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A View of Serbia's Future through the Lens of its Past

Aired April 15, 2010 - 15:00:00   ET



CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic finally faces accusers in a war crimes court. Will the trial lay the ghosts of the Bosnian war to rest and launch a new era for Serbia?

Good evening, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour. Welcome to our program.

The trial of the so-called Butcher of Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic, this week has ended a dramatic new phase in The Hague, with testimony from the first prosecution witnesses. Karadzic faces 11 counts of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for orchestrating -- accused of orchestrating atrocities during the Bosnian war in the 1990s.

The worst was the massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the U.N. safe haven of Srebrenica in 1995. The former Bosnia-Serb commander, Ratko Mladic, who led the attack, is still at large, apparently hiding in Serbia, where police have yet to arrest him.

Now, the Serbian parliament last month apologized for the killings at Srebrenica. The Serbian president, Boris Tadic, hopes the vote will help his nation become a member of the European Union.


BORIS TADIC, PRESIDENT OF SERBIA (through translator): With this act the Serbian parliament and Serbian people showed clearly that they want to distance themselves from that monstrous crime. That is the important historic fact.


AMANPOUR: The resolution, though, stops short of describing the massacre as genocide, although that is what Radovan Karadzic is accused of.

Joining me now is Richard Goldstone, who is the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and journalist Roy Gutman, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, and he's now foreign editor for the McClatchy newspapers.

Gentlemen, thank you both very much for joining us.

Let me ask you for your different perspectives. Judge Goldstone, you were the first prosecutor, will -- as we asked in the opening -- this trial finally lay to rest the ghosts of this Bosnian war?

RICHARD GOLDSTONE, CHIEF PROSECUTOR, UNITED NATIONS CRIMINAL TRIBUNALS: Well, I certainly hope so. You know, I was really very, very happy, I suppose, is the correct word, when Karadzic was arrested not too long ago, after 13 years of hiding.

The first indictment against him, after all, was issued by me in the first half of 1995, and that was before the massacre at Srebrenica. The second indictment was issued after the Srebrenica massacre, which included the genocide charge. So it's very important -- very important to lay the ghosts that this trial should proceed.

AMANPOUR: Roy, you've just come back from Sarajevo. From what you were hearing, and what you were hearing and talking to the people there about, do they think that this is an important milestone to laying to rest those ghosts?

ROY GUTMAN, FOREIGN EDITOR, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: It's obviously long overdue that he's gone on trial, and I think everybody welcomes it. It is being broadcast into Bosnia. People are able to watch it. But I think there's a sense, also, of incompleteness. For one thing, General Mladic is still at large and being protected by Serbia.

Secondly, the Serbs have apologized, but a little bit late, and also maybe even inadequately. And the Serbs are also dong other things which disturb them. They don't have a real functioning state yet. They don't have the commitment of the international community. So there's a lot of sadness under the surface, although on the surface, certainly, they're very happy about this.

AMANPOUR: We're going to get to some of those issues you raised, but I just want to focus still on the trial for the moment with Judge Goldstone. Radovan Karadzic is in the court, now trying to pull a Milosevic. He's being his own defense lawyer. He's trying to use this for his own purposes.

And we've already heard today the presiding judge basically trying to tell him to rein it in, to shorten his addresses to the prosecution witness and try to give him instructions. Why is this happening all over again, Judge Goldstone?

GOLDSTONE: Well, you know, people like Karadzic and Milosevic before him have huge egos, and I think they want to use the trial to the extent they can as a platform to speaking to their own fringe groups who are still, unfortunately, around in Serbia, in particular.


And they realize, really, that this is the only, quote, "benefit," unquote, they can get from this trial, and that's to use it for their own selfish political purposes, rather than to face seriously the charges which are being put to them.

AMANPOUR: Right, that's their purpose. But isn't the court's purpose to move a credible trial along? And having seen, essentially, the unfinished disaster that the Milosevic trial turned into, where he died before even a final verdict, after filibustering for years, is there nothing that they could have done to streamline this process?

GOLDSTONE: Well, of course, the present prosecution, I think, the prosecutor and, obviously, the judges have learned a great deal from what I think were mistakes made during the Milosevic trial. Milosevic was given far too much leeway. He was far too gently treated by a very experienced English judge, Judge Richard May, who unfortunately passed away during the trial.

But he was just allowed to use the trail for his own purposes, and I think one is seeing here already the presiding judge, Judge Sung (ph), from the very word "go," trying to rein in Karadzic. In addition, the indictment hasn't followed the pattern of this long, convoluted indictment that was put out against Milosevic. This is a much trimmed-down, shorter indictment and will lead, I have no doubt, to a more efficient trial.

AMANPOUR: And, again, Roy, to talk about Sarajevo, you know, you broke the first stories of the concentration camps in Eastern Bosnia. You talked -- and, as we said, won prizes for your reporting throughout the war there. Do people feel that this phase of war is over now, that, yes, the trial is going on, but there will never be another outbreak of this kind of violence?

GUTMAN: Well, as a matter of fact, a lot of people fear that there will be another outbreak. The division of Bosnia that occurred in Dayton, where the U.S. sponsored a peace conference in 1995, created a very unworkable state. And the Serb entity, which is where they ethnically cleansed or killed, or raped, the inhabitants to force them to leave, is in a position to veto and block nearly every action that the rest of the Bosnian public wants to and parliament wants to do.

So they're in a state of complete stalemate. And this is sort of -- I think people feel that this is their punishment for having lost the war in a sense or not being able to defend themselves. And it's really a terrible outcome.

So I don't think that people feel the war is over. As a matter of fact, if the Serbs carry out their threat -- and Mr. Dodic, the prime minister in the Republic of Serbska, has threatened it -- he wants to hold a referendum, separate from Bosnia all together. If he goes ahead with his threat, then everybody expects there will be conflict and that there's going to be an effort to divide the Republic of Serbska, that the international forces are going to be involved.

AMANPOUR: All right. We're going to take these issues and talk and broaden them right after a break, including -- we're going to touch again on that apology that the Serbian parliament has issued for the massacres at Srebrenica and see how that is going to affect Serbia and its future, as well.

And next, we will be joined by Serbian human rights activist Natasha Kandic as we discuss the Serbian president, Boris Tadic's, efforts to heal the wounds of the Bosnian war.




AMANPOUR (voice-over): In July 1995, the Bosnia-Serb army, led by General Ratko Mladic, captured the small Muslim enclave of Srebrenica. It was a U.N. safe area, but Mladic's forces easily overran the small contingent of peacekeepers, which had been given neither the authority nor the weapons to defend Srebrenica.

Mladic and his men strutted through the town after it fell, telling terrified civilians not to worry, nobody was going to hurt them.

But, in fact, over the next few days, General Mladic supervised the separation of men from women and set his army on a killing campaign that to this day has left more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys missing.

Shortly after the U.N. established the war crimes tribunal in 1993, Mladic was asked whether he thought he would ever face trial there. "I protected my people, and only they can judge men," he said. "There is no bigger honor than to protect your own people."


AMANPOUR: And that was part of an interview I did with the former Bosnian-Serbian commander Ratko Mladic, and that was his defense back then, and he is still on the lam.

Joining me again, the former international prosecutor Richard Goldstone, the foreign affairs journalist Roy Gutman, who covered the Bosnian war and broke many of those stories, and from Belgrade now, Serbian human rights activist Natasa Kandic. She joins us by telephone.

Natasa, let me go straight to you first. Thank you for joining us. It still gives me chills to hear Ratko Mladic tell those terrified civilians in Srebrenica not to worry, nothing is going to happen to them. Do you believe that he will ever be caught now and handed over by the Serbian authorities?

NATASA KANDIC, SERBIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST (on the phone): I'm not sure. I'm really -- really, I don't believe that all of us see Ratko Mladic in the front of the tribunal and to see justice for the victims.

AMANPOUR: What do you think will happen?

KANDIC: I think it's difficult to locate him, because he's not alone. It was different with Karadzic. Nobody asked for Karadzic, but suddenly Serbian officials decided to arrest him, and it was really -- a really big surprise. But with Ratko Mladic, it's different. He's more important than Karadzic. And groups who could have information about Mladic are not ready to support these very important acts to arrest him.

AMANPOUR: All right. Let me just back up a little bit and put the following to all of you, that the Serbian parliament did just have this resolution passed which says, "The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crimes committed against the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica in July of 1995. Condolences and an apology to the families of the victims because not everything was done to prevent the tragedy."

Let me start with you, Judge Goldstone. Is that enough of a step? It's obviously a good step. Is it enough of a step? And since you and others did issue genocide indictments because of Srebrenica, is that enough for Serbia not to call it a genocide?

GOLDSTONE: Well, it's certainly not enough, but it's a very important start. And the timing -- the timing is really important, in light of the statements that Karadzic has already made since his first appearance in The Hague before the Yugoslavia tribunal, Karadzic has, in fact, denied the massacre at Srebrenica, notwithstanding findings beyond a reasonable doubt by the Yugoslavia tribunal itself, followed up by some of the findings from the International Court of Justice, the so-called world court in The Hague.

And now, of course, that confirmation from the Serb parliament itself is very important.

AMANPOUR: And let me ask you, Roy, you know, there have been a lot of descriptions outside about the importance of this resolution. You know, some have said it doesn't go far enough, as Judge Goldstone said it's a very important step, and others have said, you know, it's a little bit churlish of people to sort of disagree with that resolution. How do you feel about it?

GUTMAN: The problem with the resolution is that it addresses Srebrenica, which should addressed, and it does -- it refers to genocide only indirectly. It does take responsibility. And I think, in a sense, it makes a real step in the right direction.


But there was the whole rest of Bosnia war. I mean, it went on for three-and-a-half years. And the Srebrenica events were really at the very end.

I would say, if you wanted to see a real apology and a genuine sign of contrition, you would look to the statement made by the new president of Croatia, Ivo Josipovic, and what he said was that Croatia had helped in an effort to try to split up Bosnia to take territory, that it had sowed poison by encouraging its -- the Croats of Bosnia to separate out.

And he went on and on and on in a genuine and a full expression of what had happened in the war, what Croatia had done, and deeply apologized. I think that's an apology that actually makes a difference. That really changes history in the sense because he says the whole project that Croatia was undertaking was wrong. It's not just a matter of just one incident.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me put that to Natasa Kandic, and of course, Boris Tadic, the president, did go to Srebrenica five years ago. He went to the memorial there, and he spoke there. But, Natasa, is it surprising to you that the parliament did not use the word "genocide"?

KANDIC: You know, I'm not surprised, because Serbia is divided. We have the so-called democrats, but democrats have undemocratic approach towards the Kosovo. We have socialists, but socialists support this declaration very much, and it's a good step. It's the first step.

And, you know, all Serbs in Serbia, in the Republika Srpska, they know, they understand that the declaration speaks about Srebrenica, about genocide.

AMANPOUR: OK, let me ask you this then. Again, all of you I want to put this to. Obviously, the whole declaration, the previous arrest of Karadzic had been very important to Serbia because of its aim to join the E.U. Now, in response to the resolution, E.U. officials had the following to say: "This is an important step for the country in facing its recent past. The E.U. notes the reaffirmation to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, in particular the arrest and handing over of the remaining fugitives. These are crucial elements for stability and reconciliation in the region and also for Serbia's E.U. accession."

Now, Natasa, we heard you say that you don't think that Mladic, who they're obviously referring to, will be arrested. Roy, do you think there's any chance that they will arrest Mladic? And if they don't, how can they ever dream of getting into the E.U.?

GUTMAN: Here's the interesting thing, Christiane. The Americans and the Dutch and a few other countries had been insisting that the E.U. not accept the Serbian application until Mladic was arrested. That policy changed a few months ago, and the Americans urged the Dutch to loosen up a little bit on their conditions.

This helped Mr. Tadic at home. This helped with his application, and things has gone a lot better between the Serbs and the E.U.

But in the meantime, Mladic is still at large. And in a sense, the Americans and the Dutch have given away a very important position.

It's not clear to me just what it's going to take for the Serbs to act. We know that Mladic is being protected by his own military cohorts. We know that a portion of the society is behind him. And it's going to take a huge effort, including by the Americans, by the Europeans, by everybody to find him. I'm not sure that that effort is still as intense as it was.

AMANPOUR: Roy, you've been doing a lot of reporting on the issue of Ejup Ganic, the Bosnian former vice president, at one point acting president, who was arrested in Britain and now extradition proceedings on behalf of Serbia are being conducted. But hasn't this case been investigated, investigated and already denied?

GUTMAN: Well, The Hague tribunal, in fact, did spend almost two years investigating it. The charges have been around for a long time by the Serbs. In a sense, it's an attempt by the Serbs to prove that the Bosnians provoked the war, rather than that they did.

But in any case, The Hague tribunal examined the charges and found that there was no substantive basis for them.

There was a second investigation in Sarajevo by the national court, which is doing, as Judge Goldstone pointed out, their own investigations of war crime allegations. They never actually reached a conclusion, but officials on that court, foreign officials, in fact, a British barrister, who was working as a prosecutor, said that, in fact, the conclusion is very clear. There is no case against Mr. Ganic.

And, frankly, there's a much bigger issue that this raises, Christiane. It is -- first of all, if there is a serious case against any Bosnian, against any Serb, anyone else, it should be first looked at by The Hague tribunal.


And if The Hague tribunal rejects it, then I -- I for the life of me don't understand why the British court is now sort of doing a rerun of the same case.

But the other question is, what are the Serbs up to? Why are they making an apology on the one side and then, on the other -- it's almost schizophrenic -- they're trying to extradite an official who basically has already been cleared. And, in fact, and they've proceeded to the actual step of an extradition process.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, let me put that final question to Natasa Kandic. You have done so much in the field of human rights. You have provided video and evidence about various human rights violations during this war. Why do you think this issue of Ejup Ganic, the former Bosnian vice president, is being brought up now?

KANDIC: I think that there are no special reasons, but the good thing is that the Serbian president has said that Serbia doesn't request from British prosecutors to extradite Ganic to Serbia.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you a different question, Natasa. The trial of Radovan Karadzic is being broadcast in Bosnia, but not in Serbia, unlike the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Does Radovan Karadzic just not matter right now?

KANDIC: Karadzic is different, you know. Picture about Karadzic as hero is destroyed. He is seen by all Serbs in Serbian Republika Srpska as, you know, as man who -- who use everything, but he doesn't care about Serbs, about Republika Srpska, because his speech in front of judges of The Hague tribunal was focused on his safety, on himself.

AMANPOUR: All right.

KANDIC: He didn't mention Serbs. He didn't mention, you know, victims from Republika Srpska. He repeated many times that he was promised by U.S. officials that he will be free if he -- if he decide to be out from political life.

AMANPOUR: OK. All right. And on that note, Natasa Kandic, Roy Gutman, and Judge Goldstone, thank you so much for joining us.

And let's ask, again, will the British arrest of Bosnia leader Ejup Ganic revive dormant Balkan tensions? To weigh in on that and read a series of articles that Roy Gutman has written on that very topic, visit

And next, our "Post-Script." And we turn to Iran and a film about a train journey which shows that the truth is not always as simple as it appears.



AMANPOUR: And now our "Post-Script," and a short film from another country grappling with uncertainty, and that's Iran. The film is about a soldier, a young woman, a colonel, and an old woman on a train who don't talk to each other. It's called "The Slap," and only one of them can explain with certainty what happens when the train goes into a tunnel. Let's watch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You got a good slap. Kissing a young girl deserves a slap. If you had kissed me, you wouldn't have been slapped.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dumb asses. I am sitting here, and you kiss an old lady! You guys must be blind. You deserved to be slapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See, for God's sake! Filthy stink. This trash does the kissing, and I get slapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a feeling. Kissing the palm of your hand, slapping colonel across the face.


AMANPOUR: So, in life as in politics, nothing is as simple as it seems. The film was directed and written by Ehsan Amani, and it's part of our Global Dispatch series.

And that's it for now. We'll be back tomorrow. Our guest, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, we'll have an exclusive interview. And until then, you can check out our program whenever you like at For all of us here, goodbye from New York.