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Bosnia-Herzegovina: "War is a killing game"

11-03-1999 News Release 99/10

War begins where diplomacy ends, and international humanitarian law is most likely to be violated when ordinary citizens take up arms. That is the opinion of Zoran Grujic, assistant director of information for the Bosnia and Herzegovina Mine Action Centre.

" There were endless negotiations before the war " , Grujic said. " We became quite famous for drawing maps and carving up the country. When people finally realized they couldn't agree on anything, they decided to fight it out. War does away with the need for diplomacy. All you need is rifles. "

" If only someone had forced us to come to terms back then - and Dayton clearly shows that in such cases force can be effective - I think the war would never had begun. We were left to decide on matters that we obviously couldn't deal with by ourselves. "

Surrounded by exhibits of landmines and maps of minefields, Grujic spoke without emotion. As he explained: " Those who lived through the war in Sarajevo became inured to all sorts of things. It was horrible enough to be walking along safely and to see people being shot at just down the street... After the war, it took me quite a while to feel like a civilian again. "

" If anyone had told me we would go to war - however obvious it was at the time - I would have said,'Maybe in Bosnia, but never in Sarajevo.'Nobody used to care about names. Then the war began, and names became associated with ethnic groups. That's the way it goes. You think war could never break out and suddenly things change. "

Although Grujic became a soldier, he never fired a shot. " I consider human life far too precious to be wantonly destroyed, " he said.

Instead, he removed landmines and collected unexploded munitions. All too often he found himself gathering body parts into piles for burial later.

" My understanding used to be that war was a killing game with strict rules set by the Geneva Conventions. Now that the war is over, I would drop the second part of that sentence, " Grujic said. " War is a killing game, full stop. War victims were ill-treated here, it was terrible... But I'd rather not go into that. "

Most soldiers were ordinary men who were dragged into war. They were not highly trained killers, Grujic said.

" I mean, if someone shoots at you, you're going to shoot back. That's how it happens, " he said. " Most soldiers are very young, with a lot of Rambo movies behind them. So they have to prove themselves. It's very difficult to explain to them why they have to obey rules they didn't make. It's war. They make up their own rules. "