I wasn’t going to write much about the resumption of Karadzic’s trial last week. It was all going to be fairly predictable and it was. The trial began on Monday which happened to also be a Bosnian National Holiday, their Independence Day, a fact not lost on the Serbs*. Karadzic asked for (and got) more time to prepare, but not before he managed to go on for two days in a speech designed more to remind the Bosnian Serbs of their greatness and less to prepare for his defence. He denied everything, calling the seige of Sarajevo and the events in Srebrenica myths and then called the war ‘just and holy’. I mean holy? Really? I’ve heard many opinions as to why Bosnia imploded in the early 1990s, but religion is most certainly not one of them. Most people I know here couldn't even be bothered to listen to what he had to say, it was all so predictable.
Of far more interest is what else was going on around that day.
For some time, the EU has been trying to encourage Serbia onto the road of EU integration. The biggest obstacle in its path to full membership has been its failure to bring about the arrest of Ratko Mladic, the leader of the Bosnian Serb forces during the war. Everyone thinks Serbia knows exactly where he is. Serbia say they are doing all they can to find him, but he never seems to be found. Either way, every now and then the EU feels that they need to throw Serbia a bone, something to make them remember that they do want to join the EU and to encourage them to continue behaving themselves.
So on the very same day that the Bosnian Serb Karadzic’s trial restarts, Serbia asks Britain to arrest a Bosnian Muslim whom they regard as a War Criminal. Britain, to its eternal shame, did so, arresting Ejup Ganic as Heathrow and detaining him as a prisoner. Ejup Ganic, the Bosniak Vice-President during the war, has already been investigated by the ICTY in The Hague, but no indictments were made, nor formal charges bought.
Essentially the charges revolve around Ganic's role in protecting Sarajevo from the JNA (the Yugoslav army, which essentially became the Bosnian Serb army, as the Bosniak's had to create their own armed forces to defend themselves from agression, particularly difficult as there was an international arms embargo on the region, so they could not buy the weapons that they needed to defend themselves against the heavily armed Serbs). For more information I recommend you read this article by the London based Bosnian Institute, this post by Marko Attila Hoare**, this by Amila Bosnae and finally this by the Srebrenica Genocide Blog (read the comments too)
The British Government has said that it was "just a case of the judicial authorities following their legal obligations" and they were not making a political statement at all. Try telling that to the thousands of protesters outside of the British Embassy in Sarajevo on Friday. They, like pretty much everyone else, see it as a way of appeasing Serbia for the trial of Karadzic.
Sometimes I'm ashamed of my country. They couldn't even get the right country. The arrest warrant for Ejup Ganic's arrest talks of crimes committed in Sarajevo in Serbia. Ethical Foreign Policy? The Bosnians are right to be furious. In the meantime we've been advised, as British citizens, to keep our heads down.
*The Serbs did not want independence, they were essentially fighting against Bosnia’s cessation from the then Yugoslavia. They don’t celebrate Bosnia’s Independence Day.
** the picture that Hoare uses in his post is of an event in Tuzla. Tuzla did manage to repel the JNA army and as such was spared the worst of the ethnic cleansing that afflicted the rest of north eastern Bosnia. This picture freaks me out though. Brcanska Malta is where I go scooting with the boys. I know it well. But every time we go there I find that I can see the burning tanks in the middle of the road.