Srebrenica- The remains of a young boy found in four different mass graves.

Srebrenica Genocide

On Saturday Bosnian media reported that the body of one; Senad Beganović and his compatriot, the two years older Muvaz Orlović were identified after their remains had been exhumed from several mass graves around the Podrinje area. ( Drina Valley) Beganović was fourteen when he was killed, he was originally from Bratunac, while Muvaz (16) was from Konjević-Polje.

Senad was born in the village of Glogova near Bratunac ( See also: Glogova Massacre ) and disappeared during the Srebrenica genocide in July 1995. The exhumation of his remains is also a testimony of the rampage of Ratko Mladic and his Serb Army in in the summer and fall of 1995. Some of Senad´s remains were first exhumed in 1998 from a mass grave in Zeleni Jadar near Srebrenica. Other remains were found in 2000 in a grave near his birth village Glogova and then in 2005 several bones were found in a grave in Budak near Srebrenica. Towards the end of 2007 parts were found from another recently discovered grave in Zeleni Jadar near Srebrenica.

The graves in which Senad’s remains were found are several tens of kilometers apart from each other. His remains were identified by his brother Suad. The mortal remains of Muvaz were found in a grave in Zalazje near Srebenica in 2009. All this according to Lejla Čengić, a spokeswoman for the Institute for Missing Persons of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In Podrinje´s “Valley of Mass Graves” also known as “Bosnia´s Valley of Death” near Kamenica in eastern Bosnia the body of one Šahbaz Bećirović born in the village of Neđeljište near Vlasenica was found, his remains were identified by his brothers son, a graduate student at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Sarajevo who also works as an imam in town of Srebrenik. According to Semir, his uncle Šahbaz remains are still incomplete, his skull is missing along with his fingers and his feet. There are a total of 14 mass graves in the vicinity of the village. All contain the remains of victims killed after the fall of Srebrenica.

According to Semir, the Bećirović family headed towards Srebenica after the fall of Cerska in March of 1993, most of the women and children in the family were transported to Tuzla that year, while his uncle and most of the men decided to stay.

“After the fall of Srebrenica my uncle decided to stay, while my dad headed towards the woods, he tried to make my uncle come along but my uncle stayed, he wanted to stay and see what would happen after the fall. My father made it to Kladanj “ (Bosnian controlled territory)

Today Semir lives with his wife and child in Srebrenik while his father returned to Neđeljišta near Vlasenica. Yesterday the bodies of Sejdin Husić from Brezovica near Srebrenica and Omer Mujić from the village of Skenderović also near Srebrenica were also identified along with one Hasan Salihović from Potočari and Muhamed Mekanić from Vlasenica.

During 2013, under the direction of Dr. Kešetovic and doctor Vedo Tuco a forensics expert working for the Podrinje Identification Project and Memorial Centre in Tuzla, a total of 366 victims has been identified.

Note: From approximately 1 August 1995 to 1 November 1995, there was an organised effort to remove the bodies from primary mass gravesites and transport them to secondary and tertiary gravesites. In the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia court case “Prosecutor v. Blagojevic and Jokic”, the trial chamber found that this reburial effort was an attempt to conceal evidence of the mass murders. The trial chamber found that the cover up operation was ordered by the VRS Main Staff and subsequently carried out by members of the Bratunac and Zvornik Brigades.

The cover-up operation has had a direct impact on the recovery and identification of the remains. The removal and reburial of the bodies have caused them to become dismembered and co-mingled, making it difficult for forensic investigators to positively identify the remains. For example, in one specific case, the remains of one person were found in two different locations, 30 km apart. In addition to the ligatures and blindfolds found at the mass graves, the effort to hide the bodies has been seen as evidence of the organised nature of the massacres and the non-combatant status of the victims, since had the victims died in normal combat operations, there would be no need to hide their remains.

Anulled- The Persecution of Victims of Ethnic Cleansing

Anulled- “Poništeni” The Persecution of Victims of Ethnic Cleansing

In the documentary “Poništeni” ( Anulled ) we get to see and hear the stories of those who have at first hand experienced the violation of their right and freedom to choose where they wish to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This article appeared yesterday Friday 23-12-2013 on Al Jazzera Balkans

So far there is no english translation to the documentary given that it aired 18th of December. However as soon as a version with subtitles is available we will post it.

By Al Jazzira Balkans 23-12-2013

These are the survivors of ethnic cleansing and their message is that today, years after the end of the Bosnian War, these survivors face what can best be described as “administrative persecution” by the authorities in the places in which they have returned after war.
After the referendum of March 1992, Bosnia decided to declare independence. That was the reason for the aggression on the country by the JNA (Yugoslav People´s Army) and paramilitary units from Serbia.

After the Army of Republika Srpska in July 1995 commited genocide in Srebrenica, forces lead by the international community and NATO stopped the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina by limited military intervention against the Army of Republika Srpska.

Aside from the 100 000 killed, one of the effects of the war was also ethnic cleansing, which was “systematic and planned” according to the UN-reports by the Army of Republika Srpska.

On the 14th of November 1995 the Dayton Peace Accords effectively split the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina into two enteties.
Even though Annex 7 of the accords gives special rights to refugees, returnees and those displaced by the war, rights in which it says that they are allowed to return to their pre-war homes. In the Entity Republika Srpska only some 30% have returned home, mostly Bosniaks and Croats driven away from their homes during the war.

Despite all that and the fact that the Bosnian constitution and the law on residence which guarantees freedoms and rights of residence, in the beginning of 2012 ministry of the interior of Republika Srpska started conducting illegal checks, visiting returnees homes without any prior notice and if they did not find the returnees at the places where they were registered, the ministry precided to anull the returnees ID-cards.
During this process 400 ID-cards were destroyed or annulled in Foča, Srebrenica, Višegrad, Derventa, Prijedor and other town throughout Republika Srpska.

Proposal for amendments to the law on permanent and temporary residence was adopted by the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH.
Returnees fear that the proposed changes might legalize the so-called spot checks, and that the inspection could lead to cancellation of registration of residence Bosnian citizens who are currently living abroad, but also complicate the procedure of registration of returnees and displaced persons.

Experiences from Srebrenica, Višegrad, Foča and other cities around the RS show that if the inspectors wrongly interpret a situation, without complaints of those who live abroad as refugees or those who have returned but are not adequately informed, this could become the status quo, meaning that if someone is not at home or is abroad during one of these inspections the ministry of interior can annul the returnees ID-cards.

After the proposed changes to the law were twice brought in front of Constitutional Court in relation to the determination of questions of threat to vital interests of the constituent peoples, the proposal will be decided by the House of Peoples a majority, with at least one third of the votes from each entity is needed.

The only thing that Bosniak delegates in the House of Peoples can do is leave the session at the time of voting for the proposal, since without their presence there is no quorum for decision-making.

Open Letter to Ambassador Samantha Power Regarding the Demolition of the House on Pionirska Street

The house on Pionirska Street. Photo: Luca Bonacini
The house on Pionirska Street. Photo: Luca Bonacini

The Honorable Ambassador Samantha Power
Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations
United States Mission to the United Nations
799 United Nations Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10017

Dear Madame Ambassador:

We are writing to express our concerns about the plans of the Višegrad municipality to destroy the Pionirska house, one of the houses in Višegrad where the Lukić cousins trapped approximately 60 innocent Bosniaks in the basement of the house and burned them alive. The municipality also plans to remove the term “genocide” from a memorial to the victims of the genocide that has been erected in the Muslim cemetery in Višegrad. The recent municipal order authorized these destructive actions to take place on December 24, 2013.

The Pionirska house was one of two sites in Višegrad where, in 1992, innocent civilians–predominantly women and children– were forced into houses and burned alive. The ICTY called these crimes the “worst acts of inhumanity that a person may inflict upon others.” The Court continued:

In the all too long, sad and wretched history of man’s inhumanity to man, the Pionirska street and Bikavac fires must rank high. At the close of the twentieth century, a century marked by war and bloodshed on a colossal scale, these horrific events stand out for the viciousness of the incendiary attack, for the obvious premeditation and calculation that defined it, for the sheer callousness and brutality of herding, trapping and locking the victims in the two houses, thereby rendering them helpless in the ensuing inferno, and for the degree of pain and suffering inflicted on the victims as they were burnt alive. There is a unique cruelty in expunging all traces of the individual victims which must heighten the gravity ascribed to these crimes. (From the ICTY Judgment Summary for Milan Lukić and Sredoje Lukić, 20 July 2009)

The house at the site of the Bikavac fire was completely destroyed. The only “memorial” to the victims of these heinous crimes stands today at the Pionirska site. That is the very memorial to the victims that the Višegrad municipality plans to destroy.

Further, in the summer of 2010, work on a nearby dam caused the level of the Drina River to drop. Bosnia’s Missing Persons Institute and the International Commission on Missing Persons were therefore able to exhume the human remains of victims who had been murdered on or around the Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad in 1992, and thrown into the river. On May 25th 2012, 60 of those victims who had been identified were buried in the Muslim Stražište cemetery. At that time, the memorial for the victims of the genocide in Višegrad was erected in the cemetery. This is the only intentional memorial to the victims of the genocide in Višegrad.

Each of these sites (the Pionirska house and the Stražište memorial) serve to mark what Dr. Hariz Halilovich has called in his recent book “places of pain,” places that give form to the collective cultural memory of the genocide that was suffered by Bosniaks and other non-Serbs. The plan to destroy or deface these memorials is part of a systematic effort in Republika Srpska to deny the genocide.

It must be stated that similar efforts to deny and suppress the truth of the genocide are routinely practiced in the city of Prijedor and the surrounding area. The Mayor of Prijedor has attempted to prevent commemorative gatherings and has forbidden the use of the term “genocide.” Survivors of the concentration camps, for example, are only allowed to gather at the infamous Omarska camp one day each year. Further, survivors have been forbidden from erecting memorials at the sites of the former concentration camps. Bosnian Serbs, however, have erected their own memorials, which are located provocatively nearby the camps, such as the one at Trnopolje. In Višegrad, as well, a statue has been erected to the perpetrators in the middle of town, a statue that has become a gathering site for divisive ultranationalist rallies. Thus, the prohibition of memorials to the Bosniak victims in Višegrad and elsewhere reveals a policy of discrimination and apartheid in Republika Srpska.

It has not escaped our attention that what will probably be the largest mass grave to be exhumed since the end of the genocidal aggression was discovered in September 2013 at Tomašica, near Prijedor. Close to 500 victims have been found thus far. The grave covers an area of 5,000 square meters and is said to be 10 meters deep. A mass grave, a crime scene of this magnitude, could only have escaped attention this long due to the culture of denial and silence that permeates Republika Srpska.

We would like to propose that the only way to protect human rights regarding the preservation of cultural memory, as well as the right of return, would be to “federalize” these places of pain, whether in Foča, Prijedor, Trnopolje, Višegrad, or elsewhere, in the same way that the Potočari Memorial Cemetery was established and has been preserved in memory of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. By establishing these memorial sites as federal, or as national property, the survivors would be empowered to create memorials and commemorate the genocide in these specific “places of pain,” free of the denial and the suppression of the truth.

We write to you now because of the current threat to the Pionirska house and to the Stražište memorial, but also because of the proliferation of efforts to intimidate and exclude non-Serbs from Republika Srpska. In recent months, for example, an ultranationalist billboard was installed in Vlasenica on the road to Srebrenica. The billboard bears the image of Ratko Mladic, as well as the message: “General, We are Waiting For You… Serb Vlasenica.” On the other side of the billboard, three phrases are visible: “Serb language, Serb Government, Orthodox Faith.”

These brutal actions to destroy or deface memorials to the genocide are part of a systematic effort in Republika Srpska to intimidate Bosniaks and non-Serbs who have returned to their former homes, and to prevent additional refugees from returning. Further, the destructive acts scheduled for December 24th will strike a decisive blow against efforts seeking justice and reconciliation. Such orchestrated efforts to intimidate Bosniaks from returning to Republika Srpska are a violation of Annex 7 of the Dayton Peace Accords. Annex 7 affirms “that refugees and displaced persons are permitted to return in safety, without risk of harassment, intimidation, persecution, or discrimination, particularly on account of their ethnic origin, ” and calls, moreover, for the prevention of any activities that would “hinder or impede the safe and voluntary return of refugees and displaced persons.” The intimidation of those who would seek to return to their former homes is, as well, a violation of the “right to freedom of movement and residence within the border of the State,” a human right affirmed by numerous core human rights instruments.

Finally, we write to you, because, in your book, “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide you chronicled and lamented the reluctance of the United States to intervene to prevent genocide. You wrote: “…time and time again, decent men and women chose to look away” (xvi). We implore you, at this time, not to look away. We ask you to coordinate a diplomatic intervention, in the spirit of the doctrine of “the responsibility to protect,” to protect and preserve the Pionirska house and the memorial in Stražište cemetery.

We encourage you to organize a diplomatic effort to recognize the places of pain, the sites where Bosniaks and non-Serbs were incarcerated, tortured, raped and killed during the genocide, as national property or land, so as to protect and preserve those sites. Let us stand, finally, with the courageous returnees and activists in Višegrad as we affirm their fundamental human rights and confront ultranationalist efforts to continue the dehumanizing exclusion of Bosniaks and non-Serbs from Republika Srpska, exclusions that are nothing less than the continuation of the genocide that occurred between 1992 and 1995.

Thank you for your consideration.


David Pettigrew, Ph.D.,
Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University,
Member, Steering Committee, Yale University Genocide Studies Program,
International Team of Experts Institute for Research of Genocide Canada,
Board Member, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center, Chicago, IL;


Sanja Seferovic-Drnovsek, J.D., M.Ed.,
Chairperson, Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center (BAGI);

Prof. Emir Ramic, Chairman, Institute for the Research of Genocide, Canada (IRGC);

Prof. Dr. Smail Cekic, Director, Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law, University of Sarajevo;

Mirsad Duratovic, President of the Association of Detainees “Prijedor 92”;

Dr. Senadin Lavic, President, Bosniak Cultural Association, Sarajevo

New Haven, 22 December 2013

Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University, David Pettigrew at Stražište cemetery
Professor of Philosophy, Southern Connecticut State University, David Pettigrew at Stražište cemetery

Visegrad : Municipality set to destroy Pionirska Street House

Pionirska Street House Photo: Anadolu Agency
Pionirska Street House
Photo: Anadolu Agency

A house in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad, in which dozens of people were burned alive by convicted war criminals Milan and Sredoje Lukic is about to be destroyed due to the construction of a road.

On October 12th I wrote an article on the continued struggle of Victims Associations in Visegrad to stop the destruction of the house on Pionirska Street, the site of the live pyre which took the lives of 59 people. The house and the site has been subject to an ongoing dispute, that has now culminated with the decision to demolish the house on 24th of December 2013, on the same day a crew is set to enter the Straziste Memorial and Cemetry and remove the word; Genocide from the Memorial.

This story appeared on Bosnian news site 18.12.2013.

Municipal – Construction Inspector for the Municipality of Visegrad approved a request for the destruction of a newly renovated house in Visegrad, the house on Pionirska Street is to be destroyed on 24th of December, on Christmas Eve. The house, property of one ; Sumbula Zeba was on the 14th of june 1992 a scene of a live pyre which took the lives of 53 Bosniaks from the Visegrad area. The reconstruction and renovation of the house, is thus of great significance not only to the victims’ families, who consider the house to be as close to a graveyard for their loved ones as they will ever get, but also to the returnees who alone worked on the house as well as to the owner of the house.

Since the very beginning of the renovation, those that participated on it have been subjected to various forms of obstructions, bans and have been called to different interviews and hearings by various local inspection services as well as investigators from the local police station in Visegrad. All this according to Bakira Hasecic, who has been leading the reconstruction and was given power of attorney by the owner of the house Sumbula Zeba. Hasecic is also the president of the Women Victims of War Association.

According to Hasecic: “Milan Lukic was sentenced to life imprisonment for the crimes committed here, while his cousin sentenced to 27 years, while we today still have to deal with various obstructions coming from the local SDS branch here in Visegrad.”

The crime in question is commonly referred to as the Pionirska Street Live Pyre. After the local municipal inspectors approved the demolition, a formal complaint was filed against it, however the complaint was rejected.

“It seems obvious that the authorities’ in Banja Luka did not see the complete documentation on this case, if they had they would have seen that the house which was burned down during the war, was a scene of live pyre and that in that fire 53 civilians died. There is also a law on the rights of refugees in which it says that no one needs to apply for a permit from the municipal building inspection when renovating unless they intend to completely change the character of the building and/or extend the foundations of the building. This house was rebuilt on its original foundation and we did not in any way stray from the rules” according to Hasecic.

Because of the violations of human rights in Visegrad, a delagtion comprised of members of the OHR, the US Embassy and OSCE visited Visgerad today and the house on Pionirska Street, after that they meet with local leaders.
“The reason for our visit is so that we can see for our self’s what is going on here, and to learn more about the situation concerning the house, the regulatory process, and I am convinced after being here, that there are no problems here and that is what we will report to the Office of the High Representative in Sarajevo, said Peter Appleby the head political officer of the OHR. He added that representatives of the international community were worried about the approval for the demolition of the house on Pionirska Street saying that the process needs to be handled by the book, which takes time, and that time should be set aside to do this properly, which also means a right to file a an official complaint.”

members of the OHR, the US Embassy and OSCE   Photo: Anadolu Agency
members of the OHR, the US Embassy and OSCE
Photo: Anadolu Agency

“I´ll talk to the mayor and the deputy of the deputy of the municipal assembly and convey my stance on the issue and that of my colleagues from the international community that we believe that there is a way to find a compromise solution. This is not just a question of the rule of law, this is also about human rights, and above all about return of refugees and reconciliation and that is something that we all should get behind. “
Workers from a local company “Komunalac” are also set to remove the word : Genocide from a memorial to the victims of the Visegrad Genocide at the Straziste cemetery, the planned removal is set for the same day as the demolition of the house on Pionirska Street. According to the head of the Islamic Community in Visegrad, Bilal Memisevic the gates of the cemetery will be closed on that day, since access to the cemetery is only permitted to those who have family members buried there.

“We´ll try to tell the local authorities in Visegrad that we will not use force to repeal anyone but, we will point to the fact that force has been used against us. We consider the cemetery at Straziste to be holy ground and nobody who did not notify us of their presence in advance or does not respect Islamic Law is not permitted there. I cannot believe that the house on Pionirska Street will be destroyed, the same way that I cannot believe that the Bosnian community as a whole and those with any kind of say on this matter would allow something like this to happen. My opinion is that the house in Pionirska Street needs to be defended even if we have to do so physically.” According to Memisevic.

Representatives from various bosniak NGO´s told the press that they would do everything to protect the Memorial at Starziste.

“We´ll follow the events on the ground closely thru our partners from other associations, and we will take appropriate measures. We hope the outcome will be a positive one, but we are prepared in case things don´t turn out as well as possible “All this according to the representative of the NGO´s Senadin Voloder.

For Those That Can Tell No Tales: Bosnian film director finally wrestles away Visegrad from Emir Kustrica

The Old bridge in Visegrad ( Na Drini Cuprija)
The Old bridge ( Na Drini Cuprija)

This article was originally published: 21-11-2013 in the Croatian Daily, Jutarnji List.

By Nenad Polimac

In Jasmila Zbanic film “Na Putu” ( On The Path) there is an excellent scene in which the heroine of the story ( Zrinka Cvitešić) gets drunk and decides to head to Republika Srpska with her friend ( Nina Violić) to visit her childhood home. The home is now occupied by others, once there the couple is surprised by a curious young girl who wants to know what the two women are doing. If an older person had appeared before them, the heroine of the story (Cvitešić) would have probably tried to might light of the moment by joking, but in the presence of the young girl that most likely had no idea that another family had lived in the house where her family now lives did not seem appropriate. The scene is full of emotional powerlessness and is one of the most suggestive examples in Bosnian postwar cinema of the consequences of the Bosnian War.

There are no such scenes in Zbanic new film; For Those That Can Tell No Tales, not because it´s somehow a lesser film, but because the film serves different purpose, and tells a completely different tale. For Those That Can Tell No Tales does not tell a straightforward story, in fact it´s much closer to a conceptual art piece than a movie.

In case you happened to see Zbanic ´s documentary “Slike s ugla” from 2006 ( Images from a Corner ) a documentary that received a prize at ZagrebDox then you`ll understand what I mean. In that piece Zbanic tried to find out what had happened to a close friend of her´s that was wounded on a corner in Sarajevo in 1992. And why a French photographer that was on the scene did not try and help her, instead of just photographing the incident, in all the photographer spent three rolls of film shooting Zbanic´s wounded friend.

As the documentary rolls on, we don´t actually get to know much about the girl on the corner, we don´t even get to see the French photographer, however in on moment we hear her voice, in that one moment, that one associative set in which we also get to hear the name Srebrenica a since of terrible discomfort arises, a discomfort that stays with you. The most important thing is not to fulfil the original objective, but to focus on something real, like the horrors of the Bosnian War and to find a place for them in the characters everyday life. If you accomplish that then, you have done a whale of a job.

That´s exactly the kind of film For Those That Can Tell No Tales is, Zbanic had in November 2011 in Sarajevo seen a play by Australian actress and performer Kym Vercoe called; “Seven Kilometers North East” in which Vercoe had summarized her experience from her trip to the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad. She came to Visegrad because of the book “Na Drini ćuprija” ( Brigde on The River Drina ) by Ivo Andric.

In Visegrad she found accommodation at the hotel and spa resort called Vilna Vlas, she was overwhelmed by the old bridge build in the 16th century during the Ottoman Rule. It wasn’t until she returned to Australia that she found out that the bridge was a scene of serial butchery and rape back in the spring and summer of 1992, and that the idyllic hotel and spa, Vilna Vlas was used by Serb soldiers and paramilitaries for raping Bosniak (Muslim) women, 200 in total were raped there. While in Visegrad, Vercoe had no idea what had happened in the town, nobody told her anything. Given the fact that there is no memorial to the victims in Visegrad, only to those that did the killing and the raping, Vercoe set out to make a play that would serve as a memorial to and a reminder of the victims of something that cannot, be forgotten.

Zbanic came to Vercoe with the idea of making Vercoe´s trip to Bosnia into a film, and that was the inception of: For Those That Can Tell No Tales. It´s not a tale of fiction but of re-construction. The film has a relaxed and easygoing tone while Vercoe is in Sarajevo, while the since of menace and discomfort grows upon Vercoe´s arrival in Visegrad especially after she finds out what happened in the town. There are no grand gestures, it´s all toned down, there are no flashbacks to the horrors of the war, still Zbanic does not leave out any of the horrific details. Aside from Vercoe´s play the film also serves as a form of memorial to the victims, a memorial that they are not allowed to have in Visgerad.

Emir Kusturica has tried to maintain the romantic feel of the bridge captured in Andric´s novel in his own Kamengrad (Andricgrad) However anyone who watches Zbanic´s film will know that what is going on is an attempt at covering up war crimes. The Bosnian director has in a way taken Visegrad back from Kusturica, and in that alone accomplished something big.

Kym Vercoe in:  For Those That Can Tell No Tales.
Kym Vercoe in: For Those That Can Tell No Tales.

The Chetniks and Serbia´s Secret War

A photograph of a Chetnik officer alongisde Nazi Germans
A photograph of a Chetnik officer alongisde Nazi Germans

This is a response to the ongoing attempts by Serbian State Television to rehabilitate the memory of the Serb nationalist Chetnik movement under the leadership of Dragoljub “Draza” Mihajlovic. In the years since the breakup of former Yugoslavia there has been a debate in Serbia about the rehabilitation of the Chetnik movement. Those calling for rehabilitation have argued about the Chetnik movement’s role in fighting the Axis Powers during the Second World War and their role in what is popularly called “The national liberation struggle” or the anti-fascist struggle against the Nazis and their collaborators in the Balkans and former Yugoslavia.

Firstly, the role of the Chetnik movment in fighting the Axis Powers was at best limited. After 1941 the Chetniks collaborated openly with the Axis Powers in Balkans against Tito´s partisans, engaging on the side of the Axis Powers in a number of offensives against Tito´s Partisan Movement. As well as what can best be described as: genocidal massacers of Bosniaks all along the Drina River in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Secondly it was unlike Tito´s partisan movement a solely Serb nationalist in their orientation. Tito´s partisan were multiethnic in character and included all of the nations of the former Yugoslavia, which was one of the reasons why the Chetniks turned on them.
The Chetnik ideology much like the Nazi ideology argued for one large, ethnically pure Serbian state.

In the Chetnik vision, Greater Serbia would consist only of Serbs, under a Serbian king, encompassing Serbia, Vojvodina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and portions of Croatia, including the Dalmatian coast as far north as Sibenik and the inland provinces of Lika and Slavonia.The continued effort to rehabilitate the Chetnik movement is not only an insult to Serb, Bosniak, Croat, Slovine, Jewish Montenegrin and Hungarian anti-fascists who heroically fought the Axis Powers in the Second World War, but an insult to the victims of the Chetniks crimes. Therefore I have decided to re-publish author Jeanne Haskins review of Philip Cohen’s groundbreaking study: Serbia’s Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History; which shows in detail the extent of the Chetniks racist ideology their collaboration with the Nazis as well as that of Milan Nedic´s quisling regime in Belgrade.


By Jeanne M. Haskin

In Serbia’s secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History, Philip J. Cohen and David Riesman have a lot to say about Serbian collaboration with the Nazis. It began long before their occupation and before the signing of the Tripartite Pact, as is typical, with a series of anti-Jewish tracts and statements. The fascist entity Zbor, for example, published a tract entitled “Serbian People in the Claws of the Jews,” which urged that “Jewry has to be quickly and energetically liquidated, because otherwise the destruction of Christian civilization is inevitable.”

Other publications, including one entitled ‘Obnova,’ proclaimed that Jews were the ancient enemies of the Serbian people and that the Serbs should not wait for the Germans to begin the extermination of the Jews. What is more, Patriarch Varnava, the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, “met with German journalists in January 1937 to express his ‘vivid interest’ in the new Germany and to praise Hitler for leading a ‘battle which serves all humanity.’”

There were several fascist organizations installed in occupied Belgrade with the complete and total cooperation of the Serbs there. These included “the Nazi-backed regime of Gen. Milan Nedic, the Serbian fascist movement Zbor, and various Serbian state security forces, including the Serbian State Guard, the Serbian Volunteer Corps, the Belgrade Special Police, the Serbian Gestapo, as well as the Chetnik guerrilla bands of Kosta Pecanac and the Chetniks of Draza Mihailovic.” Nor was their range limited to Serbia. In pursuit of an expanded and ethnically pure “Greater Serbia,” these organizations operated in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia.

In other words, some Serbs cooperated happily with the Germans as long as they did not interfere with their own processes of exterminating non-Serbs in the territories that they longed for. And so trusted were these Serbs that by the “eight month of German occupation, Minister of the Economy Mihailo Olcan boasted that Serbia ‘has been allowed what no other occupied country has been allowed [and that is] to establish law and order … by means of our own armed forces.’” By December 1, 1941, Nedic was in command of nearly eighteen thousand men, who were armed and equipped by the Germans on 13 December.

Cohen and Riesman state that “Nazi anti-Semitism struck in Serbian society a responsible chord — the Chetnik belief in ethnic purity found at the core of Serbian ultranationalism well before the twentieth century.” They claim that about 15,000 Jews perished in Nedic’s Serbia, comprising nearly 94 percent of the Jewish population. With regard to the camp of Banjica, it was guarded jointly by the Gestapo and the Serbian State Guard, with this function later passing to the Serbian State Guard alone. Executions became daily events, and the lists of intended victims were drawn up in Cyrilic [an alphabetic writing system used by the Serbs]. Banjica survivors reported that the Belgrade Special Police and the Serbian State Guard were responsible for executions and that the victims included children. In all, approximately 23,697 inmates passed through Banjica, of whom 3,849 were slain, predominantly by the Germans but also by members of the Serbian State Guard.

By September of 1944, at least 455 of the remaining Jews were captured by Ljoticites [followers of the Serbian Nazi-collaborator Dimitrije Ljotic], Nedicites [followers of the Serbian Nazi-collaborator Milan Nedic], and Chetniks [followers of the Serbian Nazi-collaborator Draza Mihailovic], who received a reward for every Jew they found. They were brought to Banjica and killed upon arrival. “But long before this in August, 1942, Harald Turner proudly announced that the ‘Jewish question’ of Serbia had been resolved, and Serbia had become the first country in Europe declared Judenfrei.” “Jewish survivors testified that the Chetniks, particularly those under the command of Draza Mihailovic, ‘persecuted Jews mercilessly’ and slaughtered them ‘in a bestial way.’”

Serbian president Milan Nedic on a state visit to Adolf Hitler, September 1943. This photo first appeared in the November 1943, Spanish edition of Signal. (Serbia´s Secret War)
Serbian president Milan Nedic on a state visit to Adolf Hitler, September 1943. This photo first appeared in the November 1943, Spanish edition of Signal. (Serbia´s Secret War)

As for the killing of non-Jews, the Serbs were particularly keen to slaughter Bosnian Muslims [Bosniaks] and Croats who were not part of the Ustashi. Historian Walter R. Roberts notes that within the Herzegovina territory, the Chetniks took terrible vengeance for the atrocities of the Croatian Ustashi. They killed indiscriminately, not caring whether or not the Muslims [Bosniaks] and the Croats had had anything to do with the Pavelic regime.

Fearful of their attacks, some Muslims joined the Ustashi of Ante Pavelic in Croatia and some joined the [anti-Nazi] Communist Partisan movement led by Tito, the man who was later to become Yugoslavia’s premier, while others tried to negotiate with the Germans. However, the Muslims [Bosniaks] soon became opposed to the Pavelic regime. Bosnian Muslim leaders from Sarajevo, Tuzla, Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Mostar, and Prijedor issued resolutions condemning the actions of the Ustashi and the Chetniks, calling for punishment of their crimes and the protection of innocents. Their resolutions urged religious tolerance and assistance to the victims.

With regard to the Communist movement that would eventually win the war in Yugoslavia, Serb participation was disproportionately high in the very beginning but, as its ranks swelled with Croats and Muslims [Bosniaks], their share of involvement dropped to roughly ten percent. “By the end of 1943, Croatia proper — which contained about 24 percent of the Yugoslav population — had provided more Partisans [anti-Nazi resistance fighters] than Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, and Macedonia, which, combined, made up 59 percent of Yugoslavia’s population. Overall, from 1941 to 1945, the Partisans of Croatia were 61 percent Croat and 28 percent Serb, the rest comprising Slovenes, Muslims [Bosniaks], Montenegrins, Italians, Hungarians, Czechs, Jews, and Voldsdeutsche.” There was little or no cooperation between the Partisans and the Chetniks.

In Stipe Sikavica’s words, Mihailovic saw the Communists as his real arch enemy. He viewed the liberation movement as nothing but an insidious usurper aimed at taking power. Blaming the Croats and the Muslims [Bosniaks] for the war, he hunted them down at every opportunity, while advancing his own plan to establish a “Greater Serbia” throughout much of Yugoslavia. As Jasminka Udoviki and James Ridgeway observed, even the Allies were to conclude that Mihailovic and his Chetniks were pursuing their own plan for dominance that merited cooperation with the Nazis at the expense of the Partisan movement rather than a heroic struggle.

Dragoljub "Draza" Mihajlovic.
Dragoljub “Draza” Mihajlovic.

In the final analysis, Cohen and Riesman say that “the Chetniks variously collaborated with the Partisans against the Nazis, the Nazis against the Partisans, the Italians against the Ustashi, and the Ustashi against the Partisans. As late as February, 1943, Mihailovic was so indiscreet as to state to a British colonel that the Chetniks’ principle enemies were, in order, Tito, the Ustashi, the Muslims [Bosniaks], the Croats, and the last the Germans and Italians.” Hence, whatever it took to gain Greater Serbia was what the Serbs willing to do, including the massacre of Jews.

Explicitly, Cohen and Riesman conclude:

Like the Nazis, who believed that all Germans must live within one large, ethnically pure German state, the Chetniks believed that all Serbs must live in one large, ethnically pure Serbian state. In the Chetnik vision, Greater Serbia would consist only of Serbs, under a Serbian king, encompassing Serbia, Vojvodina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and portions of Croatia, including the Dalmatian coast as far north as Sibenik and the inland provinces of Lika and Slavonia. The Chetnik plan specified that the non-Serbian populations of the coveted lands would be eliminated and that these lands would finally be legally incorporated into Greater Serbia. Regarding the realization of a Greater Serbia, the Chetniks and the Nedic government worked in parallel fashion toward a common goal. The Chetniks contributed to the cause of Greater Serbia by executing a policy of genocide against non-Serbs in the territories they coveted, while Nedic maneuvered politically with Berlin to secure the creation of Greater Serbia under German patronage. The final step of the Chetnik plan was to seize power after the Germans were ousted in an anticipated invasion by the Allies… it is this part of the Chetniks’ endgame — their anticipation that the Allies would eventually oust the Germans — that has provided the basis for the claim that the Chetniks were [pro-Allies.]

And here we find the words “ethnic cleansing,” not for the first time in Serbia’s history:

“A Chetnik directive of December 20, 1941, specified their goal to create an ‘ethnically pure’ Greater Serbia, consisting of Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Vojvodina, ‘cleansed… of all national minorities and non-national elements.” This directive further specified the necessity of “cleansing the Muslim population from the Sandzak and the Muslim [Bosniak] and Croatian populations from Bosnia and Herzegovina.” “Between 86,000 and 103, Muslims died during the Second World War. The majority of these perished at the hands of the Chetniks.”

Even before World War II, however, the Serbs had planned ethnic cleansing against another group in a document entitled “The Expulsion of the Albanians”:

If Germany can evict hundreds of thousands of Jews, if Russia can transport millions of people from one part of the continent to another, a few hundred thousand evicted Albanians will not provoke a world war. The deciding bodies must know what they want in order to carry through with their plan and not worry about world opinion… The only effective way is evicting Albanians from their triangle en masse. To cause the massive emigration the first prerequisite is to generate fear. It can be created in many ways… Agitators should be found as soon as possible to promote eviction, especially if Turkey is willing to give us some of these agitators.. The second condition is pressure by the state apparatus. It should make the utmost use of all legal means in order to make the Albanian existence here as bitter as possible: fines; arrests; the ruthless application of all police sanctions; punishments for smuggling, cutting trees and letting dogs loose; forced labor;… Old deeds should be rejected, land registry should be stopped, but all the taxes as well as all public and private debts should be ruthlessly collected. The use of state and community pasture lands should be banned; all concessions… should be abolished; they should not be granted monopoly licenses and should be fired from state, private and self-employment… Sanitary measures, such as the forceful implementations of regulations even inside their homes, knocking down the walls and high fences around their dwellings, the rigid implementation of veterinary laws which would continually prevent the selling of cattle at the market and so forth can all be done effectively and practically. Albanians are most sensitive in religious matters. That is where we should hit hardest. It can be done by molesting their clergy, plowing the graveyards… Even private initiative can have great effect. Our colonists should be given arms, if necessary. The traditional Chetnik method should be used in those areas. Chetnik actions there would need secret support. A horde of Montenegrins from the mountains should be sent down to provoke massive clashes with the Albanians… With the help of our secret forces the conflict should be prepared in advance. It should even be encouraged, which will not be difficult if the Albanian resistance is fierce. The whole case should be calmly presented as a conflict between clans and tribes and if necessary, it should be characterized in economic terms. In extreme cases, some local uprisings can be provoked which would later be put down by blood — the most effective means. This should not be done directly by the army, but rather by our colonizers, Chetniks and Montenegrin tribes.

For those who are already familiar with the pattern of Serbian action against non-Serbs in Yugoslavia between 1991 and 1995, there are several things that leap out for attention. The first is the ruthless use of administrative and guerrilla measures to make the ethnic Albanians want to leave their country. The second is that the Serbs were well aware that the world was watching but calculated that they could get away with what the Germans and the Russians had already done before the court of world opinion so long as they presented it as a “tribal” or “ethnic” conflict. The third is that they still recognized that the secret and supposedly detached involvement of the Chetniks would be the best means of attack. These are all things that Serbia was to repeat during the war of the present era when the victims were the Muslims [Bosniaks].

This review was republished from : Bosnian Genocide WordPress

Det dröjer innan Bosnien återhämtar sig efter kriget

Divjak (till höger) med franske författaren och filosofen Bernard Henri Lévy 1994 i den då belägrade Sarajevo under inspelningen av Lévys dokumentär : Bosna!
Divjak (till höger) med franske författaren och filosofen Bernard Henri Lévy 1994 i den då belägrade Sarajevo under inspelningen av Lévys dokumentär : Bosna!

Den här texten publicerades idag 06-12-2013 i Nerikes Allehanda på debattsidan. Sida 26 med titeln “Det dröjer innan Bosnien återhämtar sig efter kriget.” Texten skrev jag med anledning av Jovan Divjaks besök i Örebro 21 november 2013.

Några veckor sedan satt jag i A-huset i Örebro och lyssnade på Jovan Divjak tala om Bosniens framtid. Efteråt skulle han till Stockholm för ett seminarium om just Bosniens framtid som hölls i Sveriges riksdag. Seminariet hade arrangerats av Folkpartiet liberalerna. En sak var enligt Divjak klar, så länge nationalisterna styrde har landet ingen framtid. Det finns mycket att säga om Jovan Divjak, men om man skulle sammanfatta det hela med en mening så skulle man kunna säga att; han förkroppsligar genuina bosniska värderingar. Värderingar som mångfald, solidaritet rättvisa och tolerans. Värderingar som tog rejäl skada under kriget och folkmordet på nittiotalet. Det som gör Divjak speciell är att han föddes i Serbien och flyttade från Belgrad till Sarajevo på sextiotalet som jugoslavisk yrkesmilitär, under den serbiska aggressionen mot den bosniska staten på 1990-talet så valde han att ansluta till den bosniska armén i den belägrade staden. Han kunde ha gått den andra vägen, men han valde Bosnien Hercegovina. I snart tjugo nu har Divjak jobbat med föräldralösa barn i Bosnien genom föreningen “Education Builds Bosnia,” som han var med och startade.

Som svenskbosnier kan jag säga att det uppskattas onekligen att svenska politiker börjar prata om Bosnien, kriget, folkmordet men också framtiden. Många svenskbosnier är kluvna när det gäller Sverige, kanske rättare sagt det roll Sverige har spelat när det har gällt Bosnien. Å ena sidan så finns det få länder som tog emot så många flyktingar från Bosnien, hjälpte oss starta våra liv om igen gav oss hopp när vi hade förlorat all hopp. Å andra sidan kan man inte komma ifrån det fördärvliga roll Carl Bildt spelade under kriget, då han blev symbolen för den eftergiftspolitik som EU USA och FN förde gentemot Milosevic och hans klienter i Bosnien, Ratko Mladic och Radovan Karadzic. Ett politik som för första gången efter andra världskriget tolererade koncentrationsläger, massdeportationer, massmord massvåldtäkter i hjärtat av Europa och ett rasistisk ”vi och dom” syn på omvärlden, där det räckte ifall man hade fel namn för att riskera allt. Mig kostade den politiken sex familjemedlemmar.

Andra mer, betydligt mer. Kulmen på den politik var två händelser, det ena folkmordet i Srebrenica, ett folkmord som skedde mer eller mindre framför tv-kamerorna, alla visste att det skulle ske och alla visste vad som pågick under den där helvetiska veckan i juli 1995. Vid sidan av Rwanda är det mest väldokumenterade massmordet i modern tid och ändå så ingrep ingen, precis som i Rwanda.

Andra händelsen är Dayton-avtalet från november 1995, då man såg till att belöna den politik som hade lett till folkmord genom att man delade Bosnien i två entiteter, i ett svep så belönade den man det politik som såg till att skilja på folk utifrån vad de heter eller vad de har för religion.
Med andra ord; så legitimerades ett rasistisk apartheidpolitik som slutade med folkmord. Bosnien Hercegovina har ännu inte återhämtat sig från det, än idag råder så råder det i stora delar av landet ett slags schizofren syn på historien och på kriget, där man bygger monument till krigsförbrytare bara ett par meter från gamla koncentrationsläger och där folkmordet i Srebrenica och andra krigsförbrytelser förnekas eller deras omfattning och påverkan minimeras och de anhöriga och överlevande traumatiseras.

Fast någonting har hänt, det kunde man se i våras och framförallt under JMBG-protesterna i sommars, många unga bosnier; kroater, serber och bosniaker, har tröttnat på den absurda uppdelningen av landet i två entiteter, ett diskriminerande system som gynnar exklusivt tre folkgrupper, man har tröttnat på den etno-nationalistiska politiken, den schizofrena synen på kriget, folkmordsförnekelsen och historierevisionismen i delar av landet. Saker börjar hända och allt mer ”motståndsfickor” bildas. Folk vill ha sitt land tillbaka, det som stals från oss. Jag nämnde ovan bosniska värderingar, dessa värderingar sveks i Dayton då man belönade en folkmordspolitik och onaturlig uppdelning av folken och landet. Världen har nu en skyldighet att hjälpa de bosnier som vill återta sitt land, som vill normalisera läget, skapa en bättre framtid för sina barn, som vill ha ett slut på den schizofrena synen på historien, på folkmordsförnekelsen, jag är övertygad att där kan Sverige spela en viktig roll.


Mirza Hota