Distressing attempts to equate the aggressor with the victims of 1990’s war of Serb aggression against Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina coming out of Serbia never seem to relent. In July we witnessed Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic having stones, shoes and items of rubbish thrown at him at the 20th anniversary of Srebrenica genocide, when he had to flee the gathering. The reason for this was mainly in his and Serbia’s twisted political course in denying the fact that Serbs committed genocide in Srebrenica 1995.
During the past week Vucic has come up with another distressing proposal or initiative: he proposes Common Day of Remembrance for all the Victims of the Conflicts on the Territory of former Yugoslavia towards achieving lasting peace in the region! That means Serb victims, Croat victims, Bosniak victims, Kosovar victims…
Superficially, all that might seem fine were it not for the fact that the Serbs and the Serbs only, were the aggressors everywhere who do not want to accept it nor take responsibility for their aggression on other nations’ territories and people.
Vucic announced that at the meeting on the 27th of August in Vienna, and even before that, he will propose to all leaders whose countries were involved in the conflicts on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, to find a common day of remembrance on all victims from the Western Balkans, that would not be differed by their ethnicity.
According to his words, “everyone could show the same respect for all of the victims and we would all know that there were victims on all sides.”
“From hatred and digging the old wounds from the past we cannot and we will not be able to live,” said Vucic.
Vucic needs to reaslise that “digging the old wounds” is essential to human dignity and justice if those wounds have not healed and the only way such wound can properly heal is through justice for the victim – through prosecutions and punishment of the perpetrator and through the perpetrator’s repentance.
The leaders in the region and some politicians in BiH have already said that this proposal will not be accepted.
Bakir Izetbegovic, member of tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Federation said that “Prime Minister Vucic’s initiative can only gain momentum if it implies genuine confrontation with the truth on all crimes, acceptance of verdicts handed down by international courts and historical facts established in the verdicts, as well as unequivocal condemnation of activities leading to new conflicts in this region – such as the initiative on holding a referendum on secession coming from the leadership of Republika Srpska.” Otherwise, he added, Vucic’s initiative might lead to relativising the character of the war and the scope of the crimes committed against the Bosniaks. “Such an initiative would not contribute to the process of reconciliation, but would rather set it back and endanger it,” Izetbegovic stressed.
Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic rejected the idea.
“With due respect and condolence, we do not prescribe to others which holidays they will mark, and we will not allow them to do that to us,” Milanovic said.
Kosovo foreign minister Hashim Thaci said Vucic’s proposal is unacceptable, and it represents an attempt to rewrite the history.
“We cannot equate those who instigated, organized and conducted genocide with those who defended their homes,” Thaci said.
Indeed the only thing I see in Vucic’s initiative for a common commemoration day for all victims of the 1990’s war in former Yugoslavia is yet another rude and callous attempt to equate the aggressor with the victims, to bury the blood from Serbia’s hands without any responsibility taken for the spilling of that blood.
It’s good to remind ourselves at this point that Williams and Scharf, suggest that a fixation on peace, especially when accompanied by practices of appeasement, does not simply result in a glossing over of questions of justice and victimisation, but actually leads to a discourse of moral equivalence and moral duplicity between victim and aggressor: “ Moral duplicity… entails declarations and actions designed to create the perception of moral equivalence among the parties, thereby eroding the distinction between aggressor and victim and spreading culpability among all parties” (Paul R. Williams and Michael P. Scharf, Peace With Justice: War Crimes and Accountability in the Former Yugoslavia, 2002, p. 26).
From this perspective, it is not just that “getting to peace” fails to directly engage victim identification and aggressor identification, but in fact it can falsely lead to equating the two groups as combatants on the same moral platform.
This simply cannot be permitted! For humanity’s sake if for nothing else!
There was no common moral platform between the Serb aggressor and those that needed to defend themselves from this aggression.
Aleksandar Vucic must fail in his bid for a common day of remembrance for all victims! All victims were not equal and had no common purpose. Serbs’ purpose was to attack, kill, ethnically cleanse and take the territory belonging to other people while the purpose of Croats, Bosniaks, Kosovars… was to defend themselves and their self-preservation. That of course does not mean that individuals of the latter did not commit crimes but this is not about individuals this is about the “blanket” purpose and policy that existed on “national” levels at the time.
But: “Of course, all victims deserve to be honored and respected. But twenty years later, we should be vigilant and discourage Belgrade from attempts to whitewash its failed Greater Serbia policy by revising this watershed event of the 1991-1995 period. To conclude, if the membership in the EU, thorough reforms and development of good neighborly relations are indeed key priorities of Serbia, it is vital that they are underpinned by the courage of their leaders who accept the truth and are ready for clear expression of regret and excuse as a precondition for forgiveness and lasting reconciliation with their neighbours,” commented so aptly Andrej Plenkovic, Croatian EU Parliament representative. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)