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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
They Would Never Hurt A Fly: War Criminals on Trial in The Hague
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on 2 September 2012
This is a magnificent book, and reminded me very much of Gitta Sereny's writing. Both women have the ability and skill to write about people who commit monstrous acts, and to help the reader understand a little more- perhaps as much as anyone is able- why these things happened.

Drakulic takes a long hard look at the war crimes committed by a variety of men who she saw being tried at the Hague. While the detail of their crimes is shocking enough, as a reader again and again I found myself most stunned by the fact that such disgusting acts were perpetrated by otherwise unremarkable- dare I say rather boring- people. Perhaps the extraordinary circumstances war thrusts people into makes them do outrageous things. For every act of courage there must be countless acts of cruelty. However, it's only when writers like Drakulic reminds you of this fact that you realise just how awful war is, and how much everyone must always try to stop them from occurring.

Two chapters really stood out for me: the first is the one on former Serb general Ratko Mladic (actually a piece that predates his recent capture and sending the the Hague). This chapter actually focusses on his daughter's suicide, and almost achieves the seemingly impossible by making you feel an ounce of sympathy for this piece of human detritus.

The other powerful chapter concerns the way prisoners of all kinds- Serb, Kosovan, Croat etc- seem to rub long well locked up together while awaiting trial. Read the book to see what lesson Drakulic draws from that irony.
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on 28 April 2006
Other reviews for this book are picking out the bias viewpoint of the author, yes the majority of the accused in the book are Serbian and none are Muslim.

That never occurred to me reading the book, i wasn't looking at what ethnic group each of the perpetrators were in. What the author does is she looks at the lives of these men and women prior to the war.

The book is an exploration of her own quest for understanding. She is trying to see WHY these people, people that she could relate to and were so similar to her own friends and family, could kill hundreds of innocent civilians. She is trying to understand the psyche of the accused. She is not biased in her actual writing, she only uses ethnicity in her explainations of who people are - she doesn't say anything like "the Serbs were the worst". The book is not about what ethicity did what - its about the individuals and WHY they did what they did.

It is beautifully written, and thought provoking, it makes you think - if i were in that situation would i have behaved the same as the accused? We each hope that we wouldn't, that we could keep our humanity, but this book makes you think would i be able to?
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on 29 April 2013
The book tells about some of the hundred or thousands of people who comitted crimes during The Yugoslavia Wars and how they faced justice in The Hague. Apart from that, the author gives the reader insights about life in Yugoslavia during Tito's regime and how she felt about some events, like Milosevic's arrest. Fair, touching, intelligent and useful for those who, like me, are interested in what happened in Former Yugoslavia from 1991 to 1995.
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on 1 August 2005
I work in an Embassy in Belgrade dealing on a daily basis with the aftermath of what these people in The Hague did. This book is a short, easily readable introduction to the reasons why these seemingly ordinary characters did unspeakable things to their former countrymen. I regularly recomend this little known book to new colleagues.
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on 18 July 2013
It is hard to say you enjoyed a book which is a portrayal of criminals and their victims but as an introduction to some of the main protagonists in the Yugoslav wars you cannot do better than this. From the lowest to the top they are all here, some repent some are defiant in their denial. The language is simple which makes the facts all the more shocking. Like in Ed Vulliamy's book: "The war is dead, long live the war" Slavenka Drakulic does not linger over the details of their crimes but concentrates more on trying to examine their motivation. One conclusion is that their was no motivation other than some ordinary people finding themselves suddenly in a position of power exploit that power to satisfy their own sadistic fantasies. I could not read this book without stopping after each chapter and looking up the criminals on the ICTY channel in youtube. There you can see the faces behind the crimes and see how well they were described in the book.
At the time of writing Karadicz and Mladic were still at large and Milosevic was still alive. I think the book would benefit from an update and some revisions for as successful as the ICTY was in 2004 (publication date), its greatest successes were still to come.
There are a few typos in the Kindle edition but on the whole it is a good transfer from the print.
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on 6 July 2011
This book is a must read and should be on the school's reading list along with WWII. It demonstrates that not only can this type of horror occur in modern times, it is about ordinary people. A lot of books on these subjects focus far too much attention on the leaders and their inherent evil but, in the end, they would be nothing without the hordes of people who ignore, are indifferent, go along with the flow or join in. It is something that everyone needs to be made aware of, that this, the Balkans holocaust was caused, in the end, like any other holocaust, by ordinary people that if you sat them round a table, or in this case, a floor in the hague, would realise the stupidity and pointlessness of hating entire bodies of people.
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on 14 May 2015
A commonly asked question throughout many outrages in history - What caused him/her to act as they did? This book is only a snapshot of what can be discovered in more depth online at the warcrimes website - http://www.icty.org/.
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on 19 November 2014
I like the historical facts and knowledge in this book, I did however feel that sometimes her own input overshadowed certain aspects but not enough to ruin my enjoyment of this book. As with family roots from Croatia I can relate to this author's perspective though. I did not feel it was a one sided book in telling parts of the war as her opening chapter is condemning the actions of a specific town in which a man was trying to do right for his own conscience and his own people therefore disowned him. Some very intersting accounts. One specific chapter that stood out to me was chapter 8 in which you can feel the pain of those killed in this war.
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on 4 May 2004
Great book that covers this important topic, easy to read and once picked up you cannot put it down. Speaking as someone who is NOT a serb the above synopsys is incorrect in it's referals to Serb's as perpetrators - a typical western view. The book does cover monsters like Milosevic but also Croation monsters (yes, they do exist) and also references to Muslim murderers. So, in all, read the book, worth it but dont think it's about Serb bashing - this book is about establishing the truth many of us do not see or do not want to see. A very very good read and an eye opener on the subject of how the world produces mass murderers.
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on 14 May 2006
The author states her case in a compelling and gripping manner that draws the reader in and makes him/her ask themselves what would they do if they were in that position. She does it in a way that exposes both the savagery and the emotion that was present throughout the conflict.

She does it from a point of view that should be biased but is not. She states her case and explains why she believes that many would do what the perpetrators did in that instant.

Those who state they have studied the Balkans extensively and accuse this book of bias do so without knowledge at all for only by being there and living through it can anyone have believed what was happening. I did. I saw horror, murder, pain and hurt inflicted by all sides. I also saw humour, strength, life and abhorrence at what was happening. This book explains it from one side, NOT against any other.

The people of the Balkans have been through Hell itself and are trying to emerge from the other side. Maybe this book is the beginning of an attempt to understand and in doing so, stop it happening again.

To anyone who wishes to see what happens, it is vital that you read this. It will shock. It will tear at your heart and your mind. It may also open your eyes.
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