Books on Bosnia & Herzegovina
Update No: 137 - (29/10/08)
The Karadzic affair rivets Bosnians
The apprehension and arrest of Radovan Karadzic in July has riveted Bosnians of
every kind. His trail in the Hague will be a major event, hopefully a cathartic
one for the vast majority.
Alas there are still Bosnian Serbs, and Serbian ones too, who are still rooting
for the former Bosnian Serb president, accused of crimes against humanity in the
Bosnian war of 1992-95. Even the Serbian Academy of Science in Belgrade has
Karadzic supporters, as a recent publication – We must not abandon Radovan
Karadzic – indicates.
Former Speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament calls on Karadzic as key
The former speaker of the Bosnian Serb parliament has called on U.N. judges to
let him call Karadzic as a witness in his war crimes appeal, according to a
motion released on September 16.
Momcilo Krajisnik is appealing his convictions and 27-year-sentence for
persecution, extermination and the murder of Muslims and Croats during the
1992-1995 Bosnian War.
Testimony by Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader during the war, would be crucial
because of his obvious and paramount significance to the case of the appellant,
said the motion submitted to the appeals chamber of the Yugoslav war crimes
At a hearing in August, Krajisnik's U.S. attorney Alan Dershowitz told judges
Karadzic would provide very significant exculpatory evidence.
Krajisnik was convicted in September 2006 of conspiring, along with Karadzic and
other Bosnian Serb leaders, to ethnically cleanse large areas of Bosnia of
non-Serbs by unleashing a campaign of murder, rape, torture and forced
expulsions aimed at Muslims and Croats.
At the time of Krajisnik's trial, Karadzic was still on the run. He was captured
in Serbia in July and extradited to the tribunal to face genocide charges for
allegedly masterminding atrocities throughout the Bosnian war including the
siege of Sarajevo and the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.
Had Karadzic been available during Krajisnik's trial, his evidence could have
had an impact on the verdict, the motion said.
The two men are now being held in the same cell block in the U.N. detention
Krajisnik's legal team interviewed Karadzic for three hours last Friday, and has
applied for permission to interview him again to discuss his possible testimony.
Karadzic was due in court on September 17 for a hearing to discuss progress in
On the trail of Karadzic
Without the mountains of Slovenia and Bosnia or the stunning coastline of
Croatia or Montenegro, Serbian travel agencies have to live on their wits. One
agency now offers tourists the chance to follow in the footsteps of Karadzic,
who was arrested in Belgrade in July, 13 years after he was indicted for war
crimes by the U.N. tribunal in the Hague.
Karadzic was for years rumoured to be living in remote monasteries in the
mountains of Bosnia, but the truth was as bizarre as it was humdrum. He had
simply reinvented himself to become an alternative health guru selling cures for
impotence -- right in Belgrade. The man who presided over the brutal 3˝ year
siege of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo disguised himself by growing a long white
beard, wearing glasses the size of saucers and tying his long hair in a topknot.
He held lectures on spirituality, wrote for a magazine, travelled, acquired a
girlfriend and lived a life that was a world away from what one would expect
from a man who was a wanted fugitive.
Into the EU
Whether catharsis will ensue from trials in the Hague is one thing. What is
certain is that most Bosnians want to join the European Union and put their
fratricidal past behind them. But there are difficulties in the way, any number
Bosnia has no collective nationalism to speak of. Its people are split three
ways, and the Serbs are especially recalcitrant to Bosnian national aspirations.
This is what is bedevilling a vital set of negotiations under way over police
reform. The Serbs do not want to surrender the autonomy of their own police in a
common pool, because deep down they still harbor ambitions to go independent, as
Montenegro did two years ago. Actually, as we shall see, there is another, less
noble, motive at work.
The EU insists on police reform
The EU’s foreign policy chief has told leaders of Bosnia that failure to agree
on crucial police reforms will mean a long delay for Bosnia`s integration into
Javier Solana has been saying as much for more than a year.
The real issue
The real issue is that the Serb Republic is the most corrupt part of the Bosnian
Confederation; itself rated joint 84th for corruption by Transparency
International in its latest Corruption Perception Index in September. This is to
be among the Africans, whom it is in no way racist to point out are tribal in
social character, a fertile ground for corruption, because it presupposes trust.
Bosnian Serbs are more or less tribal in affiliation themselves. There is a
nexus between the police force, largely corrupt, and the business community,
which operates in a shadow economy, hardly paying taxes. The scale of corruption
is gargantuan. It was aggravated by an immense inflow of Western aid and loans
since 1995. The scope for malfeasance was colossal in their distribution.
The Bosnian Serb police were and are up to their eyeballs in this affair. They
were bribed to look the other way by fellow Bosnian Serbs, whom they were as
often as not on friendly relations anyway. In such a small community everybody
knows everybody else. It is this nice, cosy network that is under threat in
Of course the EU knows this, but cannot out of politeness mention it in
negotiation, except in veiled form.
Reneging on CEFTA
Yet another economic issue is perhaps partly related to the same problem.
Corruption takes many forms in the Balkans.
Bosnia is coming under renewed pressure from the EU after its parliament ignored
Sarajevo’s obligations under CEFTA – the Central European Free Trade
Agreement - and imposed unilateral customs duties. Exemptions on these are an
obvious breeding ground of corruption.
The move, an EU official warned, could result in the loss of huge benefits and
lead Bosnia to economic isolation. “That would have a devastating effect on
the country's exports while it would remain heavily dependent on imports,” the
EU spokesman in Bosnia, Frane Maroevic, told Balkan Insight.
It would be a mistake to suppose that the Serbs cause all the problems in
Bosnia. There is considerable apprehension about the prevalence of Wahhabist
zealots amongst the Bosnian Muslims, belonging to the very sect that began Osama
bin Laden, et al, and which has dominated in Saudi Arabia for centuries.
The following are excerpts from a sober and objective assessment of the problem
by an expert on the subject:-
Wahhabism in Bosnia-Herzegovina
Author: Juan Carlos Antúnez 16 September, 2008
Second part of the study of Wahhabism in B-H published previously by the Bosnian
It has been repeatedly stated that although Wahhabism has taken root in B-H for
the last fifteen years, the number of its followers is not as important as some
media try to show.
The B-H example has often been quoted as a role-model for the concept of a
‘European Islam’; moderate, peaceful and flexible, an incarnation of the
ideas of Islamic reformism reconciling traditional Islam with modern statehood.
The following features of Islam in B-H support this assessment:
- The unbroken tradition of a central spiritual authority with a well-organized
Ulama of Islamic scholars;
- The possible influence of extremist outsiders on the Islamic community in B-H
is lower than in other countries due to two main reasons:
- Personal reasons: Despite the fact that his position on Wahhabism is
considered as ambiguous, Rais Ul Ulama Mustafa Ćerić, the Bosnian
Muslim clreic, is a strong leader who keeps the Islamic community together;
- Structural arrangements: to be eligible, future Imams must have studied first
at one of the six Madrasas (Secondary Islamic Schools) and then at the Islamic
Faculty in Sarajevo.
Wahhabism in B-H is an alien and small movement within B-H. Despite this, it is
particularly successful in recruiting young ‘converts’ from within the B-H
moderate Muslim tradition and it identifies mainstream Bosnian Muslims as false
Muslims and even as enemies. It has some potential to result in growing, and
even violent, confrontation in B-H with moderate Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
This could have serious ramifications for B-H in its efforts to maintain a
pluralist society, as well as complicate the International war on terrorism by
providing a safer environment for transient terrorists, bound for Western
In time, unless the Wahhabi growth is effectively stopped and reversed by the
indigenous Muslim structures, the challenge of Wahhabism in B-H might have
implications for the rest of Europe.