Ethnic Cleansing: An explanation of how the policy originated, who promoted it, and how rape can be used as a weapon for ethnic cleansing.

The judges of the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague called on Professor Paul Garde to give an historic overview of the Balkans region and Garde then fielded questions from the judges. Garde's testimony was given June 27-28, 1996. He is a professor of Slav literature and languages and has written many lingustics books. Since 1991 Garde's research and writing have focused on the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Q. When did the policy of "ethnic cleansing" get initiated historically in the former Yugoslavia ?

A. Well, what happened, for instance, in the 18th century under Austrian rule and in the 19th century in Serbian and Montenegrin territory, the Muslims were driven out. Subsequently, what happened then in Croatia and Bosnia in 1941 for the first time was ethnic cleansing that was practised by representatives of a Christian people on another Christian people, that is to say, by Croats on Serbs. So that was the first time that ethnic cleansing was taking place without for once the Muslims being the victims. That was also the first time where the proportions were as vast, as systematic, as they were. Of course, this was in tune with the fascist Nazi ideology at the time. It is fair to say that ethnic cleansing, such as practised in Croatia during the second half of 1991 and then in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995, that that was also a follow-up to the same kind of operation. But this time it was carried out in a more systematic fashion and a better organised fashion than had ever seen before.

Q. Who practised in the ethnic cleansing in the period of the war, late 1991 to `95?

A. The Serbs against the Croats and against the Croats in Croatia, and I am talking about Croats and non-Serbs, that included the Hungarians who were also victims and in Bosnia it was practised against Croats and, essentially, against the Muslim Bosnians who were in terms of number the main victims.

This does not preclude the fact that in Bosnia you also had ethnic cleansing practised by Croats against Bosnian Muslims and vice versa in 1993. But in terms of numbers or statistics, if you like, ethnic cleansing was practised, essentially, by the Serbs. In the course of the 90s, the Serbs took that initiative. They practised ethnic cleansing in a systematic manner. So, from a statistical point of view, it was in very large, considerable numbers

Q: How do you define "ethnic cleansing" in terms of its principle and in terms of its method?.

A. Well, ethnic cleansing is a practice where in a given territory the members of a given ethnic group are eliminated. It means a practice that aims to make a territory ethnically pure. So, in other words, that territory would contain only members of the ethnic group that took the initiative of cleansing the territory.

So, in other words, the members of the other groups are eliminated by different ways, by different methods. You have massacres. Everybody is not massacred, but I mean in terms of numbers, you have massacres in order to scare these populations. Sometimes these massacres are selective, and they aim at eliminating the elite of a given population, but they are massacres. So whenever you have massacres, naturally the other people are driven away. They are afraid. They try to run away and you find yourself with a high number of a given people that have been massacred, persecuted and, of course, in the end these people simply want to leave. They are also submitted to pressures to leave.. They are driven away either on their own initiative or they are deported. But the basic point is for them to be out of that territory and some of them are locked up in camps. Some women are raped and, furthermore, often times what you have is the destruction of the monuments which marked the presence of a given population in a given territory, for instance, religious places, Catholic churches or mosques are destroyed.

So, basically, this is how ethnic cleansing was practised in the course of this war.

Q: In this connection of ethnic cleansing,, when you speak of "Muslims" are you talking about a religious or an ethnic group?

A. When I talk about Muslims in the 18th and 19th century, of course, I was dealing with a religious group, but now when we talk about the Muslims in the course of the 20th century and, more specifically, in Bosnia, we no longer deal with a religious group.

In these particular regions and, more specifically, in Bosnia where the different populations all speak the same language, the difference was based on a confessional criteria, i.e. belonging to a given confessional group. Croats are those that by tradition were Catholics. The Serbs by tradition are orthodox. The Muslim Bosnians are those with a capital "M" and belong to the muslim tradition, Muslim this time time spelt with a low case "m". That does not mean that these people had a personal faith in that religion, that they practised that religion. It simply means that by tradition they came from families that are Muslim, that their ancestors also belonged to the Muslim community, but it does not mean at all that they themselves practised the Islam religion or that they believed in what Muslims believe in. The same applies to the Catholics or the orthodox.

It simply means that these people belong to that particular community by tradition and they considered a sort of heritage in belonging to that community, and others consider them as belonging to that community too. But it did not imply anything in terms of their personal creed or their religious practice.

Of course, even among the Serbs and even those that claimed that they belonged to the orthodoxy, and though they defended the Orthodox Church, still there are many Serbs that are agnostic or did not believe or had no creed. The same applied to Croats and to Muslims, spelt with a capital "M". So again it is not a question of personal faith or creed. It is more a question of belonging to a given group, to a given nation.

Q: Can rape be used as a weapon for ethnic cleansing purposes? Has it been used as a weapon?

A. Yes, yes, it has. It was used for that purpose because, you know, rape is humiliation, humiliation felt by the woman who is raped and by her whole family and the whole group to which she belongs. Rape is something that makes it even more difficult, even more intolerable, to live together amongst the different groups. Returning in the region where rape takes place, it is even more difficult. So, undoubtedly, that weapon has been used systematically. In answer to your question, there are certainly better placed experts than me, so I am only repeating here what has been written on this subject.

Q. The word "systematic" is often used to describe the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. Who promoted this idea or this policy at the beginning in the present conflict?

A. There was a text dating back to '37 that clearly explained how we should do away with the Albanians from Kosovo. There were orders given by General Mihajlovic in the Second World War that indicated we need to proceed to ethnic cleansing, probably apocryphal orders but that probably emanated anyway from these Chetnik circles.

But the point is that the whole idea was floating in the air and this practise had already existed. So in the present conflict, it is difficult to find or, at least, I for one do not know of any text in which it was expressively said that such populations had to be deported. But, however, it is said expressis verbis everywhere that "we cannot live together any more, we must not live together any more. We must not live with the Muslims under the same roofs". The same idea was found, well, I do not have the text in mind, but anyway, I mean, this whole idea had been expressed before and repeatedly and quite frequently.


home .  karadzic .  conentration camps .  trying war criminals .  bosnia .  genocide & war crimes .  interviews
discussion .  links .  synopsis .  press reactions .  tapes & transcripts
frontline online .  wgbh .  pbs online

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation