Balkans

Serbia: court clears accused Nazi collaborator

A Serbian court on May 14 politically rehabilitated a World War II royalist executed nearly 70 years ago on convictions of collaborating with the Nazis. Serbian nationalist Dragoljub "Draza" Mihailovic was an officer of the royal army when the Nazis invaded. [After a period in resistance,] Mihailovic allegedly began collaborating with the invaders and joined with them against their common enemy, communist Josip Broz Tito. After Tito prevailed in 1945, Mihailovic was convicted of collaboration and committing war crimes. He was secretly executed and buried in an unknown location. In 2010 Mihailovic's grandson petitioned the courts to rehabilitate him, claiming that his grandfather had actually been fighting both Nazis and communists. The judge agreed , finding that the case against Mihailovic was politically motivated. Croatia called the ruling an outrage.

Mineral struggle in new Kosova violence

Police in Kosova fired tear gas to disperse stone-throwing protesters Jan. 24 as thousands of ethnic Albanians took to the streets of capital Pristina to demand the dismissal of Labor Minister Aleksandar Jablanovic, one of three ethnic Serbs in Prime Minister Isa Mustafa's cabinet. Jablanovic sparked outrage two weeks earlier when he called a group of ethnic Albanians "savages" for trying to prevent Serb pilgrims from visiting a monastery at Gjakova (Djakovica) on Orthodox Christmas. The group had claimed "war criminals" were among the pilgrims. There was more ugliness Jan. 14, when Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said that Albanian protesters kicked his car when he arrived at Kosova's Gracanica monastery for a ceremony. At the same event, Albanian reporters asked when Serbia would "apologize" for the ethnic cleansing in Kosova, and recognize Kosova's independence. Vucic replied that he would not answer "silly questions." There were apparently atrocities against ethnic Albanians in the vicinity of these monasteries during the Kosova war in late '90s, and we have noted the recent propensity for Orthodox holy sites to become a flashpoint for slugfests. But, as ever, there are actual issues of control of wealth and resources behind the conflict...

Netherlands found liable in Srebrenica massacre

The District Court of The Hague ruled July 16 that the government of the Netherlands is liable for the deaths of 300 of the men and boys killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The lawsuit was brought against the Dutch government in April by Mothers of Srebrenica, a group representing mothers and widows of men killed during the massacre. The court found that the UN-backed Dutch troops failed to adequately protect the Bosniaks at the UN compound in Potocari, which was overrun by Bosnian Serbs in July 1995. The court did not hold the Netherlands liable for the deaths of the majority of the men killed in Srebrenica, as most had fled the UN compound and were apprehended in the surrounding woods.

Sarajevo at 100: ready for World War 5?

June 28, St. Vitus' Day, marks a century since the Serb nationlist Gavrilo Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, thereby starting World War I. Commemorations in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo, the scene of the 1914 assassination, were predictably—indeed, inevitably—contested by the two political entities that make up contemporary Bosnia: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, supported by Muslims and Croats, and the Republika Srpska or Serb Republic. (See map.) The Institute for War & Peace Reporting notes that the commemorations were boycotted by Serb leaders, who instead held an alternative event in the Republika Srpska. Aleksandar Vucic, prime minister of Serbia, charged that what was supposed to be a joint commemoration had been co-opted by the Federation. Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic said the event amounted to an "accusation" against his people. Nebojsa Radmanovic, Serb member of the tripartite Bosnian presidency, declined his invitation in a letter to Austria's President Heinz Fischer, stating that the Sarajevo city government had abused the commemoration and "subordinated its meaning to the context of the 1990s civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina."

Kosovo lawmakers vote to create war crimes court

Lawmakers in Kosovo on April 22 voted 89-22 to create an EU-backed court that will investigate crimes committed by ethnic Albanian rebels during the 1998 war with Serbia. The move follows international pressure for Kosovo to open a state investigation into civilian killings committed by the rebel side. The court will be based in Kosovo, though most of the work will be carried out in the Netherlands. Similar to the operations of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), the court will be run by international judges and lawyers. Rebels during the conflict allegedly killed approximately 400 civilians.

NATO, Russia face off across Black Sea

The US Defense Department is dispatching a naval vessel to the Black Sea to conduct military exercises with allies in the region, as well as deploying additional Marines to enlarge a "rotational crisis response force" in Romania, the Pentagon announced April 3. The Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Crisis Response Force, based at Moron Air Base in Spain, is being increased from 500 to 675 and deployed to Romania "to allow greater flexibility." The Pentagon denied that the decision to send the additional Marines to Romania is related to developments in Ukraine. (American Forces Press Service, April 3)

Will Ukraine 'go nuclear'?

In a case of very disturbing bluster (but, we hope, still just bluster) Ukrainian parliamentarian Pavlo Rizanenko told the Western media that Ukraine may have to arm with nuclear weapons if the US and other world powers refuse to enforce a security pact that he said obliges them to act against Moscow's takeover of Crimea. "We gave up nuclear weapons because of this agreement," said Rizanenko of the Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR). "Now there's a strong sentiment in Ukraine that we made a big mistake." (KSDK, March 10) Rizanenko was refering to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances. Late last month, Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, formally invoked the Memorandum. In their statement, lawmakers said: "Ukraine received guarantees of country's security in the 1994 Budapest memorandum on security assurances over Ukraine's accession to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty." (ITAR-TASS, Feb. 28)

Anti-austerity protests rock Bosnia

Protesters in Bosnia-Herzegovina set fire to government buildings Feb. 7, in the worst unrest the country has seen since the end of the 1992-95 war. Hundreds have been injured in three days of protests over unemployment and privatization of state industries. The presidency building in Sarajevo was set aflame, and riot police fired rubber bullets and tear gas in both the capital and the northern industrial hub of Tuzla. Angry demonstrations are also reported from Mostar, Zenica and Bihac. Elderly residents supported the protests by banging cooking pots on their windows and balconies. Four former state-owned companies, including furniture and detergent factories, employed most of the population of Tuzla, but filed for bankruptcy shortly after being privatized, throwing thousands out of work. The leader of the Tuzla region, Sead Causevic, told Bosnian state TV that the "rip-off privatization" had already taken place when his government took office, and called the workers' demands legitimate. Bosnia has the highest unemployment rate in the Balkans at roughly 40%. Privatization that followed the end of communism produced a handful of oligarchs, but almost wiped out the middle class and sent many workers into poverty. (BBC News, DW, Feb. 7)

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