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After ICTY: Prospects for Reconciliation and Transitional Justice in the Post-Yugoslav Region

Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm

In December 2017, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) completed its primary task of prosecuting crimes committed during the 1992-1995 Yugoslav wars. Hardly any of its decisions passed without controversies. Dissatisfaction with and public denials of the last ICTY verdicts, can be seen, however, as indication that the prosecution of war crimes left many questions regarding the establishment of transitional justice in the post-Yugoslav region still open. What have ICTY judgments achieved in terms of justice making in the former warring countries? To which extent did the ICTY verdicts contribute to a process of national and regional reconciliation? What was the role of the ICTY indictments in contesting or reproducing the dominant war narratives among the countries? Was responsibility for the committed crimes in the name of a collectivity adequately assumed?

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This workshop featuring speakers from academic institutions and NGOs, aims at elaborating these questions. It will be focused, in particular, in specifying legal and political mechanisms of transitional justice, their moral justification and the possibilities for their application within the post-Yugoslav social and political context.

Admission is free and open to the public, but places are limited. For further information and registration, please contact Perica Jovchevski,


13:00   Registration

13:15   Welcome | István Rév, Director, Blinken OSA

                              Csaba Szilágyi, Head of the Human Rights Program, Blinken OSA

13.30   The Yugoslav Archive Project: from archiving to transitional justice

            Perica Jovchevski, PhD Student, CEU (Budapest)/Assistant archivist, Blinken OSA


            Connor Kusilek, MA Student, CEU (Budapest)

14:00   The role of ICTY in the reconciliation process within the countries in the post-Yugoslav region

Chair: Perica Jovchevski

14.10   ICTY: Failed Hopes, Denials, and Achievements

            Nenad Dimitrijević, Professor, CEU (Budapest)

14.40   Does Judicial Reasoning in Judgments of the ICTY Contribute to Deterrence,

            Reconciliation and Acknowledgement of Responsibility?

            Eszter Kirs, Associate professor, Corvinus University of Budapest, University of Miskolc

            /Legal Officer, Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Budapest)


15.10   Challenge of Dealing with the Past, Acknowledging Suffering and Creating Inclusive

            Remembrance Processes

            Vesna Teršelić, Director, Documenta-Center for Dealing with the Past (Zagreb)

15.40   Coffee Break

16:00   General Discussion

17:00   “Getting away with murder”, screening of a documentary from the OSA collections

17.40   Closing remarks

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Workshop abstracts

The Yugoslav Archive Project: from archiving to transitional justice

Perica Jovchevski

Connor Kusilek

The Yugoslav Archive Project deals with the archiving of records from the civilian, economic and political processes of the countries of former Yugoslavia during and after the disintegration of the country. Since 2015, the project started to develop a self reflective archival methodology which was being applied to several of its activities, primarily to the monitoring of news programs from the war and post-war years in FR Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The project is currently focused on archiving the Serbian textual documents of the Open Media Research Institute and the sound recordings as well as the textual records from the UN Commission of Experts on Investigating War Crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

Our presentation offers a broader overview of the activities of the projects, its methodology and the current achievements. Particular explanatory emphasis will be set on the following three aspects of our work: the archiving of mass crimes, atrocities and violations of human rights, the elucidation of manipulative and partial accounts of the past reported in the records and the treatment of micro-histories and testimonies which in our view can play an important role in truth telling and a transitional justice policy in general.

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ICTY: Failed Hopes, Denials, and Achievements

Nenad Dimitrijević

The ICTY was established in May 1993 by the UN Security Council, to deal with the crimes committed during the Yugoslav wars. It closed in December 2017. Its record is controversial. Since its inception, this institution struggled with a plethora of problems. The legality of its creation was challenged. Its procedural rules were excessively complex. Its stated goals went far beyond the ‘standard’ mandate of a criminal court. Governments in the post-Yugoslav region (Serbia, Croatia, and Republika Srpska) persistently refused to fully cooperate with the Tribunal. The majority of the population in these entities perceived the Tribunal as an illegitimate body. The opinion polls on the attitudes towards the ICTY and the overall political and cultural situation in the region demonstrate the failure of peace building and reconciliation.

Do all these negative features lead to the inference that the ICTY was a wasted opportunity? This presentation will offer a positive evaluation of the Tribunal. The ICTY contributed enormously to the authority of international law. It brought to justice high-ranking political and military leaders. It clearly identified victims and perpetrators. It amassed rich documentation about crimes, offering a powerful knowledge base for anyone who is interested in the truth about Yugoslav wars. This is not to deny that the Tribunal’s record remains imperfect.  Neither can it be denied that its ‘outreach program’ never really reached the majority of the population in the region. But the Tribunal cannot be held responsible for the politics and culture of denial that have dominated in many post-Yugoslav countries.

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Does Judicial Reasoning in Judgments of the ICTY Contribute to Deterrence, Reconciliation and Acknowledgement of Responsibility?

Eszter Kirs

The speaker focuses on the issue of how judgments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia resonate in the historical and political discourse of Bosnia and Herzegovina. She seeks the answers to the following questions: (1) Does legal reasoning that led to a certain verdict play any role in the official acknowledgement of responsibility, reconciliation and general deterrence?(2) Is it communication, accessible justice that can play a more important role in this? The speaker discusses these topics based on interviews conducted in Banja Luka and Sarajevo in 2017. She talked to representatives of (1) local civil society organizations, (2) the judiciary, prosecution and defence, and (3) the academia. The speaker will shed light on the limits of the impact of the ICTY judgments on the local historical dialogue today and in the future. As Serge Brammertz, Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY outlined in one of the latest addresses to the UN Security Council, the denial of responsibility is widespread in the states of the former Yugoslavia. The impact of the Tribunal is limited due to its vague reputation, the lack of tradition of a balanced dialogue in the region and the current political context, including the presence of former defendants in political positions due to the lack of lustration. The speaker will explore the issue of what the ICTY could have done better in terms of judicial reasoning and communication in order to make its decisions more accessible and acceptable to locals thereby contributing to broader acknowledgement of crimes and the common understanding that they should not occur again.

Challenge of Dealing with the Past,

Acknowledging Suffering and Creating Inclusive Remembrance Processes

Vesna Teršelič

After the closing of the International Tribunal for War Crimes in ex-Yugoslavia many questions regarding dealing with the past in post-Yugoslav societies remain open. How to unload the heavy burden of the past crimes and take responsibility for remembering what happened? It should be as simple as saying “We acknowledge suffering, the atrocities which have been committed have been wrong” and be very specific about what happened. After a recent meeting of the highest political representatives what are the chances for a renewed trust building process which would liberate creative energy, nurture freedom of expression as well as economic entrepreneurship, with full wind and in full capacity? Will leaders of post-Yugoslav countries, institutions and individuals find energy and courage to embrace both the positive and negative part of the troubled heritage? Will there be political will to intensify war crimes prosecution in different post-Yugoslav countries? Will there be political will for establishing RECOM as a regional commission to establish facts on the fate of victims and the responsibility of perpetrators and other truth-seeking mechanisms? Will necessary pre-conditions to secure reparations and foster inclusive remembrance processes be created?