Greater Surbiton

The perfect is the enemy of the good

Ejup Ganic meets Franz Kafka

Ejup Ganic, who served as vice-president in Bosnia-Hercegovina’s first democratically elected government in the 1990s, is being detained without bail in a British prison. Even senior international and British statesmen have expressed concern at the manner in which he is being treated. According to Germany’s Christian Schwarz-Schilling, the former High Representative of Bosnia-Hercegovina, ‘By arresting Ejup Ganic in London, Great Britain has unintentionally taken part in the kidnapping of a distinguished Bosnian academic and participated in Serbia’s political ploy. Furthermore, reportedly rude and unprofessional behaviour of British authorities was in an open violation of most basic international legal principals, such as the Vienna Convention (Art. 36). It is unacceptable that an EU-member state is participating in this kind of political kidnapping.’

British shadow foreign secretary William Hague notes in a letter (see appendix) sent on 3 March to his counterpart, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, that  ‘A number of reports have been brought to my attention alleging that at time of writing, Mr Ganić has been denied consular access or visits from his family or his legal representatives since he was taken into custody at HMP Wandsworth on Monday. It has been further alleged that Mr Ganić was unable to attend the hearing on his case that took place today as the wrong individual was taken to the Court by the authorities, and that he will be held in detention until a further hearing next Tuesday as bail has been denied.’ According to Hague, ‘I am concerned about the risk of negative repercussions in our relations with the countries of the Balkans and Bosnia-Herzegovina, in particular if the treatment afforded to Mr Ganić is seen to be deficient in any respect. I have also seen that the alleged denial of legal and consular access to Mr Ganić is being broadcast as fact in a number of media outlets throughout the world. I am concerned about the potential that these stories have to do damage to Britain’s international reputation.’

The questionable nature of Ganic’s treatment by the British authorities is not confined to the manner of his detention; the charge against him appears to be equally problematic. As can be seen from the arrest warrant, which I reproduce below, the British judge who issued the warrant appears to be under the impression that Sarajevo, where the alleged ‘offence’ took place, is in Serbia !

Nor does uncertainty about the nature of the ‘offence’ begin in Britain. Serbia’s media is consistently claiming that the military action, that Ganic is accused of ordering, resulted in the deaths of 42 soldiers of the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). In its portrait of Ganic published today, Serbia’s most eminent daily newspaper, Politika, writes of ‘2 May 1992, the day when the attack began on the JNA column that was withdrawing from Sarajevo’s Volunteers’ Street [Dobrovoljacka ulica], when 42 people were killed, 73 wounded and 215 arrested.’ The same figure of 42 deaths is attributed to the Dobrovoljacka ulica attack by other Serbian dailies, including Blic and Glas javnosti.

Yet the truth is somewhat different. A document posted on the website of the Interior Ministry of the Republika Srpska shows that the figure of 42 JNA deaths actually refers to all those killed or missing in combat operations all over Sarajevo for a five day period from 29 April to 3 May. Only five JNA soldiers were killed and one went missing as a result of the attack on the JNA column in Dobrovoljacka ulica.

The unseriousness of the case against Ganic is a reflection of its political character.

Hat tip: Alem Hadzic, Justwatch; Andras Riedlmayer.

Appendix: Full text of William Hague’s letter of 3 March to David Miliband, which has been made available to the press:

3rd March 2010

Dear David, I write regarding the detention of the former Bosnian Presidency Member Mr Ejup Ganić in London.

A number of reports have been brought to my attention alleging that at time of writing, Mr Ganić has been denied consular access or visits from his family or his legal representatives since he was taken into custody at HMP Wandsworth on Monday.

It has been further alleged that Mr Ganić was unable to attend the hearing on his case that took place today as the wrong individual was taken to the Court by the authorities, and that he will be held in detention until a further hearing next Tuesday as bail has been denied.

Can you confirm whether these reports are correct?

I would be grateful if you could have this matter looked into urgently. I am concerned about the risk of negative repercussions in our relations with the countries of the Balkans and Bosnia-Herzegovina, in particular if the treatment afforded to Mr Ganić is seen to be deficient in any respect. 

I have also seen that the alleged denial of legal and consular access to Mr Ganić is being broadcast as fact in a number of media outlets throughout the world. I am concerned about the potential that these stories have to do damage to Britain’s international reputation. 

In the light of public interest in these matters I am making a copy of this letter available to the press. I look forward to your urgent response.

The Rt Hon William Hague MP 
Shadow Foreign Secretary

Sunday, 7 March 2010 - Posted by | Balkans, Bosnia, Former Yugoslavia, Serbia | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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