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The matter of William Schabas's resignation as the Chair of the Gaza Commission of Inquiry

Following yet another Israeli incursion into Gaza in 2014, causing a large number of civilian deaths, the United Nations set up the Independent Commission of Inquiry in July 2014 to look into possible violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. In the days following its establishment, members of the Commission were appointed, including Justice Mary McGowan Davis, Doudou Diene, and William Schabas as the Commission’s chair. The Gaza Commission of Inquiry was expected to publish its report and findings in March 2015, but it eventually did so with a three months delay. This delay was most probably caused, at least partially, by the resignation of the Commission’s chair William Schabas in February 2015, something that I will return to shortly. In any case, on 22 June 2015 the Gaza Commission of Inquiry announced the release of its 34 pages long report and 183 pages long detailed findings with the press release indicating that “UN Gaza inquiry finds credible allegations of war crimes committed in 2014 by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups.” As announced in the press release, the Commission is due to present its report formally to the UN Human Rights Council on 29 June 2015. In the course of this week, i.e. before the formal presentation of the report to the body that requested it, we will hear comments, mostly by representatives of Israel and Palestine, reported by global media outlets that operate on the breaking news rule. We will then hear from international commentators giving us a more in-depth perspective on the report and potential future developments. The last to react will be international law experts taking their time to read, and digest, the report and findings in order not to make any hasty conclusions. Their take on the report and findings will be more theoretical and academic in nature to make sure that the partisanship tag is not attached to their writing. Having heard the cacophony of these different voices and after a sufficient time has passed, the families will then be left more or less to their own devices in trying to move on with their lives. They will mourn their dead in deafening silence and Operation Protective Edge will be yet another in the series of Israel’s military operations in Gaza. I will leave it to others to dissect the report and its implications as my focus here is rather on some developments that preceded the release of the report having to do with the former Chair of the Commission William Schabas and his resignation. As noted above, Schabas was appointed to chair the Commission, the mandate which he performed for some six months before he submitted his letter of resignation to the UN Human Rights Council President on 2 February 2015. His resignation came shortly after Israel formally accused him in its 30 January 2015 letter of “blatant conflict of interest” on account of the fact that he prepared a legal opinion for the Palestine Liberation Organization in 2012. As for the details of what happened in these three or four days between Israel’s filing of complaint and Schabas’s resignation, it should be noted that upon receiving Israel’s letter and Schabas’s response to it, the HRC President Joachim Rucker forwarded this correspondence to the five person HRC Bureau. Importantly, Schabas indicated in his letter to the HRC President that “[i]f you decide to proceed to an examination of the merits of Israel’s complaint, I would like to reserve my right to make additional submissions.” In the minutes of 2 February meeting of the HRC Bureau, it is stated among other things that “[t]he Bureau agreed with the President’s proposal to seek a legal opinion from the Legal Counsel of the United Nations on this matter. The President would share the abovementioned two letters with the Legal Counsel, seeking advice on any action to be taken by the President in light of applicable rules and procedures.” However, before the UN Headquarters in New York had a chance to look into the matter, Schabas exercised his “right to make additional submissions” and resigned with immediate effect. Now, although Schabas stated in his letter of resignation that the Commission was at the important stage of drafting its report and that “the important work of the Commission is best served” if he resigned with immediate effect, it is clear from the above that the real reason for his resignation was the HRC’s decision to examine “the merits of Israel’s complaint” against him, instead of dismissing it as unsubstantiated and yet another attempt to obstruct the Commission’s work. It is true that 30 January 2015 letter was the latest in the series of Israel's attacks on Schabas accusing him of “clear and documented bias against Israel”, with his 2013 statement that Netanyahu would be his favorite to see in the dock of the International Criminal Tribunal cited most frequently both by the media and his fellow law professors and academicians calling on him to recuse himself. So, from day one of his appointment Schabas was the target of criticism from different quarters, including the Israeli officials, orthodox rabbis and some prominent figures from the human rights' and academic community. Some of the criticism against Schabas was really hard-hitting, even to the extent of attaching to him an etiquette of being anti-Semitic. Schabas initially laughed off this criticism and even mocked the calls for him to recuse himself, but as the attacks intensified he eventually stepped down. Not so much because of the attacks, but because of what he perceived as a lack of support from those who asked for the production of the report, the UN Human Rights Council. In light of this background, it should come as no surprise that Schabas got offended and decided to call it a day when the HRC, seemingly having succumbed to the Israeli pressure, decided to entertain the complaint against him and solicit a legal opinion from the UN Headquarters. Now, it is questionable whether he had a real reason to get offended, but what is not questionable is that he put his personal dissatisfaction with the HRC’s decision ahead of the interests of the Gaza Commission of Inquiry six months into his mandate as its Chair. Going back to the calls to Schabas to disengage himself from the work of the Gaza Commission, it should be noted that in their calls, respected international jurists only had words of praise for Schabas’s scholarship and professional references. Aryeh Neier, a founding member of the Human Rights Watch, among many other things, called him “a well known and leading scholar”. Joseph Weiler carefully chose his words describing Schabas as “a distinguished and justly influential scholar in the field... and entirely honourable person of impeccable integrity.” Schabas was also praised for “his lifelong commitment to strengthening the role of international criminal law in protecting the innocent and punishing the guilty.” So, based on all of this information, one gets the impression that Schabas got chastised for being critical of Israel, for speaking his mind a bit too openly and for not getting what he considered to be a sufficient support from his home base. Now, Scahabas is no stranger to observers of the post 90’s developments in the Balkans. He wrote a book on Milosevic, commented extensively on the work of the ICTY and ICJ, including the judgments of the two courts on Srebrenica, and most recently was a member of the Serbian legal team in the proceedings in the genocide case before the ICJ involving Croatia and Serbia. Another thing that may be said of Schabas is that he has never shied away from speaking his mind, even when his view differed from that of the majority. Actually, it is closer to the truth to say that he reveled in these situations when it was him against the world. Not minding the limelight at all, he would take it upon himself to show his opponents the flaws in their reasoning. One such case is Srebrenica. Schabas is on the record of having written back in 2001: “Would someone truly bent upon the physical destruction of a group, and cold-blooded enough to murder more than 7,000 defenseless men and boys, go to the trouble of organizing transport so that women, children, and the elderly could be evacuated?” Then, in 2007, in the wake of the ICJ's decision in the genocide case brought by Bosnia against Serbia, Schabas wrote: “Certainly, the ICJ endorsed the conclusion that genocide had been perpetrated at Srebrenica. Here too, though, it followed the analysis of the ICTY, treating the massacre as an isolated and ultimately idiosyncratic event within a broader conflict whose essence was not fundamentally genocidal, a devastating and destructive attack on the Muslims of Srebrenica that was improvised at the last minute by General Mladic.” In that same 2007 article, Schabas also wrote: “... the final result [ICJ's Judgment]... was really a setback for the Bosnian victims, whose lawyers should have convinced the state to discontinue their case. They probably could have obtained useful political considerations from Belgrade in exchange, but they have now, obviously, lost that chance.” One final quote from the 2007 article: “According to recent reports, Muslim life in Srebrenica is more vital and dynamic than ever.” All these statements have essentially been made in defense of the position that the two archetypal genocides of the twentieth century were the Holocaust and the genocide against Rwandan Tutsis. Schabas is on the record of advocating for this restrictive interpretation of the Genocide convention, most recently in the 2014 proceedings before the ICJ in the genocide case involving Croatia and Serbia. In that same case, however, he described the Croatian Army’s Operation Storm that resulted in the exodus of the Krajina Serbs from Croatia in the following terms: “... most genocides are arrested before they are fully carried out... But the intentional destruction of the Krajina Serbs stands as a tragic and barbaric example of a genocide where the sinister plan to destroy an ethnic group is now virtually complete. Nothing comparable... has taken place anywhere in Europe since 1945.” In the oral proceedings Schabas also slammed the former Croatian president Tudjman for his anti-Semitism using loaded references in likening the meeting of Croatia’s political and military leadership in Brioni ahead of Operation Storm to the Wannsee conference and the Operation Storm itself to “Tuđman’s final solution of the Krajina Serb problem” aimed at creating “lebensraum for hundreds of thousands of Croats”. Where is one to start in analyzing these statements? First, it will not serve your image of an academic with intellectual integrity if for years you present yourself as a member of the conservative camp in relation to the interpretation of the Genocide Convention only to modify that position and use the genocide label more liberally when acting as an agent for the State that claimed in the formal court proceedings that the specific episode in the conflict amounted to genocide. Second, making political statements even while earnestly believing that they are expert-like statements will in some cases pay off and get you a job such as membership in the Serbian legal team in the IJC’s genocide case involving Croatia and Serbia, while in other cases it will expose you to severe criticism and will eventually cost you a job such as chairmanship of the Gaza Commission of Inquiry. Moreover, what is one to make of Schabas’s statement in 2007 that “Muslim life in Srebrenica is more vital and dynamic than ever”? In the context of 2014 Gaza conflict, imagine if someone said twelve years later in 2026 that Muslim (not Palestinian) life in Gaza is more vital and dynamic than ever. Finally, in relation to Schabas’s claim on useful political considerations that Bosnia allegedly could have obtained from Serbia, it should first be noted that the reason why Bosnia went to the ICJ in the first place was to obtain one particular useful political consideration, which was to end the war. Again, in the context of Gaza conflict and the recent accession of Palestine to the ICC, it is the same as saying down the stretch that Palestine should have never asked for investigation of potential crimes that fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction because had they not done so, they probably could have obtained useful political considerations from Tel Aviv, but alas now they have lost that chance. Finally, Schabas said in his letter of resignation that one of the reasons he did it was because he wanted the work of the commission to be done without any further derailment by the Israeli side. In view of all the above evidence of Schabas being not only legally, but also politically, outspoken, I wonder whether the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) made the right choice when it appointed him to chair the Gaza Commission of Inquiry in the first place. If there is anything to be learned from this, it is that UN bodies should exercise more caution when appointing individuals like Schabas to these commissions because the ensuing attacks tend to shift the attention away from the subject matter for which they were originally established. Moreover, individuals vane enough to give ultimatums to the human rights bodies that appointed them, which is what Schabas realistically did when he reserved his right to make additional submissions depending on which direction the HRC was going to take in response to Israel’s complaint, should not be shortlisted for the post. And preferably, they should be true champions of human rights.



Negdje uoci zamalo smrti, prave ne ove klinicke, legnem tako jedne noci i u onom rostiljanju kad ne mozes spavati pomislim na to da mi valja downloadovati sve postove, sto su vec neki dragi prijatelji bloggeri ili vec uradili ili su se spremali da to urade. I tako nocima ja to vrtim pitajuci se ima li to sve smisla i je li to vrijedno makar i nevelikog truda, uto javise nije umro Presaltah se na jedno drugo dumanje, a to je o isplativosti investicije u kupovinu Je li moguce vratiti ono vrijeme pocetne zaraze ili ce pak doci neki novi koji ce zamijeniti one stare? Prije nego sam poceo piskarati, ili bolje receno slusati muziku pa postavljati neke kao kompilacije, sjecam se da sam redovno, kao i mnogi drugi pokazace se kasnije, citao Sarajevsku trebu. Mada je bezveze sad o tome pricati nesto me je u jednom postu, ne sjecam se sta je to bilo, nagnalo da pomislim da je treba u stvari frajer. Kasnije ce se pokazati da je u pitanju muz od moje prijateljice iz srednje skole. Genijalac. Kasnije je nastavio pisati isto genijalno konceptualno osmisljen blog Pisma nerodjenom djetetu gdje za razliku od prijeratnih i ratnih trebinih avantura sad uglavnom nalazimo klinicki precizne komentare post-ratne sarajevske (bosanske) zbilje i okruzenja u kojem ce njegovo djete odrastati. Znao sam pomisliti kako je sjajna ideja zabiljeziti misli na papir koje zelis podijeliti sa svojim djetetom dok je ono jos u majcinoj utrobi ili malo. Koliko je roditelja pomislilo kako se nisu ispricali sa svojom djecom prije nego li su ovi otisli od kuce za svojim zivotima, ili podijelilo svoja razmisljanja o nekim bitnim pitanjima u trenucima zivotnih raskrsca as they happen... Bilo je i nekoliko blogova kao sto su Bore oko ociju, Vikicev specijalac, Shoba, Price o umoru, bilo ih je jos sigurno, koji su pisali o svom iskustvu boraca u ratu koji su branili ovaj grad. Nazalost, Pospanko koji je prezivio rat nije vise s nama, ostale su njegove knjige. Ja sam najvise pratio Shobu i Vikicevog specijalca. Sjecam se Shobine price o bitki za Zuc, e to je nesto o cemu bi buduce generacije trebale uciti u svojim udzbenicima o istoriji. Sjecam se komentara i jednog momka iz Svedske koji je napisao otprilike da sam sebi smijesan djeluje da uopste nesto pise kad procita njihove price. A njihove price su se citale u Australiji, Svedskoj, ovdje, citali su ih sadasnji dvadesetogodisnjaci i oni u 30-im, 40-im, 50-im do kojih su sami autori sad vec dobacili. Naravno, postoji ta univerzalna zelja za rasvjetljavanjem tog vremena koje nam je svima zivote tumbe okrenulo, a iz tog ugla to do pojave bloggera nije bilo moguce, barem u ne tako detaljnoj i sistematicnoj formi. Ovaj komentar naseg momka u Svedskoj, profesora Kretenikusa, oslikava to kako su svi pisali (ili citali) blogove iz razlicih razloga. Ponekad su to bili krajnje banalni razlozi, kao u mom slucaju, dok se kod ovih gore pomenutih radilo o duboko promisljenom procesu i pisanju koje je na momente bilo larger than life. I upravo nas je ta larger-than-life dimenzija njihovog pisanja, pretpostavljam, u pocetku privlacila da dodjemo na ove stranice. Za sve ostalo krivi su komentari... Bilo je tu i bloggera, pravih umjetnika, koji su pisali o svojoj svakodnevnici u formi kratkih prica koji su isto bili u kategoriji not to be missed (Iluzija, KK, Aime Sati...), volio sam citati i Pljucka, sjecam se jedne price kad ga je neko pokusao izbunariti u trolejbusu, a on mu slomio ruku pa drot od njega uzimao izjavu ili ga privodio, sta li vec, i Filozofiju palanke, sjecam se njene sarajevske ture, kafana, ulica i galerija koje obilazi, Klinike Svarcvald i njegovih vijesti iz nesvijesti. Bila je to galerija likova koje si mogao okupiti na jednom mjestu jedino na I u onom rostiljanju naumpalo mi je u jebote, pa sad cu morati otvoriti fuckin' Facebook account! I nije ovaj bio neka kompenzacija za nedovoljno uzbudljivu vlastitu realnost nego obogacenje, dodatak svakodnevnici k'o kad te prijateljica, isto bloggerka, obraduje sa saksijom bosiljka za balkona. Neki su pisali da bi bolje upoznali sebe, ogoljavali ono svoje najintimnije in the process, ja sam onako vise cini mi se bjezao od sebe pisuci tek rijetko o necem licnom. Najvise sam volio putopise da pisem i lijepo je tako bilo upoznati i Shobu koji mi je dao preporuku u kojim restoranima jesti za tih par dana koliko smo proveli u New Yorku. I odlicna je stvar sto se covjek ne sjeca cijene hotela, vec sushija u Marumiju. Od Coffeeshopa sam naucio o Bristolskom triphopu i austrijskoj alternativnoj DJ sceni. Sa Liberation Chant popio pivo u Radicevoj... Od drugih isto pokupio kojecega lijepog. U sustini iako nisam neki ljubitelj kolektivnih identiteta lijepo je tih godina bilo biti dijelom bloggerske zajednice. Nemam prostora za neko detaljnije sjecanje. Novi pocetak je novi pocetak. Meni je licno drago da sam eskivirao download all posts, a sta ce dalje biti sve je to bonus. Tu su jos uvijek KK, Aime Sati, Prince of Perversia... mozda se jos poneko vrati, a neko i dodje...


U susret jubilarnom 20. SFF-u

Ne sjećam se tačno kada je Sarajevski filmski festival postao bitan faktor u mom ljetnom kalendaru. Počelo je to vjerovatno sa iščitavanjem festivalskog biltena sa kratkim opisom svih filmova i podvlačenjem željenih naslova. Sjećam se i da mi nije bilo mrsko čekati u redu za karte, tako da mora da je to bilo nešto vrijedno truda. Tih godina bi pogledao nekoliko filmova, uvijek manje od željenog broja, i intenzivno sam zavidio onima što bi uzeli godišnji odmor i onda trčali s jedne projekcije na drugu. Svake godine bih sebi govorio kako ću i ja tako naredne godine, pa nikad. Uglavnom, sjećam se da sam na poslu 'narađivao' dokumentarce koje je birao Howard Feinstein i koji su se obično prikazivali u Meeting Pointu u podnevnom terminu, ili ponekad od tri. Vremenom mi je postalo zanimljivo i da pratim pisanije o festivalu u novinama, kao neki barometar današnjeg sarajevskog društva na nekom mikro nivou. Tako je jedan vrli pisac prije otprilike sedam godina zapisao svoj razgovor sa prijateljem. Kao pita ga jaran koje će filmove gledati na festivalu, a on mu na to odgovara neće nijedan jer iako toliko voli film da bi se „koliko sutra, mogao prijaviti za kviz iz povijesti kinematografije“ nema nijednu, kako on veli, gledateljsku prednost, tj. nije između ostalog „biznismen, tajkun, sponzor... političar, diplomat, stranački moćnik ili stranački vodonoša.“ Te iste godine zabilježio sam da nisam čekao nijednu sekundu u redu i da sam kupio karte za sve projekcije koje su me zanimale, tako da to realno nije bio problem. Ono što jeste problem je spočitavanje nekakvog nakaradnog elitizma festivalu na osnovu teze da je teško doći do karata, što jednostavno tog ljeta 2007. godine nije bio slučaj. I ako se već toliko voli film, najmanje što je kandidat za kviz mogao uraditi jeste informisati se kakva je situacija sa kupovinom karata i onda pisati recimo o tome kako je kupio karte, ali mu je mrsko sjediti sa svim tim biznismenima, tajkunima, sponzorima, političarima, diplomatima, stranačkim moćnicima i vodonošama, pa će ih pokloniti nekome od obične raje. Od filmova koji su prikazani te godine a kojih se i dan-danas sjećam, što je vjerovatno najbolji pokazatelj njihovog kvaliteta, tu su: Sari's Mother, Bil'in My Love, Očima vojnika, Terror's Advocate, Informativni razgovori, Esma, Once... Od pisanija, pažnju mi je privukao tekst još jednog novinara-književnika (onaj prvi je valjda više književnik-novinar) koji je napisao: „Pitanje o tome da li je festival dobar, pomalo je suvišno. Grad živi bolje, brže i kvalitetnije u ove dane. Ali, sjenka koja se nadvila nad njega, sjenka 'ideološke pravovjernosti' obučena u bijela odijela koja puše havane, prijeti da on kroz nekoliko godina postane poput napuštene fabrike čiji ogoljeni veliki zidovi još jedino svjedoče o nekadašnjem značaju i veličini.“ I tako su onoj prethodnoj listi hoštaplera dodana i „bijela odijela koja puše havane“. Meni je ispočetka bila malo čudna ova izražena doza tobože pravovjerne negativnosti prema festivalu, ali čini mi se da sa ove vremenske distance malo bolje razumijem o čemu se tu zapravo radi. Mi smo u kritici uvijek i nepogrešivo velikodušni jer mi to radimo za dobrobit kritikovanog, u ovom slučaju filmskog festivala, a sve to jer nam je objekat kritike previše bitan da bismo tek tako pustili da polako odumire i gubi sve one kvalitete koji su ga nekoć krasili. Prije nego smo mi u svojoj svekolikoj objektivnosti odlučili da to više nije to. A realno valja nečim i popuniti novinski tekst. Pa je tako popunjavajući novinski tekst jedan filmski kritičar iz susjedne države napisao prije pet godina da „u srpskoj javnosti, a posebno u filmskim krugovima, vlada uvjerenje da je SFF bar u neku ruku antisrpski festival.“ I onda taj stav pojašnjava time da srbijanski filmovi nisu bili nagrađivani na ranijim izdanjima festivala. Sad ćete vi meni reći da pretjerujem jer nekoga ko uzima na sebe da govori u ime čitave javnosti i filmskih krugova ne treba uzimati zaozbiljno. I stoji to nema zbora, ali nekako ti zasmeta lakoća s kojom se ta anti odrednica prišije i nečemu tako neutralnom kao što je u biti filmski festival. Tada sam dotičnom kritičaru odgovorio ljutito i ne baš biranim riječima, ali sa ove vremenske distance uviđam da je veći problem taj provincijalizam koji se hrani ubjeđenjem da smo mi ti koji određujemo šta je to kvalitet, a ne u ovom konkretnom slučaju međunarodni žiri. Mi, ex-yu pametnjakovići, smo svi stručnjaci iz povijesti kinematografije i mi svi znamo u kojem pravcu jedan festival treba da se razvija da se nad njega ne bi nadvila neka ideološka sjenka koja će ga sasvim izvjesno u jednom trenutku i poklopiti. Te 2009. godine, među nagrađenim filmovima bili su srbijanski filmovi Ordinary People i Tilva Roš. O još jednom aspektu našeg provincijalizma i sindroma društva koje se previše bavi samim sobom govori i novinarka-prevoditeljica kada piše o „dekadentnoj i perverznoj, slijepoj i neljudskoj EU“ i o nama u kojima ima „još ljubavi i razumijevanja, i topline, i kuće i familije i kičme.“ A sve to na osnovu tri pogledana filma, s jedne strane kanadskog i slovenačkog i s druge hercegovačko-bosanskog. I tako bi neki vanzemaljac mogao pomisliti da na prostoru od Slovenije do Kanade vlada neljudskost i dekadencija, dok je kod nas u BiH sve prožeto toplinom i razumijevanjem. Opet ćete mi reći da pretjerujem i otkud je sad njeno mišljenje bitno, ali nije to iskrivljeno ubjeđenje o nama dobrodušnima i njima bezdušnima ograničeno samo na jedan obični novinski tekst. Od filmova koje sam gledao te godine zapamtio sam Rachel, Layla's Birthday, Storm, Food Inc, Standard Operating Procedure, Women from Georgia, Goodbye Solo, Kenjac. Nisam baš svake godine pratio ove pisanije jer zna to biti baš zamorno. Tako sam prije četiri godine samo gledao filmove. Godine koje su pojeli lavovi, Presumed Guilty, Jaffa: The Orange's Clockwork, Kick Off, The Secret in Their Eyes i konačno A Somewhat Getle Man. Tada sam u ulozi wannabe filmskog kritičara zapisao: „Ovom filmu je realno teško naći bilo kakvu manu od početka pa do završne scene u kojoj naš junak iz naslova (Stellan Skarsgard) pripaljuje cigaru na auto-otpadu. Sve cigare koje je dotad pripalio nagovještavale su neku brigu koja se nepogrešivo i materijalizuje, dok ova Stellanom liku donosi smiraj i bolje dane. Neki ozbiljniji filmski kritičari rekli bi kako ovaj film predstavlja spoj naizgled nespojivih filmskih izraza Lars Von Triera i Guy Ritchiea, odnosno minucioznog ogoljavanja jedne male sredine uz korištenje bezličnih kulisa kao što su radnička četvrt, podrumska soba ili automehaničarski servis s jedne i karikaturalnih likova i situacija koje, osim što služe kao comic relief, pomažu režiseru da pribjegne i najnevjerovatnijim rješenjima koja u svijetu ovog filma djeluju savršeno uvjerljivo s druge strane.“ Ovaj film posebno pominjem iz razloga što režisersko-glumački dvojac, Hans Peter Molland i Stellan Skarsgard, gostuje i na ovogodišnjem festivalu sa filmom „In Order of Disappearance“. Pretprošle godine sam se vratio pisanijama. Jedan pisac satiričar je te godine pribilježio: „Kino Sutjeska je ruševina iz koje već petnaest godina memla vuče prolaznike za nogavice. Kino Radnik je pretvoreno u magacin. Kino Kumrovec je srušeno da bi umjesto njega iznikao neboder već dvije godine prazan. Kino Arena je srušeno da bi grad dobio još jedno divlje parkiralište. Kinoteka će umrijeti kao videoteka. Kino Prvi Maj je pretvoreno u kafanu planinarskog doma. Ne izlazi ni Sineast. Na prste lijeve ruke Kapetana Kuke mogli bi se izbrojati kino klubovi pod okriljem prosvjetno-pedagoškog zavoda. Ali Sarajevo svejedno ima festival. Filmski.“ Jedan akademski slikar i karikaturista se nadovezuje pa kaže između ostalog: „Čime Sarajevo postaje kulturnije zahvaljujući SFF-u? To je način da se kultivira stanovništvo, ali je to preskupo i neodrživo u ovakvom trenutku kada propadaju institucije od istorijskog i kulturnog značaja, a da se jedna privatna manifestacija finansira iz državnog budžeta.“ I tako to traje godinama, SFF ispade kriv za čitav niz naših kolektivnih poraza, od poslijeratne pljačkaške privatizacije do zatvaranja Zemaljskog muzeja. Jedan ovdašnji filmski režiser na ove kritike je tada odgovorio ovako: „Najbolje je ukinuti i festival i da nema ništa kao što je bilo prije dvadeset godina, nije ništa bilo u Sarajevu, nego je ono pustinja. Ako ćete me zvati za te budalaštine, nemojte me, majke ti, uopšte više ni zvati.“ Od filmova te godine zapamtio sam Dugi raspust, The Angel's Share, My Brother the Devil i Football Rebels. I konačno prošle godine, po prvi put otkako pratim filmski festival, nisam bio tu i odgledao sam samo argentinski film Wakolda zadnjeg festivalskog dana. Od filmova koje nisam ranije spomenuo pamtim još i Dark Days, Paradise Now, The Visitor, Tyrannosaur, Crash, The Magdalene Sisters, Ecumenopolis: City Without Limits... Vratio sam se na početak teksta da vidim koji je to broj filmova kojih se sjećam. Ukupno 33. S obzirom da se radi o filmskom festivalu, pomalo je paradoksalno da se već godinama više piše o svemu drugom osim o filmovima. Ako bi ovaj tekst trebao imati neku poruku, onda je to da trebamo ogromni polemički potencijal festivala iskoristiti barem malo konstruktivnije. Za kraj, osam filmova koje bih preporučio za gledanje na ovogodišnjem izdanju festivala, s tim da trebam još reći da se radi o skraćenoj listi posebno prilagođenoj parovima sa malom djecom: Mr. Turner, Order of Disapperance, Leviathan, Wild Stories, Turist, Nekada davno, Čika Toni, tri budale i tajna služba i Djeca tranzicije.


O svjetskom iz ofsajda

BMP Dugo smo čekali na plasman na svjetsko prvenstvo. Neki bi rekli i predugo. Naš trenutak je došao u onoj olovno teškoj utakmici u Litvaniji u kojoj smo pobijedili domaćeg golmana Ibiševićevim golom u završnici utakmice izbjegavši tako „baraž, baraž, mi nikada nećemo proć'!“ To prokletstvo baraža se izgleda toliko duboko urezalo u našu kolektivnu svijest da se sjećam da sam nakon utakmice imao osjećaj da smo umjesto sveopšteg narodnog slavlja bili sposobni tek za jedan duboki uzdah olakšanja. Izdahnuo sam tada i Marchenin gol u sedmoj minuti nadoknade i Nasrijev penal na osamnaest metara i bandite u Savezu i sve ostale prevare, i udahnuo miris mora na Copacabani. Pomislio sam na to kako će Zvjezdan Misimović Miske igrati na svjetskom prvenstvu. Šteta da tamo neće biti i vjerovatno naomiljeniji kapiten bh. reprezentacije svih vremena, Sergej Barbarez Barba, za kojeg je jedan njemački komentator rekao da ga je uživanje gledati kako mu se lopta u trku lijepi za nogu, jer nije više igrački aktivan. Ipak, na zadovoljstvo svih nas svijet će u Brazilu vidjeti igrača koji posjeduje kvalitete i jednog i drugog, Miralema Pjanića Mireta. Neki se neće složiti sa mnom kada je izbor baš ove trojice u pitanju, i prije će se opredijeliti za Kodru, Salihamidžića, Bola reci Balji da se ne zajebava, Džeku ili nekoga drugog. Pojasniću. Barba je godinama bio važan igrač i igrao je na svim pozicijama i čini mi se da samo golman nije bio. Kao kapiten vodio je reprezentaciju u skoro pa ratnoj atmosferi beogradske Marakane. Miske, kralj lažnjaka i zadnjeg pasa, bosanski Cantona, vječito osporavan od Pižona do Ćire pedera, kojem će Edin Džeko ostati vječni dužnik, dva puta nas je doveo na korak od cilja. I konačno Mire, tih u životu, goropadan s loptom na terenu, igrač kojeg je milina gledati kad s lakoćom koja krasi samo velike izbaci dvojicu igrača kod samog prijema lopte i koji je na travnjak jedine prave, doduše preuređene, Maracane, one u Rio de Janeiru, istrčao kao predvodnik nove generacije. Trio asova poput nekadašnjeg mostarskog BMV, Barba i Miske na mjestima Bajevića i Marića i umjesto Vladića Pjanić. Predugo čekanje, prekratka proslava S obzirom na to koliko dugo smo čekali na plasman na svjetsko (ili evropsko) prvenstvo, čini mi se da smo ga prekratko slavili. I umjesto da guštamo koliko god možemo i koliko god to objektivne okolnosti dopuštaju, pa čak i nakon izvlačenja grupa, jer kalkulacije i sve što one nose, kao npr. formacijske postavke, prosječna ljetna temperatura u Cuiabi, broj pozvanih nigerijskih napadača i sl. dokazano povećavaju stres, mi smo sa karakterističnom naivnošću nekoga ko prvi put učestvuje na mundijalu požurili da s tim uveritrnim slavljem što prije završimo i da unaprijed preduprijedimo svaku mogućnost našeg neplasmana u drugi krug. Mi Bosanci smo, u dvije riječi, nerealni i neumjereni. Do te mjere da se u nekim ozbiljnim analizama prije prvenstva samo slavljenje učešća smatralo defetizmom prvog reda. Kao ako nećemo nešto napraviti ne trebamo ni ići u Brazil. Na stranu to što po meni slavljenje učešća do pred sami mundijal ne samo da nije nekompatibilno sa rezultatskim učinkom, već je upravo ljekovito jer otklanja pritisak sa igrača i selektora i sužava mogućnosti za beskonačno preispitivanje nekih nefudbalskih stvari vezano za repreprezentaciju. Iz takve opuštenosti i manjka velikih očekivanja ubijeđen sam mogli smo doći do igre koja bi nam donijela željeni rezultat. Ovako smo ih čini mi se maksimalno opteretili, a u takvim okolnostima i jedan ofsajd, ili stativa, mogu biti sudbonosni. Mi, neumjereni, nerealni Nije naša sklonost tome da budemo nerealni i neumjereni od juče. Nekad se neki izdanak ove ex-jugoslovenske škole dosjetio da fudbalsku reprezentaciju bivše države nazove evropskim Brazilcima. I ta tradicija neumjerenosti se uveliko baštini i danas. Pa tako Hrvatska pored Brazilaca Da Silve i Sammira ima i „Brazilce“ Modrića i Rakitića. Imamo i mi svoje, Srbija svoje, itd. „I sve je super i sve je za pet“ kad pobjeđujemo i igramo dobro i lepršavo, ali ono što nas razlikuje od Brazilaca je kad u porazu tražimo krivce u čemu smo krajnje neumjereni. Onda se ocjenu kreću od groznog do sramotno lošeg. Sjećam se „k'o da je juče bilo“ kad je Ćiro Misketa proglasio krivcem za minimalni poraz od Portugala u prvoj utakmici prvog baraža. Kao da je on bolje odigrao ne bi izgubili, da nije izgubio par lopti ne bi naši važni igrači dobili žute kartone zbog čega nisu mogli igrati u uzvratu i sl. Optužio ga na kraju, jebote, da ruši državu! Traženje krivca je generalno u životu, a pogotovo u sportu, pogana rabota. I obično se to vrati onom ko je zakolutao klupko. Kao što se to vratilo Ćiri i nama svima koje je on u tom svom bezumnom ispadu nelegitimno predstavljao. A kakvo je stanje kod brazilskih Brazilaca kad je traženje krivaca u pitanju? Vodeći se Ćirinom logikom čitava odbrana, na čelu sa Luizom, plus defanzivni vezni trebali bi odgovarati ako ne za državni udar i veleizdaju, onda barem za nesavjestan rad u službi koji nosi kaznu do deset godina tucanja kamena u kamenolomu Espirito Santo ili krčenje amazonske prašume u površini barem jedne Bavarske nakon nezapamćenog poraza od 7:1 od Njemačke. Isto tako, koja je to kompenzacija koju će brazilski „krivci“ morati platiti za štetu nanesenu brazilskom fudbalu i mukotrpnom zalaganju njegovih velikana poput Pelea, Garinche, Sokratesa, Zica i ostalih da se izgradi imidž koji je Brazil eto, sve donedavno imao, u svijetu fudbala i mogućnost da će se u budućnosti neka reprezentacija sa tog kontinenta nazivati „južnoameričkim Njemcima“? I zato trebamo učiti od Brazilaca (i Asmira Begovića) kako se nositi i sa porazima i smišljati neku bolju strategiju kolektivnog djelovanja. Za idući put... Džehenem u Paradise-u Uoči početka prvenstva pratio sam sve što se pisalo u vezi sa mundijalom. I pomalo mi je, moram to reći izlizana priča o čistoti fudbala nekadašnjeg i prljavštini, je li, ovog današnjeg. Sa povećavanjem uloga i FIFA je vremenom usavršavala svoje metode, a i globalizacija joj je sa stvaranjem još većeg jaza između elita i običnog svijeta na nacionalnom i internacionalnom planu, kako su to neki stručnjaci i predviđali, samo išla na ruku. Dobar primjer za to je još jedna tema o kojoj se često pisalo, balast između gradnje stadiona za potrebe mundijala i egzistencijalne ugroženosti običnog brazilskog čovjeka. Nas se u člancima u stranim medijima predvidivo sažaljevalo kao dežurne paćenike koji su eto jednom iz svog blata stigli do zvijezda, pa je tako više prostora bilo posvećeno strahotama rata, odrastanju igrača pod granatama ili nevoljama izbjeglištva nego sportskim temama, jer sve priče o našim uspjesima i neuspjesima počinju i završavaju sa ratom. Ja sam se za prvenstvo pripremao kao i sav ostali pošten fudbalski svijet širom dunjaluka skupljanjem Panini sličica. Jedna sasvim lična opaska. Misketa sam zalijepio zadnjeg poželivši mu uspješan mundijal, kao nekad Papetu ili Prosinečkom. Ostaće zabilježeno u nebitnoj statistici da je na njegov pas u 21. minuti utakmice protiv Nigerije, Edin Džeko postigao gol koji je novozelandski sudija Peter O'Leary neopravdano poništio na intervenciju svog pomoćnika. A u još manje bitnom ličnom sjećanju da taj poništeni gol, koji je u najvećoj mjeri obilježio naše učešće na mundijalu barem u takmičarskom smislu, nisam ni vidio jer sam utakmicu u kafiću Paradise u malom mjestu na albanskoj obali gledao od dvadesetinekog minuta. Brat, koji je bio na licu mjesta, kasnije mi je rekao da je među našim navijačima tog poslijepodneva u Cuiabi jedna od glavnih tema bila i Papetova tzv. tumbe formacija i nepostavljanje igrača da brani lijevi bok. Imao je Pape svoj rezon, ali iz ove perspektive, a lako je pričati iz ove perspektive, trebao je poslušati svoj igrački instinkt vodeći se ne onom krilaticom koja poziva na oprez „ne sam Safete“, već upravo njenom hazarderskom varijantom „sam Safete“ koja bi izvukla Nigerijce s njihove polovine dovodeći ih češće nadomak Begovićevog gola i time ostavljajući više prostora našim napadačima i ofanzivno orijentisanim veznim igračima. Ovako, ganjati zaostatak u tropskoj Cuiabi pokazalo se nemogućom misijom. Kao da smo se našli u procjepu između „za gol više“ filozofije koju smo uglavnom igrali pod Papetom i više taktičkog pristupa poništavanja protivnikovih prednosti posjedom lopte. I neka mi bude oprošteno još jedno poređenje nas evropskih sa originalnim Brazilcima, kao što je i samo ubjeđenje da je odbrana jača od napada trebalo biti opomena da je u kampu Brazila nešto zlo i naopako, tako je i naše oslanjanje na više taktički pristup umjesto u kvalifikacijama oprobanog blickrigovskog ofanzivnog u toj utakmici doprinjelo našem neprolasku u drugi krug. Uz to golemo breme očekivanja. Jer pokazalo se to u utakmici sa Iranom da smo sa barem dva igrača manje na terenu pobijedili Iran kojem je u prve dvije utakmice samo minuta falila da ostanu nepobijeđeni. Onside Utakmicu u Salvadoru brat je pratio u društvu nekoliko momaka koji su nosili transparent „Košpicari“ koji režiseru ipak nije bio dovoljno zanimljiv da mu odvuče pažnju sa zgodnih Iranki. Dok sam gledao ove Iranke koje vjerovatno ne žive u domovini, sjetio sam se filma Jafara Panahija Offside, priče o tome kako se djevojke koje vole fudbal prerušavaju u muškarce da bi mogle ući na stadion i uživo gledati utakmice. Naši problemi su druge vrste i tiču se našeg života u ofsajdu. Kad bi se o tome mogao snimiti film, Peter O'Leary i njegov pomoćnik znali bi sasvim sigurno i bez pomoći video tehnologije koja se nikad neće uvesti da je Džekin gol bio jedan trenutak kada nismo bili u ofsajdu.


Croatia v. Serbia, Serbia v. Croatia and William Schabas v. Franjo Tudjman

The case of Croatia v. Serbia (and vice versa) before the ICJ has not generated much interest even among the professional public. This can be attributed to the fact that the Croatian-Serbian war now, twenty years after, is an almost forgotten conflict and that international lawyers are setting their sights on the more recent conflicts such as the one in Ukraine. A few commentators who did write on the subject criticized the two countries for not withdrawing their claims and for stoking up past antagonisms. Another line of criticism concerned paying of hefty fees to the foreign counsel representing the two countries before the court, especially since the economic situation back home is not too bright, to say the least. I remember distinctly that the Croatian president Josipovic and his (former) Serbian counterpart Tadic not so long ago received European medal of tolerance for “honesty, moral courage and reconciliation”, among other things, and yet we are all witnesses now to the litany of mutual accusations between the two countries before the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. In this article, I will focus on a month-long oral proceedings on the merits of the case taking place at the Peace Palace in The Hague in March 2014. Withdrawal of claims – the promise that never materialized No one would have appreciated the withdrawal of claims more than the ICJ's judges. It would have saved them from reading through thousands of pages of memorials and counter-memorials, replies and rejoinders and additional pleadings, as well as from listening to the many hours of oral arguments. They would have been spared history lessons and listening to how Tudjman was happy that his wife was neither a Serb nor a Jew, or how Milosevic was protecting the Serb nation on the entire territory of Yugoslavia and how anyone who did not like it could go home. In fact, they would not have to hear about Milosevic and Tudjman at all. It would have also saved them from exposure to what one of the counsel described as “extremely unhappy material... both in term of word and images”. Further, they would not have to hear it countless times that genocide is not a numbers game, or that genocide is indeed a numbers game, just not put so bluntly. This debate between the two camps, one advocating for a liberal and expansive approach and the other more in favor of conservative and restrictive interpretation of the Genocide Convention has been going on since its adoption, and as the negotiating history clearly indicates it even predates the Convention's formal adoption. It has not been resolved by now and in all likelihood, the court will not come up with an approach that will reconcile the differences between the two camps this time around either. The gist of the problem is eloquently explained by Philippe Sands, counsel and advocate for Croatia. In the view of those more in favor of restrictive approach, genocide “... governs only the most occasional, exceptional and appalling of horrors, be careful, or you will devalue the currency, you will diminish the stigma. But there is a converse danger also: apply it too sparingly and you will make the Convention a complete irrelevance.” It seems that a more conservative approach has prevailed so far, most importantly, at least for the purposes of this case, in the 2007 judgment in the Bosnia case. Throughout the entire month of March there were frequent references to the Bosnia judgment by both claimant and counter-claimant. Croatia was essentially trying to take cue from the judgment in an effort to boost its chances of convincing the court that Serbia committed genocide during its land grab operations in the initial stages of the war. Serbia, on the other hand, relied on it as the final “coup de grace” for any chances for success of Croatia’s application. In an interesting development, Serbia even relied on the court’s findings concerning Srebrenica in support of its claim that Croatia committed genocide against the Krajina Serbs during Operation Storm. Smothering and quibbling Had the spirit of tolerance prevailed, the ICJ’s judges would not have been privy to the quarrelling over evidence between the parties. Here are just two such exchanges. Serbia objected that Croatia “smothered” the court with overly detailed accounts of all the crimes committed even in the smallest Croatian villages, to which Jana Spero, co-agent for Croatia, after her presentation of these crimes, responded that “[t]hese atrocities are the atrocities with which Serbia sought to smother and destroy the Croat population of the targeted areas.“ Keir Starmer, a counsel and advocate for Croatia argued that “... even if the Respondent [Serbia] won every argument in the pleadings about every piece of evidence over which it seeks to quibble, it would make no difference to the totality of the evidence and the overall outcome of the case”, which is met with a stern, almost disciplining response from the Serbian agent Sasa Obradovic: “I do not quibble; I defend my country charged with genocide.” It seems that that both countries are underestimating the fatigue with ex-Yugoslavia, which is very much felt in the international judicial circles, especially in the last couple of years. Endless arguments of the type described above will certainly not shake off that fatigue. ICJ’s judges would have also missed yet another example of how a plight of a common man gets transformed in a litigation before the court of law. It should be acknowledged though that the task of the court of law is extraordinarily difficult. It has to dress in the language of law the horrors that one feels hard-pressed to put in words. In describing the wholesale destruction visited upon Vukovar, Keir Starmer, a counsel and advocate for Croatia, said: “... in the case of Bosnia v. Serbia, this Court distinguished between the destruction of a group on the one hand and its ‘mere dissolution’ on the other. To describe... the colossal use of force by an overwhelming greater Serbia forces to deprive the trapped inhabitants of their basic conditions of life, the killing, raping and dismembering by the advancing forces of those who remained, the staged removal to torture and death camps and the organized mass killing at Velepromet and Ovčara... as ‘mere dissolution’ of the Vukovar Croats is so to distort language as to render it meaningless.” Now, let us analyze this statement in more detail. The ICJ’s reference in the Bosnia case to mere dissolution as opposed to the destruction of a group is actually a direct quote taken from the ICTY 2003 Trial Chamber’s judgment in the Stakic case wherein it is noted that “[a] clear distinction must be drawn between physical destruction and mere dissolution of a group. The expulsion of a group or part of a group does not in itself suffice for genocide.” Interestingly, the ICTY’s Trial Chamber finds support for its position, as indicated in the accompanying footnote, in the views of the now counsel and advocate for Serbia, William Schabas. There are striking similarities between the pattern of violence engaged in by the militarily superior Serb forces in the Bosnian town of Prijedor and the Croatian town of Vukovar – depriving inhabitants of the basic conditions of life, the killing, raping of those who remained, the removal to torture and death camps and the organized mass killing – and it may be argued, quite convincingly, that the campaign the people of Vukovar and Prijedor were subjected to was characterized more by destruction than dissolution. In the case of Prijedor, or any other Bosnian town for that matter other than Srebrenica, the court adopted a more restrictive approach to the interpretation of the Genocide Convention. In the words of William Schabas, counsel and advocate for Serbia: “... this Court did not conclude that genocide was perpetrated during the siege of Sarajevo. Why would it decide otherwise with respect to Vukovar?” In an effort to stress the futility of Croatia taking this matter to the court in spite of the 2007 Bosnia judgment, Schabas describes the present proceedings as “déjà vu all over again” taking the quote from a former baseball player Lawrence Yogi Berra. Had the genocide claims been withdrawn, the honorable judges would have been spared such analogies and baseball references. Third archetypal genocide of the twentieth century The inclusion of William Schabas in its legal team has been an obvious choice for Serbia. For a long time he has been a proponent of the view that the two “archetypal genocides of the twentieth century” were those against the German Jews and the Rwandan Tutsi. In other words, he has been a vocal member of the conservative camp taking some pride in protecting the Convention from those trying to “devalue the currency and diminish the stigma”. Schabas’s views, including those on Srebrenica, correspond perfectly with Serbia’s defense from the Croatian genocide claim, but it is in relation to Serbia’s counter-claim that his selection falters. In concluding his presentation on Serbia’s counter-claim Schabas argues: “... most genocides are arrested before they are fully carried out... But the intentional destruction of the Krajina Serbs stands as a tragic and barbaric example of a genocide where the sinister plan to destroy an ethnic group is now virtually complete. Nothing comparable... has taken place anywhere in Europe since 1945.” Coming from a member of the conservative camp, this position probably surprised both the ICJ’s judges and ordinary observers alike, who are used to seeing, or reading, Schabas in an entirely different role. In fact, in the second half of March when the parties were responding to the arguments raised by the other party in the second round of oral arguments, the proceedings pretty much turned into a one-man show. In an effort to capture the attention of judges, counsel and advocate for Serbia, William Schabas likened the meeting of Croatia’s political and military leadership in Brioni ahead of Operation Storm to the Wannsee conference and the Operation Storm itself to “Tudjman’s ‘final solution’ of the Krajina Serb problem” aimed at creating “lebensraum for hundreds of thousands of Croats”. It is these analogies, which the Croatian side described as “most unfortunate”, that formed the crux of the debate towards the end of March. There are two explanations that come to mind for the inclusion of references to Nazi Germany in these proceedings. One is that by using this tactic Serbia was trying to put Croatia on a defensive, and the other is that Schabas, as someone whose “... own ancestors fled anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany during the 1930s”, was making a personal case against a former Croatian president who unashamedly said that he was happy not be married to a Jew. Probably it was a bit of both, but there is no denying that the use of such heavily loaded references took the debate in an entirely different direction, away from the actual subject matter of the case. It was no longer the case of the potential commission of genocide in relation to the actual events from the Croatian-Serbian war, but now it was about whose actions were more analogous with those of the Nazis committed against the German Jews. Such misdirected debate is yet another good reason why the judges might think that the withdrawal of claims was the best possible outcome. How to go about practicing to pronounce Mrksic or Sljivancanin? On a more light-hearted note, there would also be no need for judges to sympathize with the foreign counsel and advocates having trouble pronouncing the local names, such as Mrksic or Sljivancanin. Though one should be fair and acknowledge that they really are a mouthful. Two examples will suffice here. James Crawford stumbled with Mrksic as evidenced in the following passage: “As the ICTY explained in Mrksic, - I’m sorry, I’ve been practising that, not very well it seems...”, while his colleague Keir Starmer battled with Sljivancanin: “As with Professor Crawford, I have been practising, but not quite enough! I have got it to come several times in the next passage, so I go with some trepidation.” James Crawford and his counterpart in Serbia’s legal team Andreas Zimmermann, as the lead counsel and advocates for the parties, were responsible for arguing the technical aspects of the case. Briefly put, in case of Croatia’s claim, this concerned the attribution of crimes to Serbia prior to 27 April 1992 when Serbia, or FRY at the time, was formally proclaimed. In case of Serbia’s defense, its counsel and advocates principally focused on arguing that the JNA was not a de facto organ of Serbia. Had the parties withdrawn their claims, the ICJ would not have had contents of confidential cables published on Wikileaks on its record and its judges would have been saved from hearing it cited out of context. In fact, the entire oral proceedings on merits were riddled with things taken out of context, which is especially the case with the ICTY findings but there is no room for listing them all here. As for the Wikileaks cable’s inclusion on the record, below is a description of how this came about. Andreas Zimmermann put on the following slide in which an official of the US embassy in Zagreb reports to the State Department about his conversation with Croatia’s former agent Prof. Simonovic: “While B[osnia] [and] H[erzegovina] filed its case in 1993... Croatia did not file until 1999, and only then after being convinced by an American attorney that accusations of S[erbia] a[nd] M[ontenegro] responsibility for genocide... on Croatian territory would paralyze cases against Croatians at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).” Zimmermann argues that “... these words... made by Croatia’s former Agent, Professor Simonovic in these proceedings... tell us a lot about Croatia’s underlying motivation to start these proceedings.” Yet, if one reads the full text of paragraph 8 of the cable, it is clear that it is focused on an entirely different matter. Here is the original text of the cable: “While BiH filed its case in 1993, Simonovic said, Croatia did not file until 1999, and only then after being convinced by an American attorney that accusations of SaM responsibility for genocide against Serbs on Croatian territory would paralyze cases against Croatians at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).” (emphasis mine) The next sentence of the cable reads: “While the logic is nonsensical, that element also presented legal dangers and Simonovic removed it from the case as soon as he was appointed Croatia’s agent.” A final word on the lost opportunities The distinguished judges would have also been spared from hearing about whose claim is stronger, or alternatively more false, who was more genocidal and whose suffering was greater and thus more deserving of a remedy, whose arguments less pathetic, childish and sophomoric, which are all terms actually used to dismiss arguments of the other party. All the things that their excellencies would have been fortunate to miss, but alas for them, it was not meant to be this time. This way, their decision can only mirror the anti-climactic nature of the oral proceedings on the merits. Why anti-climactic? Well, because both parties persisted throughout the proceedings in denying that there was anything criminal either in the former’s land grab and scorched earth operations in the initial stage of the war or the latter’s Operation Storm to liberate what it considered an occupied part of its territory, while at the same time accusing the other party of genocide in relation to the very same campaigns. Finally, and most importantly, the ICJ’s judges would have been spared hearing how “[c]onfronting this is difficult for all of us who cherish human life and who are repulsed by war and racism, and the horrors that are associated with them”. This is coming from the same man who earlier wrote in relation to Srebrenica: “Would someone truly bend upon the physical destruction of a group, and cold-blooded enough to murder more than 7,000 defenseless men and boys, go to the trouble of organizing transport so that women, children and the elderly can be evacuated?” Arguing Serbia’s case in the present proceedings and explaining the context of the Brioni meeting and the subsequent exodus of the Krajina Serbs, the very same man quotes the ICTY judge Fausto Pocar: “... the references at the meeting [in Brioni] to civilians being shown a way out was not about the protection of civilians but about civilians being forced out”. He then adds, again quoting judge Pocar, that it would be “simply grotesque” to attach any benign interpretation to the Brioni transcript. It may be argued that it is equally grotesque to claim that the transport of women, children and the elderly from Srebrenica was anything else but deportation. The same author also wrote: “According to recent reports, Muslim life in Srebrenica is more vital and dynamic than ever”, while describing the exodus of the Krajina Serbs in the present proceedings as “... a tragic and barbaric example of a genocide where the sinister plan to destroy an ethnic group is now virtually complete.” A crime is a crime and it should be neither belittled nor magnified to favor one side of the argument. There was much of that in the present proceedings, partly because of the adversarial nature of the proceedings and the tendency of the counsel to give in to rhetoric flair, but mostly because of the parties’ entrenched positions. If anything, the present case involving Croatia and Serbia showed how difficult it is to maintain dignity of the proceedings and avoid untoward comparisons, even when some of the counsel from the opposite camps insist that they are all friends with each other and have only academic arguments to offer to the discussion.

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