Dealing with the Past and Peacebuilding in the Western Balkans
Interaction of International and Local Initiatives for Transitional Justice and Reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Croatia
This project investigates initiatives for transitional justice and reconciliation following the wars of the early 1990s in the former Yugoslavia. At first, the United Nations and the European Union stressed the need for the legal prosecution of war crimes and human rights abuses, by establishing the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague in 1993. With the help of these international actors, criminal courts have been established in the successor states of the former Yugoslavia. International experts have also lent support on police reforms, return of refugees, settling disputes over property rights and compensation. Beyond that, international organisations and bilateral donors have promoted measures to encourage the societal process of dealing with the past.
When the Hague Tribunal’s mandate runs out, the societies in the region face the challenge of actively shaping processes of dealing with the past themselves. The final phase of the Tribunal thus marks a period of change. Our research project will take this opportunity to retrospectively appraise previous approaches to addressing violence and human rights abuses in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia, as well as taking a closer look at current trends, to ask the questions: how are local and international actors preparing for the new situation? What concepts exist in the three countries for dealing with the past in the era following the ICTY? The project looks at the interaction of different actors. In a first step, the “protagonists” of Transitional Justice, international actors and local civil society actors will be interviewed about their experiences to date. We want to analyse their guiding norms, concepts and underlying assumptions on peaceful change, in order to look at the coherence of goals and strategies applied. Furthermore we want to analyse the overlap and differences in setting priorities, sequencing and timing. We also want to assess the forms of cooperation, mutual influences and learning experiences. One important goal is to map out synergies as well as dilemmas that might arise from the practical interaction between peacebuilders and human rights activists. Finally we want to explore how activities undertaken by international actors and local CSOs link up with broader civil society, legal institutions or official fact-finding commissions and with the political level. Therefore representatives of political parties and representatives of the national war crimes chambers and prosecutors’ offices will also be interviewed.
The project is funded by the German Foundation for Peace Research (DSF).
Start of the project: March 2010
Project collaborators in the region: Dr. Ismet Sejfija (University of Sarajevo), Prof. Dr. Vesna Nikolic-Ristanovic (Director Victimology Society of Serbia, Belgrade), Katarina Milicevic (Center for Nonviolent Action, Belgrade), Srdjan Dvornik, M.A. Soc (Researcher, Zagreb)