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Serbia 2003: "Media treatment of the Yugoslav conflict" / "Exchange of views: the Balkans and the world of caricature"

Background to the project

The first project in the "Crossed Pens" series, the collaboration between Corax and Patrick Chappatte took place in the wake of the collapse of Yugoslavia as a result of growing tensions between the constituent federal republics (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo) following the death of Tito in 1980. The downfall of the republic prompted a series of fratricidal wars that lasted almost 10 years.

In 1989, as a rising tide of nationalism swept former Yugoslavia, Slobodan Milosevic came to power in the Republic of Serbia. A staunch nationalist, he assumed the role of spokesman for the Serb minority in Kosovo that complained of persecution by the Albanian majority. He thus became the champion of "greater Serbia". Milosevic strongly opposed the pro-independence leanings of the different constituent states of the new Yugoslav republic created following the collapse of the USSR and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. He particularly resisted the secession of Slovenia and Croatia, voted for by the citizens of these two republics in 1990, pushing them to make a unilateral declaration of independence. Increasingly frequent clashes on the territory of Croatia and Slovenia, as well as the intervention of the majority Serb and Montenegrin federal army under Milosevic's control, precipitated war.

Between 1991 and 2001 a succession of wars took place involving the six republics forming the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1991, conflict broke out between Serbia, backed by the federal army, and Slovenia. This was followed by a conflict with Croatia. In 1992 it was the turn of Bosnia and Herzegovina to secede, following the example of Croatia and Slovenia. This secession prompted violent clashes on its territory that resulted, notably as a consequence of the Srebrenica genocide, in NATO intervention. This intervention was followed by negotiations that culminated in the signing of the Dayton accords in December 1995, bringing the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina to an end. The war with Croatia had officially ended in November 1995 and that with Slovenia in July 1991.

But unresolved tensions between the different ethnic communities in the former Yugoslavia sparked another war in 1999, in the province of Kosovo. Lasting two and a half months, the war ended in the intervention of the international community and the establishment of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo.

Kosovo unilaterally declared independence in 2008 and has since been supported in its transition to a state governed by the rule of law by EULEX Kosovo, established by the European Union.

Current human right situation

In 2013, the repercussions of the collapse of the Republic of Yugoslavia were still being felt in Serbia. Lasting solutions had still to be found to enable the population to deal with its painful past. To give just one example of the difficult legacy of war, 37 war crime convictions were handed down in 2012, and several indictments were still pending.

At the same time, the human rights situation in Serbia remains problematic in various respects. A number of minorities, particularly the Roma but also lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons (LGBTI) face discrimination and violations of their fundamental rights. In the case of the Roma, one example of this discrimination is when the authorities forcibly evict them from their camps. Some become homeless while others are put in ghettos, marginalising them in society.

The LGBTI situation is also a concern. Homophobic attacks occur regularly in Serbia, and from 2011 until 2013 the LGBTI community was banned from holding the annual Belgrade Pride parade.

Furthermore, the situation of refugees and migrants is also problematic from the human rights perspective. Border controls are stringent and prevent many individuals from leaving the country; the Roma population is again particularly affected. On the other hand, asylum seekers are systematically refused access to the country following a procedure that fails to take account of the needs of certain individuals for protection under international law. It is acknowledged that the conditions in which applicants are kept during the asylum process do not satisfy minimum requirements, and applicants are aware there is no chance they will be given residency in Serbia.

Aims of the project

The aim of what was to become the first edition of "Crossed Pens" was to denounce in particular the behaviour of the international community, as well as the political career and conduct of Slobodan Milosevic during the dark conflict years.

Alternating an internal and an external view of the local situation, the exhibition and the album resulting from the two artists' collaboration offer an insight into the real human tragedy of the successive wars between the Balkan peoples.


It is not possible to talk about the human rights situation in Serbia without reference to Kosovo. The international status of Kosovo is still being debated and is not universally recognised.

The tensions between Kosovo Albanians and Serbs provoke regular minor acts of violence and clashes in which a number of people are injured every year. At least one person is reported to have died since Kosovo's declaration of independence. Excessive use of force by the Kosovar authorities is a regular occurrence. In addition, investigations are still under way into numerous cases of Serbs forcibly transferred to Albania by the Kosovo Liberation Army where it is alleged some of them were tortured or killed, with their organs sold to traffickers. Such cases make it hard to find closure.

Attacks on journalists are frequent, limiting their freedom of expression.

Furthermore, the repatriation of Kosovars of Serb, Albanian and Roma origin is highly problematic, firstly because Kosovo is incapable of supporting their integration, and secondly because Serbs returning to their homeland are the target of discrimination.

As in Serbia, the Roma are victims of widespread discrimination by the Kosovar authorities.