Dealing with the Past: Peace and Justice—A Series of Public Lectures in the Balkans
During the last week of October 2010, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement, CEU President and Rector John Shattuck and Justice Richard Goldstone, former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, along with Tibor Varady, professor in the Department of Legal Studies, CEU, and former Minister of Justice of the former Yugoslavia, traveled to Zagreb (Republic of Croatia), Belgrade (Serbia), Sarajevo, and Srebrenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to participate in a series of public lectures titled, “Dealing with the Past: Peace and Justice.” The lectures took place at the law faculties of the University of Zagreb, the University of Sarajevo and the University of Belgrade and were delivered by Justice Goldstone, who is a Visiting Professor in the Department of Legal Studies at CEU this year. In introducing Justice Goldstone throughout the series, President Shattuck spoke eloquently of his indispensable role in the peace process culminating in the Dayton Agreement.
The timing of the lecture series was symbolic in that both John Shattuck and Richard Goldstone had played significant roles in the peace process a decade and a half earlier. As Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the administration of US President Bill Clinton, John Shattuck had had a leading role in the Dayton-negotiations in 1995. As former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia, Justice Goldstone had indicted numerous suspected war criminals in the region. Tibor Varady, in addition to serving as Minister of Justice in the Panic government, also had represented Serbia in front of the International Court of Justice in cases involving the Yugoslav wars.
The lecture series provided a first-hand account of what had actually taken place during the lead up to the peace process and the signing of the Agreement and provided audiences with the opportunity to voice their doubts about and reflections on the situation since the signing of the historical document. Young people in the audience were especially grateful for the chance to meet and hear directly from distinguished figures who had been so vital to the history of the region.
Justice Goldstone first spoke at the Faculty of Law at the University of Zagreb, where Ivo Josipovic, President, Republic of Croatia, gave the introductory remarks. He acknowledged the anniversary of the Dayton Agreement, the historical document signed by Croatian president, Franjo Tudjman; president of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegovic; Serbian president, Slobodan Milosevic; and chief American negotiators, Richard Holbrooke and General Wesley Clark, at Wright-Patterson Air Base in Dayton, Ohio, in the United States, saying that, “The treaty is not perfect, but it must be recognized that it ended the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina.” Despite the significance of the agreement, he stressed that “it is now time to think about changes because the Dayton structure no longer serves the needs of the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Among other issues, Justice Goldstone discussed the importance of both individual and collective responsibility in the peace process, which had been one of the most crucial concerns arising from the conflict. He drew meaningful parallels between the Yugoslavia conflict and those with which he had been involved during Apartheid in South Africa and in Rwanda. He noted, in particular, that tens of millions of people oppressed by Apartheid had lived for decades with a deep sense of hopelessness about their future, yet they had indeed since succeeded in rebuilding their society, long torn by strife and repression, anger and violence. His message to all audiences offered inspiration and encouragement, especially to young people eager to learn from the past and move toward a prosperous future.
The questions posed throughout the lectures also offered a view of the lingering questions and dilemmas that still exist, as well as an understanding of the shared hopes of the people of the region. While they experienced great divisions prior to the Dayton Agreement, they now have arrived at a consensus on joining the European Union. The best route to achieve that goal still remains contested, however. And, perhaps, most important of all, violence is no longer seen as a means to achieve goals. In his introduction to one of the lectures, President and Rector John Shattuck stressed that the treaty, signed two months after the massacre committed by the military forces of Bosnian Serbs against Muslims in Srebrenica, “was a way to stop the war.” He also recognized that the war in the former Yugoslavia represented “a terrible failure on the part of the international community.” Justice Goldstone agreed that the results of Dayton were, in fact, far from ideal, but said that the “[Agreement] represents an enormous, very positive development. Further solutions have to be adopted by the people who are directly affected; they cannot be imposed by outsiders. The international community can help, but the interested parties have to make decisions on their own.” He also said that the instability in the region had to be dealt with because “instability cannot last forever,” and that strong leadership was key to bringing about change.
Meetings with CEU Alumni
The trip also provided an opportunity for President Shattuck and his colleagues to meet more than 100 CEU alumni and others residing in the region at these and other institutions. Organized by Serge Sych, Director of Alumni and Corporate Relations at CEU, these events included lively discussion and exchanges. Several faculty members of the host universities, who themselves were also alumni of CEU, enthusiastically shared their CEU experiences with their current students. In particular, these meetings provided alumni with the satisfaction of being able to meet, under the auspices of CEU, people intimately involved in the history of the region.
The Rector also attended an alumni lunch and several post-lecture alumni receptions and reunions. Innovative networking ideas and professional development opportunities were among the topics discussed at the meetings. In Srebrenica, Tibor Varady addressed an audience of students, activists and others, including children of massacre victims, at an event hosted by the “House of Trust,” an international institution where Serbs and Bosniacs meet to discuss issues as a way to help overcome wounds of the past.
In case you wish to see a selected list of press articles—both in their original language and translated to English—that appeared, please visit https://www.ceu.hu/node/19339