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Bosnian leader: 'Ethnic cleansing' continues 15 years after war

March 2nd, 2010
02:12 PM ET

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(CNN) - As the genocide trial of former Bosnian Serb Leader Radovan Karadzic resumed Monday in the Netherlands, a member of Bosnia-Herzegovina's rotating presidency said that, in effect, "ethnic cleansing" continues - 15 years after a brutal civil war there ended.

"The ethnic cleansing is there because people did not come back to their homes. Hundreds of thousands of them are around the world today and that's the problem," Haris Silajdzic, a Bosnian Muslim, told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.

"The ethnic divisions continued because people did not go back, were not allowed to go back, to their homes, including Srebrenica, where the genocide took place, and other places, too."

His comments came on the same day that Karadzic, who faces 11 charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide during the 1992-1995 Bosnian conflict, told an international tribunal in The Hague that the Serb cause is "just and holy."

The charges relate to the killing of almost 100,000 people in the war, many of them in "ethnic cleansing," a term first coined in the Bosnian conflict. Yugoslavia - once a multi-ethnic state of Serbs, Croats and Muslims - dissolved into six countries during the bloody conflict in the early 1990s.

Among other things, Karadzic is accused of being responsible for the 44-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, in which some 10,000 people were killed, and the 1995 ethnic cleansing of the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica, where more than 7,000 Bosnian men and boys were slaughtered in the worst genocide in Europe since World War II.

Silajdzic said the divisions in Bosnia are deeper than ever, because the world has not implemented the peace accords that ended the conflict and allowed refugees to return to their homes.

He also said there is paralysis in the Bosnian government because Serb legislators are voting as an ethnic bloc in the country's parliament and blocking progress.

"If we unblock this, we actually have a democracy in Bosnia, not ethnocracy", he declared.

But the former international High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lord Paddy Ashdown, told Amanpour that the Dayton Accords that ended the war have not failed and in fact have been a success.

"We made more progress in ten years in Bosnia than we did in Northern Ireland in 36 (years)," Ashdown said.

He acknowledged that since 2006, Bosnia has begun to unravel and is now going backwards.

"We have to complete the job. We were, I think, eight-tenths of the way there by 2006, but because the international community and above all Brussels took their eye off the ball, this thing started to unravel backwards again", he added.

"So instead of having progress towards unity, we now have a dangerous dynamic moving the opposite direction towards nationalism, and that may well be reflected in the coming elections."

He said he does not think war will break out again in Bosnia. "The real danger is that Bosnia descends backwards into a black hole of corruption, criminality, and dysfunctionality in the middle of the Balkans."

Ashdown said that U.S. President Barack Obama and the European Union's new so-called foreign minister, Catherine Ashton, must get the political momentum moving again so Bosnia can achieve full membership of "the two great Atlantic institutions" - NATO and the European Union.

"When it's made those changes, I think people will see it as one of the little jewels of Europe," he added.

Filed under:  1 • Bosnia
soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. BosnianDragon

    Bosnia & Herzegovina will survive, no matter what 🙂

    March 2, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  2. sanja

    I can believe what Haris Silaidzic said today. Because, he said a lot of lies.
    There is no such thing as ethnic cleansing. Serbian people do not tyrannize Muslims like Haris S. said. In a fact, it is opposite. It is not truth that Muslims can׳t back to their homes. The truth is that they don’t want to come back. They leave Bosnia and went to Germany, Switzerland and Sweden. They have everything there, jobs, medical care, social insurance…. Why would they come back to Bosnia, were most of people doesn’t have a job, medical care, where people work without insurance. They aren’t crazy to come back here. I want to tell that they can come back here, but they don’t want to. Haris lies.
    Alija Izadbegovic was the only person who wanted ethnically clear Bosnia. He wanted to clear it from all Serbian, but he failed in that.
    And you know what, it wasn’t Serbian people who did genocide in Bosnia, it was Muslims. And those 10 000 victims in Sarajevo, weren’t Muslims. It was Serbian victims.
    And I have to say one more thing, Serbian people did not start war in Bosnia, everyone knows that.
    Why didn’t you ask Haris about all Serbian people who can’t back to Sarajevo and other Bosnian cites?
    Why didn’t you ask Haris what had happened in Slovenia in 1991, in military barrack?
    Why didn’t you ask Haris what had happened in Croatia in 1991, also in military barracks? And why did Croatian military put barricades on the drive?
    Why didn’t you ask Haris what had happened in Sarajevo in 1992 when Muslims killed Serbian bestman on the wedding?
    Why didn’t you ask Haris about so many camps in Bosnia were Serbian people were terrorized and killed?
    You didn’t ask him anything that really matters. Now, he is the one who wants Bosnia and Herzegovina to belong only to Muslims. I don’t know how he has courage to say everything that he said to you today.

    March 2, 2010 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  3. Neyra

    I am a Bosniak and I cannot go back to my home in Eastern Bosnia, Cajnice. My family and I are still waiting to hear whether my father's brother and our cousin have been unearthed in a mass grave in that region.

    I was 10 years old when I had to flee my homeland for bare survival. I still have nighmares about the war and and I am appauled at any mention of attempts to equate the Serbian agression with the defence of Bosnia.

    So long as we have Serbs living in denial about the Genocide committed on Bosniaks and Bosnian populace and so long as Serbia is filled with fascist ideas about the Greater Serbia – citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina and in neighbouring regions cannot live in peace.

    The facts of the agression on Bosnia-Herzegovina are clear and in the public domain for every reasonably intelligent individual to check.

    But as mentioned, it requires reasonable intellect of an average and prudent individual.

    March 3, 2010 at 9:45 am | Reply
  4. SaitK

    This is very interesting post like most of Amanpour posts. Although, there are few things that have made me wonder if Lord Ashdown is indeed correct when stating that Bosnia instead of seaking to move on and develop into "one of the little jewels of Europe", is going in the opposite direction. One of those things is obviously comment posted by "Sanja", who indeed can be put in the same category as Neo-Nazzis and even President of Iran due to smillarities in retorics used to deny and change historical facts. (One not being willing to admit genocide of Bosnian Muslims and others not willing to accept holocaust.)

    Even though, I am not a big fan of Mr. Silajdjic, I do have to agree with him using the term ethnocracy to describe mindset of Bosnian politics and politicians, well even growing number of people living there.

    The roots of this, in my oppinion, is the lack of national pride and belonging among different ethnic groups living in Bosnia. While other countries are very much keen on creating such pride, Bosnia is not. Muslims are Muslims or Bosniacs, Serb are Serbs instead of Orthodox, and Corats are Croats instead of Roman Catholic. Solution lies in creating national pride and acceptance of the other ethnic groups regardless of where they reside within Bosnia. Why is it so that Serbs/Croats carry Bosnian passports, but are not willing to call them selfs Bosnians? If they indeed feel like Serbs or Croats, then why don't they carry Serbian or Croatian passports and apply for residency/working permits from Bosnian goverments? Same thing goes to jurnalist and politicians growing this split among ethnical groups of Bosnia? Religion is not nationallity and is not accepted anywhere else, but in case of Bosnia it seems to be accepted for it to be.

    March 3, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Reply
  5. Samir

    Sanja, I read your post and can not do other then laugh at your ignorance. Or maybe it is just that you are so filled with lies by your leaders, that you still live in the past instead of looking forward. That is and allways will be the biggest problem for many of you Serbs. You do not want to open your eyes. We are not your enemies, your leaders are because they do not lead you to prosperity. Instead you are drawn backwords, you live in poverty while they are laughing at you and your stupidity and live in wealth. Pleas, grow up, open your eyes, do not be ignorant. I say this for your best.
    Yes, I do live in Western Europe and yes, I have everything I need here in the mather of material things. I was also born here and then my family returned to Bosnia, or shoud say Yugoslavia becouse it was Yugoslavia when we went back. But I miss my city, my street, my childhood. I was born outside the Bosnian borders but I grew up inside the same. But above all I miss our MERAK.
    You say that there are Serbs that can not return to Sarajevo but still there are many Greek-Orthodox living in this city. None of your churches in Sarajevo were burned down as many of mosques around Bosnia and Herzegovina were. Just look at the one in Banja Luka. Like it was never there. And then you wanted to build a churche on the same place. What is that if not etnic cleansing.
    I will not say that muslims never did any bad things, becouse thay did and I am ashamed of it, but when you come and say that you are innocent as a lamb, than you must be ignorant, stupid or just really impudent.


    March 3, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Reply
  6. John

    Listened to Haris S. earlier this week on CNN, and then just happened to watch the new Mandela movie "Invictus" about how Pres. Mandela handled his post-apartheid presidency.

    I am not from Bosnia but have lived in Bosnia worked in the region to restore peace and rule of law for most of the past 11 years. Simply put, Sanja's statements above are wildly inaccurate and Samir's statements better reflect the reality of the 92-95 war. But, I write to point out that Bosnia's political leadership could learn a thing or two about nurturing some national pride. Just as Mandela demonstrated respect for his former "White" jailers, the peoples of BiH – led by their political leaders – need to do far more to honor and respect each of the 'other' ethnic groups if they are to forge a peaceful, prosperous state where a common pride in Bosnia can thrive. Right now, this is not happening in places like Mostar and Banja Luka, but most importantly, it is not happening in Bosnia's capital city of Sarajevo.

    March 4, 2010 at 9:23 am | Reply
  7. Selma

    I have red all the comments and must give one my own. Sanja wrote and I quote:
    "There is no such thing as ethnic cleansing...Serbian people do not tyrannize Muslims wasn’t Serbian people who did genocide in Bosnia, it was Muslims...Serbian people did not start war in Bosnia, everyone knows that."

    Dear Mrs/Ms Sanja, you can sell these alleged-to-happened stories to someone who is not included in this story of bosnia genocide, but not to those of us who where here all the time and, who thanks God survived. It's not surprising to me you claim that serbians did not committed a genocide over bosnians, since all serbs I have met in my life sing the same song – you need a professional help, clearly you serbs all need!!!
    As Samir said: open eyes girl, lies will not help you. We all see what "Great Serbia" is still doing to us! Its clear to every bosnian in B&H that serbs do not know how to live with others different than serbs and do not want tolive with others. Appart from so many evidences I am stunned that you have a gut to speak about this, go public and lie and sleep well after all.
    This is small space given to say all I need to. Anyway, thanks Aman for this web.

    March 4, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Reply
  8. Rasim

    First of all, I'm fed up with Sanja's arguments because the negationism of this genocide or another is unbelievable so everyone must fight this rethoric...second how can she tell such lies like " wasn’t Serbian people who did genocide in Bosnia, it was Muslims...Serbian people did not start war in Bosnia, everyone knows that."....No Sanja, pleas only visit Bosnia from River Una to River Drina, From River Sava to Adriatic Sea and you'll see that croat and serbian nationalisms did in early 90's with the complicity of a "kind of diplomacy (especially french and british diplomacies)... visit the Potocari memorial in Srebrenica too and many places in this beautiful country ... but i think in conclusion, bosnians citizens (muslims, orthodoxs, catholics, jews, gypsies, albanians...)have to built a "Bosnian identity" . I know the task is hard but it's the only way to arrest the nationalist peril and it's the only way to see Bosnia and Herzegovina and all balkans countries to integrate the European Union. But for that, we must identify all kinds of hatred and negationnism anywhere... thanks a lot... Christiane, I like your emission and i try to watch you as soon as possible...sincères amitiés de Paris....

    March 5, 2010 at 7:34 pm | Reply
  9. sanja

    I am very included in this story. I live in B&H all my life. I was 10 when war was started and I remember everything. And I stay here during the war. And, I know what I am talking about.
    Do you know what the funniest thing is? Your trie to be victims. It seems that only Muslims lose their life in this war. It is so funny.
    Remind me again why did British police arrest Mr. Ganic? Have you watched the video which shows what had happened in Dobrovoljacka?
    You can see how Muslim army killed Serbian army. You can see how Muslim army robs corpses of Serbian people, and you still want to claim that you are innocent?!
    Or you would say that video is just an illusion?

    March 6, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Reply
  10. rita ryan

    I am watching Screem Bloody Murder on CNN by Christiane Amanpour in which she is covering the genocides of the 21st century. My question is..are you familiar with the term Holodomor? This describes what Stalin did to the people of Ukraine. It means death by forced starvation. Estimates are that from 6 to 10 million perished. It has been classified as genocide by the European Union. Holodomor denial is a crime in Ukraine. There is now a memorial in Washington, D.C. Why is this not pulbicized? You can't even find it in our history books!!!
    I would appreciate hearing from Christianne Amanpour.

    March 7, 2010 at 5:32 am | Reply
  11. Harold Weisbecker

    The Irag elections included Iragi's living in countries other than Irag to vote. Couldn't Bosnia set up a similar system which would address the issue of the lost votes.

    March 7, 2010 at 10:14 pm | Reply
  12. Colleen Brannigan

    I watched your presentation on genocide with great interest. However, you missed a genocide that happened to the Volga Germans under Josef Stalin. As Hitler was loading Jewish people into boxcars, Stalin was also loading ethnic Germans into boxcars and sending them to Siberia as forced laborers. Thousands died along the way and thousands more died from lack of food, and the harsh conditions of Siberia. There is much information on the internet, not only on this act of genocide but on the famine of the early 1920's when thousands died of starvation.
    There is much activity going on in preserving the records of these people who's ancestors migrated in the mid 18th century into Russia from Germany under the invitation of Catherine II. Many of their descendants live in the USA, Argentina, South Africa. See Volga Germans; Concordia University of Portland, Oregon

    March 9, 2010 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  13. Balkanac

    The problem with the Yugoslav wars is that we rarely hear the Serbian side of the story, but that is perfectly normal for western media who supported Bosniaks and Croats during the war.
    Here are just some things that get on my nerve :
    1. The term Bosnian genocide. In the past the term genocide was mostly used to describe an extermination policy and not to describe a massacre like the one in Srebrenica. Statistics show that around 100 000 people died in Bosnia and around 30 000 of them were Serbs but we rarely hear that. When someone hears the term Bosnian genocide it makes him think that only one side suffered during the war. When western media talk about ethnic cleansing during the Yugoslav wars few mention the fact the Serbs were forced out of Croatia and parts of Bosnia too. Example, how many Serbs live in Sarajevo or in other cities in the Bosniak-Croat federation today compared to before the war.
    2. The responsibility of the war. Once again western media try to act as if only Serbs caused the war. Take a look at the Bosnian war for example. With tension growing between the 3 sides the international community tried to draw up a plan (Carrington-Cutileiro plan) to prevent the war. It proposed power sharing between Bosnia's 3 ethnic groups. The Croats and the Serbs singed the agreement, the only side that didn't sing was the Bosniak one who chose to have a unified country with a strong central government in Sarajevo. Every side knew that not singing the agreement would mean going to war. The irony of this is that the Dayton peace accords (which were singed to stop the war) are very similar to the Carrington-Cutileiro plan. The Bosniak side got even less than in the Carrington-Cultileiro plan.
    3. Bosnian identity : There is no real Bosnian identity and there never will be one mainly because Serbs and Croats of Bosnia have always been Serbs and Croats first and Bosnians second. Bosnias's borders today are artificial, when they were draw they didn't take into account the diversity of the population thus trapping Serbs and Croats to being in Bosnia instead of Croatia or Serbia. Maybe, if there would have not been a war, Serbs and Croats would be more open to seeing themselves as Bosnians but after the war it is very difficult to form a "Bosnian identity" with people who hate each other.

    April 2, 2010 at 2:17 am | Reply
  14. Lalala

    Just look at these comments - if a person is called 'Sanja' you know before you even start reading that they will be a genocide denier, if they are called 'Rasim' or 'Selma' they will be genocide crusaders. If they are called 'John' they are either curious outsiders riding their hobby-horses or colonial administrators working hard to pacify throat-cutting natives. How sad and predictable and oh - how boring.

    April 16, 2010 at 9:57 am | Reply
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