The Ombudsperson ombuds himself

Marek Antoni Nowicki, the Ombudsperson of the UN mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), has a very interesting essay in Transitions Online (a translation of his regular column in Koha Ditore) articulating some of the limitations of his position. In particular he notes the paradoxical role of the UN, which is obligated to protect to protect human rights but subject to no authority which assures that it does. As a result, Mr Nowicki writes:

"The people of Kosovo exist in an almost Kafkaesque paradox: the presence of the UN in the province (UNMIK) is very much based on humanitarian and human rights grounds. However, precisely owing to the UN presence, Kosovo is a black hole, so to speak -- a place exempt from any international human rights protection."

Strip off the shiny UN rhetoric (Mr Nowicki is honest enough not to shine it up too much anyway) and there is a deeper problem: nobody assures that the UN regulates the behavior of what he calls the "surrogate state" in Kosovo, which is very much based on ethnic exclusivity.

Osservatorio's dossier on the far right

The fine Osservatorio sui Balcani has placed all of its features on far right movements in the region on a single page, which also includes features on Bosnia-Hercegovina, Romania, Kosovo and Turkey, as well as an overview by Andrea Rossini.


Off for the day

I'll be gone at a meeting all day today, so there will not be any updates before the evening at the earliest. Anyone looking for good reading material in the meantime might enjoy this week's commentary by Svetlana Lukić.

So they know where to find him?

I'm guessing this is a planted story. Friday's Večernje novosti has a very short item claiming that the Republika Srpska police "contacts the family of Radovan Karadžić every seven days" at which point they "recommend that he should surrender." They quote police official Radovan Pejić as saying that "we try to let them know about the privileges and benefits that a voluntary surrender would bring them." Are we to conclude that they are in touch? The evocative character of the piece and its lack of detail would lead a person to think that something is in the works. Which might mean that nothing is.

Kinkier than thou

East Ethnia is happy to add its voice to the ever-growing chorus supporting Kinky Friedman's candidacy for governor of the once-great state of Texas.

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If there must be celebrity governors, why not the one who promises a campaign of "de-wussification"? Says Kinky, "I am determined to get back to a time when the cowboys all sang and their horses were smart."


For and against torture

The 36 members of the US Senate who voted against the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general are:

Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Evan Bayh (Indiana), Joseph Biden (Delaware), Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico), Barbara Boxer (California), Robert Byrd (West Virginia), Maria Cantwell (Washington), Thomas Carper (Delaware), Hillary Clinton (New York), Kent Conrad (North Dakota), Jon Corzine (New Jersey), Mark Dayton (Minnesota), Christopher Dodd (Connecticut), Byron Dorgan (North Dakota), Richard Durbin (Illinois), Russell Feingold (Wisconsin), Dianne Feinstein (California), Tom Harkin (Iowa), James Jeffords (Vermont), Tim Johnson (South Dakota), Edward Kennedy (Massachusetts), John Kerry (Massachusetts), Herb Kohl (Wisconsin), Frank Lautenberg (New Jersey), Patrick Leahy (Vermont), Carl Levin (Michigan), Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas), Barbara Mikulski (Maryland), Barack Obama (Illinois), Jack Reed (Rhode Island), Harry Reid (Nevada), John Rockefeller (West Virginia), Paul Sarbanes (Maryland), Charles Schumer (New York), Debbie Stabenow (Michigan), Ron Wyden (Oregon)

Max Baucus (Montana), Kent Conrad (North Dakota), Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) and Patty Murray (Washington) abstained.

The rest of the members of the US Senate favor torture. If you are a US citizen, vote against them in the next election. That includes every Republican member, without exception.

It also includes the following pro-torture Democrats: Mary Landrieu (Louisiana), Joseph Lieberman (Connecticut), Ben Nelson (Nebraska), Bill Nelson (Florida), David Pryor (Arkansas), Ken Salazar (Colorado). Vote for their opponents in the primaries.

Balkan carnival: Deadline approaching!!!

Please get your nominations to me by tomorrow for the first Carnival of the Balkans!!! The theme is Balkan music and arts, and the first edition will feature interesting, insightful, revealing and amusing posts on the theme. One hopes.

Actually, you don't decide

At Marquette University in pleasant Milwaukee, Wisconsin, they are celebrating Mission Week, this year with the theme "Constructing Peace." So the College Republicans had the idea of setting up a table in the student union to promote a program called "Adopt a Sniper." According to Amanda Sheaffer in the Marquette Tribune it is not a program to promote random shootings, but to compensate for the failure of the US government to provide body armor to soldiers in Iraq. On the other hand, people who make a donation of 5 USD or more get a metal wristband and a tag with the slogan "One Shot, One Kill, No Remorse, I Decide" engraved on it. University spokesperson Brigid O'Brien says that the university decided not to permit the manifestation because adopting snipers was found to be "not consistent with the university's mission." Which led College Republicans president Brandon Henak, a senior at Marquette, to show how well he had been educated by declaring "It's obvious that they have liberal leanings — that's a Jesuit trait."

A denier in denial

Prosecutors say that they will begin to investigate the charges that Vladimir Popović, leading one to wonder what they have been doing so far. Meanwhile, another unpersuasive denial has been made, this one by the former head of military security, Aco Tomić. (Note: These quotations are from the same article , though B92 cites Novosti, which is in the habit of posting articles in illegible format).

Aco Tomić's statements are like a blast from the not so distant past. He accuses Mr Popović of making accusations that are "untrue and part of a foreign scenario," and goes on to enhance his credibility by calling the accusations "a new Račak and Markale," which brings back an old official line that those massacres were the product of clever stage directors rather than the people who committed them.

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Aco Tomić

Then come Mr Tomić's strongest arguments. He says, "I affirm that the military had nothing to do with the murder. Also that nobody in the government talked about plans to murder Đinđić because if they had, we would have known about it." And he invents two new national institutions, saying that Popović "directs his charges at everything that is national, from the Army and Church to the Academy, to prime minister Koštunica and his party."

Perhaps partly as a result of this ongoing scandal, the most recent public opinion survey shows Koštunica's DSS continuing to lose popularity, now rating a fourth place with 10.7% support. However, DS is not the beneficiary. They remain on top, barely, ahead of the Radicals by less than 1%. meanwhile, "Snaga Srbije," the populist paraparty led by dubious rich guy Bogoljub Karić, is rated third at 11.7%. I think this result says very little about the appeal of SRS and "Snaga Srbije," and very much about the declining legitimacy of institutions. One is reminded of Hannah Arendt's description of a previous intellectual elite that came to believe that "history, which was a forgery anyway, might as well be the playground of crackpots."


Virtual Rijeka carnival

On 6 February (that's Sunday), Sarajevo-X reports that the whole world will have a chance to enjoy the Rijeka Carnival via webcast. If you go to the Carnival site, you can check out the schedule of events, see photos from past carnivals, and read news about what is planned and what the weather has prevented. Enjoy!

Osservatorio's series on the far right

The series on the extreme right in the Balkans is continuing at Osservatorio sui Balcani. Earlier there was a piece on Serbia by Danijela Nenadić. It has now been joined by a piece on Albania by Indrit Maraku, one on Croatia by Drago Hedl, on Montenegro by Jadranka Gilić, and on Macedonia by Risto Karajkov.

Pokraj mene više nisi, zato plovim sam na Tisi

People are continuing to respond to the statements by Vladimir Popović in his two interviews broadcast on B92. Today's round of responses comes from the military intelligence side. Former military security director Aleksandar Vasiljević denies knowing anything about a secret meeting between Vojislav Koštunica and Slobodan Milošević, saying "I do not know whether that meeting was held for the simple reason that I went fishing and was on the Tisa [river], in a dinghy, cut off from media, newspapers, and all that, so I know nothing about the whole business."

Ljubodrag Stojadinović, Politika's commentator on military affairs, has more to say about the role of military intelligence, which is not subject to civilian control. He says, "There is no longer an environment in which the military, along with other agencies, can set up their own [intelligence] agencies as a means of exercising their power. They can do it outside of institutions, which makes it more dangerous. So they are able to produce chaos which nobody can control, not even they are able to control it themselves, and we have seen that chaos in the form of the criminalisation of society and several killings and other acts, which are on the border between crime and state security. In that sense the military security service is not so different from other services, especially the services that are essentially political police." Mr Stojadinović is being a little enigmatic, but it seems as though he is confirming Mr Popović's charges, in a roundabout way.

Just plain bizarre military news

What's good is that Serbia has introduced the option for conscientous objectors to fulfill their military service obligation with a civil service alternative. What is bad is that the decision as to whether conscientious objectors fulfill the conditions for an exception from armed service is left to a local commission, which is guided by no law regulating what those conditions are.

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The violent Mr Djokić, photo courtesy of Glas javnosti.

So the application of Dragoslav Djokić of Niš was rejected because of his police record, which the Defence ministry determined to contain "an offence with elements of violence." What terrible thing did Mr Djokić do? Apparently one night in 2002, he walked his dog without a muzzle, for which he received a ticket and a penalty of 400 dinars for "improperly equipping his dog."

Any comparison with retired high-ranking officers charged with gross violations of international humanitarian law who recive full pensions and the concerned attention of prime ministers and Patriarchs is, of course, wholly inappropriate.


Congratulations to Histologion, Pestiside and Carniola!

The voting has ended for the Satin Pajama awards for best European weblogs over at A Fistful of Euros. Although East Ethnia was not declared the best weblog, it was not declared the worst either. The winner in the category of Best European Weblog is The Glory of Carniola, and the category of Best Southeast European Weblog was won by Histologion. The best New Weblog is Pestiside. Every one of them worth a frequent visit!

On the importance of institutions

The second part of the interview that Brankica Stanković did with former Đinđić advisor Vladimir Popović has been broadcast on B92, and it is no less controversial than the first half (from which I gave some quotations in an earlier post). In this one he accuses active politicians, especially prime minister Vojislav Koštunica and his party DSS, of involvement in the conspiracy to murder Mr Đinđić. Other politicians are not spared, nor is the Serbian Orthodox Church. It is not surprising that there should be furious responses.

Nor is it surprising that one of the most furious is the press release from DSS. They call Mr Popović a "false witness," and accuse him of "pathological hatred" toward them. Then they indulge in a little rhetorical fancy:

"Aside from the judicial organs which have the obligation to verify the public accusations Popović makes, we consider that there exist in this society specialised institutions which could perhaps, on the basis of what we have seen, give some help to Vladimir Popović."

Let's say it is a given that DSS is angry, justifiably angry if Mr Popović's charges are not true. All the same, considering that earlier this week their justice minister threatened that he could produce criminal charges at will, it might be that threatening to put politically inconvenient individuals in mental institutions will not really help them with their growing reputation for abuse of power.

Patriarchy in action

Vladimir Lazarević has decided to go and face trial, and although it has taken him since October 2003 to do it -- a luxury afforded to the rare indictee in the world -- he is receiving warm words of congratulation. There is probably nothing wrong with a verbal pat on the back for fulfilling basic obligations, if it makes the indictee feel better. One of my favorite quotations from Harry Truman is the one in which he describes the president as:

"...a glorified public relations man who spends his time flattering,
kissing, and kicking people to get them to do what they are supposed to do anyway."

But Patriarch Pavle of the Serbian Orthodox Church has gone a bit further. He says that Lazarević is going to "represent the interests of the people and defend the truth." What interest does the Patriarch have in mind?


Call for submissions: Carnival of the Balkans #1

The first edition of Carnival of the Balkans will be coming on 7 February. The Carnival's purpose is to showcase good writing from around the web about the Balkans. The theme for the February 2005 edition is:


Submissions should be in the form of blog or forum posts from anywhere on the internet, published at any time. Please send your favorite posts (your own or another person's) on the topic to Eric Gordy [eastethnia at gmail dot com] by Friday, 4 February. Posts may be in any language, but if they are in a language I do not know I will ask someone else for help.

What constitutes a post about "Balkan music and arts"? The fact that the person who submits it thinks it ought to be considered in that category.

Let the submissions arrive!

Update: You may ask, What is a blog carnival? This might help. Keep the submissions coming!

Where the bridges lead

When I first read about the initiative to link the Mostar and Zagreb universities by an internet video connection at OneWorld, I put a celebratory post here. Ero Hercegovina also pointed to it with pride. My enthusiasm comes from two sources. First, I am a committed lover of connections between universities, and particularly international connections. The reasons for this are probably too obvious to mention. Second, one of the best things about the internet is that it makes it possible for the information that people have available to depend less on their geographic location or institutional affiliation. In the original news article from Pincom there was mention of plans for the Zagrepčani to make their databases available to the Mostarci.

What I did not take into account was the exclusive nature of the Zagreb-Mostar link and the ugly prehistory of Mostar's bureaucratic inclusion in the Croatian university network. As AR (who is a globally recognised authority on cultural history and its destruction in the region) wrote in the comments to the original post:

"...the links between the "Sveuciliste u Mostaru" and Zagreb actually go back a dozen years -- to 1993, to be precise, when Croat nationalist militants took control of the facilities of Mostar's long-established Univerzitet "Dzemal Bijedic" on the west bank of the Neretva, kicked out the non-Croat faculty members, students and staff, and renamed the cleansed institution "Hrvatsko Sveuciliste u Mostaru." The "Hrvatsko" has since been dropped from the official name, but the institution continues to be basically mono-ethnic and continues to function as if it were an institution in Croatia, rather than in Bosnia. "

Ludost also pointed out reasons to be suspicious on her site, asking (my translation):

"Wouldn't it be logical for the first link of that sort in Bosnia and Hercegovina to be between the universities in Mostar and Sarajevo or Banja Luka? Or maybe a series of joint lectures, if a video link were to be too expensive? But excuse me for being naive, for something like that there would have to exist a linguistic-educational consensus, not to mention a political consensus, right? In fact, a stable integrative state would have to exist, woudn't it?"

A commentator provided additional suspicion, saying "Now let's see whether the Croatian government is so generous toward the University and other cultural institutions in Croatia itself. I'd say not."

What the critiques cluster around is pointing out that the value of connecting institutions with one another is eclipsed by the obvious ill intentions of the agencies doing the connecting: it is subordinated to a project of "national unification" across borders, and it may well be designed so that one connection preempts another. Nobody was persuaded by my defense (which I posted in a discussion on Ludost's site) that "good things can come from bad intentions ... if the HDZ-ovci on both sides of the border established a way of connecting universities, probably other people can use it for other ends."

Ludost responded with a subtle satire in which the Croatian government sponsored a video link between classrooms in the segregated town of Stolac. And she wrote to me:

"In my opinion, the connecting of Mostar and Zagreb universities is not a positive step and cannot bring anything positive while so many other institutional mechanisms in Bosnia remain disconnected. in Bosnia we are witnessing a terrible death of all state institutions -- perhaps you are familiar with the current drama of Zemaljski muzej and six other institutions -- that are not ethnically devised. On that death of non-ethnic institutions, the ethnically and nationalistically set up institutions thrive, such as the Mostar university. this is a process of slow death of all Bosnian non-ethnic functions that's been going on since the end of the war, and with the blessing of the Dayton agreement. In that slow death of Bosnia, in that creeping ethnic tumor through all institutions and social mechanisms, I see this link between Mostar and Zagreb like yet another metastasis."

I can confirm a lot of this from casual observation. On my first postwar trip to Sarajevo, if I had looked more closely at my bus ticket I would have seen "S. Sarajevo" written on it, and known that I was being taken to a remote bus station in Lukavica, miles from any city. In Konjic, I had the pleasure of renting a room from a woman whose architect husband was held during the war in a camp that he had designed himself (as a factory): he has left his native town for Croatia permanently, and she can hardly wait to retire and join him. Last summer on our little vacation excursion from Makarska to Ston (oysters! they're silent and have no ideology!), there was no indication anywhere in Neum that would indicate to a casual observer that they were not in Croatia.

At the ground level, the potential of the inter-university link fades, because its purpose is to demolish other links.


One more general, maybe?

Monday's Danas reports that ICTY indictee Nebojša Pavković (who had previously declared that he would not be going to the Hague alive) may be preparing to join his former subordinate Vladimir Lazarević at the Hague. They quote his lawyer Ljubiša Živadinović to the effect that he is preparing a defense.

Should the Lazarević surrender come through and Pavković go to face the charges against him, that would leave Sreten Lukić, who many speculated would be the first to go voluntarily, and Vlastimir Đorđević, who is widely believed to be hiding in Russia or threreabouts, from the four generals indicted by ICTY in October 2003.

New! Balkan blog carnival!

This is an idea that was inspired by the awards competition over at A Fistful of Euros (Plug: Feel free to go and vote for East Ethnia if you want to). Basically several people thought that there are enough Balkan blogs, and that there is enough variety in them, that they could be showcased independently rather than as a small subcategory of Europe. As much fun as an awards competition could be, the suggestion won out to begin a Balkan blog carnival. What is a blog carnival? See Science and Politics for a presentation of several of them.

In short: a page has been set up for the Carnival of the Balkans. The first edition will be on 7 February, on the topic of Balkan arts and music. If you want to be an editor of the carnival, send me a note at eastethnia at gmail dot com, and if you want to submit a post for the carnival (yours or someone else's) write to me at the same address.

Republican sexual fantasies

By now probably everybody has read about the newest torture revelations from the illegal prison at Guantanamo. Today there are mainstream media condemnations from Maureen Dowd in the New York Times and even from token right-winger Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe. There is of course nothing new about the revelation of obscene and hidden details of political life. What makes this one different is that is that the obscene details are being played out on a large scale, using public resources, and in the name of every citizen.

None of this can be covered over with ritual condemnations or, as with the torture in Iraq, with show trials of a few low-ranking military personnel. The decision to use public institutions for the sexual humiliation of political opponents and people who are imagined to be political opponents can only be a political decision taken at the highest levels.

Who's afraid of the inquisitor wannabe?

The Serbian justice minister Zoran Stojković, whose legal reputation is built on prosecuting "political offenders" in the 1980s, has a few old tricks up his sleeve. Today he is quoted as telling a reporter that officials of the previous government are afraid of him, because they know that there are criminal complaints against them in the drawer.

So, how does he know whether people are afraid of him or not? Is this drawer that he is talking about his drawer? If there are criminal complaints, why have they not been acted upon? Or does he gather stuff to keep in his drawer to be pulled out at some opportune moment, along the way vaguely hinting at their existence but not specifying what they are?

This minister who continues to believe that the law is his private property should resign. Or be hounded out. And should certainly be prosecuted. No doubt a criminal complaint against him could be found in a drawer somewhere.

Update: Oh look, DS is going to try to recall Stojković and interior minister Dragan Jočić in the parliament.