Diary – 24 June 2005

No mother-in-law is a heroine to her son-in-law, except mine

Just as no man is a hero to his valet, no mother-in-law is a heroine to her son-in-law. Except mine, that is. Miloska Nott (bullet dodger, charity fundraiser, daffodil farmer) is a remarkable woman. In 1992 she started the Fund for Refugees in Slovenia of which I am now a trustee. In its typically confusing Balkan way, it now helps to rebuild the lives of the surviving Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) of Srebrenica, where Miloska has just built 25 houses, a school and a surgery. Wherever she goes, they hold up her picture and wave it as with an old-style communist leader. Let Bob Geldof strut his stuff over Africa, but I suspect that there are many like her, performing heroic acts in a quieter, more understated and expletive-free manner.

Ten years on they are still exhuming bodies from the mass graves around the haunted town of Srebrenica. The unprovoked genocide of the Bosniak population under the noses of the Dutch, the UN, Generals Janvier and Morillon and the then UN special envoy Akashi, and the failure of Europe and, alas, the then British government to act, are some of the most shaming political episodes since the second world war. The memorial cemetery at Srebrenica in the shadow of one of the disused factories where Bosniaks were butchered should act as a constant reminder. It is fitting that Bill Clinton opened this. Without America’s intervention that terrible conflict would have dragged on interminably. God Bless America!

It seems to me that one of the main problems with the Dayton agreement is that it did not incorporate any ‘sunset clauses’. Clearly there can be no long-term solution to Bosnia Herzegovina while that artificial construct the Republika Srpska continues. Equally, there can be no progress while Croatia and particularly Serbia continue to intimidate and interfere.

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