News 04 Jul 12

Controversy Over Wartime Rape Claims

Belgrade University’s decision to retire Professor Dragana Dulic has been seen by Serbian intellectuals and human rights NGOs as a way of settling a score with those who hold different opinions.

Marija Ristic
Professor Dragana Dulic | Photo by Media Centre

The Senate of the University of Belgrade decided last week not to prolong Professor Dulic' tenure, saying she has reached the pensionable age.

However the decision caused controversy, since it has been leaked to the media that some members of the Senate believed that Dulic should not teach any more because the textbooks she was using for her courses describe rapes committed by the Serb forces during the wars of the 1990s as “sexual terrorism”.

The textbooks “Ethic of war” and “Human security”, collections of articles compiled by Professor Dulic, contain a quote that caused controversy in the media.

 “Mass rape and sexual violence against women (and men) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which comprise 20,000 to 30,000 reported cases, have captured the attention of reports on sexual terrorism, as Serbs included forced pregnancy within their policy of ethnic cleansing”.

Dulic claims that her texts are taken out of context and abused by both the media and state institutions.

“This is a retaliation, since I belong to the so-called “other Serbia”. I cannot close myself within some parochial and narrow-minded discourse of patriotism. Aggressive nationalism is again on the rise in Serbia, and now it has found its place at University,” Dulic told media.

The Senate claims that not extending the tenure for those professors who reach the pensionable age is part of the new strategy to get in younger academics.

The Faculty of Security, where Dulic was teaching, will decide at its next board meeting whether to withdraw the textbooks from the curriculum, the Faculty's administration told BIRN on Tuesday.

However, a number of Serbian intellectuals, including professors, human rights activists and NGOs, have condemned the decision taken by the Senate, describing it as shameful and a continuation of the policy of ignoring facts from the 1990s war.

“Dragana Dulic is one of the rare professors who give their students texts from different authors in order to motivate them to think critically and see beyond the nationalism doctrine, which is responsible for the wars and rapes in the former Yugoslavia,"reads the letter of support by the NGO 'Women in Black'.

"And that is why there is no place for her in a university which never distanced itself from genocide, in whose preparation a lot of university professors participated,” states the letter.

Dragana Markovic, Belgrade based sociologist, says that Serbia still lives in a state of denial when it comes to the conflicts of the 1990s and refuses to tackle taboos such as rape or genocide.

“If you have a president who refuses to accept the verdicts of the international courts when it comes to genocide, you can expect the same from your institutions or people. By these acts, they are ignoring a number of verdicts passed by either the ICTY or national courts, which determined that rape was used as a weapon of destruction and as a form of ethnic cleansing,” Markovic told BIRN.

The ICTY has included rape among crimes against humanity and since the beginning of its work, the Hague Tribunal has charged 78, out of the total of 161 indictees, with sexual crimes.

Former Bosnian Serb army soldiers, Dragoljub Kunarac, Radomir Kovac and Zoran Vukovic, were the first men sentenced by the ICTY for rape as a crime against humanity, for the rapes committed in the Bosnian town of Foca.

The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has had trials for about 20 defendants charged with crimes of sexual nature, while a number of former members of Serbian paramilitary groups was sentenced before the Special Court based in Belgrade for war crimes, including rape, in eastern Bosnian towns.

The exact number of people raped during the conflicts in former Yugoslavia is unknown, but according to the Human Rights Watch between 20,000 and 40,000 women were raped during the wars.


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