ISSN 2330-717X

Serbia, Bosnia Leaders Clash Over ‘Genocide Lawsuit’

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By Rodolfo Toe and Sasa Dragoljo

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic reacted angrily on Tuesday to a suggestion by the Bosniak member of the Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, who said that Sarajevo is considering filing a new lawsuit against Belgrade for aggression and genocide during the 1990s war on the basis of information from last week’s verdict convicting Radovan Karadzic.

Vucic accused Izetbegovic of looking for an excuse to start a dispute between the two countries.

“There is somebody who doesn’t want reconciliation in the region, and instead… is looking for any sufficient reason to start a spiral which is primarily politically violent, and which might lead to who knows what kind of violence,” Vucic told Serbian newspaper Politika.

He said that Serbia “wants peace and true reconciliation first of all”, but complained that Belgrade “has no partner” in the process.

“Somebody sees all this as an opportunity to carry out revenge against the Serbs, instead of achieving reconciliation,” Vucic said.

Izetbegovic told Bosnian media on Monday that local experts were analysing last Thursday’s verdict convicting wartime Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic, who was sentenced to 40 years in prison by the UN court in The Hague for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Izetbegovic said that if the verdict against Karadzic contains “new elements” incriminating Serbia, sarajevo will prepare a new lawsuit against Belgrade.

“We will not sweep the suffering of these people and this country under the carpet and we will start to revise the process, but we need new proof,” he said.

Bosnia and Herzegovina filed a lawsuit against Serbia at the International Court of Justice in 2006 accusing Belgrade of genocide against Bosniaks during the 1990s war.

Although the International Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that genocide was committed in Srebrenica, it established also that Belgrade was only guilty of not having impeded it.

The remarks by Izetbegovic and Vucic mark a new low in the recent history of relations between Bosnia and Serbia, which were gradually improving after the Serbian prime minister visited Srebrenica twice and organised the first joint session of Serbian and Bosnian governments in Sarajevo last year.

But Milos Solaja, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences of Banja Luka and an expert in international relations, told BIRN that the two men’s statements should not come as a surprise.

“They are part of the political rhetoric that was expected after Karadzic’s verdict, especially if we consider that both Bosnia and Serbia will have elections in a few months,” Solaja said.

He argued that Izetbegovic doesn’t have “any political tool” to launch a new lawsuit against Serbia.

Bosko Jaksic, a Belgrade-based political analyst, also said that Vucic’s remarks were part of his political campaign for the parliamentary polls in Serbia next month.

“He’s probably trying to gain additional political points,” Jaksic told BIRN, adding that Serbian politicians were trying to avoid commenting on the actual reasons why Karadzic was convicted.

“I hope this is just a transient episode in the relations between the two countries,” he said.

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Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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