Does Serbia really want Ganic?

The arrest of Ejup Ganic in the UK has already been a big success for Serbia. Judging by the fact that I just gave an interview for a Chinese news magazine on the case, the arrest of Ganic has successfully overshadowed the beginning of the Karadzic trial.  The Prosecution in Serbia had opened an investigation into the Dobrovoljacka case in early 2009, but the timing of the arrest now is indicative: The case altogether seems political motivated to show to the domestic audience in Serbia that also non-Serbs are indicted for war crimes. The ICTY in The Hague had investigated the case and did not pursue it. There is furthermore a problem with Serbia indicting Ganic for an alleged war crime committed in Bosnia (which was internationally recognized at the time). While some of the victims were Serbs from Serbia, and Ganic is born in Serbia, the crime is primarily the responsibility of the Bosnian war crimes chamber.

The incident has already had a negative impact on relations between Bosnia and Serbia. This comes after a recent improvement following mediation by Turkey which resulted in both countries again exchanging ambassadors after relations had been managed at the level of charge d’affairs for years after Serbia rejected Bosnia’s candidates for ambassador to Serbia. It also comes after the Serbian president Tadic has reaffirmed Serbia’s support for the territorial integrity of Bosnia, which has been widely seen as an effort to reign in the nationalist statements by Milorad Dodik. Furthermore, there have been discussions in Serbia to pass a resolution in parliament to condemn the genocide in Srebrenica. Finally, the investigation and extradition request undermine the agreement on legal cooperation signed between Serbia and Bosnia just a few days ago. The argeement seeks to put an end to the ability of criminals to escape punishment by crossing the border to Serbia or Bosnia and hiding behind dual citizenship. A lot of this good will and progress created in recent months has been destroyed by the arrest.

More important might be the negative impact on Bosnia itself. The arrest and the case will be welcome ammunition in the election campaign in Bosnia–general elections are due in October: Serb politicians express their dismay at Bosnian state institutions seeking to defend Ganic, while Bosniak politicians accuse Serbia of fighting the same battles as during the war. Thus, it helps to remind of the war and incompatible political goals which will only help nationalists in the elections.

I am not certain that Serbia has the stomach or the will to really try Ganic in court.  The case is weak so either he would be sentenced in a clear mischarage of justice which would undermine internationally the domestic war crimes investigations and Serbia, or he would be released which would undermine the court domestically. Thus, if he is eventually released by the UK, or ‘extradited’ to Bosnia, Serbia has won. The authorities can once more claim that non-Serbs evade justice, but that Serbia tries all it can and that it can get to them even in the UK, not unlike the governments line of argument for Kosovo.

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3 Responses to Does Serbia really want Ganic?

  1. Jonathan says:

    Excellent post. Thanks.

  2. Pingback: Arresting the wrong general | Florian Bieber

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