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Sonja Biserko’s Interview with the Danas Daily – Unabridged

Snezana Congradin

July 13, 2015, Danas



How did you see the incident at the Potočari commemoration?

I am sorry it happened, most of all because of victims and their families. The incident desecrated their suffering and tragedy.


Would you say that was an organized assault on Premier Vučić or a spontaneous reaction by some persons attending the commemoration?

It’s hard to say at this point. However, the incident seemed to have been planned. What was behind it is on relevant authorities to come up with. Various conspiracy theories that are now being construed in Serbia are certainly not to the good.


Mayor of Srebrenica Ćamil Duraković and Mothers of Srebrenica welcomed Vučić’s attendance at the commemoration and strongly condemned the assault, claiming victims and members of their families were not perpetrators.

This is only logical since Srebrenica, family of victims and victims in general were wrong the most by this incident. They are, I would say, more than forgiving. All they ask for is recognition of the genocide, acknowledgment of their tragedy, which simply cannot be boiled down to anniversaries, commemorations or ceremonial addresses – and the more so since 20 years later many families have not buried their dearest while avenues to better life are still closed to them.


The Premier of Serbia claims he has the information that he was attacked by some football fan groups, including one from Serbia. What would you say about his claims?

Probably there were some risk assessments about it. But we should wait and see what relevant institutions have to say. As things stand now, everything plays into the hands of opponents of facing the past, those working hard against any normalization. They’ve been denying the genocide and, hence, construing a narrative to support their argumentation.


Would you agree with Federica Mogherini and Bill Clinton saying that Vučić manifested extreme courage having decided to attend the commemoration in Potočari and calling this gesture of his most important?

International figures have a different approach toward regional reconciliation. From their point of view, that was surely an act of courage. However, victims’ perception of that gesture is by far more important. You must always take into account that victims are still living in a badly wounded society, the society that allows executioners’ systematic denial and marginalization of the crime, the society that equalizes victims and their executioners. You should also bear in mind all that happened several weeks before July 11. Here I refer to Russia’s vetoing the Security Council’s resolution in the first place. Serbia was gloating over it and, I would say, met it with arrogance. All that resolution-performance lifted the veil from Serbia and Russia alike. Negation of the verdicts passed by the highest UN judicial institutions undermines the international order. Serbia dived into the whole play offhandedly and that will leave far-reaching consequences on its movement toward EU. It allowed Russia carelessly to put it in the service of its interests.

As for victims, the resolution would have been a major confirmation of their tragedy Belgrade has been negating and marginalizing all the time. Also, all that hue and cry about the civil action “7,000,” the ban on it, massive police presence at all events commemorating the Srebrenica genocide – staged by Women in Black, Helsinki Committee, Human Rights House and others – cast our government and our society in bad light.

The Orić case, and all those arrest warrants Belgrade has been reviving in specific situations only fuel general hysteria and paranoia.


They /Mogherini and Clinton/ said what they had despite the fact that Vučić and Serbia’s officials have been avoiding to qualify the Srebrenica massacre as genocide, and the fact that they had asked Russia to veto the UNSC resolution.

The West is after regional normalization and takes that’s a way to it. Regional cooperation is among key criteria for EU accession. And this is only logical. However, there can be no regional normalization without Serbia taking stock of the 1990s wars. Only this could pave the road to regional normalization and cooperation. Germany and France did not reconcile by relativizing Germany’s responsibility but by precisely defining its role in and accountability for the WWII. Normalization is unsustainable without a clear-cut definition of the nature of the 1990s wars and Serbia’s primary responsibility for Yugoslavia’s brutal disintegration, the more so since the mainstream premises /in Serbia/ are untrue. Reconciliation cannot be attained with the premise that all the sides were victims, because what we are having now is an endless “victims market” with no chance for breaking that vicious circle. We should speak about victims as they are all the same, but speak about them contextually and chronologically. The mainstream Serbia speaks about Serb victims alone.


Since EU and US adopted resolutions on the Srebrenica genocide and insist on Serbia’s facing it, how would interpret their support to Vučić who negates these resolutions and their stands with all his might?

Their stance is not contradictory as their emphasis is on the genocide that was committed and on Serbia’s duty to recognize it. They will not give that up. I think that with all the actions it has taken lately Serbia disadvantages itself the most by demonstrating its moral numbness and insensibility. The fact remains that the ICJ decision is the first decision on genocide and implies Serbia’s responsibility for failure to prevent it. At that time Serbia was gloating over not being accused of genocide, while turning a blind eye to major specifications referring to it. Serbia’s politicians in power cannot bypass these qualifications just like that and believe that every halfway gesture they make would be welcomed in the region.


After such outcome and everything accompanying marking of the 20th anniversary of the genocide against Bosniaks what is it we could expect in terms of regional reconciliation?

The incident laid bare the state of affairs in the region. It disclosed false assessments about regional cooperation. The fact is that regional cooperation has been stagnating and regressing in the past three years. And Serbia is the one responsible as it has not only been negating its responsibility for the war but also trying to arbitrate all situations by dictating moral tenets to others, and undermining its neighbors by playing on Serb minority communities.


In this context, how do you see statements given by Serb and Bosniak officials?

To my knowledge from the media, Bosniak leaders are expressing their regret the same as families of victims. I believe they mean it, as the incident, basically, harmed victims and the dignity of the commemoration the most.

Upon his return to Belgrade Premier Vučić gave a proper statement. But all other reactions in Belgrade were catastrophic, meant to demonize Bosniaks. All these statements and alleged analyses are based on the thesis about Bosniaks’s responsibility for the outbreak of the wars and, in particular, for the crimes committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

All this just adds fuel to the fire, contributes to citizens’ frustration and takes Serbia away from its European orientation. I would say that with such statements the government deliberately plays into the hands of anti-European and pro-Russian bloc to which the incident is more than welcome. No doubt that Russia will use this incident too to heal its frustration. Sadly, this all situation has taken a bad course.



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