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Starting from nothing, Serbian students begin to learn about the ICTY

Sremski Karlovci, 15 May 2012

Around 25 students from the Karlovacka gymnasium in the Serbian town of Sremski Karlovci today came together to listen to Outreach representative Morgiana Brading’s presentation on the work of the ICTY.

The students seemed fascinated by the topic and immediately began politely interrupting the presentation in order to pose their questions.

The initial point of interest was quite simply the mandate of the Tribunal, since the students knew next to nothing about the institution. A lively discussion began about the various types of crimes the Tribunal could prosecute. Morgiana explained about the differences between war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, giving examples from ICTY trials that covered events in Srebrenica, Brčko and Prijedor. The trial of Serbian camp guard Goran Jelisić intrigued the students, and after finding out about his guilty plea one student said that she hoped that admitting to one’s crimes was not all that was required by the Tribunal in such circumstances. She said:

“When someone commits such horrible crimes they should also have to tell the court everything they know about the crimes and also provide information about the victims. Just saying ‘I am guilty’ is simply not enough.”

Questions about the trial of Serbian political leader Vojislav Šešelj were also raised, and the students were surprised to hear that Šešelj had chosen to use his right not to present a defence case.

The teacher who attended the presentation said afterwards that she was very pleased with how things had gone. She also said she thought even more information should be provided to students, in particular about crimes committed against non-Serbs, since, unfortunately, “everyone in Serbia is only interested in Serb victims”. She said it had been an invaluable experience for the students to hear the testimony of Habiba Hadžić – a former inmate of the Serb-run Sušica camp who testified in the ICTY trial of Dragan Nikolić - because such statements “have a huge impact and are difficult for anyone to question.”