11 May 2015
Brussels ESI moderates debate on the International War Crimes Tribunal for former Yugoslavia
Alexandra Stiglmayer (left). Photo: ESI
Alexandra Stiglmayer (left). Photo: ESI

ESI Senior Analyst Alexandra Stiglmayer moderated a debate following the screening of the film "The Serbian Lawyer" in the framework of the One World Film Festival in Brussels. This annual human rights film festival is organised by the Czech NGO People in Need.

The documentary film "The Serbian lawyer" tells the story of Marko Sladojevic, a young Serbian lawyer who joined the defence team for Radovan Karadzic, the former leader of Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Karadzic stands trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), accused of war crimes including genocide committed against the Bosniak community in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war. As Marko said, he accepted the job offer in order to find out what actually happened in Bosnia, but he became entangled in the web of claims and counter-claims and "emotionally numb". Over four years, the film shows Marko's reflections on his work, legal principles of neutrality and detached analysis, the question of responsibility for what happened in Bosnia, and the concept of "truth". It also shows how Marko's work intruded in his private life as his wife and liberal friends questioned what he did professionally.

The guests at the debate afterwards were Marko himself and Izabela Kisic, Director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia. The panel talked about Marko's experience, but also the question of ICTY's effectiveness in establishing what happened, and contributing to reconciliation. Alexandra talked about ESI's research into this issue, concluding that this depended on the country and sometimes even the region. ICTY had a positive effect in Croatia, she said, helping Croats realise that their side too committed crimes, and also in Central Bosnia where Croats and Bosniaks fought each other during the war; in Serbia, however, ICTY has been always rejected by the elites and its effect is limited.

The screening in Brussels was organised with the help of the Human Rights House Foundation and took place at the Norwegian Mission to the EU.

ESI has explored the question of ICTY's effectiveness in Croatia in the film Twilight of Heroes – Croatia, Europe and the International Tribunal (2012)