Jasmina Tešanović: Milan Martic sentenced in Hague

Text: Jasmina Tešanović
Photos: Women In Black, Serbia

Done: another war criminal from the infamous Serbian nineties was
convicted yesterday in The Hague international court for war crimes.
Milan Martic, the leader of Serbs in Croatia, got 35 years although he
pleaded not guilty.

Yesterday too, Mira Markovic, the fugitive wife of the late president
Slobodan Milosevic, was formally accused of organized crime:
smuggling cigarettes in Croatia in the nineties. She laughed the
accusation off with her usual bluster: I am a poet, I am a lady, this
is ridiculous.

Under the rule of Milosevic and his special troops and secret police,
the smuggling of cigarettes and other goods at the borders was in fact
a major source of income for the regime: a criminalization of the
country and the harbinger of genocide.

The special military group,
the Scorpions, recently on trial here in Belgrade, run those affairs
on the ground. On the other side of the border, within Croatia, Milan
Martic led all the local ethnic Serbian insurgency against the Croats
and created a puppet state, Srpska Krajina.

In this no man's land
beyond the law, black-market trafficking flourished, in diesel fuel,
cigarettes, and human beings: men, women, alive and dead.
The bloodshed of Vukovar city in 1991 was the major success of this
political mafia. The tragic aftermath was the exodus of 350,000 Serbs
in 1995 when the new Croatian state invaded and shelled the puppet
local government of Martic and Milosevic, crushing it in "Operation

As usual, the politics of Milosevic ended up harming his own
people, a harm he used as an excuse to fight yet others.

I myself was
at the border in these grim days of August 1995, watching the endless
flow of Serbian refugees in cars, in tanks, on horseback, on foot.
Defeated soldiers were tearing off their uniforms and were half naked,
civilians were in their nightrobes…

The people were weeping and
wondering. Why did they fight a stubborn war for years against the
Croats, only to be ordered to flee within 24 hours, from their own
land, by their own warlord? Milan Martic was that leader.

These refugees were never allowed to enter Belgrade, their
supposed destination, where they hoped to find support. They were
derailed to small towns where they could not ask questions, and sent
to Kosovo, too… as fodder for the war machine for the next wars of

Rada, my friend from Krajina in Croatia, managed to get here
into Belgrade. Her husband and her three sons found humble jobs,
rented a one room flat. They survived with bewildered feelings and a
complete lack of respect and information. These refugees from Croatia
never received any legal status in Serbia, their supposed ethnic
homeland. Nor did they get a realistic chance to return to their
legal homes and properties in Croatia, for those are now occupied by
Croatia's own internal refugees.

These Serbs from Croatia were pawns
for Milosevic, for the criminal Martic, for the sinister poet wife,
for the Scorpion paramilitary — a people bilked for the huge amount
of black-market money made on their skins. Those who survived were

We who witnessed that history have this rare opportunity to
have at least some truth, if not justice, through this sentence in
People still live in denial here in Serbia. Only yesterday
when I heard the live voice of Mira Markovic, the 'Red Witch' now
turned black widow…

Mira, on the TV she once dominated so
effectively, Mira, denying her guilt — I had the painful feeling
of déjà vu. I recalled the flood of Serbian refugees at the harsh
new borders, people who were promised something that didn't belong to
them, promised pies in the skies and then robbed and denied their real

The price they paid for the crimes of others is something I
hope Serbs from Kosovo today will manage to avoid paying.

Some day,
those nationalist voices will have to stop singing their death hymns
of sacred graves and lost homelands. Somebody will start teaching
the people of the Balkans their human rights and a decent politics.

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Jasmina Tešanović is an author, filmmaker, and wandering thinker who shares her thoughts with BoingBoing from time to time. Email: politicalidiot at yahoo dot com. Her blog is here.

Previous essays by Jasmina Tešanović on BoingBoing:

Mothers of Mass Graves
Hope for Serbia
Stelarc in Ritopek
Sarajevo Mon Amour

Killing Journalists

Jasmina Tešanović: Where Did Our History Go?
Serbia Not Guilty of Genocide

Carnival of Ruritania
"Good Morning, Fascist Serbia!"
Faking Bombings
Dispatch from Amsterdam
Where are your Americans now?

Anna Politkovskaya Silenced
Slaughter in the Monastery

Mermaid's Trail

A Burial in Srebenica
Report from a concert by a Serbian war criminal
To Hague, to Hague

Preachers and Fascists, Out of My Panties

Floods and Bombs

Scorpions Trial, April 13
The Muslim Women 
– Belgrade: New Normality
Serbia: An Underworld Journey
Scorpions Trial, Day Three: March 15, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day Two: March 14, 2006
Scorpions Trial, Day One: March 13, 2006
The Long Goodbye
Milosevic Arrives in Belgrade
Slobodan Milosevic Died
Milosevic Funeral