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.



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