Hijacked Justice

Hijacked Justice: Dealing with the Past in the Balkans

Jelena Subotić
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Hijacked Justice
    Book Description:

    What is the appropriate political response to mass atrocity? In Hijacked Justice, Jelena Subotic traces the design, implementation, and political outcomes of institutions established to deal with the legacies of violence in the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars. She finds that international efforts to establish accountability for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia have been used to pursue very different local political goals.

    Responding to international pressures, Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia have implemented various mechanisms of "transitional justice"-the systematic addressing of past crimes after conflicts end. Transitional justice in the three countries, however, was guided by ulterior political motives: to get rid of domestic political opponents, to obtain international financial aid, or to gain admission to the European Union. Subotic argues that when transitional justice becomes "hijacked" for such local political strategies, it fosters domestic backlash, deepens political instability, and even creates alternative, politicized versions of history.

    That war crimes trials (such as those in The Hague) and truth commissions (as in South Africa) are necessary and desirable has become a staple belief among those concerned with reconstructing societies after conflict. States are now expected to deal with their violent legacies in an institutional setting rather than through blanket amnesty or victor's justice. This new expectation, however, has produced paradoxical results. In order to avoid the pitfalls of hijacked justice, Subotic argues, the international community should focus on broader and deeper social transformation of postconflict societies, instead on emphasizing only arrests of war crimes suspects.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5934-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xx)
    (pp. 1-14)

    He was good with children, the news stories said. He helped “cure” an autistic child through bioenergy. He gave excellent massages. He practiced an ancient Christian Orthodox method of “silencing,” a form of meditation. He had an attractive middle-aged mistress. He had a long white beard and long white hair. He was mysterious and spiritual and had a soothing manner about him. He was a poet. He wrote for Healthy Life magazine. His name was Dragan Dabić, and he was a holistic healer. Only he wasn’t. He was Radovan Karadžić, the Bosnian Serb wartime leader accused by the International Criminal...

    (pp. 15-37)

    Over the past twenty years, a global norm has emerged prescribing the appropriate way for states to deal with crimes of the past. This international norm presents a set of expectations for transitional governments to fulfill when facing a state’s criminal history. Crudely, it can be reduced to the statement that gross human rights abuses, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, should be adjudicated in a court of law or another type of justice institution and not left to either vengeful justice or forgiveness. While these crimes were previously dealt with by executions or summary trials set...

    (pp. 38-82)

    The experience of transitional justice in Serbia has been one of great disappointment for international justice promoters. Serbia was supposed to be the hard test case for transitional justice. It is the country where most of the alleged perpetrators of the worst human rights abuses in Europe since World War II originated. It is the country in whose name, and in the name of whose people, the Balkan wars were waged. And it is the country that went through a mostly peaceful transition, overthrowing the autocratic regime of Slobodan Milošević at the ballot box and ushering in a new generation...

    (pp. 83-121)

    Croatia’s commitment to transitional justice has for many years been best described as one step forward, two steps back.¹ The Croatian government has mostly cooperated selectively, reluctantly, and insufficiently with the Hague tribunal. The pressures coming from the ICTY but also from other international organizations and individual states have created deep divisions within the Croatian state, with the “Hague issue” dominating domestic political debates and pitting strong domestic interest constituencies against one another.

    This lackluster cooperation ended in 2005 when Croatia transferred the last ICTY indictee to The Hague, effectively fulfilling its obligations to the tribunal. Croatia was generously rewarded...

    (pp. 122-165)

    Bosnia is in many ways a perfect laboratory for studying the effectiveness, consequences, and potential of transitional justice to bring justice to victims and reconciliation to broken communities. It is the country that suffered more than any other in the Yugoslav conflict. Its population was decimated, its cities and villages ravaged. The war left a traumatic imprint on Bosnian society, which is still, more than a decade after the war ended, trying to come to grips with what has happened to their country.

    Bosnia’s experience with transitional justice, however, has been much more complicated than promoters of international justice had...

    (pp. 166-192)

    Institutions of transitional justice have become ubiquitous over the past twenty years. Once considered arcane practices or exercises in victor’s justice, mechanisms of transitional justice have increasingly become institutionalized as appropriate ways for states to deal with legacies of past violence. From truth commissions in South Africa to international trials at The Hague, from the hybrid court in Sierra Leone to the ad hoc trials of leaders of Iraq or Liberia and the International Criminal Court, transitional justice institutions are now increasingly accepted as necessary mechanisms for states transitioning from an era marred by brutality to a future where disputes...

  11. Index
    (pp. 193-202)