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Transitional justice and reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina: Whose memories, whose justice?

Author(s): Kostić Roland

Journal: Sociologija
ISSN 0038-0318

Volume: 54;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 649;
Date: 2012;
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Keywords: transitional justice | politics | reconciliation | Bosnia and Herzegovina | ICTY | OHR

This paper shows that transitional justice initiatives such as the trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Commission for Srebrenica and the establishment of accurate statistics on deaths during the conflict have had only a limited impact on inter-group reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Popular attitudes towards these initiatives are captured in surveys conducted in 2005 and 2010. The results are not surprising given that the absence, due to the level of external regulation and control, of a politics of post-Dayton state-building means that domestic politics takes place in an arena of dealing with the past. The international community legitimised the three prevalent conflict narratives as a way of achieving a peace settlement in Dayton. These communal narratives were used in the peace-building phase by the local elites to defend concessions gained during negotiations and to oppose changes imposed by external supervisors of the Dayton Peace Accords. This has transformed the debate over the recent conflict from a transitional process of coming to terms with the past to a permanent state of affairs. This process precludes reconciliation in terms of mutual acknowledgment of suffering and a nuanced understanding of the causes and dynamics of the violent conflict.

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