Even as European politicians and journalists continue to fulminate over the denial of freedom in Putin’s Russia or Xi’s China, they are more than happy to stamp out freedom of expression in Europe itself.
The other day, Bosnia and Herzegovina made it illegal to deny “genocide.” One must correct that statement right away because Bosnia and Herzegovina didn’t actually do anything. The country did not act upon a sovereign decision arrived at by elected representatives. Rather, the outgoing High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, decreed amendments to the country’s criminal code and published them in the country’s official gazette. No legislative consideration or debate ever took place.
Inzko had, needless to say, never been elected to anything. He is an international bureaucrat appointed by something called the Peace Implementation Council, a body comprising 55 countries and international organizations, set up to oversee the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Accords. The accords formally brought the Bosnian war to an end. The unelected Inzko has been High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina since 2009. He, needless to say, is not from Bosnia. He is an Austrian diplomat of Slovenian descent. He is paid about half a million euros a year. His replacement, Christian Schmidt, also has no ties to Bosnia: He is a member of the German Christian Social Union and served as a German minister of food and agriculture from 2014 to 2018.
Though unelected, whoever holds the position of high representative is far more powerful than any of Bosnia’s elected politicians. For example, back in 1999, the-then high representative, Carlos Westendorp, took it upon himself to fire Nikola Poplašen, the elected president of Republika Srpska, the Serb half of the two entities that comprises the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Poplašen’s crime was refusal to accept the decision of an international panel of arbitrators that the strategic town of Brčko should be removed from Serb control. In addition, Poplašen had sought to dismiss as prime minister the then-Western-favored Milorad Dodik. Dodik however didn’t need to be fired. He resigned in protest over the Brčko arbitration panel decision.
Arbitration panels, high representatives–if the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina sounds like a colonial outpost run by imperial rulers hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away, that’s because that’s what it is. Indeed, the governor of the country’s central bank is appointed by the International Monetary Fund. Twenty-five years after the end of the war in Bosnia, the country is still run as if it were a wholly-owned subsidiary of NATO and the European Union.
It should come as no surprise then that changes to the criminal code of Bosnia and Herzegovina fall within the jurisdiction of an unelected, international bureaucrat. Needless to say, the new decrees are accompanied by threats of serious punishment. Breaking the new law, Inzko warns, would be punished by prison terms ranging from six months to five years. According to a CNN report, such punishment would be meted out to anyone who “publicly condones, denies, grossly trivializes or tries to justify” the “genocide or war crimes” committed during Bosnia’s 1992-1995 conflict. The decree also recommends prison terms for anyone engaging in “recognition… (and giving of) mementos, or any privileges” to convicted war criminals. Clearly, Inzko’s decree goes far beyond what is usually referred to “genocide denial.” Instead, Inzko is targeting and threatening with severe punishment anyone calling into question the official, approved version of history of the wars in the Former Yugoslavia during the 1990s.
How does this official, approved history run? The official version has it that the wars that took place in the Former Yugoslavia were not triggered by the insistence on the part of the nationalists and extremists (who took charge of the republics and provinces in the aftermath of the collapse of Communism) to seek independence without bothering to negotiate the terms of the republics’ exit from Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. That responsibility for the humanitarian crises that bedeviled the successor states of the SFRY rests not with those who insisted on secession at all costs—nor with those who, willfully and recklessly, served as the secessionists’ enablers. That war was not inevitable once the European Union and the United States accepted, or more accurately, encouraged, the dissolution of the SFRY in the face of fierce opposition from at least 40% of its population—the Serbs—and probably from a substantial majority of Yugoslavs.
That it wasn’t the U.S. and E.U.’s bizarre decisions, granting statehood here, refusing statehood there, conjuring nations and states out of thin air while making others disappear that caused the wars.
No, blame attached to the most implacable opponent of Yugoslav dissolution, namely, the republic of Serbia and the Serbian nation as a whole. The world must be forced to accept that the wars in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo weren’t about the E.U.’s and the U.S.’s premature recognition of the secessionist states and the E.U.’s and the U.S.’s non-negotiable decree that the arbitrary administrative boundaries drawn up by the Communist rulers of the SFRY should serve as international frontiers. That the wars had nothing to do with millions of people suddenly finding themselves citizens of states to which they didn’t want to belong; no, the nationalist extremists, the Islamists, the European Union, the United States are all blameless. What caused the wars an aggressive Serb plan to create a “Greater Serbia.”
There is no evidence for any of this. There is no evidence of any Serbian plan to create a “Greater Serbia.” However, in NATOLand no questioning of the official narrative is permissible. Understandably so—for it would seriously undermine the rationale for NATO’s existence. The report in Politico quotes Inzko as informing the three-member presidency:
I would like to emphasize that there can be no reconciliation without the recognition of crimes and culpability.
Hate speech, the glorification of war criminals and revisionism, or rather open genocide and war crimes denial, prevent societies from facing their collective past.
They represent the repeated humiliation of victims and their closest of kin, while also prolonging injustice and endangering peaceful social relations.
This of course is standard boilerplate: no peace without justice, no reconciliation without prior retribution. The truth is the opposite. The perpetual demonization of the Serbs, the ceaseless attribution of responsibility for wars and war crimes almost exclusively to the Serbs has created bitterness and justified resentment on the part of the Serbs and has postponed any hope of reconciliation in Bosnia into the indefinite future.
Interestingly, CNN reports that very same Milorad Dodik that Westendorp had sought to protect back in 1999 and who is now the Republika Srpska’s representative on the country’s three-person joint presidency, responded to the new decree by warning that it could lead to the dissolution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. “This is the nail in Bosnia’s coffin,” he said. “The Republika Srpska has no other option but to start the… dissolution.”
So this was another brilliant maneuver by the arrogant Western powers, guaranteed to secure even more enmity, chaos and conflict. And, as always, NATO will be on hand to offer itself as the solution to a problem that it had created in the first place.