International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

US makes effort to deport Bosnians over war crimes

The US immigration agency established a war crimes department in 2008 in order to investigate immigrants from former conflict zones, for example the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Currently, according to BBC, the department is hoping “to deport 150 Bosnian immigrants who they believe to be involved in war crimes during the 1992-95 war.” Many of those immigrants are thought to have contributed during the Srebrenica massacre which killed_81318853_81318852 more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. Over 100,000 Bosnians sought refuge and visas in the United States in the mid-90’s, but there was little attention paid to backgrounds and the process “relied mostly on their honesty”. The lawyer of several defendants argued that his clients were working for the Serbian government and were not directly related to the events of Srebrenica or war crimes.

Ultimately, what does deportation twenty years after the crimes were committed accomplish? It is unclear what the goals of deportation are in this case, but I fail to see a contribution to the reconstruction or reparation of  the affected society. Where will the immigrants return to, and how will that affect the new society which they join?


3 responses to “US makes effort to deport Bosnians over war crimes

  1. ckoos March 3, 2015 at 8:16 pm

    It’s goes without saying that these deportations will not lessen the emotional burden of the Bosnian war for some victims, but I do believe that they do set an important precedent about the international community’s dedication to ending impunity for war crimes.

    The Bosnian war claimed the lives of over 100,000 people from 1992-1995; while the Srebrenica massacre, termed genocide by the UN in 2004, resulted in the deaths of over 8,000 unarmed men and boys. This rampant violence also led to the displacement of over two million people, mass sexual violence, and torture (which included forcing people to “drink gasoline and human blood.”)

    “There’s been a lot of covering up of what happened in Bosnia, and a lot of these people who were involved are still walking around,” said Bosnian immigrant Hamdija Custovic, head of the Congress of North American Bosniaks. “Whatever has been done to find these people is not enough. It’s tragic.” In the words of Michael MacQueen, who has led many of the war crimes department investigations, “the idea that the people who did all this damage in Bosnia should have a free pass and a new shot at life is just obscene.”

    It is clear that for Mr. MacQueen and Mr. Custovic, these deportations set an important precedent—that the international community will not cast a blind eye on the perpetrators of war crimes (including states like the US, that aren’t signatories of the Rome Statute). As a result, according to the NYT, “64 Balkan immigrants with ties to war crimes have left the United States after being expelled through legal proceedings or fleeing while under investigation.”

    In addition, these deportations set an important standard with regard to victor’s justice. Investigators have declared their “willingness to pursue Bosnian offenders of all types.” So far this has held true, as officials have taken action against Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Muslims, and Croats. For these reasons, while the deportations may not necessarily help to reconstruct or repair the affected society, they will undoubtedly send an incredibly powerful message about impunity and victor’s justice to the international community.

    • ep2015 March 4, 2015 at 9:24 am

      I agree that the deportations set a strong and important precedent, but I don’t think that they contribute to any effort for justice. Simply deporting low level perpetrators doesn’t add or accomplish anything to the goal of reconciliation. Deportation doesn’t provide a forum for justice or forgiveness, but rather simply closes the United States off and sends perpetrators off to the next country. The deportations would perhaps be more impactful if they were jointly set up with a separate system to expose the realities of the crimes committed as well as a channel to pursue forgiveness from Bosnia, if trials are indeed out of the question. In summation, I agree that it is a big step, but I believe it provides space for real impact yet it stops very short of accomplishing tangible justice.

  2. mtidona March 27, 2015 at 1:23 pm

    I also agree that the deportations set an important precedent about the international communities dedication to recognizing human rights violations and the perpetrators of such instead of “casting a blind eye on the perpetrators of war crimes” as previously stated in an earlier comment. As a result, I understand Michael McQueen’s comment of “the idea that the people who did all this damage in Bosnia should have a free pass and a new shot at life is just obscene to me”, however I am not sure I see how deportation contributes to ending impunity and securing justice. Are these low level perpetrators facing prosecutions or trials when they return to their home country after being deported? If not, then I do not see a stop to impunity, but rather impunity prevailing, it is just not prevailing in the US. I agree with “ep2015’s” last comment, and that in order for a strong precedent to be set about the international community’s dedication to ending impunity for war crimes and for the deportations to be effective, then another institution or system should be set up coinciding with the deportations, where justice and potentially reconciliation can be achieved through various mechanisms, whether it be truth-telling, reparations, acknowledgement of abuses and wrongdoing, and/or exposing the realities of the crimes committed and clarifying the violence that occurred during the conflict time.

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