Mostar - in the Croat name

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.

Back to Bosnia Page