by Marieme Helie Lucas
Sarajevo, May 8, 2015
Yesterday May 7 the Women’s Court on war crimes against women during the war in the 1990ies formally started in Sarajevo, Bosnia. Women have come together from all the corners of the former-Yugoslavia to participate in the Women’s Court in Sarajevo, to demand justice for the crimes committed against them during the wars and the enduring inequalities and suffering that followed.
The impressive composition of the organisational committee speaks for the unity and solidarity of women across the national divides that came with the partition of the former Yugoslavia: from Bosnia & Herzegovina: Mothers of the Enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa, Women’s Forum (www.forumzena.org), Foundation CURE (www.fondacijacure.org); from Croatia: Centre for Women’s Studies (www.zenstud.hr), Centre for Women War Victims - ROSA (www.czzzr.hr); from Kosovo: Kosovo Women’s Network (www.womensnetwork.org); from Macedonia: National Council for Gender Equality (www.sozm.org.mk); from Montenegro: Anima (www.animakotor.org); from Slovenia: Women’s Lobby Slovenia (www.zls.si); from Serbia: Women’s Studies (www.zenskestudie.edu.rs), Women in Black (www.zenskestudie.edu.rs).This, in and by itself, is a huge achievement, at a time when Europe is plagued with the rise of nationalisms, of extreme right forces that divide peoples along ethnic and religious lines; at a time when attempts are made to homogenize nations and to exclude minorities and diversity; at a time when even citizens of one country are further separated by the construction of antagonistic ‘communities’.
Moreover, the organisation which has been coordinating this project for the past 5 years is Women In Black-Belgrade, in other words an organisation from ‘the agressor’ country. WIB's leadership and members are welcome as family members and praised throughout the former Yugoslavia for the constant support they extended, at great risks for themselves, to women from other national and ethnic identities, both during and after the wars, till now: the vibrant applause and cheers for WIB- Belgade at the opening ceremony of the Women’s Court was a living testimony to this strong solidarity bond, and an acknowledment of the dedication of the organisation to the Women’s Court. The fact that women came together from all the nations of ex-Yugoslavia is not just a powerful show of solidarity across boundaries. It is also a political stand, defying the destructive extreme right forces at work in the region and in the whole of Europe.
The subtitle of the Women’s Court: «a feminist approach to justice» is key to understand that this Tribunal will not pronounce verdict and sentences: it will name the crimes and the perpetrators, it will denounce the links between the different forms of violence that women suffer still today in the former Yugoslavia, as a consequence of wars, it will demand justice and, relying on «the power of internationalist women’s solidarity», commits to monitoring the responses from the concerned autorities.
To this effect, women have been invited from various countries in which similar crimes occured: we already noted the presence of women from Algeria and Argentina (the well known Mothers of Plaza di Mayo), and women from India, Palestine, Congo are announced.
Formally opened on May 7 with a huge march across Sarajevo and street performances, the Women’s Court will proceed with the first hearings today May 8. It will certainly be a powerful event. The judgment and conclusions are expected on May 10.
This women’s tribunal is, to my knowledge, the first of its kind. I hope it will serve as an inspiration for the women’s tribunals to come, in other parts of the world.