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Interview with The Hon. Dr. Zvonimir Šeparović (Former Minister of Justice of Croatia)

CROATIAQ1. Given that we live in a world increasingly dominated by mass media, do you think that genocide denial will be less and less possible?

It’s hard to say.  The media are dominant and they decide about everything, influencing people, their behavior and so on.  Genocide denial is very much present.  In each country in which genocide was committed, there has been pressure applied to deny it.  They didn’t want to know about it.  As I mentioned in my presentation Communists leaders killed people at the end of the Second War and it was forbidden to speak about it.  They threw them in the caves and believed nobody would ever find them.  Once I was asked a question by a lady from the Philippines at the Far-East Victimology post-graduate course.  After my presentation of Victimology, she asked how I became interested in the topic.  I said “Well I have never been asked this question before”.  It could be because I suffered in my family.  After my father passed away, my brother was killed and turned into the cave, alive.  He was my older brother, like my father, he was a real victim, an innocent victim.  I never forgot it and I carry it in my life and my soul all the time.  Perpetrators, criminals, are ready to cover up, not to show, not to say, not to discover what they have done.

Q2.  Considering your background in Victimology, would you be able to comment on the revolution YouTube has had in presenting violent crime to the world?

Violent crime in the world is a manifestation of the violent world in itself.  Victimology is doing very good things in trying to research, to find out the truth about violence; violence in the family, violence against children, are very present and we are trying to find out what really happens.  Victimology is there to support, to assist, to save, to protect victims.  I strongly believe in this new discipline that started after World War II due the holocaust and so many other events.  We then decided to examine the victims’ fate.  Let’s see what happened-who committed the crime?  We are on the side of the victim, but not one sided.  We want to see what really happened.  The most important innovation in Victimology is restorative justice.  Restorative justice, unlike traditional justice deals with the problem of crime by bringing the victim, the perpetrator and the representatives of communities to the same table.  They sit there and what is expected is that the perpetrator will confess and say sorry to the victim.  The victim will accept it or not.  The representative of the community will help solve the problem of the victim.  So solving the problem is much more important than passing on a punishment to the criminal.  So this is improving the situation for the society by changing the behavior, if that is possible for the criminals.  By solving his social problem we are helping also victims.  It is very important that the perpetrator confesses and expresses his apologies to the victim and to the society.  Restorative justice is something that is forthcoming.  It is not medicine for all but it can help in relationship crimes, especially family or criminal acts.  So we are improving the situation of the victim.

Q3. What role do you think memorials have to play in the victim-perpetrator paradigm, and can memorials have more than a single narrative?

A victim, if they survive might suffer for life so it is important to help victims.  Some people are naturally victims.  They are in a way, biologically determined to be victimized.  For instance, a small child running though the street is an easy victim if it is not protected because he does not understand the danger of the traffic, the danger of an accident.  There are other similar examples.  An attractive young lady passing through Central Park in New York after dark might be an easy victim.  We have been accused by women’s organizations that we are trying to blame victims more.  We are not blaming victims.  We are trying to explain the victimization process and prevent crimes in the future.   We are by no means against the victims, but victims are sometimes contributing to their fate by not taking precautions.  Then again people are saying we cannot move past the part “attractive young lady” or “young boy” for the pedophiles and so on.  No, but if the world is in danger, at risk, let’s limit that risk.  Let’s defend future victims.  Newman, an architect once proposed an idea that he called “defensible space”.  For example a hotel is protected, you cannot enter, or a home for elderly people is protected for important reasons.  Nobody can enter as the space is controlled.  The people inside are happier about this because they feel safer.  They can accept a visit from anyone they know and anyone they want to talk to, not anyone who is an intruder, the one who wants to commit a crime.  Violence crime against an old person is easy because there is a combination of possible wealth and old age so they are an easy victim.  They have money which is attractive to the criminals and the weakness of their old age.  So you see, victims could be protected and on the other hand we are suggesting let’s take care of ourselves.  Let’s protect ourselves.  Let’s avoid what is avoidable if the outcome might be victimization.

Q4. The United Nations Human Rights Council came into being in 2006 in order to replace the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.  To what extent to you think it has fulfilled its role of protecting human rights in the world so far?

The United Nations is absolutely necessary and important.  It is doing its best but it could be even better.  What they have done for human rights is extremely important.  A lot of things have been done, good things, border protection.  We have a conscience, people learn about human rights.  People who go to school learn that they have human rights and that others have rights and dignity and it is necessary to protect and respect that.  What Victimology has done is the following in this regard.   We passed the draft on the International Declaration on basic principles of justice for victims of crime, and of abuse of power.  That draft was sent to the Congress on Crime Prevention in Milan, and then in the same year, 1985, to the UN and then the General Assembly accepted a beautiful piece of law protecting victims of crime.  We are proud about that because it is giving rights to the victims.  Someone, one important Japanese person from the UN said it is Magna Carta for the victims, so, an important basic document for the victims.  We are proud that we succeeded in this, because it is saying to victims as human beings are human rights to and have rights too.  Let’s protect those rights.  There you find the right to be represented in the criminal court, to be informed about the criminal court, to be asked not how to be punished, to be asked not how to be punished, but on how to recover from the crime, so that is really magna carta.

Q5. In a conflict such as the Former Yugoslavia, do you think cultural diplomacy initiatives can be effective?  Do you think enough trust has been built up between the communities yet for such initiatives to be considered?

I think so.  I have given compliments to the icd.  The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy is the best invention in this regard.  The way to solve the problem, the soft way, not killing Gaddafi’s son, not to kill bin Laden in his sitting room.  Let’s bring him to the court to get justice.  He was a terrible criminal.  He was responsible for the death of thousands of people.  He was not supposed to do this but he was a human being, no doubt a bad human being, ready to commit crimes.  He organized the killing of people in the twin tower attack of September 11th.  It is not a good example to execute someone in his bedroom without having the usual procedures, protection of human rights, even bringing him to the court, like Saddam Hussein and then hanging him.  Again I am not insisting on this, what happened could have had a better outcome that what it was; a different one, a legal one, legitimate and so on-regardless of him being a criminal.  Eichmann was taken hostage from South America, brought to Israel and brought to the court, condemned for genocide in the holocaust and executed.  That was the procedure.  A person could see that this will be the outcome if we commit such a heinous crime.

Interview conducted by Michelle Karunaratne & Matteo Alpino, Institute for Cultural Diplomacy

Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy


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