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Students debate politicisation and the nature of justice

Trebinje, 27 March 2014

At today’s high school presentation, Outreach representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Almir Alić, met with students from the Jovan Dučić gymnasium in the town of Trebinje, in the country’s far south.

After having listened attentively to Almir’s presentation on the work of the Tribunal, the students engaged in a frank discussion on the politicisation of the ICTY’s work and the nature of justice. One student suggested: “The biggest obstacle the Tribunal faces is the politicisation of its decisions. Whilst members of one ethnic group hail one decision as their great victory, members of other ethnic groups are left with a bad taste in their mouth. Yet, the very next decision is met with criticisms by the same community that has up to that point celebrated the work of the Tribunal, and with joy from the other. And that goes on and on.”

Although the events under discussion occurred before these students were even born, their continuing effects on the region’s younger generations were plain to see. One student said that his grandfather had been detained in the Čelebići camp in central BiH, and was later killed during a period of detention at the Musala camp. A number of students also pointed to the everyday politicisation of the proceedings by the media and politicians in BiH as a further cause of ongoing tensions.

Maybe as a result of their strongly held views on the politicisation of the proceedings, there were few among the students who said they truly believed in the possibility of reconciliation in the former Yugoslavia.

Still, one 19-year-old student said he believed that reconciliation was possible if “we come to realise that we are all humans, regardless of our ethnicity, and that all those suspected to be responsible should be tried for war crimes, without exceptions, and that there should be no selective justice.