History in the Court of Law: Legal Rehabilitation as a Mirror and an Instrument of Politics of Memory in Croatia and Serbia
This research project examines the intertwinement of history, memory, and law in the wider context of politics of memory on the Second World War and socialist Yugoslavia in contemporary Serbia and Croatia. The official politics of memory in both countries entails the consensus about the condemnation of the postwar executions and trials in Yugoslavia, striving for political and legal rehabilitation of the victims regardless of their wartime activities. There has been the dominant understanding that they were innocent victims of political repression and violence and that the postwar trials and courts were ideologically motivated, both countries adopting the legislation in order to revise these. While the possibility of legal rehabilitation in Croatia was introduced within the general Law on Criminal Proceeding in 2009, the Serbian National Assembly adopted two specific Rehabilitation Acts in 2006 and 2011. This project intends to analyze the formulation of these legal acts as well as their implementation and the narratives about the Second World War and Yugoslavia in the courtroom and court decisions.
Understanding legal acts defining rehabilitation as memory laws, this research expands on the existing literature on memory laws that has been predominantly focused on legal acts, declarations and resolutions prescribing or sanctioning certain interpretation of the past. The rehabilitation cases are understood as not only having the aim of correcting an injustice from the past but often rather exonerating persons from their wartime responsibility, at the same time reinterpreting history and mirroring state-sanctioned politics of memory.