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The production of the war criminal cult: Radovan Karadžić and Vojislav Šešelj at The Hague

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Izabela Steflja*
International Development Studies & Payson Graduate Program in Global Development, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, USA. Email:


This article examines how defendants on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) appropriate the tribunal as a platform for national myth and group making. Specifically, the article analyzes Radovan Karadžić and Vojislav Šešelj's “performances” at The Hague in order to highlight the particular ways in which the defendants craft and mobilize the nationalist narrative. The article introduces the phenomenon of “the war criminal cult” and traces three stages of its production, including the defendants' collectivization of guilt, epitomization of The Hague as the ultimate enemy of the nation, and construction of “Serbs” as the biggest victims of international justice and of themselves as martyrs befallen with the task of defending the dignity of the nation. The “war criminal cult” is thus “made” in conversation with the “imperial West” in a collective narrative that contests the legitimacy and the intention of The Hague while disguising individual responsibility.

Copyright © 2017 Association for the Study of Nationalities 

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