Originally published as “Slobodni radikali” in Vox Feminae, 1 April 2016
Translated by Lauren Lydic
“Fuck you all, motherfuckers,” Vojislav Šešelj cursed at The Hague. Today, I would say the same thing to the court if I wasn’t a feminist and cursing mothers wasn’t at odds with my political beliefs. I can’t curse fathers either, because they killed my father in the war and so my father has become some abstract, respected figure whom you mustn’t insult. I could curse God because I am an atheist, but then I would be insulting religious people and there are too many of them around me to deal with. Šešelj is religious, too. Šešelj had a mother, too. He also had a father. I guess.
What can a person curse, Your Honor, on this day when Vojislav Šešelj was acquitted of all charges?
I remember when one of my neighbors said, “Get ready, women, Šešelj’s men are coming!” Or did she say “Arkan’s men”… It was 24 years ago in the neighbor’s basement where we hid all together—Serbs and Muslims and Croats (and those who did not feel like any one of those three, but were called as such)—before we left the village on the front line, one night, when the shooting outside was a little heavier. The army and the tanks were getting ever closer. And even then, as a little nine-year-old girl, I knew what the neighbor wanted to say: there will be rape. There will also be slaughter, murder, torture.
We fled at the last minute. Mom had my little three-year-old sister in her arms, and father, with a rusty WWII rifle on his shoulder, held my hand. We ran away in a hurry, without looking to see if our house was burning. We didn’t have time to gather any of our things. Mother only took her small leather bag and, in it,what little gold she had; her and dad’s identification cards; as well as a bit of cash—as much as two young workers might have from jobs on the assembly line at two large factories, a weapons factory and a car factory.
After that day, the next 1,500 days of my childhood passed slowly in besieged Sarajevo. For this and many other counts in the indictment, Your Honor, you sentenced Radovan Karadžić to 40 years. I consider—from a mathematical point of view, without emotion—if Radovan was to be sentenced to one day for each of our days spent in besieged Sarajevo, that would be 300,000 people multiplied by around 1,500 days spent in fear, darkness, hunger; in the cold; in basements; in bomb shelters; in wet trenches…However many millions of years his bones were to rot in jail, it wouldn’t be enough because it still would only beone day for the people of Sarajevo.
I heard the Karadžić verdict on the radio in a car. My two friends and I were speechless, and then we started to curse. I go home. Waiting for me is an e-mail from Marina Gržinić with a link to a Slovenian television documentary about Radovan Karadžić, made up mainly of archival material from the war. Like a real masochist, I play it even though I know every image by heart. I watch, and the tears flow without stopping. The pain is fresh again every time. I look at dismembered bodies in the Markale market. For the umpteenth time, I listen to how we were shooting at ourselves.
Today, I anxiously await the verdict. The news finally reaches the internet. Not even a year’s sentence for Šešelj. Freedom. I play videos again. Now, I watch them on YouTube, one after the other, for hours. I play them over and over maniacally and cry anew. Furious. If only there was someone with me so that we could curse together! I think about all the people who went to Den Haag to testify and had to relive all the terrible war scenes, retelling them in court, hoping that justice would be served. How do they feel now that Šešelj is free? What do they curse? Do they cry? How do the people in Srebrenica and Potočari feel today,while fans of the Serbian Radical Party are circling the town in cars to celebrate the acquittal of its Duke, who says that no genocide took place there?
I think about my mom’s friend. He has only one hand. A grenade tore through the elbow of his other arm. His wife, children and extended family were set on fire right in front of him, in a house together with dozens of neighbors from the same village. About fifty people, young and old. He went on to testify against the defendant in The Hague. That was the first time he traveled outside of Bosnia, the first time he flew on a plane. I think of him because he told me how, despite security, the defendant’s lawyers somehow approached him to offer a lot of money if he didn’t testify. I think of him because he told me proudly how he flew on the plane, how he had personal security—and he said proudly how he refused the bribe.Today, he lives on a small pension. He lives without his right hand. He lives from one day to the next.
I wonder how many such people testified against Šešelj in your courts? How many millions of euros, dollars, pounds were spent on your court all these years so that, today,you could acquit Šešelj and others like him? How many more of them will you acquit?
Please release Ratko Mladić as well, Your Honor. Biljana Plavšić said herself that he is a good man and that he always reminded her of Grumpy from the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”You probably take her at her word, too, because she is truthful and honest. She is the only one who admitted to crimes. You sentenced her to 11 years in a five-star Swedish prison and released her after only 8, for good behavior.
Dr. Plavšić would stake her life on Dr. Šešelj. Loosen the purse strings, and give Šešelj the 15 million dollars in damages he requested as compensation for the pain inflicted during the years of the trial, for poor health, for high cholesterol. Give it to him. Let him have it! Give him the money to finance this year’s campaign for his Serbian Radical Party. Give him the money to enroll in postdoctoral studies because, recently, he was the youngest Ph.D. in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia—and, now, after the experience in your court, the topic of his dissertation, The Political Essence of Militarism and Fascism, has the potential to be developed nicely.
There’s an urban legend that, after Šešelj received his doctorate, Tito said, “Congratulations, Doctor!” Šešelj replied,“Thank you, Master!”, because Tito was a master locksmith. Today, we can all say to Šešelj: “Congratulations, Doctor! Congratulations, Master! You are free!”
Your Honor, give Dr.Šešelj some money to finally realize his longstanding dream ofa Greater Serbia since, in your opinion, Greater Serbia was a “political” project, not a criminal one. So,help Vojislav realize it, your Honor. Freedom isn’t enough. Neither is fame.
True, he always had fame, but you, Your Honor, made him even more famous because nobody humiliated your court like the Chetnik Duke has. In his Hague—above all, in his theater and circus performances—he made monkeys out of the judges and witnesses, while everyone in the courtroom pretended not to see the big pink elephant that, like many people throughout Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia, followed the trial closely.
The performances that the now-freed criminal gave your tribunal over the years perfectly embodied all the absurdity of your court, all the folly of your legal system, and all the senselessness of your existence.
During the trial, Šešelj claimed to have fewer rights than Hermann Goering, but—since your Haag is not like Nuremberg was back then—Vojislav won his freedom. He isn’t like Goering, who was sentenced to death by hanging, and—unfortunately for us all—he didn’t poison himself with cyanide the night before the hanging. Unfortunately, he didn’t die in a hunger strike either.
Vojislav is a free radical that your court did not neutralize. Now, the only question is to what electron will this free radical now bind? Could it be stabilized?What DNA will it permanently damage? What chain reaction will the free radical launch this time in the sick organism of ex-Yugoslavia? Which post-conflict cancer should we, the divided nations, fear the most, Your Honor of the United Nations? And what will we treat it with when it metastasizes? Reconciliation?
Free Radovan Karadžić! Free Ratko Mladić! Free Nelson Mandela! Free Palestine!
Dr.Šešelj kindly told you when he did not want to stand in your court: “I should stand up for you? But you’re international scum, how can I stand up for you?”
After Šešelj has ridiculed, cursed, destroyed, and annulled you for years—calling into question your legitimacy, knowledge, and capabilities—you now continue his work with this verdict. Who, tomorrow, will deprive lawyers, peoples, nations of the right—under the pretext of Vojislav Šešelj’s acquittal—to file an appeal seeking acquittals, lower sentences, or pardons for the handful of criminals that you condemned to an already insufficient number of years? Who will have confidence in your future judgments? Who will testify to the war courts of future wars? Your Honor, who will believe in your integrity? And who will judge you?