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Bosnian War Exploring Motives And Behaviour Of Perpetrators Criminology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 5435 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The main aim of this essay is to explore the motive, behaviour and policy of the perpetrators towards civilians and their enemy in the Bosnian Civil War from 1992 until 1995. The essay emphasizes common traits, behaviours of the perpetrators and identifies factors and elements that relate to their motives and aggression to commit mass killing and crimes against humanity. This essay will also explain the factors that drive people, who formerly co-habited harmoniously, to committing brutal acts of violence against their friends, neighbours and compatriots. The primary focus will be on three different ethnic groups in Bosnia during the conflict; the Serbs, the Bosnian Muslims and the Croats and the essay will focus more on the conflict between Serbs and Muslims. It will also focus upon violent acts committed by Serbs against Muslims; although as the war developed, Serbs also became victims of specific kinds of Croat and Muslim violence.

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Sometimes, it is difficult for scholars to determine the real reasons or motives that make 'ordinary' people with no previous criminal record commit sudden brutal acts of violence. Focusing on the particular case of the ethnic conflict in Bosnia, this essay aims to demonstrate why behaviour and demeanour of the perpetrators of genocide and war crimes is important. This will help to highlight the personality of perpetrators and to illustrate the complexity of perpetrators' behaviour and way of thinking. The perpetrator-focused research in Bosnia can be justified on a combination of moral, cognitive and practical grounds; it emphasizes the importance of circumstances as an explanation for perpetrator conduct; and suggests that Erwin Staub's concept of a "continuum of destruction" [1] reflecting the fact that a perpetrator's behaviour can rapidly fluctuate between acts of cruelty and kindness. [2] 

The Bosnian Civil War was very complex and full of tragic events including the forced migration and killings of inhabitants based on their ethnicity, also known as ethnic cleansing. To achieve the objective on controlling territories, the perpetrators, usually with the full support from the largest ethnic group, violently displaced or killed members of other ethnic groups who stood in their way [3] . In all cases, assault on civilian populations was both an aim and instrument of war. The perpetrators included regular military, paramilitaries, militias, reservists, police, internal security forces or armed civilian group. The war in Bosnia was waged by ultranationalists who targeted civilians because they stood in the way of the idea of their national interest. This was achieved by ethnic cleansing, using violence and deportations of other ethnic communities who had previously lived together peacefully in Bosnia. For example, the Srebrenica massacre, the most infamous violent act by the perpetrators during the war, was described as the worst atrocity witnessed in the history of modern European world after the World War II [4] and the largest single war crime in Europe. [5] 

By demography, Bosnia is a multiethnic nation, in which there was no majority ethnic group. Out of the population of 4.4 million, Bosnian Muslims constituted 43.7 percent, Serbs constituted 31.4 percent, while Croats constituted 17.3 percent. Before the conflict erupted in 1992, Bosnia was an example of a harmonious society where Muslims, Serbs and Croats lived side by side, free of social subordination. [6] There had not been serious ethnic conflict after the World War II, and even though after the election in 1990 have made the ethnic relationship became more salient, the groups tried to resolve any conflict without any element of violence. [7] As a result, the vast majority of people in Yugoslavia co-existed in peace regardless of their ethnic or religious group.

From one perspective, the war in Bosnia could be viewed as a clear-cut case of civil war which is an internal war among ethnic groups unable to agree on arrangements for sharing power. Similar to other civil wars, different parties who fought in this war had enjoyed substantial political and military backing from neighbouring states. The Serb and Croat paramilitaries involved volunteers from Serbia and Croatia, and were supported by nationalist political parties in those countries. [8] Although Bosnian independence was fully recognized by the United Nation, neither Serbia nor Croatia accepted the resolution. A further case could be made that the Bosnian Serb army was under the de facto control of the Yugoslav Army and Belgrade and was therefore an instrument of external aggression.

A key factor to the conflict in Bosnia is the role of leaders as voices of extremism or nationalism. The attitude of Serbian leaders in Serbia and Bosnia played a crucial role in channelling the behaviour of ordinary Serbs against the Muslims and Croats. Shortly after the break-up of Yugoslavia, they led a nationalist movement, shape the progressions of events and made the decisions to lead the aggression against other ethnic groups. As an authority in the highest position, leaders could command the trust and obedience of their fellow ethnic, while the ordinary man could claim that there were just following orders from the authority. [9] 

Leaders in both Serbia and Croatia, sometimes aided by journalist, academics, and military organization, deliberately revived and exploited painful memories of the history of the former Yugoslavia in spreading the propaganda to create fear and hatred between ethnic groups. They exploited the brutality and atrocities among each other in the past especially in the Second World War and inflamed national sentiments between ethnic groups. [10] The Serb nationalist revival also led to intense public discussion of World War II about the atrocities of the Ustasha against Serbs. During 1980s, when tension among ethnic groups started to escalate, Serbs were often reminded about the massacres, betrayal, and continued hostility between Serbs, Croats and Muslims. In order to plant the seed of nationalism among fellow Serbs, Ustasha killings has been portrayed frequently in mass media, memoirs, plays, and history, and it became obvious when Milosevic ignited the fire of the Serbian nationalism in everyday life especially on television. [11] Each side fears that they will be the victim of genocide if others gain political and military power in Bosnia and this reason has been justified by Serbian and Croatian nationalists to push their people into wars of 'self-defence'. [12] Leaders of ethnic groups such as Franco Tudjman of Croatia, Alija Izetbegovic of Muslims, and Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic of Serbia inflamed the sentiments on their people by taking several actions and implementing some policies which favoured on their side. [13] For example, Radovan Karadzic had warned the Bosnian government that if they choose independent, "They will disappear. That people will disappear from the face of the earth."' [14] 

In general, perpetrators are those who initiate, facilitate, or carry out acts of genocide or crimes against humanity. During the Bosnian conflict, the motive of the perpetrators could be classified into various categories. In order to eliminate what the respective perpetrators believed as a 'real or potential threat', as well as to 'spread terror among real or potential foes', mass killing and other atrocities were used. [15] It is quite difficult to fully understand the motives of the perpetrators because the individual and group changes that lead to increasingly vicious acts may become not only more comprehensible, but even seemingly natural. Perpetrators make many small and great decisions as they progress along the continuum of destruction. They choose leaders, adopt ideologies, create policies and plans, and engage in harmful and violent acts and their circumstances and characteristics move them in certain directions. [16] 

In order to facilitate the intention of expulsion or killing of other ethnic groups, military and paramilitary organizations were used as a common institutional structures. Such organizations enforce obedience, encourage conformity, provide training, desensitize their members' responses to killing, and planted the ideology of the struggle to all member of the organization. All parties to the conflict in Bosnia are actually guilty of perpetrating abuse and violence, although to varying degrees. The main perpetrators of the abuses may vary from certain circumstances depending on which forces are in control in the particular territories. On the whole, however, the main aggressors have been the Serbian military and paramilitary forces. As the main offenders, they are in a position to inflict great damage and their policy of 'ethnic cleansing' with the intention to dominate the whole Bosnia. For example, the infamous Arkan's Tiger, one of the most ferocious Serbian paramilitary organizations which responsible for crimes committed to Muslims and Croats all across Bosnia, is a Belgrade-backed paramilitary organization where soldiers under his command brutally imprisoned, beat, raped, and executed non-Serb persons. [17] During the war, majority of the territory in Bosnia forcibly came under Serb domination and large segments of the Muslim population were either killed or expelled by paramilitary which actively participated in these operations in order to secure Serb control over territories. [18] 

While most of the Serbian perpetrators were conducted by a larger groups which is paramilitary or militia, the abuses attributable to Croats and Muslims were usually perpetrated by individual and do not associated with certain groups. Bosnian Croat and Muslims also found guilty of serious abuse of human right and crime against humanity. The destruction of Serbian property, removal by force, the detention and killing of the inhabitant in many cases appear to be known but little had been done to prove it. For example, by committing the crime against Serbs in Kravica and for other atrocities committed around the region, Naser Oric, a Bosnian Muslims, was convicted by the International Court Tribunal for failing to take measures to prevent the murder and cruel treatment of Serb prisoners. [19] As for the Croat atrocities, the terrifying violence perpetrated against the Serbian populations in Krajina after its recapture by the Croatian HVO organization led by Mladen Markac in August 1995 will not be easily forgotten. [20] 

Many of the abuses attributed to Serbian perpetrators have long followed a recognizable pattern that has come to be known as 'ethnic cleansing.' [21] The primary aim of Serbian forces is to capture or gaining complete control of the whole territory and forcibly removing or killing non-Serbs the area. In most Serbian-held territories of Bosnia, pattern of abuses against non-Serbs were very clear and the method of abuses including rounding up the inhabitant, detaining in the concentration camp or just simply killing the civilian taken. Even though much of the abuses committed by the Serbs were done in group, there were such abuses were been done by individual soldiers or single military, policemen and home guard [22] . The nature of the abuses, and the pattern and frequency which take place indicates that there was no command from the superior to stop the abuses.

The patterns of behaviour of the perpetrators during the conflict were obvious when the tension escalated during the war. During the conflict, behavioural patterns among ordinary soldiers indicated patterns of racial hatred and prejudiced, manifested both in their actions against their victims and their feelings towards each other. The decision to utilize a large number of perpetrators may also be influenced by certain political objectives. Those who initiate genocide may seek to gain support for their actions by allowing elements of society to satisfy their passions and greed at the expense of the victims. [23] By plunging large numbers of the population into murder, the forces encouraging the mass killing may more tightly bind the perpetrators to the regime.

The perpetrators have emphasised on collectivistic value that make group membership central to personal identity. Such regimes have been particularly adept at using such collectivistic values to highlight boundaries between in-groups and out-groups by making extreme categorical judgements based on the polar opposites of 'good us' versus 'bad them'. [24] They have set in their mind that their cause is sacred; while the enemies are evil, they themselves as righteous, innocent or victimized; and others are wicked, guilty, and the victimisers. It is clear in this conflict that the Serbs always portrayed themselves as the victim of the evil regime of Ustasha that murdered hundreds of thousands of Serbs during World War II. [25] 

There were varieties of practices used by the perpetrators to make their reprehensible conducts acceptable and to distance them from the moral implications of their actions. For instance, there is a moral justification in which mass murder is made personally and socially acceptable by portraying it as serving socially worthy or moral purposes. Perpetrators may believe this rationalisation to such an extent that their evil is not only morally justifiable, but became a moral one. [26] Perpetrators can then justify their evil as essential to their own self-defence, in order to protect the cherished values of their community, fight ruthless oppressors, preserve peace and stability, save humanity from subjugation, or honour their national commitments.

Moral disengagement is also facilitated by the dehumanisation of the victims. [27] By doing this, perpetrators categorized a group as inhuman when the target group can be readily identified as a separate category of people belonging to a different race, ethnic, religious or political group that the perpetrators regard as inferior or threatening. These isolated groups are stigmatised as subhuman and memories of their past misdeeds, real or imaginary, are activated by the dominant group. The dehumanisation of victims helps perpetrators to justify their aggressive, sadist and brutal behaviour. A common form of dehumanisation is the use of language to redefine the victims so they will be seen as warranting the aggression. The moral disengagement of the perpetrators is complemented by a vulgarity of language that dehumanises the victims. Consistently, perpetrators dehumanised their victims that the words themselves become substitutes for perceiving human beings. For example, in most cases, Serbs described the Muslims in derogatory term as 'Balijas'(dirty), 'Turkish yoke', 'uncultivated' and 'wild dog.' [28] 

One of the shocking elements in this conflict was that many of the violence and abuses were perpetrated by their own neighbours. Violence against neighbour emerges as a major theme in numerous accounts of war and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, amidst cordial and amicable relations between Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats. Before the conflict, ethnic relations in Yugoslavia is at satisfactory level, and many recall friendly and warm relations between neighbours, colleagues, or acquaintances of different ethnic or religious identities. Even once war began, many recognized that people of different ethnic or religious identity were not necessarily their enemies, and they believe that they can still get along together throughout the war. [29] 

At a glance, Serbs, Croats and Muslims saw each other as acquaintances, colleagues, neighbours, friends, and sometimes even relatives. However, deep in reality, they identified others as members of groups marked by history as enemies. These groups did not intend to make war, but there was an underlying latent and long lasting anger. This deep hatred were told by a Serb employee in the American Consulate to the American diplomat about his real feeling on Croat 'sometimes when he looked into their eyes, he could not help recalling the blood that stained the hands of those responsible for the slaughter of Serbs during the Second World War' [30] . The War in Bosnia developed into a nightmare for the different ethnic groups, which had lived there in relative peace since the end of the Second World War. The peace was not meant for last forever, as ethnic leaders had created an atmosphere of mutual fear and hatred that led to three and a half years of conflict and terror [31] .

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Many survivors of ethnic cleansing during the conflict have told a series of attacks by their former neighbours. Rezak Huzanovic, a former detainee in Omarska camp, writes in his memoir about his Serbian neighbour who joined in the killing and torture. 'They were our neighbours and then they burnt our houses. At Prijedor, local Serbs joined in murders and ethnic cleansing.' [32] Refugees repeatedly told about series of attacks by friends or neighbours they knew well. In Foca in Southern Bosnia, one woman told about her Serbian neighbour showed up in her family home late night with machine gun and detained his husband. 'In fact, we had coffee with him a day before'. [33] 

Multiple similar accounts both at the time of ethnic cleansing and afterwards make clear the strong grassroots element to ethnic cleansing and violence which were carried out in various parts of Bosnia. It is true that neighbours did not carry out ethnic cleansing alone. Witnesses, reporters, and investigators working for human rights group also made clear how paramilitary forces and militia swept through many Bosnian communities, carrying out violent act and killing, and the fighters in these forces included teenagers, peasants, locals who had also grown up in this multiethnic Yugoslavia pledged to the concept of "brotherhood and unity." [34] 

A point to note that the same neighbour of everyday life can mutate into an enemy when seen as a figure in a long-term historical narrative of nationalist struggle. Accounts of close relations between neighbours typically recall scenes of everyday life, of individuals as friends, classmates, and colleagues. Stories of ethnic rivalry, on the other hand, present narratives in which the same individuals function as members of enemy nations. This same paradox of a friendly neighbour who kills can be described with the concept of cognitive frames or "a mental structure which situates and connects events, people and groups into a meaningful narrative. [35] 

Apart from that, a particular structure of nationalism plays a key role in generating ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. As an ideology of ethnic cleansing, nationalism is more a story than simply a form of identity. Within national narratives, the nation as an entity is viewed as the real protagonist. National narratives tend to be similar in their structure; they present their hero, the nation, as unique in suffering; and they depict the national narratives of rival nations as valid. [36] 

Concerning the perpetrators motives, they emphasized of betrayal and victimization that links to national narratives. Stories of national struggle recount attacks and even treason by other nations. These stories display hatred of the enemies of the ethnic groups, and for this reason they can be described as "national hate narratives." [37] The nation's enemies are inherently and irredeemably bad, and for this reason the problems created by the hated group can be resolved by its removal, disappearance, or destruction. For Serbs, they were being indoctrinated as the victims of the Ustasha and Muslim atrocities during the Second World War. They saw other ethnic groups as a real threat, and in order to ensure that the history would not happened again, and to ensure their own survival, they collectively eliminate the threat by killing others [38] .

The Bosnian conflict brought the practice of killing based on ethnicity suggests that these violations were not random acts carried out by a few dissident soldiers. This policy has been masterminded by Serbian political and military leaders which is being systematically planned and strategically executed with the support of the Serbian and Bosnian Serb armies and paramilitary groups to create a "Greater Serbia" which will resulted in a religiously, culturally, and linguistically homogenous Serbian nation. [39] 

Some scholars, politician and commentators were quick to point out that the war was caused by the "ancient hatreds" that the various ethnic groups bore toward one another. [40] This is inaccurate, because the multi ethnic groups of former Yugoslavia did not coexist in ancient times at all; they were only joined together after the creation of the Yugoslav in 1918. Contrary to some world leaders, commentators and scholar's claims that this ancient hatreds stemming from a long history of conflict and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans were responsible for the conflict [41] , the reality, however was different. Rather than 'ancient hatreds', the conflict in Bosnia reflected a combination of various factors. The term 'ancient ethnic hatreds' were manipulated by opportunist during the break-up of Yugoslavia, exploited and revitalized by ethnic group leaders such as Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia, Radovan Karadzic in Bosnia and Franjo Tudjman in Croatia as their hold on power slipped. Each of them felt that the idea of establishing an ethnically pure state would contribute of the expansion of their political power and to strengthen their position as a leader of each nation. [42] 

A generation of historians and social scientists has come out with the idea that the factors of ancient hatreds had broken apart Yugoslavia. In some cases, the discussions of 'ancient hatred' made actual violence inevitable, but the key episodes in narratives of national victimization were already well known before the Tito's death, and these episodes came from many periods and places rather from any one region such as Bosnia. For Serbs, the key events of ancient hatred depicted in a narrative of national struggle and victimization included the Battle of Kosovo of 1389, the First World War, and Serbs mass killing by Usthasa and the Partisan in the Second World War in Bosnia.

The war in Bosnia cannot be explained by theories of inevitable ethnic hatreds, even when such explanations conveniently excuse outsiders from the responsibilities of intervening. Previously, there were several racial and historical disputes in the former Yugoslavia but it was put down wisely by Tito. The rhetoric of national interest became increasingly nationalist in the sense of defining one group and its goals in opposition to another. [43] 

The sentiment of being oppressed where clearly documented in Memorandum of the Serbian Academy Arts and Sciences which was a draft published by Serbian intellectual and scholars in 1986. This memorandum became controversial because it underlined the discrimination of the Serbs in Yugoslavia and had claim that Serbs were inferior to other ethnic groups in the Republic of Yugoslavia. This seventy four page memorandum, which became a bible for Serb nationalist, incited nationalism among Serbs in Yugoslavia. Serbs claimed that Tito's policies had discriminated Serbia and also weakened Serbia politically and economically in the Republic. Serbs, especially nationalists, inspired by the memorandum, argued that the time had come for all Serbs to restore their national pride by becoming the dominant ethnic groups in Yugoslavia. [44] 

Apart from eliminating the real threat of the enemy, the perpetrators also wanted to spread terror among the enemies in order to show their dominance and authorization. To show their supremacy, mass rape and other forms of sexual violence were conducted as an act of dehumanizing the ethnic rivals.  When committed on a mass scale and in certain patterns, such as in front of family members or in public, sexual violence can communicate an intent to destroy the group, or the very foundation of a particular group, and this is particularly true perhaps in social, cultural and religious communities where acts of sexual violence not only shame and humiliate the victim, but also tear the core foundation of that community. [45] It appears that when committed on a mass scale and in certain patterns, sexual and gender-based violence may have communicative value and as such may have something to say about the intention of the perpetrator. The systematic rape of women from other ethnic groups was purposely designed to reach "the very foundations of the group." 

The main motive of systematic rape is to show the more powerful ethnic groups to demoralize the others through terror and humiliation. Rape and sexual assault on women were common during all stages of the conflict and occurred on all sides, but a lengthy report compiled by United Nation Commission of Experts had found extensive evidence of Bosnian Serbs sexual assault on Muslim women. Mass and systematic rape took place often in a detention camp and in all, UN Commission compiled reports of mass rape cases from fifty seven different location in Bosnia. [46] 

Sexual violence perpetrated against Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat women during the Bosnian conflict was intimately tied to the process of destruction of their ethnic group. The mass scale, the extremely public and humiliating nature of the rapes and the systematic nature in which they were committed, clearly shows the violation of the core foundation of the group. This systematic rape were not only destroying women's capacity to reproduce, but some rapes also resulted in what both victim and perpetrator considered to be children of a new ethnicity.  In patriarchal societies such as in the Balkans, the perpetrators of rape knew that the victim and her community would experience forced pregnancy as a way to transmit a new ethnic identity to the child.  Perpetrated on a systematic scale, this pattern provides persuasive evidence of intent to violate the very foundation of the group. [47] 

However, most above all, the motive of the perpetrators to commit such violent act was based on a belief or an ideology. Inflamed by the rhetoric of nationalism sentiment of their leaders, the perpetrators of such violence are usually clear about their objectives to established a pure single ethnic nation and anxious to exclude 'non-nationals' and potentially disloyal 'minorities'. The intention of the force removal of different ethnic population is very clear, which is to benefit the more powerful groups or ethnic in order to establish a single ethnic nation. Despite removing others from their existing place, the roots of practice are more closely tied to ideology. [ 

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