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Mostar - in the Croat name

by Vesna Pusic

One of the main reasons for supporting an effective international tribunal
for war crimes committed in the area of former Yugoslavia is a conviction
that there is no such thing as collective guilt. The individualization of
responsibility not only allows the perpetrators to be punished, but also
saves their nations from moral degradation.

This principled position is easier to maintain, however, when the
perpetrators belong to some other nation. But when the crimes have been
committed by members of one's own nation, the situation becomes more
complicated. For me, of all the horrors which this war has produced. the
tragedy of Mostar will always occupy a special place. Mostar is where the
Croat nation stands on trial. This is not because its suffering was worse
than that which befell Vukovar, or because the crimes committed against its
citizens were more horrific than those experienced by the citizens of
Gorazde or Ilok. Mostar's fate in this war is unique for Croats because here
the destruction, the terror and the crimes were committed by our
co-nationals and in our name.

In Mostar concentration camps were created, in which inmates were tortured
and killed; people were brutally evicted from their homes; citizens were
starved and terrorized; parts of the city filled with civilians were
indiscriminately shelled; ancient cultural monuments, including the Old
Bridge, were destroyed - all by Croats, and in the name of Croat national
interests. In this case, even for Croats who did not participate, it is not
enough to recall the principle of individual guilt. To qualify for this
right, we must first denounce the crimes and their perpetrators.
Concentration camps were not in the interest of the Croat nation; the
incineration of Kujundziluk was not in the interest of the Croat nation; the
destruction of the Old Bridge was not in the interest of the Croat nation; a
divided Mostar in not in the interest of the Croat nation.

Those who are unwilling to denounce such crimes do not merely indict
themselves morally, they present their own nation as a criminal nation. But
precisely because the Croat nation is not criminal, it requires punishment
for the criminals in its ranks. Our interests, dignity and political will
are not protected by camp guards, murderers and vandals.

Excerpted from a longer article in Erasmus, no.16, Zagreb, April 1996. Vesna
Pusic is a member of the journal's editorial board and the director of its
publishing house Erasmus Gilda.