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Outreach presentation challenges students’ perceptions of the Tribunal

Bileća, 26 March 2014

Outreach representative Almir Alić travelled today to the town of Bileća, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), to meet with the students from the ‘Golub Kureš’ high school.

In 1992, during the war in BiH, Serb paramilitary groups attacked Bileća and, following their takeover of the municipality, non-Serb civilians, including women and children, were placed in detention centres. It is alleged that detainees were regularly beaten and kept in inhumane conditions.

The scars of these wartime events are still present in the reflections of the Golub Kureš students, even though they were born after the war.  Most of these young people said they did not believe in the possibility of reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia, “because people are too poisoned with hatred”, as one 18-year-old student suggested. Such attitudes make clear the importance of the presentations delivered to high school students through the Youth Outreach project, initiating, as they do, open and fact-based discussions about the recent, violent past.

In his presentation to the Bileća students, Almir stressed the role of the ICTY in the provision of the right to justice, one of the fundamental requirements in the overall process of facing the past. The students, many of whom expressed the belief that the Tribunal is prosecuting “members of only one ethic group”, had explained to them the principle of individual criminal responsibility under international law, something which helps prevent the demonisation of entire ethnic groups.

During the discussion following Almir’s presentation, many of the students said they could now recognise the Tribunal’s positive contribution to deterring such crimes in future, and also that the ICTY has prosecuted “war criminals regardless of their ethnicity”.

Commenting on the presentation, a 19-year-old student said: “What I very much liked is the fact that, during the presentation, the presenter put the accent on victims, without using manipulation on the basis of ethnicity, as the media often do. I believe that by coming to terms with our history and everything that has happened, there can be reconciliation among different ethnic groups in our country.