In the 1990s, the former state of Yugoslavia devolved into chaos as various segments of the country declared independence while the government in Belgrade sought to maintain control of the region. Nationalist politicians inflamed age-old ethnic tensions, resulting in horrific war crimes, ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and the worst genocide to occur in Europe since the Holocaust happened. In July 1995 in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina over 8,000 unarmed men and boys were slaughtered.
During the midst of the conflict, the United Nations Security Council did an extraordinary thing by creating the first international criminal tribunal since Nuremberg. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was set up to prosecute genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.
Since its creation in 1993, all of the individuals who were indicted have been accounted for. Of the indictees, 74 have been sentenced to a total of 1,081 years, plus 2 life sentences. However, since the Tribunal is located in The Hague, Netherlands, it is far from where the crimes were committed. Evidence has shown that justice being achieved by the ICTY has not contributed as much as was once hoped to peace and reconciliation within the region. The countries that fragmented out of Yugoslavia shared a language and culture, but now, post-conflict, the ethnic tensions are solidifying and different histories of the conflict have emerged. Even the words for "history" are now different in Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo. After studying the conflict and visiting and speaking with many legal experts, scholars, human rights activists, and victims groups, we decided to focus on the legacy of the ICTY. We want to explore whether the ICTY has achieved justice after all of these years, whether any prosecutions would have occurred without it, how it has contributed or not contributed to international criminal law generally and peace and reconciliation in the region, and how the ICTY has succeeded and/or failed. We believe that this topic is crucial because it provides many lessons for the International Criminal Court, other ad hoc tribunals that may be created, and domestic courts. Many say that there can be no peace without justice, but perhaps there can be no justice without true peace and reconciliation. We have recorded our interviews with over 75 lawyers, academics, journalists, human rights activists, victims groups, politicians, and many others in New York City, Washington D.C., London, The Hague, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia, and Kosovo in an attempt to gather as many recollections and opinions to best determine what is the "truth" of the ICTY's enduring legacy.
While the project is ambitious, we think the timing could not be better since the ICTY's work is winding down and international justice is being sought for atrocities that are ongoing in places like Syria, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. We truly believe that what we uncover and present can help guide those in the area of international justice and human rights to better seek and achieve justice, peace, and reconciliation in the aftermath of horrific atrocities. When our project is complete, we intend to have a full length feature documentary, along with a mini-series for television.
Directors/Creators: June Ellen Vutrano and Erin Kathleen Lovall. Seeking Truth Productions.