Arresting the wrong general


The arrest of Jovan Divjak is an embarassement. After Ganic’s arrest last year in London, the arrest of General Divjak  in Vienna on a Serbian arrest warrent undermines Serbia’s credibility. Serbia’s request to have Ganic extradicted for the “Dobrovoljacka case” was thrown out by a London court with the explanaition that “proceedings are brought and are being used for political purposes, and as such amount to the abuse of process of this court.” There is not much to add to the arrest of Divjak. It is not without irony that his role during the Dobrovoljacka case is well documented: He is shown during the incident in the BBC documentary The Death of Yugoslavia trying to convince the ragtag group of Bosnian territorial defense forces  to stop shooting. Clearly they ignored him and an unidentified soldiers tells him to f*** off (see documentary, 44 min, hat tip to Ivana) Hardly the stuff war criminals are made of.

As with last years’ case, it is also entirely unclear on which grounds Serbia claims jurisdiction over the case. The arrest of Divjak is even more ironic. Not only does he come from a Serb family, opting to defend Bosnia and standing for a multiethnic society, he has remained moderate and without bitterness after the war. While he was retired after the war because a Serb general no longer fit into the ethnic categories imposed at Dayton, he once told me that he was grateful to have more time to work on humanitarian projects.

Pursuing this case is doing Serbia and the domestic war crimes chamber a great disservice. It undermines the credibility of the Serbian war crimes chamber and other European countries might have to start thinking twice as to whether to executed Serbian arrest warrants.

After there has been much progress in recent months in terms of judicial cooperation in the region, preventing criminals seeking refugee across the border through mutual extradition agreements, Divjak’s arrest constitutes a major blow to these efforts. It has also helped to fuel tensions in Bosnia as Dodik has immediately seized on the arrest and stating that “this should have happend a long time ago. The crimes committed by Divjak and others Dobrovoljačka in Sarajevo are obvious.”

In order to help to clear up this case once and for all, it would be good for the Bosnian war crimes chamber to seriously investigate the case. It began a parallel investigation with Serbian authorities, but it needs to ensure that it does not appear to be a non-investigation. Instead it will need to clarify the number of victims which remains contested, the exact events and those responsible. I strongly doubt that Jovan Divjak would find himself on such a list, but it will need to be a Bosnian court to determine this.



9 Responses to Arresting the wrong general

  1. S. Lazovik says:

    Gen. Divjak was one of the rare people that deserved to be called a soldier, and one of the rare ones that I respected since the war began. He had a great sense of honour, valour and principles. That is not the case for other BiH army officers and generals – namely the commander of the fifth corps gen. Dudakovic (there is a video of him on You Tube chanting “allah akhbar” and giving a direct order to his soldiers to execute two prisoners of war). I should mention here also Naser Oric, who was in charge of the muslim forces in Srebrenica. With his crimes against Serbs of the neighbouring villages he awakened the wrath of the Bosnian Serb Army in such a way that resulted in their horrible vengeance, massacring all male population of the town.
    I regret to say that gen. Divjak’s ideal for a multi-ethnic Bosnian state was just an illusion, a utopia. I myself had the same dream, but I realised the bitter reality the first time I saw foreigners from middle east fighting in BiH army uniforms (their crimes should be investigated as well, by the way). I became also disappointed with the attitude of the western powers, which chose to see things black and white and brand the war as one where good fights the evil. It was never the case, and most of the time it was Bad vs Evil.

  2. mmv says:

    @Lazovik: I agree with what you said about General Divjak, but can’t quite believe that only Middle Eastern fighters fighting in Bosnia and the Western powers shattered your dream of a multiethnic Bosnia. What about rampant Serb nationalism?

  3. Zzz says:

    Both is unfortunately correct, the Middle Easterners fighting in the foreign country and Serb nationalism being as destructive as it is still… The multiethnic Bosnia is currently a dream, a utopia, and will remain such for a few generations to come. General Divjak is an example of how true patriots should behave, no matter their nationality, country of birth or anything else. He remained true to himself, committed no crime, fought for Sarajevo, for Bosnia (although probably not for Bosnia as it currently is, I assume, where extreme Islamists and other ’92 big-time believers are or rather have already taken over). It is so sad and even tragic to see things like this happening…. Jovo Divjak is a shinning example of truth, principles and a huge heart. I only hope that he will come out of this even greater than he was..

  4. iko says:

    Lazovik when it comes to historical analysis you have a very distorted understanding of causation and appear to be condoning the terror tactics used by the Serbs from the outset of the war, culminating in Srebrenica. Bosnians survived the rapacious behaviour of their homogeneous neighbors far better than the minorities in those countries for centuries until the redefinitions of nationalism took hold in the early 20th c. The surprise and disbelief of Bosnians at the start of the conflict was real and sincere- No one really expected the Serb Nationalists to be as violently committed to separating the cultural groups as they evidently were. If the only solution to political reformation in today’s world is murderous strategy then may your god protect you as there will be none else to do so.

  5. Florian Bieber says:

    A Sense Agency article notes that Jovan Divjak was investigated by the ICTY at the request of the RS and found that “”the evidence is insufficient by international standards to provide reasonable grounds for the belief that Divjak Jovan, son of Dusan may have committed serious violations of international humanitarian law”

  6. S. Lazovik says:

    Read carefully my previous comment: I said it was Bad vs Evil. I did not take any sides. My side was old Bosnia. My side was good old Yugoslavia.

  7. Vladimir says:

    What exactly is the point of this article? That General Divjak is wrongfully arrested? If that is so – and I for one believe he is – than he has nothing to worry about, and from his behavior it seems to me that he knows that as well.

    Then what? That Serbian judiciary system will loose its credibility? Hardly so, since the credibility of warrants a state has issued is not judged by the police forces on the ground but is a matter of political agreement and Serbia probably knows how far it can go with this political game. If not, than it is doing this at its own peril.

    The point comes at the very end, and that is what I find problematic about this article. The point hidden behind both Ganic and Divjak arrests is that the Bosnian courts have done nothing to prosecute the war crimes committed by the Bosnian Muslims/Bosniaks 16 years after the end of the war. That this is done clearly for political and demagogic reasons needs no further explanations (for those of you who are not convinces see the link I posted below). The murder of an unknown number of the Yugoslav army soldiers in Dobrovoljacka Street is a crime and should thus be prosecuted. We can with some certainty say that it wasn’t Ganic’s fault, even less likely Divjak’s, but then – who is to blame?

    The agenda that both Ganic and Divjak are trying to push here is the official Bosnian standpoint: the trap in Dobrovoljacka St was set by “some” armed civilians who were not under anyone’s command and so no one can be persecuted. In other words (which, of course, are never uttered in Sarajevo) it is the work of Bosniak paramilitaries. The fact that paramilitary units acted without direct command from the top does not relieve murderers from their crimes. It is time to admit that the dividing line between the armed patriotic civilians and the radical nationalists committing war and crimes against humanity is very thin. The sooner the Bosnians (and all other nations of course!) are faced with this fact and start acting accordingly, the sooner we will have at least some justice done. And without justice there cannot be peace.

    For those who understand BHS / Serbo-Croatian here’s a good link for the show that sheds a lot more light on all of these events:

  8. Vladimir says:

    Oh, one more thing.

    A seriously weak point of this article is the part when it refers to Divjak as “ opting to defend Bosnia and standing for a multiethnic society”, which indeed is just a phrase that has been mentioned so many times that we all take it for granted. On what bases has the author and all the others who have been repeating this phrase estimated that in May of 1992 defending Bosnia equaled standing for a multiethnic society? On the base of the fact that Divjak was a Serb? That would equal the claims that the fact Emir Kusturica, a Muslim Bosniak born in Sarajevo, who left Bosnia for Serbia at the same time was fighting for a multiethnic society in Serbia. On the grounds that Bosnia-Herzegovina was a multiethnic state? So was Yugoslavia but this did not stop the seceding republics.

    Divjak left the Yugoslav army a few months before because he was charged for treason for issuing guns and ammunition to the local units, which was contrary to the orders he had. Divjak and many others have been preparing for – let’s try to see it benevolently – the worst case scenario, namely war. It could easily be that these same weapons were used in fighting on May 2nd 1992 or in the Dobrovoljacka St massacre. The reasons why Divjak opted for Bosnia-Herzegovina and not for Yugoslavia or Serbia were his own but were surely not shared by the majority of population that in 1990 elections – most unfortunately – voted along the ethnic lines. By May 1992 multiethnic society was a dream that was not shared by many be it in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro or Macedonia.

    Even though I do believe that Jovan Divjak was amongst a few people whose reputation was not sullied in that dirty war, he still was a general of a warring army. Reading that he was awarded the title of the Universal Peace Ambassador by the Worldwide Council of the Universal Ambassador Peace Circle in Geneva makes me sick. Pronouncing generals to be peace ambassadors? What kind of nonsense or hypocrisy is this? Remembering that witty saying (and I would like to excuse myself for using bad language in this gruesome context) that goes “Making war for peace is like f***ing for virginity”, I think that applied in this case the saying would go something like “Defending Bosnia with arms in May 1992 in a fight for a multiethnic society was like f***ing for virginity”. Sad but true.

  9. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Serberen som forsvarte Sarajevo

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