Petar Finci comes from Sarajevo. He’s a senior information assistant at the ICTY, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. He is producing a series of documentaries about the court and its achievements. In the “My Justice” series, he talks about his memories of the war and his idea of justice.
“The experience of war… It’s not easy to describe in a few words. I was in Sarajevo when the war started, back in 1992. And I was there until February of 1994.
“Sarajevo was under siege. For all that time, it was impossible to leave. Food was scarce. There was little if any heat, which was particularly nasty in the winter. The temperature in my room in Sarajevo was plus 4 degrees during the winter because our building had been bombed. All the windows were shattered. We had these UNHCR plastic sheets that served as windows and that, I can tell you, is not exactly the same.
“I was a journalist back then. I was working for a magazine called Dani. We were trying to be an independent magazine during wartime, so that didn’t make things any easier for us. What Dani tried to do was to point out at least some of the things we thought were important, even during wartime. But I don’t know if people were even aware of what we were doing. There was no paper. We could only print once in a while.
“When the Tribunal was established in May 1993, I’m not sure I even heard about it. There was no electricity in Sarajevo. Of course, we heard that something had been established somewhere far away and that war crimes would be prosecuted. And we thought, ‘Oh, good! But what do we do tomorrow morning?’
“Later on, when I came here and started working for the SENSE news agency in 2001. It wasn’t easy. The first trial I covered was the trial for the crimes committed in Višegrad. Of course, I had my own experience of war, but this was something much more terrible than what I remembered about the war. These were very serious crimes: people burned alive in barricaded buildings and so on.
“It was absolutely fascinating. Being a journalist and a storyteller, I could see that these stories inevitably had to be told. These experiences have to be preserved, not only as trial testimony, but also as separate stories. Anyway, my first impression was terrible.
Then I started working with the Tribunal
“The documentaries I worked on were produced by the ICTY Outreach Programme. The Tribunal had decided to start producing films to leave them as a sort of legacy for future generations. I started working on that at the end of 2009.
“People lived through these things, and we shouldn’t allow their stories to be forgotten. So what we try to do is to pay homage to the witnesses who came to testify here. Their testimony will be preserved by the court, but we believe these films will bring their words to a far wider audience. Moreover, the more people know, the less they’ll be inclined to repeat the mistakes.
I keep asking myself what’s justice
“When I speak to witnesses who were in our films and who tell me ‘well done’, I have a feeling that I was working for justice. If I have contributed to making those stories being told better and seen more often by more people, then I’ll have the feeling that I was working for justice.
“People go to jail and go out of jail, but their deeds will never be forgotten. Justice for me is the story told, and the story heard. The story that remains.”
Lead image: Petar Finci (Photo: Emanuele del Rosso/Justice Hub)