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Eichmann in Jerusalem, Milosevic in the Hague:
Civility, Sovereignty, Justice

author: Dragan Kujundzic Director, International Center for Writing and Translation University of California at Irvine

Western Humanities Alliance, UC Davis, October 18, 2001

In the amended indictment of Slobodan Milosevic-a document available on the website of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, on page 31, there is a list called Schedule G, Persons killed in Djakovica/Gjakove - 2 April 1999. This is just a tiny part of the list of persons killed and enumerated by the indictment of Milosevic, and four other members of the government. It is lodged between several dozens of pages listing the victims of the atrocities. But this one succeeds in drawing the attention of the reader whose concentration may be dulled by the endless litany of victims. The twenty persons on Schedule G with the exception of Vejsa Arlind, who was five, are all women. Or should we say female, since a large number of them is of age 2 to 14: I will read you the list, the Schedule G, as it is presented in the Amended Indictment.

Schedule G

Persons Killed at Dakovica / Gjakovë - 2 April 1999

Name

Approximate Age

Sex

CAKA, Dalina

14

Female

CAKA, Delvina

6

Female

CAKA, Diona             

2

Female

CAKA, Valbona

34

Female

GASHI, Hysen

50

 

HAXHIAVDIJA, Doruntina

8

Female

HAXHIAVDIJA, Egzon

5

 

HAXHIAVDIJA, Rina

4

Female

HAXHIAVDIJA, Valbona

38

Female

HOXHA, Flaka

15

Female

HOXHA, Shahindere

55

Female

NUÇ I, Manushe

50

Female

NUÇ I, Shirine

70

Female

VEJSA, Arlind

5

Male

VEJSA, Dorina

10

Female

VEJSA, Fetije

60

Female

VEJSA, Marigona

8

Female

VEJSA, Rita

2

Female

VEJSA, Sinaha

8

Female

VEJSA, Tringa

30

Female

What happened to them? Why were they killed? What is the possible military, or any other reason for exterminating Caka Diaona, age 2, for what political advantage? These questions without answer have been haunting me ever since I ran into the list and printed it out. During the war in Bosnia and Kosovo, many reasons in the official Belgrade press were given for fighting in Sarajevo or in Kosovo: reasons of territorial integrity, protection of the Serbian people of the real or imagined menace from the other, Muslim or Kosovar side, self-protection of the Yugoslav military or paramilitary troops, protection of sovereignty. Some were victims, it was said, of collateral damage. I, together with a large number of Serbian intellectuals, or members of the opposition, who have been opposing the Milosevic regime from the very beginning, never believed or accepted these rationalizations. Wefeared, as we protested the atrocities done by the regime, but never enough, forever never enough, that the civilians were killed. Just as Serbian civilians were killed in Bosnia, and in Kosovo, and in Croatia. It is always civilians, civility, taken hostage by the military, or, to jump to the conclusion, by the goals or telos of sovereignty, that are caught as victims. And all we are now left with is this somber, ascetic list, and the question why. And if I say that such lists are possible on all sides of this conflict, I am not in any way trying to relativize anyone's responsibility, only to underscore that situation of civilians being taken hostage.

If one looks at the indictments, one finds precious little to go on and explain what happened there. This is how the indictment describes the events of these atrocities:

a. Dakovica/Gjakovë : On or about 2 April 1999, forces of the FRY and Serbia began forcing residents of the town of Dakovica/Gjakovë to leave. Forces of the FRY and Serbia spread out through the town and went house to house ordering Kosovo Albanians from their homes. In some instances, people were killed, and most persons were threatened with death. Many of the houses and shops belonging to Kosovo Albanians were set on fire, while those belonging to Serbs were protected. During the period from 2 to 4 April 1999, thousands of Kosovo Albanians living in Dakovica/Gjakovë and neighbouring villages joined a large convoy, either on foot or driving in cars, trucks and tractors, and moved to the border with Albania. Forces of the FRY and Serbia directed those fleeing along pre-arranged routes, and at police checkpoints along the way most Kosovo Albanians had their identification papers and license plates seized. In some instances, Yugoslav army trucks were used to transport persons to the border with Albania.

As I am reading this document (and my reading it, to you, today, as it was from the very first time, proceeds from a sense of profound mourning: what could have we done to prevent it), it occurs to me that it proceeds along two different regimes, familiar from other historical events that have known systematic loss of life, taken out in large numbers, as life as such. For example, the Holocaust. The two events remain singular and different, in many ways, and I do not want to suggest that the atrocities performed by the Milosevic regime have either the same scope, or systemic dimension, as the Holocaust. The war in Kosovo for which Milosevic is tried in this indictment (and other indictments have followed, and just two days ago Karla del Ponte has raised another one, for the war crimes in Croatia) did not have as its goal the total destruction of the Kosovars, and has not known concentration death camps that resembled those of Nazi Germany. I belong to those who believe in the singular historical specificity of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, in the catastrophic episode that I am bringing to your attention, there are traits of any technologically enhanced mass extermination that may, in principle, resemble the experience of mass death of which the Shoa remains the impossible model, a model without a model. Having inserted this word of caution, let me again make an attempt at an analogy, and draw your attention to two features of these documents that resemble a possible narrative about the Holocaust. One is the mere listing of bare life interrupted by the systemic killing, killing possible only, as Benjamin would say, in the age of technical reproducibility. In this case, probably by mass executions by means of firearms or maybe grenades. The listing of the deceased in any case betrays a certain technical, systemic approach. Whatever the killers, the paramilitary were doing on April 2, 1999, they were killing not individuals, but, in some way, only a bare life that needed to be eliminated or exterminated. Of this experience, on the side of the victim, Walter Benjamin, writing on Kafka, wrote many years ago, that it is the experience of "an individual, and not accessible to the masses until such time as they are being done away with." That is, Kafka's experience is an impossible experience of the individual death, (what other experience is more profound, and which one belongs more to each being, than my own death, the utmost possibility of Dasein's impossibility to speak like Heidegger); rather, death of Kafka's characters, that which is the most proper, is the one which is singular but experienced in masses, en masse, deprived exactly of that singularity, that experience of dying as a subject, person, who has the right to die as some kind of minimal identity. Those listed here died a death that is worse than death, since, in some ways, it was not death at all. It was death deprived of its human possibility. Giorgio Agamben has recently thematized such an experience, an impossible experience, as that of Homo Sacer, hovering between the sovereign power and bare life. In the chapter Camp as Paradigm in his book Homo Sacer, Agamben writes that "those who are sentenced to death [in camps]" were "forced into an extraterritorial threshold in which the human body is separated from its normal political status and abandoned, in a state of exception, to the most extreme misfortunes." Such a threshold experience Agamben qualifies as an experience of those who are "killed without the commission of homicide." This aporia should be understood in light of Benjamin's interpretation of Kafka. Not that there was no war crime, that no atrocity took place, but that it took place in a realm where the individuals, the persons, the human beings killed were deprived, by the very means of their executions, of their proper deaths. Which is what makes it, among other things, very difficult to prosecute the crimes of mass destruction, at least by the existing laws, laws written for everyday "life" and for murders, homicides, commissions against individuals, and not masses.

In her "Smothered Words," in which she attempts to tell the story of her father's extermination in Auschwitz, Sarah Kofman also reproduces the list of those deported to Drancy, among whom was her father. This list is enveloped by two propositions. One, preceding the list, claims that after Auschwitz, "all men, Jewish or non-Jewish, die differently: they do not really die, because what took place, down there, death in Aushcwitz [or Djakovica, we could say], without taking place, was worse than death." This paragraph is followed by the fragment of the list of those deported to Drancy on July 16, 1942. Always lists, dates, names, which do not mean anything, an endless litany of victims, and that at the same time mean so much, that mean everything. The paragraph following the list states the following: "On Auschwitz and after Auschwitz, no narrative is possible, if by a narrative one understands telling a history of events, making sense." The document which transcribes the event that took place in Djakovica on April 2, 1999, tells very little about the senseless crime, a crime without a sense or direction, in the originary sense of the word sense. For what can be told about the killing of Rina Haxiavdija, age four, even as the narrative tries to recover her death in the face of justice, as the indictment attempts to recover the memory of this event and preserve it from complete oblivion. But as the document tries to create a testimony, it faces us with yet another aporia of the mass murder, well known from the experience of the Holocaust. Even if the crime had been witnessed, (and there is no, in this case, indication that it happened, no witnesses are yet produced), it would be almost an impossible scene of testimony. Because such crimes of mass extermination leave no witnesses but only lists, no sense or narrative with meaning, but a dry and official recounting without compassion or possible space of mourning. As it is narrated, the official document leaves no space for mourning, just like the death marked by lists, by serial numbers, technical reproducibility, creates an impossible scene of mourning, mourning for a death that cannot be testified about, of which there is no testimony, and which, in the strictest sense, it is not death at all.

In the documentary movie about Eichmann's trial, there is a scene in which a certain "katzetnik" appears before the judges. He did it reluctantly, and prior to the trial refused to testify for a long time. The prosecutors wanted particularly his testimony as he was for them a especially valuable and reliable witness. As he was on the stand, the witness, who called himself "katzetnik," the one recognized by number only, showed the number tattooed on his arm, and proceeded to tell how in the concentration camp they were all reduced to numbers. To the insistence of the prosecutor to tell more, to tell what he saw, the "katzetnik" could only respond, reiterate, that they were all numbers. After repeated insistence by the prosecutor to tell what he saw, the katzetnik, who was not particularly old, or ill, fell prostrate on the ground and almost died of stroke in the court. His inability to testify actually testified, better than any words, to the Holocaust, particularly in the very inability to testify, to produce a narrative which would have meaning. To the repeated questions by the prosecutor, the katzetnik could only show the number and go numb, offering his bare life, in a moment of second death, as a testimony of what was taken from those killed by numbers and as numbers in the Holocaust. Again Agamben: "The political system of the holocaust corresponds to a localization without order (the camp as a permanent state of exception). The political system no longer orders forms of life and juridical rules in a determinate space but instead contains at its very center a dislocating localization that exceeds it and into which every form of life and every rule can be virtually taken" (175).

From this perspective, continues Agamben, "the camps have, in a certain sense, in an even more extreme form reappeared in the territories of the former Yugoslavia. At issue in the former Yugoslavia is, rather, an incurable rupture of the old nomos and a dislocation of the population and human lives along entirely new lines of flight. Hence the decisive importance of ethnic rape camps" (176). And the importance, I add, to commemorate the nineteen women and female children exterminated on April 4, 1999, in Djakovica. While the Hague may not be the proper horizon for mourning, it will open a space for justice, maybe, to appear.

The Hague marks an innovation in international politics, particularly as it pertains to the issue of sovereignty. "What appears singular and new today is the project of making States, or at least head of states in title (Pinochet), and even of current head of state (Milosevic), appear before universal authorities. It has to do only with projects or hypotheses, but this possibility suffices to announce a transformation: it constitutes in itself a major event. The sovereignty of the State, the immunity of the head of state are no longer, in principle, in law, untouchable," writes Jacques Derrida in his book on forgiveness (page 57).

The dry enumeration of the indictment, and the dry, objective official narrative that tells so little about the crime of extermination, without witnesses and with no possible meaningful narrative about it, speaks, as Agamben would say in his "Remnants of Auschwitz, The Witness and the Archive," " only on the basis of an impossibility of speaking," and it is in that impossibility of testifying that the testimony cannot be denied. That to which it is impossible to bear witness, by that very means is absolutely and irrefutably proven (164). In the Hague, before the judges, the rereading of the indictment, this witnessing without testimony, may at least for a moment reopen the space in which these bare lives will again receive their dignity, their individuation, their death. That horizon in which the face of the other reappears in its individuation and in its mortality, which holds us hostage is, maybe, the slim and minimal, but nevertheless bare hope, for the appearance of justice.

Note about the author:
Dragan Kujundzic
Associate Professor , Dept. of English & Comparative Literature
Ph.D.

Research Interests
Russian and Slavic Literatures; Russian Film; Formalism and Bakhtin Studies; French, German and American Philosophy and Critical Theory; Modernism and 'After'

Research Summary
Dragan Kujundzic received his PhD from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and has been recently hired to serve as the Director of the Russian Program at UCI, and to teach in the Department of English and Comparative Literature. While he still has "the Memphis blues in his veins" from his previous appointment at the University of Memphis, he is currently working on the book manuscript titled "After" on the issues of Slavic "Post" Modernity. He is the author of the books Critical Exercises (Novi Sad: Matica srpska, 1983) and The Returns of History: Russian Nietzscheans After Modernity (New York: SUNY Press, 1997). Messianism 'Post' Modernism is forthcoming in Moscow, Russia, with Ad Marginem by the end of the year 2000. He has edited volumes on Walter Benjamin, Mikhail Bakhtin, and most recently, an issue of Tympanum dedicated to Jacques Derrida, which can be found at http://www.usc.edu/tympanum/4/

Selected Publications
Books
Critical Exercises. Matica srpska, 1983
The Returns of History: Russian Nietzscheans After Modernity. SUNY Press, 1997
Messianism 'Post' Modernism. Ad Marginem, 2000

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YOUR COMMENTS

Dear sirs,

As for Kujundzic's discourse: ("Eichman in Jerusalem...")

I have never read more compassionate, thorough or comprehensive perception on any crime committed in the Balkans during the past endarkened decade.

I am an Albanian from Kosova, and while reading Kujundzic's lines I cannot avoid deep emabarrassement of not being closely able to express the horror of crimes committed -- very often -- by members of all communities of the former Yugoslavia.

I think I can understand the distinguished discourse of the author. Killings of children in Djakovica represent the worst humiliation even to the death itself.

The same horror is represented through paroxically inhuman slaughtering of Serbian elderly men and women left behind in their villages, flats and houses across Kosova, after the war: their absolute understanding of what is to happen and their absolute inability to prevent it; it was, too, the definition of absolute helplesness and abandonement of a being.

Ultimately, Dr. Kujundzic is so tragically right: it is very much "the sense of profound mourning: what could have we done to prevent it?"

Dukagjin Gorani,
KTV, KohaVision
chief-editor, Prishtina

 

vrh strane


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