birds flying

Photo: Miodrag Cakic

The question is whether more war criminals in Serbia are in prisons or at the International Belgrade book fair, which just closed. This dilemma arises not only because of the new titles of the publisher Greater Serbia, but, primarily, because of the literary program at the booth of the ministry of defense and the army of Serbia. They presented books published within the Warrior edition, by convicted war criminals Nebojsa Pavkovic and Vladimir Lazarevic, and the visitors and participants of the debate included the officers whose units committed war crimes, which the Hague tribunal lacked the resources, and the domestic judiciary system the willingness, to deal with (Bozidar Delic, Dragan Zivanović, Ljubisa Dikovic). Everything was accompanied by the hymn of Red Berets, a unit of the state security service of Serbia, which was involved in everything, from the killing of non-Serb civilians to the assassination of the Serbian prime minister Zoran Djindjic.

Let’s be perfectly clear, the parade of war criminals at the booth of the ministry whose chief about a year ago announced a new “time of quiet pride” for war crimes – was not a surprise. This minister has already welcomed, praised, and hugged convicted accomplices and participants of joint criminal enterprises, and, for years, the head of the army of Serbia has been a man whose wartime biography is as bloody as it gets. So, all of this was, therefore, expected, normal, and natural, and yet, I feel as if there is something else there, some extra amount of immorality. And there is.

Behind the editions of the Serbian army (including the bestsellers by Pavkovic and Lazarevic) and these events (featuring speeches by the commanders of the brigades who committed war crimes) is a surprising figure – Miroslav Toholj. Yes, the war minister of information of the Republic of Srpska, proven fan of war criminals, Radovan Karadzic’s night mailman and the author of shameful conspiracy theories, was appointed as the head of the publishing department of the Serbian army.

Toholj’s impressive biography was his ticket into the army and the ministry of defense. He was one of the founders of the Serbian Democratic Party and an important member of its war leadership – a member of the main and executive committees, the political council, but also the minister of information in the Republic of Srpska government from 1993 to 1995. He was the founder of the propaganda newspaper of the Serbian Democratic Party called Public, which had a significant role in the wave of so-called dehumanization of enemies and the creation of conditions for the most severe crimes against non-Serb civilians in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since his arrival in Belgrade, in the late nineties, he has remained faithful to his wartime ideals. His publishing house Igram, currently owned by Mrs. Toholj, has published the works of many war criminals – accused, sentenced, on the run – from Radovan Karadzic, to Rajko Kusic and Vinko Pandurevic.

Out of all war criminals, Toholj was and remains closest to Radovan Karadzic. While the latter was in hiding, they were in constant contact and corresponded. Toholj published this correspondence with his fugitive friend in the book “Night mail”. In the end, he was secretary of the national defense committee of Radovan Karadzic. When his friend was finally caught, Toholj testified to his benefit and said a lot of interesting things.

Among other things, during the testimony, it became clear that Karadzic had hired people to go through the archives and remove any incriminating evidence against him. In a letter from October 2001, he instructed one of the “cleaners”, Milos Vukasinovic, on what to remove from the archives of the republican and municipal authorities of the Republic of Srpska, as well as from the Serbian Radio-Television from Banja Luka. On this occasion, he advised Vukasinovic to connect with Toholj who would help him. Then, in a letter from 2001, Karadzic (then already a fugitive) asked Toholj to send him a floppy disk with documents, from which everything “which shouldn’t be seen”, i.e. “our greatest shame”, was redacted.

Testifying for his friend, Toholj became famous for, among other things, his open mockery of the Srebrenica victims. On this occasion, he repeated things he was previously quoted as saying in an interview given in January 2001 to newspaper Witness, in which he denied the Srebrenica genocide and claimed that 3,000 people from the list of the Srebrenica dead “rose from the grave and voted in Tuzla” and that 1,200 of them fled to Serbia in July 1995, and later to other countries. As expected, he Vatican is included in this conspiracy theory.

So, on the one hand, we have a defense minister who demands that we be proud of the participation of Serbia and its army in the war, especially the one in Kosovo, during which 8,700 Albanian civilians were killed and ten times more deported, and on the other (or the same side) the head of the publishing department of the Serbian army is named Miroslav Toholj. So what else could we expect at the booth of the ministry of defense and the army of Serbia, apart from a flood of literary works of war criminals?

Just like Toholj is lying about Srebrenica, the ministry of defense is lying about the reasons for the publication of Pavkovic’s and Lazarevic’s books being that they are “valuable historical material” and textbooks on war practices. It is an open promotion of people with dirty war biographies and pride in their actions from the war. Because the current political and intellectual elites, represented here by Vulin and Toholj, did not give up the war goals of the 1990s. They are just waiting for a favorable moment when a new attempt to achieve them will be possible.

Until then, we should be proud of our criminal past and educate the youth about how to wage war.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 06.11.2018.