Veran Matić – Zašto nismo? (Srebrenica)

10. Jul 2021.
Tekst “Zašto nismo?” objavljen je u zborniku “Nikome se ne ponovilo - Genocid u Srebrenici i borba protiv zaborava”, koji je priredila Ajla Škrbić a izdavači su Inicijativa mladih za ljudska prava, Forum ZDF Srbija i NDN Vojvodine.
Bosnia Srebrenica Anniversary
Majka i ćerka, izbeglice iz Srebrenice, plaču zabrinute za sudbinu ostatka porodice, nakon što su evakuisane u američku bazu u blizini Tuzle, 13. jul 1995. Foto: Beta/AP foto/Darko Bandić

Piše: Veran Matić, predsednik UO Fonda B92, Republika Srbija

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Sažetak

Rad predstavlja osvrt na pitanja (lične) odgovornosti, istine o ratovima iz poslednje decenije 20. veka na prostoru Balkana i pomirenja naroda koji su nekada živeli u Socijalističkoj Federativnoj Republici Jugoslaviji od strane osobe koja je aktivni antiratni novinar i aktivista od samog početka sukoba na Balkanu pa sve do danas. Od uređivanja Radija B92 i vođenja brojnih njegovih mirovnih i humanitarnih akcija, preko predsedavanja Upravnim odborom Fonda B92 i strateškog vođenja njegovih aktivnosti na polju ljudskih prava, pa sve do volonterskog rada na otkrivanju poslednjeg počivališta velikog broja nestalih u sukobu Srbije i Hrvatske 90-ih godina prošlog veka kroz ulogu specijalnog izaslanika predsednika Republike Srbije za rešavanje pitanja nestalih sa Republikom Hrvatskom, Veran Matić već 30 godina ima poseban uvid u pitanja suočavanja sa zločinima počinjenim u naše ime.

Umesto uvoda

Pojavni oblici mog i angažmana organizacija u kojima sam radio ili i dalje radim na pitanjima suočavanja sa ratnim zločinima menjali su se tokom vremena sticajem mnogih okolnosti, ali je suštinski poriv koji me je pokretao ostao isti – antiratno traganje za istinom, pravdom i utehom za sve nevino stradale u našim nesrećnim ratovima. Profesionalno i objektivno izveštavanje o sukobima na prostoru bivše države donelo je Radiju B92 brojne probleme ne samo sa režimom Slobodana Miloševića već i sa velikim brojem građana Srbije koji nisu želeli da poveruju u činjenice. S druge strane, ljudi u Radiju B92 nisu mogli “samo” da prenose informacije, patnja je bila tolika da smo se više puta angažovali da pomognemo stradalnicima, ali i da pokrenemo razgovor u društvu o suživotu nakon tako traumatičnih događaja. “Istina, odgovornost i pomirenje” bio je krovni naziv za serijale radijskih i televizijskih emisija koje smo producirali, dokumentarce koje smo sami snimali ili otkupljivali radi emitovanja, konferencije o pomirenju koje smo organizovali sa učesnicima iz preko 60 zemalja sveta, knjige, istraživanja, studije slučajeva o narodima koji su nekako nastavili da žive zajedno i posle strašnih zločina. Sada se trudim da pomognem u međudržavnom nastojanju da se otkrije šta se dogodilo sa nestalima u ratovima devedesetih, da se njihovim porodicama vrati nekakav mir. Ali od svih rana otvorenih tih godina, Srebrenica je, za mene, i dalje najbolnija.

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Postoje neka pitanja ili događaji u životu koji vam se uvek vraćaju i izazivaju iste reakcije, neku vrstu griže savesti i potrebe za novim preispitivanjem. Nekoliko dana nakon početka velikog egzodusa Srba iz Hrvatske, posle akcije “Oluja”,[1] u prostorijama Radija B92 i Doma omladine organizovali smo veliku humanitarnu akciju za sve izbeglice iz kolone koja se protezala od Beograda do iza Banje Luke i kojima su bili potrebni hrana, lekovi, higijenska sredstva, gorivo… Bukvalno svi zaposleni su bili gotovo danonoćno angažovani. Priključile su im se desetine dobrovoljaca, aktivista i brojnih sugrađana, koji su maksimalno pomagali u situaciji kada je Miloševićev režim nastojao da sakrije ovu tragediju, da preusmeri prikupljanje pomoći van centra i da nadiruću izbegličku kolonu na obodima Beograda preusmeri ka Kosovu i Vojvodini.

U toj atmosferi punoj adrenalina, empatije i brige, Adrijana van Heteren, Holanđanka koja je došla u Beograd da nam ličnim sposobnostima i znanjem pomogne kao profesionalka, ali i kao aktivistkinja, pomalo začuđeno me je upitala: “A zašto ovako nešto niste organizovali i za egzodus iz Srebrenice?” Njeno pitanje mi se često vraća, i ne samo u vreme godišnjice tog strašnog zločina.

Tada sam joj odgovorio dosta racionalno o onome što je zaista i bilo: nismo odmah raspolagali informacijama o razmerama zločina, kao i mnogi drugi, ne samo kod nas već i u svetu. Kako su stizale informacije, mi smo ih objavljivali. A paralelno su se odvijale druge bitke koje su na dnevnom nivou prekrivale mogući veći angažman. Prisustvo naših novinara na prostoru Bosne i Hercegovine bilo je minimalno i u najvećoj meri su bili kao fikseri za strane dopisnike. Onoliko koliko su kolege iz sveta svedočile sa lica mesta, toliko smo i mi prenosili u našem programu.

Ovih dana sam se, uz pomoć knjige “Talasanje Srbije” Dušana Mašića,[2] podsećao toga na osnovu svedočenja drugih koji su tada radili na Radiju B92, koji su potvrdili da smo objavljivali bukvalno sve do čega smo mogli da dođemo.

Ipak, mene i dalje muči Adrijanino pitanje.

Mislim da to nije samo pitanje o tome da li smo mogli da uradimo više da im pomognemo kao izbeglicama, već je ono mnogo šire i dotiče se dileme da li smo mogli nekako da predupredimo zločine i nešto uradimo da smanjimo patnju Srebreničana? Da učinimo više kako bi građani Srbije spoznali neporecivu istinu o genocidu, kako ga je kvalifikovao Međunarodni sud pravde, i prihvatili presude sudova o individualnim krivicama počinilaca zločina?

Do bombardovanja Srbije tokom 1999. godine imali smo snažan fokus na stvaranje uslova za mirnu promenu vlasti, boreći se protiv upornih nastojanja tadašnjeg režima da uništi nezavisne i profesionalne medije. Među njima su bili i Radio B92 i Asocijacija nezavisnih elektronskih medija (ANEM), koji su svakodnevno izveštavali o pripremama za novi rat na Kosovu.

Memorijalni centar u Potočarima – groblje. Foto: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Ivo LUCIC

I onda se dogodilo bombardovanje Srbije. Odmah po izdavanju naredbe za bombardovanje bio sam uhapšen i zatvoren u pritvornu jedinicu sedišta policije koje je već bilo evakuisano. I tada se opet pojavio osećaj krivice, kako da taj užas nismo uspeli da sprečimo – zločine na Kosovu i patnje civila kojima će biti izloženi tokom bombardovanja.

Tokom boravka u Crnoj Gori nakon ubistva Slavka Ćuruvije[3] pokrenuo sam debatu o sopstvenom osećaju krivice i odgovornosti sa Arijem Najerom, koji je tada vodio Fondaciju za otvoreno društvo, a pre toga Hjuman Rajts Voč, i koji je imao veliko iskustvo u oblasti tranzicione pravde.

U narednih nekoliko godina organizovali smo dve velike međunarodne konferencije o suočavanju sa prošlošću, na kojima smo mogli da čujemo svedočenja aktera različitih komisija za istinu i pomirenje – od Južne Afrike do Argentine. Objavili smo desetine knjiga, studija, članaka, istraživanja i činilo nam se da je, na osnovu dotadašnjih iskustava iz sveta, jasan put kojim treba da idemo. To je bilo utvrđivanje istine i odgovornosti, sa jasnim paralelnim procesom pomirenja, uz istovremeno demontiranje kulturnog modela koji je doveo do zločina i uspostavljanje novog na temeljima kulture mira i pomirenja, pijeteta prema žrtvama i obrazovnim modelima zasnovanim na činjenicama i zajedničkim faktografskim imeniteljima, kao i sudskim procesima utvrđivanja pravde za zločince uz preuzimanje odgovornosti za (ne)činjenje prethodnih vlada i društveno-političkih elita.

Iako bi se reklo da je to postajalo jasno i vidljivo, u praksi se ništa od svega toga nije događalo. Kada se pogledaju aktivnosti brojnih organizacija u Srbiji – Fonda za humanitarno pravo, Fondacije za otvoreno društvo, Centra za kulturnu dekontaminaciju, Kulturnog centra Rex, brojnih udruženja i pojedinaca, posebno medijske kuće B92, reformskog premijera i Vlade, stiče se utisak da smo imali sve neophodne sastojke, i to čak u zavidnim količinama.

Ali se praktično ništa nije bitnije pomeralo. Nikako nismo mogli da stignemo do tačke preokreta.

Programi B92 su u velikoj meri tada bili vezani za temu suočavanja sa prošlošću, a poseban trenutak u prvoj polovini 2001. godine bio je kada smo emitovali BBC-jev film “Krik iz groba” o Srebrenici. To je bio prvi snažni, sveobuhvatni, neporecivi dokument o zločinu koji će kasnije Međunarodni sud pravde u Hagu, ali i Međunarodni krivični tribunal za bivšu Jugoslaviju u pojedinačnim presudama osobama koje su učestovale u izvršavanju ovog strašnog zločina, definisati kao genocid.

Kada sam pogledao film, imao sam osećaj da imamo krunski dokaz, sveobuhvatnu sliku zločina iz kredibilnih izvora. Imao sam bar delimičan odgovor na Adrijanino pitanje. Šest godina kasnije. Nedostajao mu je, doduše, i onaj deo koji se tiče empatije i proaktivne, direktne akcije. Film smo emitovali u centralnom večernjem, najgledanijem terminu. Tada smo TV signalom pokrivali još uvek samo Beograd, ali su film reemitovale i članice ANEM-a širom Srbije.

I onda, muk. Posle premijernog emitovanja nije bilo reakcija – ni pohvala ni protesta. Odlučili smo se da film odmah repriziramo, i tek posle trećeg emitovanja usledile su reakcije. Dominirale su negativne. O tome sam pisao onako kako su pristizale. Tekst je nosio naslov “Odbacivanje istine”.[4] Danas ne bih imao šta da dodam, iako je prošlo 20 godina, osim što bih možda mogao da ga malo redefinišem – “Odbacivanje jasno utvrđenih činjenica kroz reviziju, negaciju i odbijanje suočavanja sa realnošću”. Navodim neke delove iz ovog teksta iz maja 2001. godine:

“Gađao bih televizor, ali mi žena nije dala.” – reakcija gledaoca TV emisije “A Cry from the Grave”.

“Ako je to zaista bilo tako, onda meni ostaje jedino da uzmem pištolj i da se ubijem!” Ovo je jedna od reakcija na serijal “Istina, odgovornost i pomirenje”, koji je počeo da emituje TV B92, i to posle prve dve epizode, u kojima se govori o zločinu prema nekoliko hiljada stanovnika Srebrenice 1995. godine. Pre nego što je izgovorio ovu rečenicu, gledalac iz unutrašnjosti Srbije dugo je negodovao protiv emitovanja ovakvog programa. Veoma civilizovano je govorio o tome da je u pitanju propaganda, blaćenje srpskog naroda, koji je viteški, itd. Na pitanje zašto je protiv toga da se vidi i neka druga verzija događaja od one koju je do sada imao prilike da vidi, a koji je plasirala Miloševićeva ratna mašinerija – izjavio je da ne bi mogao da podnese takvu istinu.

I nije jedini. Veliki broj gledalaca to isto tvrdi. BBC-jev program “A Cry from the Grave” potresao je i one koji su znali šta se događalo u Bosni. Za vreme emitovanja programa u “prime-time” terminu gledao sam paralelno šta se emituje na drugim kanalima i video da je na jednom južnoamerička sapunska opera – omiljena među gledaocima jer nudi sladunjavu priču, a na drugom serija “Chicago Hope”, koja svako veče u srpske domove unosi dramatične priče iz američke bolnice. Kada sam okrenuo taj kanal, lekari su upravo otvarali grudni koš pacijenta i, u sceni prepunoj krvi, masirali srce koje je prestalo da radi. Gledanje ovakvih scena očigledno ne izaziva gađenje ili uznemirenje. Gledanje leševa i delova tela ljudi pobijenih u okolini Srebrenice to svakako izaziva, uprkos tome što su ljudski ostaci izgubili svaki lični karakter.

Gledao sam u jednom dokumentarnom filmu koji je prikazao francuski kanal ARTE scene u kojima saveznički oficiri, čini mi se u Dahauu, posle oslobađanja koncentracionog logora pitaju građane iz susedstva da li su znali šta se u logoru dešava. Posle odrečnog odgovora, svi građani su provedeni kroz logor prepun leševa. Često se mogu čuti procene da takva terapija nije dala pozitivne rezultate i da je preispitivanje sopstvene nacističke prošlosti zaista počelo tek dvadesetak godina posle Drugog svetskog rata, upravo onda kada se pojavila velika sapunska opera američke proizvodnje na programima TV stanica u Nemačkoj. Neosporno je i da je hapšenje i suđenje Adolfu Ajhmanu u Jerusalimu mnogo više doprinelo saznanjima o razmerama Holokausta nego mnoge rasprave o denacifikaciji koje su se pre toga vodile. Ali je doprinelo i saznanju o “banalnosti zla”, kako kaže Hana Arent.

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Nisam ni tada, a ne želim ni sada da poredim zločine iz Drugog svetskog rata i sam Holokaust sa zločinima iz ratova u Hrvatskoj i Bosni, već da identifikujemo neke univerzalne situacije. Izjava “učitelja iz Pirota” sa početka teksta podsetila me je na belešku Prima Levija, koji je preživeo Holokaust, iz knjige “Utopljenici i spašeni”[5] o ciničnom upozorenju jednog SS čuvara: “Kako god završi ovaj rat, mi smo dobili rat protiv vas, ako neko od vas i preživi, svet vam neće verovati, ljudi će reći da su događaji koje opisujete previše monstruozni da bi bili istiniti. Mi ćemo pisati istoriju koncentracionih logora.”

Ovo navodim jer danas, 26 godina posle zločina, živimo negacionizam, revizionizam, a optuženi za ratne zločine ili zločin genocida pred sudom u BiH šetaju slobodno Srbijom. A da ne govorimo o brojnim drugim učesnicima surovih likvidacija preko 8.000 Bošnjaka tokom samo nekoliko dana.

Posmrtni ostaci dva tela i komadi odeće leže u polju na lokalitetu masovne grobnice u selu Konjević Polje, oko 20 km severozapadno od Srebrenice, 2. april 1996. Foto: Beta/AP foto/Vadim Ghirda

Imao sam prilike da vidim ekshumacije masovnih grobnica, koje se i dalje otkrivaju u Bosni i Hercegovini, da vidim dokaze o identifikaciji tela čiji su delovi pronađeni u pet različitih masovnih grobnica na udaljenosti od 100 km, što jasno govori o mašineriji zla. I da budem u društvu onih koji su ostali bez najmilijih u samo nekoliko dana, onih čiji su delići tela pronađeni, ali se čekaju još neki delovi da bi ukop imao smisla, kao i onih koji još uvek ne znaju gde su pokopani ostaci njihovih najrođenijih.

Ne znam šta je uobičajena, normalna reakcija, ali lično se osećam veoma uznemireno, tužno i imam potrebu da se izvinim svima onima kojima je ova patnja nametnuta. To redovno i činim kako bih iskazao saučestvovanje u njihovoj boli, i to ne samo onda kada ih sretnem.

Uznemirenost je nešto što nije poželjno, što ljudi ne vole, ali je neminovna kada je reč o suočavanju sa činjenicama u teškim trenucima. Nešto što se savladava, rešava. Naročito kada je reč o poziciji “posmatrača”. “Uznemirenje mora da prethodi pomirenju”, nekako tako je rekao Žarko Puhovski na jednoj od konferencija iz 2000–2001.

Iako međunarodna zajednica sa jedne strane često insistira na suočavanju sa prošlošću, ona ga u isto vreme i sprečava. Heni Erceg, urednica Feral Tribunea, u jednom tekstu iz 2015. godine navodi jedan ilustrativan primer: “Izvrstan primer cinizma čitave priče o Srebrenici, lažnoj krivnji, rezolucijama, papagajski ponavljanoj odgovornosti, sve pred grobovima Srebreničana, demonstriran je baš na jednoj konferenciji o Srebrenici nedavno održanoj u Haagu. Tu su se okupili međunarodni kreatori srebreničke tragedije, kancelarijski sudionici masakra, a bio je i pozvan Hasan Nuhanović, prevodilac onima koji su imali zadatak ‘čuvati zaštićenu zonu UN-a’, svjedok genocida. Ali uoči konferencije javili su mu da ne dolazi, da nije dobrodošao, jer će se ‘u njegovom prisustvu neki ljudi osećati nelagodno’. Možda zato jer su mu u Srebrenici ubili oca, majku i brata, ili zato jer je Nuhanović gorki svjedok kako se u krvi rastopila tadašnja rezolucija o Srebrenici.”[6]

Uticaj “stabilokratije” ima pogubno delovanje kada je reč o suočavanju sa prošlošću, nešto kao “hladni rat” za suočavanje sa zločinima u Drugom svetskom ratu.

Prošle godine u Hrvatskoj je, kroz proces zajedničkih komemoracija, započelo vrlo utemeljeno suočavanje sa prošlošću. Naime, stvoren je prostor za “nedogmatski” pristup, za mogućnost različitog tumačenja pojedinih istorijskih događaja, za poštovanje različitog pristupa koji nije dijametralno suprotan i ne predstavlja negacionizam i revizionizam. Predvodnici su političari mlade generacije čije su porodice takođe stradale. To više nije ni eksperiment, to je politika i vladajuće stranke u Hrvatskoj i vodeće stranke Srba u Hrvatskoj. Prisustvovao sam skoro svim događajima. Želeo sam da dam punu podršku i to je više pozitivno nego negativno prihvaćeno u Hrvatskoj, a u Srbiji, čini mi se, obrnuto. Moje simbolično klečanje na Ovčari u Vukovaru proizvelo je za mene neobjašnjivu i čudnu koaliciju koja se protivila onome što sam uradio. I onih koji su saborci u autentičnim procesima suočavanja sa prošlošću i onih koji su negatori zločina.

Boris Milošević, potpredsednik Vlade Republike Hrvatske za društvene delatnosti i ljudska prava, Anja Šimpraga i brojni drugi predstavnici nove generacije Srba u Hrvatskoj su centralna snaga procesa normalizacije kroz zajednička komemoriranja bitnih događaja iz ratova tokom devedesetih. To je ogroman teret koji ima nove žrtve, ali je jedini mogući put.

Bavim se problemom nestalih između Hrvatske i Srbije. I konstantno osećam udaljavanje politika od potreba žrtava, od percepcija da uznemirenje može otežati aktuelne političke procese… Nedavno sam prisustvovao situaciji u kojoj građani malog mesta ne žele da se kod njih dogodi susret dve strane i iskazivanje žaljenja, jer će to lokalnu zajednicu koja je pronašla kakav-takav način suživota iznova uznemiriti, polarizovati pa i stvoriti moguće konflikte.

Prošle godine hteo sam da budem u Srebrenici. Između ličnog angažmana i mogućnosti da predstavljam odnos države prema ovom zločinu isprečile su se okolnosti uticaja koronavirusa, nedostatka međudržavne koordinacije, kasnih reakcija… U svakom slučaju, razgovarajući dan pred komemoraciju sa bivšim gradonačelnikom Srebrenice Ćamilom Durakovićem, dobio sam informaciju koju je verovatno trebalo da znam i ranije. Naime, za ogranizatore, porodice žrtava i bošnjački deo Predsedništva BiH na komemoracijama nisu poželjni predstavnici zemalja koje negiraju genocid u Srebrenici. Ćamil, koji trenutno nema nikakvu zvaničnu funkciju u organizovanju obeležavanja godišnjice, rekao mi je: “Možeš da dođeš kod mene kući.” Za mene je to bio trenutak vrhunskog srama, ali i vrhunske počasti koju može učiniti samo onaj ko prolazi kroz pakao zločina načinjenog prema sopstvenoj porodici i koji, i pored toga, svom snagom iskreno želi da se zajednički iskoraci dogode.

Pre dve godine bio sam na komemoraciji, i tada sam saznao da je Ćamil nakon mandata predsednika opštine Srebrenica, u okviru kojeg je uspeo da napravi most saradnje, suživota u Srebrenici i sa Vladom Srbije, koja je donirala nekoliko miliona eura za normalizaciju života u Srebrenici, završio na berzi rada. Verovatno je tamo i danas. I to mi je, pored primera Hasana Nuhanovića, najupečatljivija slika aktuelnog stanja kada je reč o poimanju zla koje je činjeno u Srebrenici.

I u isto vreme je presek ključan za razumevanje političke budućnosti ovog pitanja, saradnje u regionu i suočavanja sa prošlošću.

Verujem da, kao i u Hrvatskoj, nove snage u Bosni i Hercegovini mogu da pronađu mehanizam, projekte, prostor za određene gestove čije bi činjenje doprinelo da se izbrišu stereotipi i načini atmosfera da se opravdavanje zločina, negacionizam zla učine nedopustivim. Dobro bi bilo da započne proces koji bi nagoveštavao takvu realnost.

Na početku 2021. umrla je Mira Furlan. Simbol univerzalnih vrednosti, simbol patnje vezane za raspad Jugoslavije i svih zločina počinjenih, između ostalih, i prema njoj. Posle njene smrti neke institucije u Hrvatskoj, predstavnici Hrvatskog narodnog kazališta u Zagrebu i Globusa odlučili su da joj se izvine za zlo koje su joj načinili hajkom i oduzimanjem posla, stana… Kasno… Kada ona nije mogla da to suočavanje lično percipira za života. I brojne su takve situacije, svedoci, žrtve koje odlaze… Stiče se utisak da mnogi misle da će time sve biti rešeno. Prirodnim odlivom.

Neće. Samo će biti gore.

Zbog toga su danas veoma važne zajedničke komemoracije čak i kada su u pitanju različita tumačenja vezana za iste, tragične događaje. Danas u Hrvatskoj taj proces snažno podržava i akcije solidarnosti vezane za zemljotres na Baniji, gde žive Srbi i Hrvati, promocija suživota kroz zajedničke komemoracije prenosi se i na zajedništvo u solidarnosti.

***

Mogu da navodim puno negativnih primera, ali mislim da to ne pomaže u ovakvim tekstovima.

Za mene postoje porodice žrtava i postojim ja. I odnos prema zločinu.

Kada god vidim majke Srebrenice i rodbinu žrtava, imam autentičnu potrebu da iskažem saučešće kao da je reč o meni najrođenijem koji je ubijen. Isto tako, ako mi to nije omogućeno, osećam iskonsku obavezu/potrebu da pronađem način da to uradim.

Srebreničke majke molim da razumeju da u Srbiji razumemo obim počinjenog zla i da prihvatamo presude Međunarodnog suda pravde u Hagu. Imamo niz organizacija koje se bave ovom temom. Ako budem imao dozvolu da ove godine prisustvujem komemoraciji, iskoristiću priliku da Muniri Subašić poljubim ruke i iskažem žaljenje za gubitak svih ubijenih i nestalih.

Umesto zaključka

U svojim memoarima Simon Vizental priča o večeri u kući preživelog iz logora Mauthauzen.[7] Taj je u međuvremenu postao draguljar i napravio veliko bogatstvo. On je Vizentalu rekao: “Mogao si postati milioner da si otišao u Izrael i vratio se arhitekturi. Treba pustiti prošlost i okrenuti se budućnosti. Život ide dalje.” Vizental mu je na to odgovorio: “Kad dođemo na drugi svet, tamo ćemo sresti milione ljudi koji su poginuli u koncentracionim logorima. Kad nas oni budu pitali: ’Šta ste vi radili?’, biće mnogo odgovora. Ti ćeš im reći: ’Ja sam postao draguljar.’ Neko drugi će im reći: ’Ja sam gradio kuće.’ Treći će im reći: ’Ja sam se bavio preprodajom cigareta i kafe.’ A ja ću reći: ’Ja vas nisam zaboravio.’”

Izvori

[1] “Specijal: 10 godina od ‘Oluje’ nad Krajinom”, B92, 4. 8. 2005, https://www.b92.net/specijal/oluja/index.php?start=0&nav_id=173958.

[2] Dušan Mašić, Talasanje Srbije (Beograd: Samizdat B92, 2006).

[3] Slavko Ćuruvija bio je novinar, urednik i vlasnik nekoliko nezavisnih medija u Srbiji tokom vladavine Miloševićevog režima 1990-ih godina. Ubila su ga dva izvršioca na ulici 11. aprila 1999. godine, tokom bombardovanja Srbije od strane snaga NATO-a. Suđenje za ovo ubistvo još uvek je u toku. Više o Slavku Ćuruviji dostupno je na stranici fondacije koja nosi njegovo ime: https://www.slavkocuruvijafondacija.rs/slavko-curuvija-i-njegovo-naslede/ (pristupljeno: 15. 2. 2021).

[4] Veran Matić, “Odbacivanje istine“, Reč, Br. 62.8 (Maj 2001), str. 75-82, Beograd.

[5] Primo Levi, Utopljenici i spašeni (Zaprešić: Fraktura, 2017).

[6] Heni Erceg, Sir, vrhnje i fašizam (Rijeka: Ex Libris, 2020).

[7] Simon Wiesenthal, Pravda, ne osveta – sjećanja (Sarajevo: Svjetlost Sarajevo, 1989).


 

Why Didn’t We…

In this July 13, 1995, file photo a woman and her mother, refugees from Srebrenica, cry worried about the fate of the rest of their family, after reaching a U.N. base near Tuzla, Bosnia. Twenty-six years after the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the only episode of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war to be legally defined as genocide, its survivors continue to grapple with the horrors they endured while also confronting increasingly aggressive downplaying and even denial of their ordeal. Photo: Beta/AP Photo/Darko Bandic

Author: Veran Matić, President of the Board of Directors of B92 Fund, Serbia

Abstract

A comment on the issues of (personal) responsibility, the truth about the wars of the last decade of the 20th Century in the Balkans, and the reconciliation of peoples who used to live in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, by a person who has been an active anti-war journalist and activist from the very beginning of the conflicts in the Balkans until this very day. From being an editor of the B92 Radio and managing its numerous peace and humanitarian actions, through presiding over the B92 Fund Board of Directors and strategic management of its activities in the area of human rights, to the volunteer work on discovering the final resting place of a large number of the disappeared in the conflict between Serbia and Croatia in the 1990s in the capacity of Special Envoy of the President of the Republic of Serbia for resolving the issue of missing persons with the Republic of Croatia, for 30 years Veran Matić has had particular insight in the issues of dealing with the crimes committed in our name.

Instead of Introduction

The manifestations of my engagement and the engagement of the organisations I have worked or am still working with on the issues of dealing with the war crimes have been changing over time due to various circumstances, but my genuine driver remained the same – the antiwar search for truth, justice and comfort for all those innocent people killed in our unfortunate wars. Professional and objective reporting about the conflicts on the territories of the former state brought plenty of problems to Radio B92, not only by Slobodan Milošević’s regime, but also by a large number of citizens of Serbia who did not want to believe the facts. On the other hand, the people at Radio B92 could not “only” pass the information; the suffering was so enormous that we engaged several times to help the victims, as well as to initiate a discussion in society about coexistence after such traumatic events. “Truth, Responsibility and Reconciliation” was an umbrella term for a series of radio and TV shows we produced, the documentaries we either made ourselves or bought for broadcast, conferences on reconciliation we organised with participants from more than 60 countries, books, research projects, case studies about peoples who somehow managed to continue living together after horrible crimes. Now I am trying to help in a bilateral attempt to find out what had happened to the missing persons in the 1990s wars, so that their families can find some peace. But of all the wounds that were opened during these years, for me, Srebrenica is still the most painful one.

***

There are some questions or events in one’s life which are always recurring and causing the same reactions. Some sort of guilty conscience and a need for new reconsiderations. A few days after the beginning of the huge exodus of Serbs from Croatia following the Operation Storm,[1] on the premises of Radio B92 at the Youth Centre, we organised a great humanitarian action for the refugees from the convoy stretching from Belgrade to beyond Banja Luka who needed food, medicines, hygiene products, fuel… Literally, all the employees worked day and night. Dozens of volunteers, activists and numerous citizens joined in to help the situation when the Milošević regime tried to conceal this tragedy, redirect the collection of aid outside the city centre, and redirect the advancing refugee convoy at the outskirts of Belgrade towards Kosovo and Vojvodina.

In that adrenaline-fuelled atmosphere, full of empathy and worry, Adriana Van Heteren, a Dutch who came to Belgrade to help us with her personal skills and knowledge both as a professional and an activist, asked me a bit bemusedly: “Why didn’t you organise something like this for the exodus from Srebrenica?” Her question comes back to me often, not only at the time of anniversary of that horrible crime.

Dignitaries and residents pay respect in front of the motorcade carrying 19 identified bodies of victims which will be buried in Srebrenica on Sunday, in front of the Bosnian Presidency building in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Friday, July 9, 2021. 26 years after the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the only episode of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war to be legally defined as a genocide, its survivors continue to grapple with the horrors they endured while also fighting against increasingly aggressive downplaying and even denial of their ordeal. Photo: Beta/AP Photo/Darko Bandic

Back then, I gave her a rather rational answer about what had really happened: we did not immediately have information about the scope of the crime, like many others, not only here, but in the world, too. We were broadcasting all the incoming news instantaneously. At the same time, other battles were raging, preventing possible greater engagement on a daily basis. The presence of our reporters on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina was minimal; they mostly worked as fixers for foreign correspondents. The entirety of what our colleagues from around the world were witnessing on the spot was broadcast in our programme as well.

These days, with the help of Dušan Mašić’s book “Talasanje Srbije” (Making Waves in Serbia),[2] I have been reminiscing about this, based on the testimonies of others who worked at Radio B92 at that time, who confirmed that we were releasing literally everything we were able to obtain.

Nevertheless, Adriana’s question still bothers me.

I think this is not only the question about whether we could have done more to help them as refugees, but is much broader and touches upon the dilemma of whether we could have somehow prevented the crimes and done something to diminish the suffering of people from Srebrenica? Could we have done more to make the citizens of Serbia realise the undeniable truth about the genocide, as it was qualified by the International Court of Justice, and to accept court judgments on the individual guilt of the perpetrators.

Until the bombing of Serbia in 1999, our focus had strongly been on ensuring the conditions for a peaceful change of government, while fighting against persistent attempts of the then regime to destroy independent and professional media. Radio B92 and the Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), which were reporting about the preparations for the new war in Kosovo on a daily basis, were also among them.

And then came the bombing of Serbia. Right after the issuance of the bombing order, I was arrested and detained in the detention unit of the police headquarters which had already been evacuated. And the feeling of guilt emerged again, how we could not have prevented that horror, i.e. the crimes in Kosovo and the suffering the civilians would endure in the bombing.

During my stay in Montenegro after the assassination of Slavko Ćuruvija[3], I initiated a debate on my own sense of guilt and responsibility with Aryeh Neier who at the time managed the Open Society Foundation, and Human Rights Watch before that, and who had had vast experience in the area of transitional justice.

In the next couple of years, we organised two large international conferences on dealing with the past, where we could hear testimonies of actors of different truth and reconciliation commissions, from South Africa to Argentina. We published dozens of books, studies, articles, research, and it seemed to us that, based on the experiences from the world, the path that should be taken was clear. It included establishing the truth and responsibility, with a clear simultaneous process of reconciliation, while at the same time dismantling the cultural model which had led to the crime, and replacing it with a new one, based on the culture of peace and reconciliation, reverence for the victims, educational models founded on facts and common factographic denominators, as well as the court proceedings aimed at ensuring justice for the perpetrators, together with assuming responsibility for the (non)action of the previous governments and social and political elites.

Although one would say that this was becoming clear and visible, nothing was really put into practice. In view of the activities of numerous organisations in Serbia – the Humanitarian Law Centre, Open Society Foundation, Centre for Cultural Decontamination, Cultural Centre Rex, numerous associations and individuals, especially the media outlets of the B92 company, the reformist Prime Minister and Government, it may seem that we had all the necessary ingredients, in great quantities, even.

Dignitaries pay respect in front of a motorcade carrying 19 identified bodies of victims which will be buried in Srebrenica on Sunday, in front of the Bosnian Presidency building in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Friday, July 9, 2021. 26 years after the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the only episode of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war to be legally defined as a genocide, its survivors continue to grapple with the horrors they endured while also fighting against increasingly aggressive downplaying and even denial of their ordeal. Photo: Beta/AP Photo/Darko Bandic

However, there were practically no significant changes in reality. We could not reach the point of reversal.

The B92 programmes at the time were to a great extent connected with the topic of dealing with the past, and a special moment in the first half of 2001 was when we aired the BBC’s documentary “A Cry from the Grave” about Srebrenica. This was the first, strong, comprehensive, undeniable document about the crime which would subsequently be defined as genocide by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, as well as by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia in individual judgments against persons who participated in the commission of this horrible crime.

When I saw the documentary, I had a feeling that we had crucial evidence, a comprehensive picture of the crime from credible sources. I had at least a partial answer to Adriana’s question. Six years later. It lacked, though, the part relating to empathy and proactive, direct action. We aired the film in prime time. Back then, our TV signal covered only Belgrade, but the documentary was rebroadcast by the ANEM members across Serbia.

And then – silence. There were no reactions after the premiere – neither praise nor protest. We decided to rerun the film immediately and the reactions came only after the third rerun. The negative ones prevailed. As they were coming in, I was writing about them. The article was titled “Odbacivanje istine” (Rejecting the Truth).[4] I have nothing to add today, although 20 years have passed, except maybe to redefine it – “Rejection of the clearly established facts, through revision, negation and refusal to face the reality”. I quote some parts of this article from May 2001:

“I would have thrown something at my TV set, but my wife wouldn’t let me” – reaction of a viewer of the TV documentary “A Cry from the Grave”

“If it was really like this, then the only thing left for me is to take a gun and kill myself!” This is one of the reactions to the series “Truth, Responsibility, Reconciliation” launched by TV B92, after the first two episodes which discussed the crime against several thousands of inhabitants of Srebrenica in 1995. Before uttering this sentence, the viewer from Serbia had protested for a long time against the airing of such a programme. In a very civilised manner, he had said that all of these had been about propaganda, defamation of Serbs who are chivalrous people, etc. When asked about why he was against showing some other version of the event different from the one he had had the opportunity to see up until then, i.e., the version promoted by Milošević’s war machinery – he said that he could not have handled such truth.

And his was not the only case. A large number of viewers have claimed the same. The BBC’s programme “A Cry from the Grave” shocked even those who knew what had happened in Bosnia. During the airing of the programme in prime time, I simultaneously watched what was being broadcast on other channels and saw that one of them was airing a South American soap popular with the audience for its saccharine story line; “Chicago Hope” was on the other, a series bringing dramatic stories from a US hospital to Serbian homes every night. When I switched to that channel, the doctors were opening the chest of a patient and, in a scene full of blood, massaged the heart that stopped beating. Watching such scenes obviously does not cause disgust or uneasiness. Watching corpses and body parts of people killed around Srebrenica certainly causes it, despite the fact that human remains lost any personal character.

Once I watched a documentary on the French ARTE channel in which the Allies’ officers, I think in Dachau, after the liberation of the concentration camp, asked the neighbouring citizens whether they knew what was going on in the camp. Having given negative answer, all citizens were walked through the camp overfilled with corpses. One can often hear that such therapy did not bring positive results and that reconsideration of their own Nazi past really started only 20 years after World War II, at a moment when a big American soap opera appeared on the programmes of the German TV stations. It is also indisputable that the arrest and trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem contributed to the comprehension of the enormity of the Holocaust much more than the numerous debates about denazification organised before that. It also contributed to understanding the “banality of evil,” as Hannah Arendt put it.

***

Neither then nor now would I want to compare the crimes of World War II and the Holocaust itself with the crimes of the wars in Croatia and Bosnia, but only to identify some universal situations. A statement by a “teacher from Pirot” from the beginning of the text reminded me of the note by Primo Levi, who survived the Holocaust, from the book “The Drowned and the Saved”[5] about a cynical warning one SS officers made: “However this war may end, we have won the war against you; none of you will be left to bear witness, but even if some of you survive, the world will not believe him (… ) people will say that the events you describe are too monstrous to be believed (…) We will be the ones to dictate the history of the Lagers.”

I mention this because today, 26 years after the crime, we are living in negationism, revisionism, while those accused of war crimes or the crime of genocide before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina are on the loose in Serbia. Not to mention numerous other participants in the cruel killings of more than 8000 Bosniaks in just a couple of days.

I had the opportunity to see the exhumations of mass graves, which are still being discovered in Bosnia and Herzegovina, to see evidence of the identification of bodies the parts of which were found in five different mass graves at 100km distance from one another, which clearly speaks of the machinery of evil. And to be in the company of those who had lost their loved ones in only a few days, with only tiny fragments of the bodies found, still waiting for more remains to be discovered for the burial to make sense, as well as those who still do not know where the remains of their loved ones were buried.

I do not know what is the usual, normal reaction, but personally I feel very upset, sad and I have the need to apologise to all those who were forced to go through this suffering. Which is what I regularly do to express my sympathy with their pain, at all times – not only when I meet them.

Being upset is something undesirable, unliked, but still inevitable when it comes to facing the facts in difficult moments. Something that can be overcome, resolved. Especially when it concerns the position of a “spectator”. “Being upset must precede reconciliation,” Žarko Puhovski said something like that at one of the conferences in 2000-2001.

Although the international community often insists on dealing with the past, it also prevents it at the same time. Heni Erceg, the Feral Tribune editor, mentioned an illustrative example in an article in 2015: “An excellent example of the cynicism of the whole Srebrenica story, the false guilt, resolutions, of the parroting about responsibility, all this in front of the graves of people of Srebrenica, was demonstrated where else but at another conference about Srebrenica recently held in The Hague. The international creators of the Srebrenica tragedy gathered there, the office-dwelling participants of the massacre, while Hasan Nuhanović had also been invited, an interpreter to those whose task was to “Protect the UN Safety Area,” witness of the genocide. But right before the conference, they called him and told him not to come, that he was not welcome, because “some people would feel uncomfortable in his presence”. Maybe because his father, mother and brother were killed in Srebrenica, or because Nuhanović is a bitter witness to how the then Resolution on Srebrenica dissolved in blood…”[6]

“Stabilocracy” has a dismal impact on dealing with the past, something similar to the impact of the “Cold War” on dealing with the crimes of World War II.

In Croatia, the process of well-founded dealing with the past started last year through joint commemorations. Namely, a space for a “non-dogmatic approach” has been opened, allowing for a possibility of different interpretations of certain historical events, for respecting different approaches which are not diametrically opposite, and do not represent negationism and revisionism. It is led by the younger generation politicians whose families’ members were also killed. This is not an experiment any longer, this is the politics of both the governing party in Croatia and the leading party of Serbs in Croatia. I attended almost all of the events. I wanted to offer my full support, and the reactions in Croatia were more positive than negative, while in Serbia it seems to be the opposite. My symbolic kneeling at Ovčara in Vukovar created a coalition that was opposed to what I did, which I find inexplicable and odd.  It united those who are comrades-in-arms in the authentic processes of dealing with the past with those negating the crime.

Boris Milošević, Deputy Prime Minister of the Croatian Government in charge of social affairs and human rights, Anja Šimpraga, as well as numerous other representatives of the new generation of Serbs in Croatia are the central force in the process of normalisation through joint commemorations of important events of the 1990s wars. This is an enormous burden which has claimed new victims, but it is the only possible path.

I am involved in the problem of missing persons of both Croatia and Serbia. And I constantly feel the politics distancing itself from the needs of victims, from perceptions that unease may aggravate current political processes… I have recently witnessed a situation where the citizens of a small town did not want to have a meeting of the two sides expressing their regret held in their town, because that would once again upset and polarise the local community that has managed to find at least some kind of coexistence, and even fuel possible conflicts.

Last year, I wanted to be in Srebrenica. Between my personal engagement and the possibility to represent the state’s attitude towards this crime, the circumstances concerning the outbreak of coronavirus blocked the way, as well as the absence of interstate co-ordination, late reactions… In any event, while talking with the former Mayor of Srebrenica Ćamil Duraković the day before the commemoration, I got some information I should have probably known earlier. Namely, for the organisers, victims’ families, and Bosniak part of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, representatives of the countries which deny the Srebrenica genocide are not welcome at commemorations. Ćamil, who currently does not have an official title in the organisation of the commemoration, told me: “You can visit me at my home” … For me, this was the moment of ultimate shame, but also of ultimate honour that can be offered only by someone going through the hell of a crime committed against their own family and who, in spite of that, earnestly wishes for both sides to take a step forward towards reconciliation.

Two years ago I attended the commemoration, and this is when I found out that Ćamil was unemployed after finishing his term as the Mayor of Srebrenica, during which he managed to create a bridge of co-operation – co-existence, in Srebrenica as well as with the Government of Serbia which made a donation of several million euros towards the normalisation of life in Srebrenica. He is probably still unemployed. And this, in addition to the example of Hasan Nuhanović, is the most striking illustration of the current state of affairs when it comes to the perception of evil committed in Srebrenica.

At the same time, it is an overview vital for understanding the political future of this issue, co-operation in the region, and dealing with the past.

I believe that, like in Croatia, new forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina can find a mechanism, projects, space for certain gestures the making of which would contribute to erasing stereotypes and creating the atmosphere of the unacceptability of justifying the crimes, negationism of the evil… It would be good to start the process which would harbinger such reality.

Mira Furlan died at the beginning of 2021. A symbol of universal values, of suffering connected with the disintegration of Yugoslavia and all the crimes committed, among others, against her, as well. After her death, some institutions in Croatia, representatives of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb and the Globus weekly decided to apologise to her for the evil inflicted on her by persecuting her, taking her job and her flat away…. Too late… Since she could no longer personally acknowledge this apology.  Such situations are numerous, the witnesses, the victims passing away… It seems as if many believe that this will solve everything. By natural causes.

It will not. It will only get worse.

For this reason, joint commemorations are very important today, even concerning different interpretations of the same, tragic events. Today in Croatia this process also strongly supports the actions of solidarity relating to the earthquake in Banija, where Serbs and Croats live. Promoting the co-existence through joint commemorations seeps down to uniting in solidarity, as well.

In this July 14, 1995, file photo, refugees from Srebrenica who had spent the night in the open air, gather outside the U.N. base at Tuzla airport. Twenty-six years after the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, the only episode of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war to be legally defined as genocide, its survivors continue to grapple with the horrors they endured while also confronting increasingly aggressive downplaying and even denial of their ordeal. Photo: Beta/AP Photo/Darko Bandic

***

I could list many negative examples, but I do not think this would be helpful in articles such as this one.

For me, there are the victims’ families and there is me. And the attitude towards the crime.

Whenever I see the mothers of Srebrenica, and the victims’ relatives, I genuinely need to express my condolences as if someone close to me had been killed. Likewise, if I am not allowed to, I feel an intrinsic obligation-need to find a way to do that.

I implore the mothers of Srebrenica to understand that in Serbia, we do understand the volume of the atrocities committed and that we do accept the judgments of the International Court of Justice in The Hague. We have a range of organisations dealing with this topic. If I were allowed to attend this year’s commemoration, I would use the opportunity to kiss the hand of Munira Subašić and express my sympathy for the loss of all those murdered and missing.

Instead of Conclusion

In his memoirs, Simon Wiesenthal speaks of a dinner he had attended at the home of a Mauthausen survivor.[7] He had become a very wealthy jeweller. He told Wiesenthal: “You could have become a millionaire if you had gone to Israel and returned to architecture. We should let go of the past and turn to the future. Life goes on.” Wiesenthal replied: “When we come to the other world, we will meet millions of people who died in the concentration camps. When they ask us ‘What have you done?’, there will be many answers. You will tell them: ‘I became a jeweller’. Another will say: ‘I built houses’. Another will say: ‘I smuggled coffee and cigarettes.’ But I will say: ‘I didn’t forget you.’”

Bibliography

[1] “Specijal: 10 godina od ‘Oluje’ nad Krajinom,” B92, 4 August 2005, https://www.b92.net/specijal/oluja/index.php?start=0&nav_id=173958.

[2] Dušan Mašić, Talasanje Srbije (Beograd: Samizdat B92, 2006).

[3] Slavko Ćuruvija was a journalist and the owner of several independent media in Serbia during the Milošević regime in the 1990s. He was assassinated by two perpetrators in the street on 11 April 1999, during NATO bombing of Serbia. The trial for his murder is still underway. For more information about Slavko Ćuruvija, visit the website of the foundation named after him: https://www.slavkocuruvijafondacija.rs/slavko-curuvija-i-njegovo-naslede/ (accessed on 15 February 2021).

[4] Veran Matić, “Odbacivanje istine,“ Reč, No. 62.8 (May 2001), pp. 75-82, Beograd.

[5] Primo Levi, Utopljenici i spašeni (Zaprešić: Fraktura, 2017).

[6] Heni Erceg, Sir, vrhnje i fašizam (Rijeka: Ex Libris, 2020).

[7] Simon Wiesenthal, Pravda, ne osveta – sjećanja (Sarajevo: Svjetlost Sarajevo, 1989).

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