|Country Report Bosnia - Herzegovina - ICRC Worldwide Consultation on the Rules of War (International Committee of the Red Cross , 1999, 56 p.)|
|Explaining the war on civilians|
People in Bosnia-Herzegovina understand that war - particularly one that is hastily organized, without formal armies, and without limits - creates a space for a range of players who use it to great excess. Sometimes they are immature people, now handed a weapon; sometimes they are soldiers under the influence of drugs or alcohol; sometimes they are mentally unbalanced people; and sometimes they are extreme nationalists.
The ex-soldiers in the Banja Luka focus group discussion, who describe the war on civilians in greatest detail, highlight the extremists and non-normal people who drove the war to excess.
That was done by perverts. Normal people would never do that, although one might wonder to what extent sanity existed at all in this war. (FG, ex-soldiers, Banja Luka)
There are many people of suspicious moral qualities in the military, who will do anything in a critical situation. (FG, ex-soldiers, Banja Luka)
Say, when we apply for a license to carry firearms in peacetime, we have so many formalities to satisfy. However, in this war, anyone who opened his hand, and many who did not, was given weapons - regardless of his state of mind. For disturbed people, it is irrelevant who they are shooting at - be it a Serb or anyone else. When they are drafted, their mental state is not considered. The only thing that matters is their number. Hence we had attacks against civilians and many other immoral acts. They committed many immoral acts. For, those carrying weapons feel powerful. (FG, ex-soldiers, Banja Luka)
The problem of my unit, the xxxth unit [edited for anonymity], was that we had very few active officers, that is, people who graduated from military schools. There were people who commanded battalions and who, without my wishing to undervalue anyone, having only finished secondary school, had no control over the army. They could not maintain army discipline and morale, so that all kinds of incidents happened. (FG, ex-soldiers, Banja Luka)
While the discussion was most developed among ex-soldiers in Banja Luka, others spoke about such people in other circumstances.
Oh, my Lord. They should not fight at all. They should not have guns at all. And even now, there are extremists. (IDI, displaced person, Prijedor)
Those other people, they were the underachievers and failures before the war in their civilian lives, and when they were given weapons, they vented it on other people. (FG, mothers, Banja Luka)
There are some maniacs. All they do is kill. (FG, ex-soldiers, Sarajevo)
Some of the ex-soldiers in Banja Luka talked, not just of perverts and extremists, but of powerful people who sent the common people to wage this war. The common soldiers were the poor and miserable, farmers and workers; some of the villagers... took food with them to service. These were the patriots. In the meantime, military commanders used the ordinary soldiers to serve their designs.
Our commanders thought that that was the way to take as many territories that needed to be taken as possible. I cannot judge the rightness of it, because I was a common soldier, a private. (FG, ex-soldiers, Banja Luka)
So, when we consider the matter of conscience, one of the Serb ex-soldiers declared, it is the power-wielders, military commanders and politicians, not fighters, who should be asked.