Police and persecution in the Bosnian Krajina: Democratisation, deprofessionalisation and militarisation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Reason(s) for writing and research problem(s):
The paper examines processes leading to police participation in ethnic violence. This is often taken for granted and under-explored in criminological literature which assumes that police, as part of the state monopoly of violence, are inevitable partners in ethnic violence. The paper also contributes to a growing body of work using the rich resources provided by the ICTY and other courts dealing with atrocity crime (Buss 2014; Bećirević 2014; Komar 2008; Mullins 2009). The methodological implications of using these sources are rarely discussed. This paper addresses that gap.

Aims of the paper (scientific and/or social):
The scientific aims of the paper are firstly to offer a robust description of police violence in the Bosnian Krajina during the early stages of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This provides a foundation for building an explanatory framework, exploring an untested assumption in criminological work. The paper also seeks to add to the written history of the war in Bosnia, contributing to the understanding of the origins of the conflict and the way it took place.

Methodology/Design:
The paper adopts a qualitative research design based on a purposive sample of two cases heard at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (Prosecutor v Brđanin, Prosecutor v Stanišić and Župljanin). Over 50,000 pages of court transcripts and 3,000 pieces of evidence were subjected to a coding process using computer aided qualitative data analysis software (NVivo).

Research/paper limitations:
The paper is limited to a study of one narrow region, the Bosnian Krajina, and one authority, the emerging Serb Republic. Further comparative work is required to establish variation and common features across regions and authorities within Bosnia and Herzegovina and across other Yugoslav republics experiencing violence in the 1990s and 2000s. The paper adopts a top down approach and so does not focus on individual motivation of the front line police engaged in atrocities.

Results/Findings:
The paper establishes that the police in the Krajina region were politicised, deprofessionalised and militarised and played a central role in ethnic violence and ethnic cleansing. This process is rooted in various legacy features of BiH as a republic of Yugoslavia (local defence structures, relationship between police and military, ethnically based allocation of key positions for parity) combined with specific dimensions of democratisation (ethnically based political parties, power sharing agreements).

General conclusion:
By identifying the particular historical conditions behind the participation of Serb police in the Bosnian Krajina in ethnically targeted violence, the paper finds that the criminological assumption that this is inevitable leaves important local contextual factors unexamined.

Research/paper validity:
The conclusions concur with and expand upon existing criminological work.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalCriminal Justice Issues
Volume14
Issue number5-6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Oct 2016

Keywords

  • police
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • atrocity crime
  • democratisation
  • militarisation
  • deprofessionalisation

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