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Hijacked Justice

Dealing with the Past in the Balkans

Jelena Subotic

Publication Year: 2009

What is the appropriate political response to mass atrocity? In Hijacked Justice, Jelena Subotic traces the design, implementation, and political outcomes of institutions established to deal with the legacies of violence in the aftermath of the Yugoslav wars. She finds that international efforts to establish accountability for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia have been used to pursue very different local political goals.

Responding to international pressures, Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia have implemented various mechanisms of "transitional justice"-the systematic addressing of past crimes after conflicts end. Transitional justice in the three countries, however, was guided by ulterior political motives: to get rid of domestic political opponents, to obtain international financial aid, or to gain admission to the European Union. Subotic argues that when transitional justice becomes "hijacked" for such local political strategies, it fosters domestic backlash, deepens political instability, and even creates alternative, politicized versions of history.

That war crimes trials (such as those in The Hague) and truth commissions (as in South Africa) are necessary and desirable has become a staple belief among those concerned with reconstructing societies after conflict. States are now expected to deal with their violent legacies in an institutional setting rather than through blanket amnesty or victor's justice. This new expectation, however, has produced paradoxical results. In order to avoid the pitfalls of hijacked justice, Subotic argues, the international community should focus on broader and deeper social transformation of postconflict societies, instead on emphasizing only arrests of war crimes suspects.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-2

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 3-8


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pp. 9-10

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xvi

...I don’t remember where I was in July 1995, when I first heard of the genocide in Srebrenica. I have been trying to remember ever since I read Emir Suljagic´’s harrowing account of surviving Srebrenica, in which he asks all of his former friends to remember where they were while his family was being slaughtered and he ran for his life. But I don’t remember, and this fills me with a profound sense ...


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pp. xvii-xx

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pp. 1-14

...He was good with children, the news stories said. He helped “cure” an autistic child through bioenergy. He gave excellent massages. He practiced an ancient Christian Orthodox method of “silencing,” a form of meditation. He had an attractive middle-aged mistress. He had a long white beard and long white hair. He was mysterious and spiritual and had a soothing manner about him. He ...

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1. The Politics of Hijacked Justice

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pp. 15-37

...Over the past twenty years, a global norm has emerged prescribing the appropriate way for states to deal with crimes of the past. This international norm presents a set of expectations for transitional governments to fulfill when facing a state’s criminal history. Crudely, it can be reduced to the statement that gross human rights abuses, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and...

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2. The Past is Not Yet Over

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pp. 38-82

...The experience of transitional justice in Serbia has been one of great disappointment for international justice promoters. Serbia was supposed to be the hard test case for transitional justice. It is the country where most of the alleged perpetrators of the worst human rights abuses in Europe since World War II originated. It is the country in whose name, and in the name of whose people, the Balkan wars ...

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3. The Truth is in Croatia's Favor

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pp. 83-121

...Croatia’s commitment to transitional justice has for many years been best described as one step forward, two steps back. The Croatian government has mostly cooperated selectively, reluctantly, and insufficiently with the Hague tribunal. The pressures coming from the ICTY but also from other international organizations and individual states have created deep divisions within the Croatian state...

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4. Who Lives in Your Neighborhood?

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pp. 122-165

...Bosnia is in many ways a perfect laboratory for studying the effectiveness, consequences, and potential of transitional justice to bring justice to victims and reconciliation to broken communities. It is the country that suffered more than any other in the Yugoslav conflict. Its population was decimated, its cities and villages ravaged. The war left a traumatic imprint on Bosnian society, which is ...

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Conclusion: Hijacked Justice Beyond the Balkans

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pp. 166-192

...Institutions of transitional justice have become ubiquitous over the past twenty years. Once considered arcane practices or exercises in victor’s justice, mechanisms of transitional justice have increasingly become institutionalized as appropriate ways for states to deal with legacies of past violence. From truth commissions in South Africa to international trials at The Hague, from the hybrid court in Sierra ...


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pp. 193-202

E-ISBN-13: 9780801459344
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801448027

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 726824344
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Hijacked Justice

Research Areas


Subject Headings

  • War crimes -- Former Yugoslav republics.
  • Transitional justice -- Former Yugoslav republics.
  • Truth commissions -- Former Yugoslav republics.
  • Postwar reconstruction -- Former Yugoslav republics.
  • Yugoslav War, 1991-1995 -- Atrocities.
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