FK Sarajevo v Celtic: Transitional Justice in Bosnia, dedicated to the victims of the Siege of Sarajevo and the massacre at Srebrenica

Following on from Matt Corr’s superb ‘Something inside so strong’ article – see below – Lubo98 has given us permission to share one of his University essays from earlier this year. Celtic has always been and always will be much more that just about the football and accordingly it is we feel appropriate to consider what the people of Bosnia – many of them supporters of FK Sarajevo – had to endure in the 1990s. Tens of thousands lost their lives in this genocide, and ahead of tonight’s game, we remember them.

Read This…FK Sarajevo v Celtic: ‘Something inside, so strong’ – The spirit of Miss Sarajevo,’ Matt Corr’s Diary, Dedicated to the victims of the Siege of Sarajevo and the massacre at Srebrenica

Transitional Justice in Bosnia

Transitional justice is one of the most complex legal issues that a society has to deal with in the aftermath of atrocities such as genocide. It is intended to act as a bridge from the past to the future, but it is incredibly difficult for some people to move on as the scars of the past are still evident and engrained upon communities. The situation in Bosnia was that the killing of Bosniaks, Muslim Bosnians, by ethnic Serbs involved neighbours killing neighbours. How then could these communities heal the seismic rifts that were created after the war?

Some people returned to live in those communities that were torn apart by conflict, division and hatred but were still outcast with many denying that their suffering even happened. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, Europe saw the worst attempt at genocide since the Second World War in Bosnia as ethnic Serbs attempted to create a Greater Serbia.

People desire truth, they want accountability for what was allowed to happen and also want those that perpetrated these crimes to be brought to justice. Ethnic cleansing in Foča and Srebrenica would haunt Europe for years. The UN set up the International Criminal Tribunal of Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in an attempt to bring those responsible to justice. Although for the families of those that lost their lives, they wanted the truth.

Historic Background

Josip Broz Tito

Yugoslavia emerged from the 1939-45 World War under the Communist rule of Josip Broz Tito. Tito ruled with an iron fist as he united the nations of Yugoslavia together under the motto ‘Brotherhood and Unity’ , which was supposed to unite these various ethnic groups under Tito’s control.

Slobodan Milošević

Serbian Nationalist President Slobodan Milošević was responsible for fuelling tensions in regions in Bosnia as ethnic Serbs began to be fed a rhetoric of hatred against their Bosniak neighbours. His regime instructed newspapers, television and radio to begin fuelling ethnic hatred in places that would later be the site of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. In June 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia, Bosnia followed their lead in March 1992. However, the ethnic-Serbs in Bosnia declared their own independence as they established the Republika Srpska, part of Greater Serbia. Srpska’s President Radovan Karadzic was supported by the Serbian Government in seizing of weapons and armaments from the defunct Yugoslavian Army to arm ethnic-Serbs who began to fight and terrorise Croat and Muslim communities in the region, forcing many to be displaced.

The ethnic-Serb militias began to enter towns and villages, capturing and carrying out ethnic cleansing in places like Foča and Srebrenica. Under the command of Ratko Mladić, the Bosnian-Serb Army orchestrated harrowing crimes against humanity throughout enclaves as the Serb’s pushed for ethnic purity.

The Massacre of Srebrenica

In 1992, the Podrinje region was identified as an integral part of the new Republika Srpska. They placed incredible onus on clearing the area of non-Serbs, whether by dispersing or killing. The military, police, paramilitary militias and Serb villagers were complicit in plundering and attacking their Muslim neighbours. In total, it is estimated that 296 villages were destroyed during the first months of war as Serbia began their expansion. In that period, there were 3,166 documented deaths of Bosniaks.

In April 1993 Bosniak forces recovered Srebrenica and carried out reprisal killings against the Serbs. Thousands of Bosniaks sought refuge in Srebrenica and surrounding refugee camps. Fearing further ethnic cleaning, the UN attempted to remove Bosniaks from the region and take them to refugee camps in the West of the country. However, in July 1995, the Serbian soldiers advanced on a Bosniak refugee camp in Potočari, outside Srebrenica which was under the protection of UN peacekeepers.

The peacekeepers were helpless as the callous killings began to escalate. Rape, murder and torture occurred across the camps. Amidst the panic and fear, Serb soldiers began to move the refugees, promising better conditions but Mladic separated men from women and children. This led to the massacre of Srebrenica, which would later be called an act of genocide by the ICTY as at least 8000 civilian men were executed. The details of genocide came from those few that survived the massacre.

Patterns of Abuse

The men and boys, were taken into the hills by bus whilst the women and children were transported out of the region. Men were marched into fields, forced to dig holes and summarily executed. The Serb forces showed contempt towards those they executed often beating and humiliating them shortly before they killed them. The bodies were buried in unmarked mass graves.

Throughout the conflict, Serb soldiers began to select women and take them to buildings such as hotels, schools and houses where they would be kept, raped and tortured. The amount of rape and violence against women created a further narrative of crimes against humanity by weaponizing rape as a method of torture. The horrors that these women endured would haunt the region for years to come. This led to many women committing suicide in an attempt to avoid further brutality at the hands of their captors.

Transitional Justice

In August 1995, NATO bombs forced Mladic’s forces and UN Peacekeepers were put on the ground in December that year in order to end the conflict. They had been made aware of the war crimes by the Serbs after the Dutch soldiers at Srebrenica became aware of men not reaching the refugee camps and immediately began to investigate whilst they were there.

The problem with conflicts of this ilk, whereby it is neighbours killing neighbours, is that there is an opportunity for retributive justice. Communities want to inflict suffering on those that perpetrated the violence against them but that is an endless cycle of violence, there needs to be a system whereby peace can flourish. Bosnian Army perpetrated some violence against Serb soldiers that they captured but in order to end this cycle, there needs to be a way to resolve the conflict. That is why Transitional Justice is needed.

A mechanism that aims to find the truth and punish the commanders of violence in Bosnia. Truth Commissions in Bosnia were also established for the same purpose, to paint a picture of what really occurred and to allow people’s stories to be heard. Justice is sometimes about the truth instead of seeing thousands jailed for what they did. Instead, the International Criminal courts went after those that had theorised, planned and instructed the genocide in Bosnia. There were also opportunities for smaller pawns in the genocide machine to be brought to justice and they were but the magnitude of the offences and the volume of perpetrators meant that only some could ever be tried due to constraints, such as time and money.

There is also the fear of ‘Victor’s Justice’, whereby the winners of a conflict only try the crimes for which the other side committed. This is why the special International Tribunal was enacted to look at all war crimes in the region by all sides to avoid a Nuremburg style trial whereby it was just Germans tried for their crimes and not Allied commanders who instructed carpet bombing of areas.

Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic were all brought to justice for what they did, as well as some soldiers and officers involved in the atrocities committed in Bosnia. Despite this, the local communities were not appeased. Suffering from the conflict is still compounded years later by the fact that there were still thousands of people missing, taken from their homes, never to be seen again. People want justice but they also want the truth, the ability to grieve and mourn their dead. The use of mechanisms has attempted to address this concern to varying success.

Serbia denies the genocide took place, instead claiming that it was warfare of which there were causalities on both sides. This denial has led to the breakdown of attempts to reconcile as well as attempts to remember those that were victims of genocide in the region. In Entry 3, the extent to which various mechanisms have succeeded will be discussed as well as the impact that denial has had in relation to the victim of rape and their role in Bosnia.

The Bosnians are finding new burial sites as more information comes to light, for some they will never know what happened to their loved ones or how they spent their final moments. The impunity of what happened in this region in the early 1990s is scarring to many, but Bosnia has attempted to move on, despite the atrocities. Mosques that were destroyed have been restored, families have returned to their villages as the gunfire has stopped.

Entry 2 – Comparative Analysis of Transitional Justice Mechanisms

This entry will examine and compare the use of various transitional justice mechanisms throughout different conflicts. Trials, truth commissions, Traditional justice, apologies, reparations and memorialisation are forms of retributive and restorative justice that have been used across contexts at an international, national and local level in the aftermath of atrocities.


Trials are the primary mechanism for transitional justice. The perpetrators are identified and their catalogue of crimes weighed against them. Special courts were set up to deal with war crimes in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, but the trials follow the path of the International Criminal Court at Nuremberg and Tokyo where Second World War Axis crimes were dealt with. These national courts see the victor impose their justice upon the accused and is often retributive with the reconciliation low on the agenda and legitimate revenge perceived as being more important.

Trials act as a form of victors justice. The offender is subject to the process set by the victors, they are subject to their conditions and they operate almost as a show trial. Justice is seen to be done as the offenders are brought through the process before being punished. Yet, there is no accountability for the crimes of the victor. Regarding Nuremberg, there was no mention of mass rape, aerial bombing which decimated large parts of Germany, killing thousands of civilians.

Whilst trials gave accountability, they did not account for individuals. There is a generalisation of situations and crimes are taken almost in the abstract, with very little concern for victims. There is no attempt to reconcile but instead to punish offenders.

Truth Commissions

Truth commissions are a process for reconciliation that have been used in an attempt to heal communities. In Bosnia the truth commissions failed due to the fact that many failed to recognise their authority and with that, they failed to reconcile on the whole despite in certain situations offering reconciliation. Truth commissions were created to give victims the opportunity to be heard and restore a sense of power that violence might’ve taken away. They wanted their stories, their suffering and ordeal to be listened to and they wanted those that inflicted suffering upon them to hear. Whilst the courts dealt with war criminals, truth commissions dealt with atrocities on the ground. Scholars such as Hayner have referred to them as being an integral part of building a future from the ‘murky past’.

Truth commissions adopt a victim-centred view on the atrocities. Whilst many in international and national courts deal with adjudication on crimes, the truth commissions deal primarily with investigation. Truth commissions investigate and explore patterns of abuse. However, they must offer amnesty for those that disclose details of their crimes. There is no set way to utilise truth commissions, each context views others and attempts to take the various successful aspects for their own truth commissions.

Truth Commissions were successfully used in South Africa as the apartheid government fell and a new South African constitution was created. The Truth and Reconciliation Committees (TRC) were established to reconcile between the oppressed Blacks and the Afrikaans oppressor. They were afforded an opportunity to tell the entire truth of their crimes in order to gain amnesty, which would allow victims and families of victims the opportunity to find out what had happened to the many thousands that died during racial crimes. The TRCs were recognised as they used Ubuntu – a philosophy that captured the Christian thinking of the Afrikaans and also the traditional culture of the Black South Africans. Archbishop Desmond Tutu is credited as using Ubuntu as a driving force behind creating ‘humanity towards others.’ Whilst the aim of truth was key, the use of amnesty resulted in people admitting to crimes but were not punished as a result.

Traditional Justice

Traditional Justice is a mechanism whereby others have failed or are struggling to cope, cases, due process becomes almost impossible due to time and financial constraints. The concept of traditional justice is one that promotes accountability and reconciliation whilst delving into Africa’s history to create a united future. The Gacaca courts in Rwanda and Fambul Tok in Sierra Leone are holistic examples of traditional justice in a transitional justice setting.

In Rwanda, this was recognised and they adopted Gacaca in an attempt to reconcile tensions between Hutu and Tutsis. As jails were overcrowded, Rwanda needed to be a way to move beyond genocide, reconcile and reintegrate victim and offender. Gacaca Courts were established to create accountability for the perpetrators and a sense of legal retribution for victims. Victims would register crimes and then a list of those responsible would be created. They were offered reduced sentences for honesty in their testimonies. Less serious crimes were dealt with in the Gacaca courts. Offenders told families of what they had done and pled forgiveness in order to be allowed back into the community and heal the ethnic divides that resulted in the genocide.

A major component of Gacaca was the number of cases that it could hear over a short period of time. It is estimated that over one and a half million cases made it through the Gacaca courts. The holistic nature of community justice allowed for healing in the most fragile of situations. However, Gacaca courts were criticised as being a form of victor’s justice with the crimes of the Tutsi against Hutu in the aftermath of the genocide going unpunished. The Tutsi controlled Rwanda protected themselves by abusing the system of Gacaca to serve their own interest, which could potential fuel division in years to come.

Sierra Leone gives another concept of tradition justice to consider with Fambuk Tok. This method emerged after the civil war and was meant to bring communities and families back together following the conflict, which is why it was given its name meaning ‘family talk’.

The process helped restore a collective pride in local culture whilst bringing together warring factions by holding truth telling bonfires and traditional cleansing ceremonies. These gatherings created a place whereby truth could be used as a vehicle to reconciliation. People were able to engage between victims and offenders at a miniscule cost of what may be used at international or national level. Like Gacaca, neighbours were able to integrate the offender back into the community.


Apologies are a key symbolic aspect of transitional justice for moving beyond a period of conflict. It can be seen as being either an empty gesture or something that the is supposed to be a bridge allowing us to get over the past. The apologies are supposed to be an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, acceptance of the harm that has been caused and part of a process to achieve resolution.

There are a number of other settings in which apologies were properly offered and accepted as a mechanism of healing. The exemplar apology was that of Bill Clinton on behalf of the United States of America following years of silence over the treatment of the Tuskegee Syphilis workers. The President effectively conveyed his sorrow at this being allowed to happen and offered a sincere, emotional apology – which was accepted. President Clinton acknowledged that what happened was racist and gave a number of ways by which the country would recognise and compensate the suffering of the victims.

Whilst sometimes a verbal apology can be enough to accept, sometimes you do not need words at all as was the case of Willy Brandt, the West German Chancellor. On a visit to Warsaw, Brandt’s knelt before a memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising under Nazi Germany in a gesture of humility and total remorse. This was so powerful that no words could match his sombre action in paying respects.

There are, however, cases whereby apologies are questioned and politicised – such as with the IRA and Tony Blair. The Provisional IRA apology in 2002 for victims of sectarian violence during the troubles came at a time when Sinn Fein ministers were toiling in the power sharing Government. Many didn’t accept the apology as it appeared to be timed, calculated and lacking any real substance. This was reciprocated with Tony Blair issuing an apology for the Guilford Four which appeared to be in an attempt to appease Irish Republicans to push the Provisional IRA to disarm, which after being accepted by the victims, they did a year later.


Memorialisation acts as recognition of the past, which is essential in the process of reconciliation and healing. Memorialisation compounds this remembrance through towering statues or sombre gardens designed to recognise the loss that occurred. Whilst there are many examples of memorials in Bosnia to discuss, across various contexts of transitional justice there are different examples of memorialisation working to various degrees.

Spanish philosopher George Santayana‘s famous aphorism has been attributed to the Holocaust. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” His message is emblazoned upon stonework at Auschwitz-Birkenau as a constant reminder to remember what occurred on those sites.

People must be reminded of the past in order to quell the urge to repeat or revisit violence. The Kigali Genocide Memorial is a permanent site to remember those who died and also give those that are bereaved a place to grieve as it interns the remains of over 250,000 people. Another example in Rwanda is the Murambi Technical school, which Tutsi were lured to the school under the promise of protection and it was there that up to 65,000 people were slaughtered. Murambi has turned into one of six Genocide Memorial Centres in Rwanda with skulls of the dead used to emphasise the huge human tragedy.

Entry 3 – Evaluating Transitional Justice Mechanisms in Bosnia

Transitional Justice is not necessarily retribution, it is instead an opportunity to build a bridge so that communities can reconcile. The Dayton Agreement in December 1995 offered a deal in the Balkans that would bring an end to the violence as well as appeasing all parties. The fractured society would require different mechanisms of transitional justice in order to heal. Transitional Justice mechanisms that have been utilised in an attempt to reconcile between the ethnic groups in Bosnia including Truth commissions to deal with local level crimes, the creation of the ICTY to deal with crimes on an International level as well as apologies, reparations and memorialisation.


One of the most effective forms of bringing perpetrators to justice is the use of trials, in a transitional justice setting this would be the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The ICTY was established by the UN in order to chase those that organised, facilitated and carried out war crimes in the Balkans. The UN formed the ICTY but failed to include a memorandum on creating domestic legal institutions that would protect rights in the future as well as reconciling the fractious relationship between the ethnic groups. It is argued that the judiciary were not as concerned with achieving peace as much as punishing those brought before them. International cooperation meant that the ICTY had jurisdiction but it meant that national courts felt alienated by the process.

In the beginning, the ICTY lacked the standing or resources to go after people like Mladic or Milosevic. Dragan Nikolić was the first name to be indicted for crimes against non-Serbs. As time moved on and reports grew of horrific crimes that were occurring, the ICTY gathered enough support to indict big players. After testimony from Dražen Erdemović, a Bosnian Serb soldier at Srebrenica, who detailed the process of genocide as Bosniak men and boys were systematically executed. His testimony gave a first-hand account of the bloodshed, but it did not offer justice for the families of the victims nor the Bosniak community. Erdemović was one part in a large operation, the hunger from the public was to find those that orchestrated and planned the ethnic cleansing of Bosnian-Muslims from majority Serb territory. This meant that the victims did not achieve justice for a number of years, meaning that reconciliation became increasingly difficult.

The work of the ICTY has been praised as having “significantly contributed to peacebuilding in post-war societies, as well as introducing criminal accountability.” By bringing the leaders and perpetrators of atrocities to justice, the ICTY managed to stop retributive justice from sprouting up throughout Bosnia. It acted as deterrent albeit, it could not restore the rule of law in Bosnia, which would require Bosnian institutions. Furthermore, Bosnian-Serbs did not recognise the authority of the ICTY, claiming that it was biased and as a result would infringe upon their right to a fair trials. The Bosniak community felt that the ICTY was more concerned with being seen to be acting as opposed to promote reconciliation.

Despite being charged for genocide, Republika Srpska wartime President Biljana Plavšić struck a plea deal with the ICTY for her part in directing the Bosnian War. She was sentenced to 11 years in prison but served just two thirds of her sentence. This case furthers the argument that the Hague prosecutions did not offer accountability for the individual crimes and the resurrection of the rule of law. As a result of this, the Bosniaks and Bosnian-Croats felt that the process did not have their individual suffering at heart and were instead intent on being seen to act as Plavšić was one of the highest-ranking officials indicted.

In terms of retributive justice, it was a success but in regard to restorative justice, it did not do enough to mend the wounds that the war opened. This was due in part to a lack of education and awareness on the ground because it was operating in the Hague, instead of in the region.


Memorialisation in Transitional justice has offered acceptance and a lasting reminder of conflict. However, in Serbian communities, memorials are politicised, such as those for Serb soldiers that were killed given large, imposing statues. Although with 14% of Republika Srpska of Islamic faith, the memorials are a constant reminder of those that partook in ethnic cleansing. This supports the claim that the ethnic majority celebrate their version of history, in keeping with the denial of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

During the conflicts, there were a number of Mosques burnt down in an attempt to force the Bosniaks out of the region. In the years following the Dayton Agreement, new mosques and Islamic centres have been built with historically significant examples being restored, such as the Banja Luka mosque or the Mosque in Foça,

The Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Room museum displays belongings of the deceased as well as photographs of those that were killed, donated by their families. This acts as a memorial to those that died, as well as a point of reconciliation between the peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, as a result of the memorial, there has been a rise in ‘dark tourism’ on the site.

Vandalism has been an issue in majority-Serb territories with tributes to victims of the conflict. A memorial in Foça to the Bosniak women raped was blocked from being erected by Serb locals. Graves for the dead have been desecrated with nationalist graffiti. However, in ethnic Serb-majority towns, the monuments to the Bosnian-Serb army are a constant reminder to the minority Bosniaks of the suffering that they endured during the 1990s.


Serbian President Tomiav Nikolic apologised on behalf of all Serbs for the killings by Bosnian Serbs during the conflict. He refused to admit that crimes at Srebrenica were genocidal, which both national and international courts had declared. For survivors and the families, his pleas for forgiveness fell on deaf ears. The Bosniak people could not move on when the Serbian President refused to take responsibility for genocide, Serbia and Republika Srpska denied that genocide had occurred.

In 2015, on the 20th Anniversary of Srebrenica, Nikolic refused to attend the memorial service sparking criticism that he was denier of the genocide. Political tensions between Bosnia, Republika Srpska and Serbia were heightened at the time of the ceremony and whilst the Bosnian-Serb leader was there, there was no apology for genocide. There was no acceptance that genocide had happened. The killings having been referred to as ‘political violence’ desecrates the memory of those that died.

Truth Commissions

In other transitional justice contexts, Truth commissions have been created to give victims the opportunity to be heard and restore a sense of power that violence might’ve taken away. They wanted their stories, their suffering and ordeal to be listened to and they wanted those that inflicted suffering upon them to listen. Whilst the courts dealt with war criminals, truth commissions dealt with atrocities on the ground. However, in Bosnia, Truth commissions have failed to really reconcile as they have not been able to tell the stories of sufferings as a result of denial and scrutiny from the various ethnic divides. This story telling acts as localised justice as it allows people to have their stories heard and their suffering acknowledged in the historical context of the conflict. Limited attempts have been commissioned to create accurate accounts of the massacre at Srebrenica as well as attacks on Sarajevo during the war.

The Commission of Truth and Reconciliation (Yugoslavia) (TRC) was created in March 2001 in order to ‘investigate the causes of conflict in the territories of Former Yugoslavia’. By 2002, the Commission began to work with the ICTY in order to detail what happened in particular settings – such as in Bosnia. However, in early 2003, with Yugoslavia dissolved – the Commission lost its mandate to inform the people of the Balkans of the atrocities that had been committed. The Commission received a number of criticisms that they failed to carry out any interviews and were merely a political vehicle, used by Yugoslavian President Kostunica. The Commission would fail due to political resistance, institutional rivalry between the ICTY as well as a perceived lack of legitimacy that the TRC.

As of 2018, a coalition campaign was launched with the aim to revisit Truth Commission in the region as the first attempt had failed to deliver on discovering truth in the Balkans.

The Role of Women in Bosnian Transitional Justice

During the conflict, women were subjected to inhumane and brutal torture at the hands of the Bosnian-Serb army as the captured towns. The most notable occurrence of rape being weaponised as an instrument of torture was in Foça but this resulted in real change in International law when rape camps were exposed as an apparatus in breaking the resolve of women.

Theodor Meron, former ICTY President, stated in 1993 that the crimes in Bosnia and across former Yugoslavia gave the international legal community the mandate to bring rape under the umbrella of war crimes.
“Indescribable abuse of thousands of women in the territory of former Yugoslavia… shock[ed]the international community into rethinking the prohibition of rape as a crime under the laws of war.”

“landmark indictment because it focuses exclusively on sexual assaults, without including any other charges…. There is no precedent for this. It is of major legal significance because it illustrates the court’s strategy to focus on gender related crimes and give them their proper place in the prosecution of war crimes.”

Their testimony allowed for rape to be considered a war crime and meant that the use of rape would become a war crime in the Rome Statute of 1998. The bravery of women that testified in Kunarac would help create new international law; however, the women would be abandoned for a number of years at a local and national level in terms of reparations for their suffering as well as the fact that a vast number of perpetrators were not brought to justice.

In 2012, Amnesty International found that the Bosnian authorities were still failing the victims of wartime rape and sexual violence by not addressing the psychological harm that has plagued their lives. However, it was not until 2015 that the Government enacted legislation to offer reparations to those that suffered during the war. This was due to UN and Amnesty International pressure.

In recent years, national courts have convicted wartime rapists and justice has been served in a small pocket of cases; however, the largest challenge that victims are facing is the lack of aid whether that is professional help or financial.


Reparations for the victims of Bosnia have been demanded by those that survived and on behalf of the families that lost their loved ones during the conflict. In 2015, there had been no damages awarded until after the UN Committee Against Torture ruled that Bosnian authorities must pay compensation to a victim of sexual violence during the conflict from 1992-1995. The Committee recommended that the authorities set up an efficient system of reparations at the state level to provide all forms of war crimes, including sexual violence after a case in 2015 highlighted the flaws of private claims.

Private claims for compensation against individuals had proven to be extremely difficult before 2015 due to the state courts refusing to award damages in cases of sexual violence. A case in 2015 involving a Serb soldier raping a Bosniak woman during the conflict resulted in a change to the policy in the Federation of Bosnia. As the perpetrator had no property, it was decided to cease the enforcement against them. This highlighted the lack of recourse available to victims in these situations. The UN sought to implement a fund that would protect and ensure that there would be reparations available courtesy of the Bosnian state. However, since this was detailed, there have only been thirteen judgments to award damages since 2013.


When the Bosnian War ended in December 1995, the landscape had changed drastically since it began in April 1992. Prior to the fall of Yugoslavia, Tito’s motto of ‘Brotherhood and Unity’ bound the various ethnic groups in the region but by the end of it, nationalism and division drove the communities apart through bloodshed and violence.

Over 64,000 Bosniaks died at the hands of Bosnia-Serb forces, with over half of that figure accounting for civilian deaths. A further 50,000 women were raped by the aggressors as ethnic cleansing and Genocide erupted in the Balkans.

Following the war, there have been a number of attempts at transitional justice, so that the societies most effected can move on.

When considering the effectiveness of transitional justice mechanisms, the majority of case studies have a victor and there is a degree of victor’s justice. The Balkans saw the United States’ intervention result in an end to conflict, but the scars remained. The communities were still divided, united in an uneasy peace. International Criminal Trials were the most effective in achieving justice, but the courts indicted just 161 perpetrators. This meant that the countless individuals on the ground throughout the conflict were unchallenged for their role in atrocities such as genocide and ethnic cleansing but those that orchestrated and facilitated ethnic cleansing were brought to justice.

The majority of these mechanisms failed because they lacked legitimacy in the eyes of the population. The ethnic divisions that caused the war impeded the progress to achieve reconciliation. There has been a degree of integration between the two societies but ethnic divides remain prominent. There remains a culture of denial for what happened. Only through education can the communities accept the past and move beyond the conflict and hopefully attempts in the future to create truth commissions will prove to be successful as thus far, transitional justice mechanisms have failed the people of Bosnia.

About Author

The Celtic Star founder and editor David Faulds has edited numerous Celtic books over the past decade or so including several from Lisbon Lions, Willie Wallace, Tommy Gemmell and Jim Craig. Earliest Celtic memories include a win over East Fife at Celtic Park and the 4-1 League Cup loss to Partick Thistle as a 6 year old. Best game? Easy 4-2, 1979 when Ten Men Won the League. Email

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