Professor Vladimir Petrovic: Hubris of Themis: ICTY and the Balkans two decades after
Vladimir Petrović, Senior Researcher, Institute for Contemporary History
Over two decades ago ICTY was founded by the Security Council with a mandate to prosecute war crimes perpetrators of the ongoing conflict in the Balkans. Rarely was an institution created amidst more ambitious expectations. Enthusiasm over the first international war crimes tribunal since Nuremberg was overlapping with promises of global reckoning with authoritarian regimes and explosion of transitional justice scholarship. ICTY was expected not only to investigate into war crimes, identify their perpetrators, secure their presence in The Hague and punish them, but also to contribute to goals as complex as establishment of peace in the former Yugoslavia, stabilization of rule of law in its successor countries, democratization of their societies, marginalization of nationalist narratives which were fueling the wars and ultimately regional reconciliation. Indeed, 161 persons indicted by the ICTY seemed to indicate that the tribunal rose to the occasion. Therefore a sudden recent backlash expressed though divisive reversals of judgments on appeal (Orić. Gotovina), separate and dissenting opinions, controversial acquittals (Stanišić and Simatović) and even disqualification of judges (Šešelj) challenges the Tribunal’s self-perception and is calling for reassessment. To that end the paper proposes to examine what went wrong, to assess the amount of the damage, to discern between (mis)interpretations of ICTY’s activity and to discuss what remains of transitional justice for the region of former Yugoslavia after The Hague.