tensions between Genus number 1, Genus number 2 and Genus number 3. It was bracketed off from the actual causes, from what actually created these tensions, what created even our categorizations of ourselves and what changed how we identified ourselves. Any attempt to think more broadly and to even suggest that the pre-history of Bosnia and Herzegovina existed and could possibly be relevant for how we live today – any attempt at this is aborted.

This was done most systematically in the period after 1995. And I have to say that the international community had a considerable role to play. The newly designed state was tailored not to deal with the causes of the conflict in this pre-history of Bosnia – and the causes  should be mapped on the map of the break-up of the entire socio-political order. No. It was tailored to deal with the principal strategy of the conflict. And this was Genus vs. Genus for the sake of territory. And this is how the Dayton Bosnia was designed. The project was aided greatly by those romantic interpretations of ancient hatreds, which were supposedly now coming out together with past that had supposedly for long been 'silenced'. Finally, in 1992 we were free to slaughter each other over that.

The new state thus embodies territorial power segregation. They may tell you that in political science - and you are free to correct me – it is called power sharing. But it’s not sharing. It’s segregation. Power sharing is one of these euphemisms invented for these regimes that don’t actually work - all they are doing is separating the sides, in case they want to go to war against each other. This is the system that also ensures that the elites are fully in control of all the outcomes of their policies. Interestingly, in the beginning there were military and political elites constructing a certain systematic, very well planned project of mass killing, of genocide, of wiping out the entire community. But what we have on the ground as a political project to deal with that - is a regime that makes sure that some irrational masses do not erupt in rage again and go to slaughter each other?! All of the sudden, it is the irrational masses you have to control, and not possibly the rational elites. There is not one single channel from the masses to the elites left apart from the elections. And how that works or rather does not, I shall leave for the Q and A session, because I have a lot of stories to tell you about how elections actually work. But just briefly now, remember: If the elections could change anything they would have never been allowed.

Let me just say that the memory of this carefully and most rationally crafted plan to destroy a society and to replace it by, on the one hand, Genus number one, number two and number three, in whichever order, and on the other, isolated powerless individuals; the memory that there was a plan to strategically prevent reappearance of a society engaged in the project of emancipation towards autonomy, that memory is fading.

If it’s not quite clear to you what I am talking about, I will give you an exercise, a hypothetical exercise. Let’s say that you are a Bosniak from Srebrenica who miraculously survived with his closer family and happens to live as of 1996 in ideal Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina – I’m not saying in the Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina or ideal Bosnia and Herzegovina, I am saying ideal Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina because we hear that Dayton is actually good, but there are some problems in the implementation that just happen to last for twenty years. But that’s OK; they will be corrected once we get to the European Union. Never.

So imagine yourself in an ideal Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina. War criminals are all put to trial, no matter what level or profile, there is no blacking out pieces of documents, as we heard from Sir Nice. Your local police force has had more than a cosmetic face-lift and they will actually protect you, no matter which genus they come from. You’re returning to your newly renovated house with your family: Your children can go to the local school where they can be taught Bosnian language as you chose, and they will also be taught history and history will not stop in 1990. The history books will not stop there. There will actually be a chapter that will read that genocide did happen in Srebrenica, who committed it, there will be names etc. You’ll even be able to compete at the job market without bias and prejudice or discrimination. Finally,  on every single occasion, local, national and international officials will duly commemorate what happened in Srebrenica.

That’s ideal Dayton. What is missing? Well, I’ll tell you. You have returned to what we had in 1992, but what one had in 1990 was for example: that where you worked was not decided on the basis of which party you belonged to. Where you worked you had power of decision over the things that were of interest to you and your entire community. Where you lived - you had the power of decision. It wasn’t just a place where you lived – it was your place in the world, as was your work place, not just the job to make ends meet. This is what was taken away from me. It is actually something that no peace accord, no international tribunal, no special representative, no NGO and no donation project ever attempted to even problematize, let alone make it it’s own mission to return to people. So, in a way, the order of the world changed. You were no longer an instituting force of your world. You became just a particle to be moved around - just as you got to be moved around when all the things started.

And to conclude, I’m sorry, I hope I didn’t take much of your time, what we have today is the slowly fading memory on when the loss began, how it was engineered, how it was crafted, we have a proper bon-ton on how we speak about our past. We don’t have a fruitful open engaging with the past or relating to the past actively. We live in a society and state whose problem, main problem, is seen as Genus 1, Genus 2 and Genus 3, and that ought to be managed - and it is best managed through some sort of segregation. No matter how you call it, that is what happens. To make up for our loss we have NGO projects of youth camps and twenty years later no one is asking why you need a huge budget to make a 14-year old Serb play chess with a 14-year old Bosniak. No one is asking this. It’s just another successful project because they did not kill each other in the process.

I have to say that I was quite reluctant to even join this project. I talked a lot with people who are doing this, whether I should be a guest speaker or not, precisely because I am sick and tired of projects. But I thought that there was hope for this project because it actually said Mapping genocide, but also a post-genocide society. They promised me that we were going to be allowed to actually talk about Bosnia and Herzegovina as a society that outlived its own death!

Dr. Svjetlana Nedimovic
Svjetlana Nedimovic currently works as a sociopolitical activist and independent researcher in Sarajevo. Her latest work on Past as Political Resource appeared in edited volume African, American and European Trajectories of Modernity by P. Wagner (Edinburgh UP, 2015). Back in 2010 she designed and ran Puls demokratije, a media and education project for students, for three years and worked on a research project Trajectories of Modernity at the University of Barcelona in 2012. Until 2011, she taught Political Philosophy and Theory of the State at the Sarajevo School of Science and Technology, where she was also Head of the Department of Political Science and International Relations. She received a PhD in Social and Political Science at the European University Institute in Florence. Her research interests also include the role of imagination in politics, political philosophy of H. Arendt, and the sources of political common and political action.