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The Transitional Justice Process in the Former Yugoslavia: Long Transition, yet not Enough Justice

This is the title of a short working paper of mine recently published in the Oxford Transitional Justice Working Paper Series, which aims to provide an overall assessment of the transitional justice processes in the countries emerging from the violent break-up of the former Yugoslavia by focusing on the issues of reparations for victims of the armed conflicts. These states are Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, and Kosovo. The issue of reparations for victims can be seen as one measure of the breadth and depth of the transitional justice process within these countries. Evidently, dealing with a violent past comes at a cost— political, economic, and social—and requires gradually changing public attitudes through education and increasing public awareness, which in turn requires political will and courageous and good political leadership.

The paper focuses on two main transitional justice initiatives. First, it addresses the role of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in supporting transitional justice processes in these states, with particular reference to the issues of reparations for victims and reconciliation. The Tribunal’s activity and apparent achievements are contrasted with perceptions of, and general public attitudes towards, its work. Second, the paper addresses a proposal coming from the civil society for creating a regional truth and reconciliation commission in the Balkans. While these two issues form the primary focus on this paper, it should also be noted that many issues connected to the evaluation of transitional justice processes and societal transformation in the states emerging from the former Yugoslavia are likely to raise further questions, which cannot be adequately addressed in a paper of this scope. For that reason, together with a good friend and colleague we intend to prepare a longer paper that should be ready before the end of this year.

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