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Home arrow Law arrow United States law and policy on transitional justice : principles, politics, and pragmatics
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d. the Balkan atrocities

Atrocities that occurred in the Balkans during the early-199os leading directly to the formation of the ICTY were only the latest in a string of regional horrors.19 For many years, Josip Tito had managed to stave off the deep-seeded ethnic tensions within and among Yugoslavia’s six republics (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia) and two autonomous provinces (Kosovo and Vojvodina). When he died in 1980, the relative peace and order in the region disintegrated. Spewing Serb ethnonationalism, Slobodan Milosevic became the Serbian Communist Party Chief in 1986. Milosevic sought to unify Yugoslavia under Serbian rule, an effort resisted and resented by Milan Kucan and Franjo Tudjman, the presidents of Slovenia and Croatia, respectively. Both countries declared independence in 1991. Recalling the genocidal campaign Croatia’s Ustashi, a fascist group, waged against Serbs (among others) in WWII, Milosevic expressed concern for the approximately half a million Serbs residing in these newly independent states. His rhetoric turned into action when he began sending the Serb-dominated Yugoslav National Army (Jugoslavenska narodna armija, or JNA) into Slovenia and then Croatia.

The people of Bosnia and Herzegovina witnessed what was occurring elsewhere within Yugoslavia, and many desired to secede as well. Despite a boycott by Bosnian Serbs, on February 29 and March 1, 1992, the Muslims and Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina voted for independence. As before, Serbs responded rhetorically and violently. After establishing an independent “Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina” in April 1992, under the leadership of Radovan Karadzic and with the assistance of the JNA, Bosnian Serbs started attacking Croats and Muslims throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Serbs pursued a widespread, organized campaign of murder, rape, torture, internment, deportation, and destruction and confiscation of property against Croats, Bosniaks, and Albanians, effectively an “ethnic cleansing.”20 Serb-run concentration camps resembled similar efforts by the Nazis to collect and warehouse their victims in life-threatening conditions. However, Serbs were by no means the only party that allegedly committed atrocities.21

 
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