Sanela Diana Jenkins

Ejup Ganic Case Distracts World From Real War Crimes

The legal travesty inflicted upon former Bosnian leader Ejup Ganic is a chilling reminder that truth continues to be a casualty long after war is over. Although the politically motivated war crimes case against Dr. Ganic was rejected this week, the allegations represent a broader campaign by ultra-nationalist groups within Serbia to excuse, explain and outright deny Bosnian genocide.

Dr. Ganic’s case wasted time and money and distracted from legitimate international efforts to bring true war criminals to justice – men like Ratko Mladic, the Serbian general who oversaw the systematic murder of more than 8,000 unarmed civilians at Srebrenica. Fifteen years later, he still remains free.

I recently returned from Srebrenica, where I met with mothers whose sons, husbands and brothers were trucked away by Serbian soldiers and never seen again. As mass graves are discovered and bodies identified, the dead are laid to rest in a sprawling cemetery. Thousands are still unaccounted for.

This is the aftermath of genocide and it is undeniable. Even for me, a Bosnian who lost my brother and fled Serbian artillery as a refugee during Sarajevo’s siege, the scale of Srebrenica gave me a new and profound understanding of the war, its history and its continuing legacy.

Rather than apprehend the man responsible, however, Serbian prosecutors issued an extradition warrant for Dr. Ganic, a U.S.-trained engineering professor, on accusations that he was responsible for the 1992 deaths of soldiers leaving Sarajevo along Dobrovoljacka Street under a UN-brokered safe passage.

Dr. Ganic’s case was twice reviewed by war crimes prosecutors – and twice they declined to file charges. A third review was on the verge of formally declaring Dr. Ganic innocent and clearing his name. Serbia knew this and issued its extradition warrant anyway.

Ganic’s arrest at Heathrow was a cynical attempt to distract attention from the ongoing genocide trial of Radovan Karadzic, former president of Republika Srpska. The timing was no coincidence – March 1 was the first day of Karadzic’s trial in The Hague and the day marking Bosnian independence.

Ridiculous Serbian claims about new “evidence” against Dr. Ganic got their day in court and distracted media attention from Karadzic’s trial. That was important for Serbian deniers because they use tragedies of war to justify subsequent atrocities recognized throughout the world as war crimes. Rape, torture and the methodical murder of civilians cannot be justified. Serbia’s campaign of ethnic cleansing and extermination is well documented, as are the lengths some will go to cover it up.

Under those circumstances, it would be impossible for Dr. Ganic to receive a fair trial in Belgrade, a fact the British courts fully recognized Tuesday in rejecting Serbia’s extradition request. It was for this reason I posted Dr. Ganic’s £300,000 bail, even though we had never met. Serbian prosecutors should do the right thing and drop their case altogether, if they hope to help bring their country into the international community.

One of the conditions laid out for Serbia to join the European Union is that it must capture Mladic and deport him to The Hague for trial by the International War Crimes Tribunal. That must remain non-negotiable. At ceremonies commemorating the Srebrenica genocide, Serbian President Boris Tadic said Mladic will be caught and brought to justice.

Until he is, there can be no justice for the mothers of Srebrenica. International politics don’t matter to these women and their requests are basic: account for the thousands still missing and bring those responsible to justice. The rest of us must demand the same.