Post-Hague verdicts, Serbia and its neighbours must move on

08/12/2012

Amid a fury of perceived injustice emerge calls for people-to-people reconciliation.

By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 08/12/12

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Serbian students in Novi Sad gather to peacefully protest the latest The Hague tribunal verdict. [Nada Bozic/SETimes]

The Hague tribunal's latest verdicts proclaiming Ramush Haradinaj, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac not guilty prompted a heated regional debate about the court's legitimacy, as well as on the verdicts' effect on reconciliation and Serbia's path ahead.

Prime Minister Ivica Dacic reaffirmed Serbia's best interest is to continue the dialogue with Pristina, as well as continue with EU integration.

"For Serbia, it is the same as talks with Hashim Thaci or anybody else," Dacic said, referring to Haradinaj.

Bloggers in Serbia almost unanimously viewed the verdicts as politically-influenced and unjust.

"This court has completely lost legitimacy. All others were released except the Serbs. Serbia should stop any further contact with this so-called 'court for Serbs'," Dambo summed up the prevalent mood.

Expectedly, the view in Croatia differed. "Justice, finally! The Serbs must realise that they are the main culprit for the wars of the 1990s," AlanFord said.

Amid the criticism however, many support Dacic's position. "Dacic's statement is encouraging. The situation is difficult but we have to move on," Pixies said.

Others argued that the government's talks with Pristina are out of principle.

"I have authorised you to implement our homeland's constitution. ... If you have no dignity … leave your positions to real people's representatives," Vladimir said.

In light of the fact that Haradinaj's trial was marred with charges of witness harassment, which led to a retrial, the perception of an unjust verdict may be dangerous, according to Semtex - amnestija.

"[It may become the] basis for future, even bloodier conflicts in which there will be no prisoners held and no respect for the rules of war," he warned.

Bloggers from Croatia, like Taramontana, said it is necessary to calm the situation. To do so, Serbian politicians should change their rhetoric toward Croats.

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"I expect and hope Serbia will overcome that boundary, very possibly under pressure by the people it will make a huge turn, wake up and open up. ... There is no other way but to restart on the path of peace, not a forced or submissive peace, but a fair one for all," he added.

More than 3,000 Serbian students joined to protest the verdicts in Belgrade.

"This peaceful walk should to help us find answers to questions about where we made mistakes and what mistakes were done by our ancestors. We are made to look like genocidal people but in reality we are not the ones," Goran Radic, student from Novi Sad, told SETimes.

The students should seek support from counterparts in the region, according to Gaga. "It would be good if law students ask their colleagues in friendly countries to support them, even if informally."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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