Last month media in the Balkans reported that Muniza Oprasic, a 78-year old Bosniak returnee to Republika Sprska was ordered by a district court in Eastern Sarajevo which is in the RS entity to pay 10 000 euro to a Serb family who lived in her house as squatters in the village of Okruglo for about seven years until 2003. During that time Muniza Oprasic lived as a refugee. Oprasic who now lives of her pension, which is 320 Bosnian marks [160 euro] appealed to anyone who can help since she as an elderly returnee to that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina has no means to pay the fee ordered by the court. The Serb family sued Muniza Oprasic since they most likely had assumed that she would never return to her house and her village and therefore made renovations to the house for which they now expect to be compensated for.
Clearly shocked by the court´s decision Muniza said to reporters from BIRN that she didn´t understand how such a thing could happen. This was her home, and she didn´t understand what gave them the right to go into her home at all? Living there for seven years in her house while Muniza lived as a refugee away from her home. Now the Serb family wanted her to pay for renovations they had made on someone elses house. Since Muniza has no means of paying the large amount set by the district court in Eastern Sarajevo; the court decided to take it out of her monthly pension, which is 160 euro. The court said that they will take half or maybe as much as 100 Bosnian marks (50 euro) which would be unberable for someone her age, given that she needs medicine and has bills to pay. When BIRN talked to her she openly appeled to help from anyone who could help her…
According to Muniza this is the way returnees to Visegrad are being treated by the Serb-led authorities in that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Muniza´s village; Okruglo lies a few kilometers from the old town of Visegrad, in the past most famous for it´s old Ottoman era-bridge built by Mehmed-pasha Sokolovic and immortalized in Ivo Andric´s novel Bridge on the River Drina, now infamous as the site of some of the worst atrocities during the Bosnian war. On 6th of April Visegrad was attacked by the Yugoslav People´s Army´s (JNA) Uzice Corps under the command of Dragoljub Ojdanic. Ojdanic later went on to become Chief of General Staff of the “reformed” Yugoslav Army (Vojska Jugoslavije) and was later found guilty for crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 15 years for his role in Milosevic´s Kosovo campagain. By April 14th 1992 his Uzice Corps had with the help of Serb paramilitaries, managed to take over the town installing a Serb nationalist government which proceeded to arrest and harass segments of the Bosniak and other non-Serb parts of the population. After the the JNA formally left the town on May 19th the systematic and wide-spread targeting of the town´s Bosniak community began, with arrests, disappearances, abduction of prominent local figures, executions carried out by local paramilitary units, setting up of detention camps, including the Uzamnica camp where the inmates, both male and female subjected to physical abuse, including sexual violence. The turning of the hotel and spa resort Vilna Vlas into a rape camp where Bosniak women and girls were systematically raped by Serb police, paramilitary units and soldiers.
As well the mass executions of civilians all around Visegrad, some of the civilians were taken from their houses and rounded up, others abducted from their workplace, others taken off buses, and led to the banks of the river Drina where they were told to go into the water and executed by Serb paramilitaries or taken to ravines where they were executed and their bodies dumped into the ravines or pits. The mass killings in Visegrad also included two of the arguably most horrific cases of mass-murder early on in the war. First being The live pyre at Pionirska Street, where over 60 people were barricaded into a house which was later set on fire, 53 died. Killed by two men who are most likely Europe´s most well-known living mass-murderers; Milan Lukic and his cousin Sredoje Lukic.According to journalists who covered the war, and especially the butchery in Visegrad; the two men, especially Milan, probably killed more people during the Bosnian war than anyone else. Two weeks after they had burned 53 alive people on Pionirska Street, they repeated the act in a Visegrad neighborhood Bikavac where they barricaded another group of people into a house before setting it on fire. One person survived.
But the biggest execution-site was the old bridge itself. As Ed Vulliamy noted in the Guardian back in 1996; “the bridge is visible from almost every balcony and window in Visegrad, it´s cobblestones are a stage at the foot of an amphitheatre; the executions were intended to be as public as possible.” From their balconies witnesses watched as Milan Lukic in his red Passat together with his companions in the trucks behind would arrive at the bridge each evening. They would unload the prisoners and start killing them. “We saw them by day or by the city lights, whether they were killing men that time, women or children. It took half an hour, sometimes more.” One witness recalled… The prisoners who were between life and death were stabbed before being thrown of the bridge into the river. According to one witness; sometimes they threw people off alive shooting at the same time. Another witness, recalled how Milan Lukic enjoyed playing music from his car radio while throwing two men into the river; one of the men shouted that “he couldn´t swim” while Milan Lukic fired his gun into the river.
At the start of the Bosnian war, Visegrad and other places like it along the Drina Valley or Podrinje received a minimum of attention from the world press. What was happening in eastern Bosnia, all along the Drina Valley as well Prijedor, Kozarac, Sanski Most, Kljuc and other towns and hamlets in northwest Bosnia, and Bosanska Krajina was part of the hidden war that the Serbs were waging far away from the carnage taking place in Sarajevo. Karadzic could not keep Omarska, Trnopolje & Keraterm a secret for too long, but by then he had “cleansed” much of what was to be “Greater Serbia” of non-Serbs. As Vulliamy, one the chroniclers of the Bosnian genocide wrote in The Nation in June 1996, one of the middle-managers of genocide; Professor Nikola Koljevic a close associate of Radovan Karadzic, and wartime vice-president of RS as well as a Shakespeare scholar had said sardonically to him in the Serbian capital Belgrade 1992; “So you found them! Congratulations! It took you a long time to find them, didn’t it? Three months! And so near to Venice! All you people could think about was poor, sophisticated Sarajevo. Ha-ha!” And then, as Vulliamy recalls, added with a chill in his voice: “None of you ever had your holidays at Omarska, did you? No Olympic Games in Prijedor!”
He was referring to the concentration camps in northwest Bosnia and the implication was clear: The dismay many felt about what was taking place in Sarajevo and the focus on the Bosnian capital meant that the Serbs were free to carry out their plans more or less uninterrupted elsewhere in the country. After the war Koljevic tried to commit suicide on January 16 1997 by shooting himself in the head and died in a Belgrade hospital a week later from the wounds. By then he had been edged out of the Bosnian Serb political leadership by Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik. Both Plavsic & Krajisnik were later convicted of war crimes by the ICTY.
By the end of June 1992, a Serb police inspector in Visegrad, Milan Josipovic recived a request from the the Bajina Basta hydro-electric plant just across the border in Serbia. The director of the plant asked Josipovic if those responsible could “slow down the flow of corpses” on the Drina river. According to the plant director; the corpses were clogging up the culverts of the Bajina Basta dam at such a rate that he could not assemble enough staff to remove them.
13 years later, Josipovic, who was then 48 years, was shot twice in the chest and once in the head while he was in his coffee-grinding shop. There have been speculations that he was killed by a shadowy group called Preventiva charged with protecting wanted war criminals, including Milan Lukic. In 2005 Josipovic testifed against Novo Rajak, a member of the Visegrad police who had taken part in the mistreatment of Bosniak civilians. After that rumors started to circulate that Josipovic was ready to give evidence against higher-level officials and that may have sealed Josipovic´s fate. His killer/killers have never been arrested.
In 2010 a small boat got stuck in the turbines of the Bajina Basta hydroelectric power plant, in order for the turbines to be repared the dam had to be emptied. That gave people from Institute for the Missing Persons of Bosnia-Herzegovina what was in effect their last chance to track down the bodies of of Bosniak civilians who had been killed in Visegrad and dumped into the Drina River. As Irena Antic from the Helsinki Committee For Human Rights Serbia pointed out;
Everybody knew that throughout 1992 bodies of the Bosniaks were ending up in the turbines of the Bajina Basta hydro-electric power plant, thrown there by executioners, Milan Lukic’s “Revengers” and members of other Serb formations, who believed no one would ever find them in such a place. No one – some working for the plant or in hydro-electric sectors of Serbia or Republika Srpska, or an official of that Bosnian entity or the neighboring state – had ever suggested that the Drina lakes or even its basin should be emptied in the search for the killed.
Antic went on to say that once the team from Institute for the Missing Persons of Bosnia andHerzegovina got to Perucac they were met with rough terrain, mines, cracked soil, snakes and piles of clay, as well as high temperatures in the summer and rain, mud and wind in September. According to the director of the Institute, Amor Masovic; fifteen people from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina made up the investigative team. The team moved on foot down both banks of the lake. They started at the old bridge in Visegrad and moved along the canyon all the way to the lake. “It was a multiethnic team sharing the same goal” according to Masovic. The investigators were soon joined by a team from Serbia looking for the remains of Kosovars killed by Serbian State Security Forces during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. After a while a survivor organization made up of survivors and relatives of those killed in Visegrad 1992, called; “Visegrad 92” made an appeal for help which lead to hundreds of volunteers from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and some from Serbia as well showing up at the exhumation-site trying to help the investigators. The long list of volunteers included students from Sarajevo University, utility workers from Sarajevo and former citizens of Visegrad now living abroad and in other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, many of them had lost loved ones during the massacres carried out by Serb forces in Visegrad area and for them this was the probably the last chance to maybe find the remains of their loved ones. Firefighters, speleologists, rangers, de-miners, and members of Bosnia´s special police forces helped too. In total the remains of 250 people were exhumed during those few months, needless to say, there was no help from the authorities in Republika Sprska who as Antic rightly points out were too afraid of the consequences draining the lakes on the border between Bosnia and Serbia might have, what might be found there, let alone draining the Drina basin, the bottom and the mud which most likely hides the largest amount of remains.
The remains exhumed at Perucac were just a small fraction of what lies beneath, together with the 126 citizens of Visgerad who were exhumed at the village Slap near Zepa back in 2000. The bodies found in Slap were gathered by the villagers as they floated down the river and buried in shallow graves. One of the people Vulliamy interviewed back in 1996 had escaped the carnage in Visegrad and found refuge in Zepa which was together with Srebrenica and Gorazde the only Bosnian-controlled enclave in eastern Bosnia. After Serb forces took Srebrenica in July 1995 they set their sights on Zepa which fell two weeks later after fierce resistance from the vastly outgunned and desperate Bosnian soldiers defending it. Vulliamy´s interview subject, then simply named “Jasmin R” was captured, in Serbia as were many men from Zepa as they tried to make their way to Serbia or Montenegro hoping to avoid the fate of those killed in Srebrenica. By Christmas 1995 Jasmin was evacuated to Dublin from a prison camp in Serbia. When he arrived in Zepa he was 14 and deemed too young to fight, he was instead assigned to Slap, a junction between the Drina and Zepa rivers. His job was to bring up the bodies of murdered civilians from Visegrad as the current flowed to Zepa. He was to bring them ashore in a small boat and bury them, often under fire from Serb forces. Jasmin and others, they dug the graves and buried the people gathered from the river, some of them Jasmin had known personally, they had been his neighbours in Visegrad. According to Jasmin; “the bodies came almost every day Men and women, old and young. They had been beaten and tortured, they were black and blue, and some had been decapitated. Yes, and there were children. Mostly 10 or 12, and two infants of about 18 months.”
During the trial of Mitar Vasiljevic back in 2001, Amor Masovic stated that by then the remains of 311 people belived to be from Visegrad had been exhumed from 14 different locations in Visegrad, Sokolac and Rogatica. Vasiljevic had been one of Milan Lukic´s closest companions. Before Masovic took the stand, another man who had worked on bringing up and burying the bodies floating down the Drina, Mevsud Poljo testified about bringing up about 170 to 180 bodies from the river together with others. Poljo belived that the bodies they pulled out of the Drina constituted maybe one fifth of the total number of corpses floating down the river. After they pulled the bodies out of the river they searched them for any form of identification before burying them, mostly at the banks of the small river Zepa near Slap.
Many of those Poljo, Jasmin and others didn´t manage to pull out of the water most likely ended up in the culverts of the Bajina Basta hydro-electrical plant.
A proper search would mean that a greater number of those killed in Visegrad and surrounding villages would be found. As it is now that is improbable as Serb-led authorities in Visegrad have done everything in their power to erase the memory of those atrocities, including an effort to destroy the house on Pionirska Street, the site of the live pyre that took the lives of 53 people. Re-built by survivors to serve as memorial to those killed it came close to being destroyed last year on the same day as Serb authorities in Visegrad erased the word genocide from a the Straziste cemetery. (A large number of those exhumed and identified from Visegrad and the surrounding area are buried there. ) As of today, the house on Pionirska still stands but that does not mean it´s not in harm´s way. The original date set for the destruction of both the house on Pionirska and the removal of the word genocide from the memorial on Straziste was December 24th 2013 Christmas eve, but due to the controversy this caused in Bosnia and the statements made by OHR, the US Embassy and OSCE the action was delyed, until one month later that is, when the Serb-led authorities in Visegrad finally entered the Straziste cemtery and removed the word genocide from the memorial to the fallen. They did not touch the house that time but there are reports that all final appeals to prevent the demolition of Pionirska Street house have been exhausted.
Muniza Oprasic faces a similar fate as the house in Pionirska Street. The original ruling came 2012, which she appealed and at the end of last month the district court in “Eastern Sarajevo” ruled that she had to pay 10 000 euro to the Serb family. Her story isn´t new but it´s indicative of the way returnees are treated in Republika Srpska.
After the original ruling back in 2012 she spoke to Bosnian media about the situation saying that she lived as a refugee in Sarajevo until 2003. The local Serb authorities had given the Serb family material to rebuild the house which had been damaged in the war. The repairs were carried out without her permission. The Serb family lived there for years, while she had no access to her land and house. They sued her for the renovations that they had made to the house without her permission and that she and her husband were not aware of. According to Muniza there was a ruling in her favor too, by which the Serb family was forced to pay a 100 KM or 50 euro to Muniza for every month that they had lived there on her property but according to her; she never saw a penny of that money. They refused to remove the windows, doors and some other things they had put in to the badly damaged house; instead they sued her for compensation.
When journalists from Al Jazzera Balkans visited her two years ago they found her living a humble existence in her house on her property in Okruglo. A picture of Mecca along with some Quranic verses adores her living room walls. She was orphaned during World War II. During the visit to Muniza journalists also spoke to Nedim Jahic, a human rights activist from Sarajevo who believes that the verdict against Muniza is absurd. Jahic said that if Muniza had returned to an empty house in 2003 she would have probably received donations and her house would have been renovated at no cost to her. She wouldn´t be facing the situation she is facing today, having to pay 10 000 euros to people who lived in her house at the order of local authorities.
Still, according to Hajro Poskovic, a legal expert with the OSCE in Sarajevo temporary users of abandoned houses have a legal right to be compensated for any repairs they make, but that the owner also has the right to be compensated from the local authorities, in this case the owner is Muniza Oprasic. Strictly legally speaking that would mean that Oprasic would pay the 10 000 euros to the Serb family and then seek compensation from the local Serb authorities who settled the family in Muniza´s house in the first place.
However Muniza Oprasic is a 78 year old pensioner with no other income except her pension which is 160 euros every month, she has no means of paying 10 000 euros and given the legal situation for returnees in Republika Srpska it is naïve to think that the she will ever be compensated from the Serb authorities in Republika Srpska. With the appeal process apparently exhausted, if she does not find the money, 10 000 euro to give to the Serb family she will most likely be evicted from her home.
Note: Irena Antic´s piece for Helsinki Committee For Human Rights referred to Milan Lukic´s paramilitary unit as the “Revengers” (Osvetnici) Most court documents in english as well as articles on Visegrad refer to them as “Avengers” as well as the Balkan Insight piece which claims that Muniza Oprasic is 71 years old, while all the Bosnian articles on her, including articles in Klix, Dnevni Avaz and Slobodna Bosna indicate that she is 78 years old today.
This post has been uppdated and edited on 12/03/2015
This is a continued effort to highlight the discrimination faced by returnees to the Podrinje region of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Podrinje or the Drina Valley was scene to some of the most vicious pogroms and mass killings during the Bosnian War. On January 23d local Serb authorities in eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad removed the word “genocide” from the main Bosniak cemetery in town. The action was originally scheduled for 24 December 2013 along with the demolition of a rebuilt house a few hundred yards down the road from the cemetery on Pionirska Street.
The house was a scene of one of the most horrific crimes of the war, it has been since rebuilt and stands as a memorial to those killed in the Pionirska Street Live–Pyre. The action to remove the word “genocide” and demolish the house was then stopped by the survivors who confronted the local authorities, however on 23d of January this year the word was removed, and the fate of the memorial on Pionirska Street is still uncertain. Several media outlets both in Bosnia and around the world ran the story, including International Business Times.
Writer Predrag Blagovcanin was one of those pointed out that what is going on in eastern Bosnia and Visegrad is simply a continuation by other means of the politics carried out by Radovan Karadzic during the 1992-95.
This article first appeared on Bosnian portal Tacno.net 23/01/2014
We already know that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country of absurdities, in which we on a daily basis are forced to witness an orgy in fascism stipulated by law, but today we also learned that we live in country in which a 100 members of the special police can rearrange inscriptions on memorials dedicated to murdered civilians
By Predrag Blagovcanin
Early this morning at around 7 o´clock municipal workers and members of the Inspection Unit of the municipality of Visegrad toghter with around 100 members of the ministry of the interior RS in an action probably named “Erasing for a better tomorrow” chiseled away the word “genocide” from a memorial dedicated to murdered Bosniak civilians from the Visegrad area during the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The initiative for the removal of the word genocide from the memoarial dedicated to the murdered civilians from the Visegrad area came SDS-deputy Miroslav Kojic who in the People’s Assembly of Republika Srpska requested that Bosnian entity do everything in order to prevent the spreading of “lies and untruths” about the character of the war in the town of Visegrad.
Just what “lies and untruths” is Kojic talking about?
Miroslav Kojic, the SDS deputy, from the same party as convicted war criminals Momcilo Krajisnik and Biljana Plavsic and soon to be joined by Radovan Karadzic, obviously is not familiar with the historic facts about the events that took place in Visegrad during the war. The SDS-deputy is either not familiar with or does wish to acknowledge the fact that according to RDC (Research and Documentation Centre) 1760 civilians from the Visegrad area were killed, of those over a 100 were children. He´s also not interested in the fact that according to the International War crimes Tribunal (ICTY) Visegrad was a scene of some of the worst “ethnic cleansing” during the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina and he does not seem to remember that on 14th of June 1992 70 people were barricaded into a house on Pionirska Street and burnt alive.
However for Miroslav Kojic the SDS-deputy and Slavisa Miskovic the current mayor of Visegrad, a town in which prior to the war 63 % of the population was Bosniak in accordance with their own views on historical events in this municipality those facts are not important. That´s why it was decided by the local branch of the SDS that the word genocide would be erased from all memorials and the house of Sumbula Zeba (On Pionirska Street) in which 70 civilians were burnt alive on June 14th 1992 is to be demolished in order to make way for an intersection. So Miroslav Kojic´s and his party colleague Miskovic´s own vision of a new Visegrad which they intend to build so that it´s even more beautiful and older and more ethnically pure the Andric´s is disturbed by memorials to Bosniak civilians, especially bothersome is the disgusting word genocide which thanks to a set of circumstances is constantly haunting them.
They are however not bothered by the statue to the unknown Serb soldier on Visegrad´s main square or a memorial to Russian volunteers and mercenaries’. Of course these two SDS visionaries in their efforts to rewrite history the way it suits them don´t see anything controversial about the traditional event glorifying the Ravna Gora Chetnik movement, and they are especially proud by the relocation of the monument of Draza Mihajlovic from Brcko to a called place Undrulje which is going to be renamed Little Drazevina (Mala Draževina) in honor of the convicted war criminal.
In the vision of this SDS tandem, generations and generations will be laying flowers next to the newly built two-meter statue of Ratko Mladic. While under the patronage of the municipality in and in honor of Radovan Karadzic a festival called “The leading voice of the Chetnik song” will be organized. Unfortunately today´s removal of the word genocide from the memorial dedicated to Bosniak civilians on Straziste cemetery, under the absolute patronage of the authorities in RS is just one more proof that the politics of ethnic cleansing by this which this entity was created. And because of which so many people lost their lives, has still not been stopped. Indeed it is being carried out with the same intensity as before, only the methods have changed, and those are no less dangerous.
As our wise people would say; the principal is the same all the rest are different shades.
It is utterly depressing having to write about Bosnian Genocide and the subsequent denial of it by those that have inherited the policy of discrimination based on political racial and religious ground which was the trademark of Slobodan Milosevic main client; Radovan Karadzic and his Republika Srpska, yet here we are. Still I guess it´s only logical. Republika Srpska foundations are based on lies, and in order for the lie to survive it has to become true. It´s depressing for a number of reasons, mostly because it´s clear now that the effect of that policy now 18 years after the Dayton Accords is far from being defeated or reversed, instead it´s is becoming institutionalized. That alternate image has now become a reality in 49 percent of the country. Why else would we now, twenty years after the beginning of the war, and eighteen years after the single biggest massacre on European soil after Second World War have people at the highest levels of political life in Bosnia and Herzegovina deny basic facts about the war and the genocide in Srebrenica? It can be argued that the current Bosnian Serb political leadership believes that the very existence of the entity Republika Srpska depends on being able to create an alternate image of what happened during the Bosnian War, who did what to whom, who started it and who committed the biggest number of atrocities and above all why? A justification for it´s very existence is needed.
The border created at the US air force base in Ohio that divided Bosnia and Herzegovina and in effect stopped the Bosnian Army from liberating the country has now become a mental border dividing Bosnians along ethnic lines, even though Dayton was never meant to be permanent in the first place. It was designed to reverse the effects of “ethnic cleansing” caused by the Serbian and Bosnian Serb onslaught on Eastern, and North-West Bosnia. It was also intended to lead to something more permanent and more stable, but above all it was a way of ending or halting the war, in the end it put too much faith in the same people that worked to destroy Bosnia and Herzegovina in the first place. Looking back at it; Dayton was the worst kind of appeasement. In effect it in rewarded aggression, “ethnic cleansing” and genocide. It rewarded the policies of Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic; those two men despite both of them eventually ending up in The Hague were the real winners in Dayton. The strategy that Milosevic and a cadre of JNA generals had developed and that was on the ground implemented by the political leadership of Radovan Karadzic and military leadership of Ratko Mladic meant to create a “State for all Serbs” a Greater Serbia meant in effect that only Serbs remain west of the Drina River. For that to become reality non-Serbs had to be physically removed.
In order to achieve that the Yugoslav Army joined forces with Serbian nationalists and extremists loyal to Radovan Karadzic, together with Serbian security forces as well as paramilitary units from Serbia and attacked towns and hamlets across eastern Bosnia, in a few weeks most of eastern Bosnia was in Serb hands and Serb forces backed by the Yugoslav Army were tightening their grip on Sarajevo. Only a few towns remained in eastern Bosnia, Srebrenica, Gorazde, Zepa and the hamlets of Cerska and Konjevic Polje. As spring turned into summer, those places would become isolated and filled with refugees and survivors from other towns in eastern Bosnia. Places like Bjeljina,Vlasenica, Visegrad, Bratunac, Rudo, Cajnice, Foca, Rogatica Zvornik. They had been witnesses too and many of them had escaped death. They told stories of mass executions, rape camps, sexual slavery, torture, eliticide, and all out destruction. All that was Muslim, or Bosniak or rather non-Serb had to be wiped of the map.
The same was taking place in northern and north-west Bosnia. Towns of Prijedor, Kozarac, Sanski Most, Trnopolje, Omarska would soon become synonymous with terror and death.
The past is never far away in Bosnia and that the Bosnian society has yet to come to terms with what happened during the war. Now when I say “Bosnian society” I mean all parts of it, including Republika Srpska as much as some, above all the current political leadership spearheaded by pragmatist and opportunist turned nationalist, separatist and genocide denier Milorad Dodik would like to convince others but above all the Serbs in Republika Srpska that it´s not. He has said openly that he will never accept that what happened in Srebrenica was an act of genocide, most recently, in september of 2012 during an election rally for his party SNSD in Srebrenica, he stood at the podium and said that he did not believe that what had happened in the very town that he was in, was in fact genocide. Yet the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia at The Hague has thus far, convicted four people for genocide in Srebrenica, Radislav Krstic the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army´s Drina Corps, as well as high ranking officers Ljubisa Beara and Vujadin Popvic and most recently Zdravko Tolimir, Ratko Mladic´s head of military intelligence. Radovan Karadzic and Mladic are both currently on trial for crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, amongst those crimes are persecution kidnapping murder and genocide.
In 2007 the ICJ (International Court of Justice) ruled that what had happened in Srebrenica indeed was genocide and that not only was it genocide but that Serbia was in a position to stop the genocide but had failed to do so. Most recently Bosnian courts ruled that Zeljko Ivanovic was guilty of aiding and abetting genocide by participating in the mass execution of over 1000 captured Bosniaks in the village of Kravica. In 2011 Bosnian Court uppheld the guilty verdict of one Milorad Trbic, he had been a member of the Zvornik Brigade in the Army of Republika Srpska. Trbic was found guilty of the criminal offence of genocide, as a participant in a joint criminal enterprise, in the period from 12 July to 30 November 1995, together with Colonel Ljubisa Beara, Lieutenant Colonel Vujadin Popovic, Lieutenant Drago Nikolic and others, with a common purpose and a plan to capture, detain, summarily execute and bury all able-bodied Bosniak men from the Srebrenica enclave, who were brought to the Zvornik Brigade area of responsibility. His sentence of 30 years was uppheld. Trbic was transferred from the Hague to stand trial in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Outside of Srebrenica, leader of a Serb paramilitary group operating in the Doboj region; Nikola Jorgic was found guilty of the crime of genocide by a German court in 1997. Jorgic was sentenced to four terms of life imprison for his involvement in the Bosnian genocide. Pronouncing the verdict, the German Federal Court said that German courts had the right “to try genocide indictees, no matter where the crime was committed”. Jorgic appealed the decision to the European Court of Human Rights which dismissed Jorgic´s claim and found that the standards used by the German court were indeed valid.
On 29th of November 1999 the Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) in Dusseldorf convicted a Bosnian Serb Paramilitary leader Maksim Sokolovic to 9 years in prison for aiding and abetting the crime of genocide and for grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions in the Kalesija region. Sokolovic appealed the conviction claiming that the court in Dusseldorf had no jurisdiction over his case; however the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) rejected Sokolovic´s argument since the crimes of which he was accused of fall under the principle of universal jurisdiction. As a consequence, a foreigner could be tried by a German court for crime of genocide committed on foreign territory.
Yet that has not stopped Milorad Dodik, in 2011 he announced that he would be setting up a fund in order to help those Bosnian Serbs that were on trial at the ICTY including Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. He also complimented Karadzic, saying he “made mistakes, but should be credited for establishing Republika Srpska. RS was founded because of his courage.” He has during his time in office spent a great deal of tax funds on denying the basic facts about the Genocide in Srebrenica using the help of a group of Hague based pseudo-experts calling themselves The Srebrenica Historical Project and is registered as an NGO ( Non-Government-Organization) sadly for him those experts have yet to present any concrete evidence refuting the facts about the genocide, facts established during a 17-year period. The outfit´s front man is a Serb-American from Seattle called Stephan Karganovic.
Prior to establishing himself as the front figure of “The Srebrenica Historical Project” he had worked as a translator and was member of the convicted war criminal Momcilo Krajisnik´s defense team, in the Hague before promoting himself as a “truth teller” refuting the “myth of genocide” in fact he has as I said before yet to prove anything, but that´s not why he is where he is.
People like Karganovic serve a purpose, in reality nobody, not even Milorad Dodik expects him to actually prove anything, he can´t. If he could you would have heard about it long ago. He is however expected to maintain the illusion that Serbia, and Republika Srpska are innocent victims of conspiracy intended to keep Serbia and Serbs at bay. And that what is going on is a continued aggression against Serbia by ”Western Imperialists”, the USA, Great Britain, CIA, the Vatican, IMF, Germany and their agents and ”homegrown traitors” the Croats and Bosniaks intent on keeping Serbia and Serbs at heel, one way is to falsely accuse them of committing genocide and hence becoming ”a genocidal nation” on par with Germany, a concern expressed by the godfather of contemporary Serb nationalism Dobrica Cosic in 2010 right about the same time as the Serbian Assembly was preparing to vote on European parliament’s resolution condemning the genocide in Srebrenica, Cosic claimed that ”Serbia should never accept the lies about Serbs committing genocide in Bosnia’, because this would make the Serbs a genocidal nation on a par with Nazi Germany”. (Pecat, 12 February 2010.)
The most telling example of Srebrenica Historical project’s real purpose could be seen during Pelemis/Simic trial.
The two men were accused of involvement in the mass killings that took place in the villages of Pilica and Branjevo after the fall of Srebrenica. Karganovics neuro-forensic expert Ljubisa Simic participated as an “expert witness” for Slavko Perics defense in order to refute the DNA-identifications that had been conducted on the remains in Branjevo. Under cross-examination by State Prosecutor Erik Larson, neurosurgeon Simic, who testified in his in the role as a medical expert, said that; “his name was not included on the list of court experts, he has not passed a specialist exam and he had not testified at any trial before. He confirmed that no organization had certified him as an expert witness in forensic medicine, pathology, or DNA analysis. He had not participated in any exhumations, had never had performed an autopsy on his own and he had never performed an identification using DNA analysis. Simic confirmed that he worked for the “Srebrenica Historical Project” but could not confirm that his role in the organization was to deny the genocide in Srebrenica. “I deal with medical issues at that organization,” Simic said. (See: Pelemis/Peric trial 2012)
Most recently Karganovic could be found harrasing American journalist and fellow at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) Michael Dobbs on Dobbs’ Foreign Policy Blog “Origins of Evil” a blog devoted to Ratko Mladic and the genocide in Srebrenica. Dobbs´s plan was to more or less devote most of his time digging into Mladic´s past and slowly blogpost by blogpost explain the “origins of evil”, simply put; Dobbs wanted to show what led Mladic and the Bosnian Serbs to commit the single biggest atrocity on European Soil since World War Two. Sadly Dobbs approach left a lot to be desired, in my opinion his efforts were lackluster and feeble and many of his posts were frankly pointless, and sub-tabloid level.
His naïve and let´s say “uninvolved” approach led him down some strange paths, and it all culminated last September when he was criticized by myself and others for his naive views on militant Serb nationalism and Slobodan Milosevic´s expansionist policies and deadly experiments with nationalism that ended in the violent death of Yugoslavia and more importantly in the death of thousands that stood in the way of Milosevic´s attempts to carve out a Greater Serbia and a state for all Serbs on the ruins of former Yugoslavia. Now Yugoslavia, would have most likely fallen apart anyway, as a direct consequence of the fall of communism in Europe, but few would disagree that if it hadn´t been for Milosevic that breakup would have gone peacefully. As for Dobbs, well he tried but simply did not have anything interesting or relevant to say on Mladic or Srebrenica.
To Dobbs credit he did however try to stand up to Karganovic and his associates who plagued the comments section and used it as forum to spew out their conspiracy theories and revisionism. Dobbs had at his disposal the large amount of research and documentation collected on the genocide in Srebrenica over the past 17-years. In one glorious moment last July he pointed out to the fact that Karganovic´s outfit had by then ( July 2012) received in total 1 million US dollars from the government of Republika Srpska and that the nature of The Srebrenica Historical project was to perpetuate genocide denial. in July 2012 Dobbs wrote the following:
It turns out that genocide denial has a price tag — and a hefty one at that. Financial records from the Bosnian Serb entity known as Republika Srpska reveal that a Hague-based group of pseudo-experts that calls itself the “Srebrenica Historical Project” has received more than $1 million from the cash-strapped mini-state over the past five years. Question, and in many cases deny, basic historical facts concerning massacres carried out by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic in July 1995.
An exhaustive international investigation of the Srebrenica events, involving teams of forensic pathologists, DNA specialists, demographic experts, and detectives has established that Bosnian Serb forces murdered around 7,000 Muslim (Bosniak) prisoners in a series of massacres between July 12 and July 16, 1995. A further 1,000 or so Muslim men and boys were killed as a result of ambushes and armed clashes as they tried to reach Muslim-controlled territory north of Srebrenica.
What is most alarming about the Srebrenica Historical Project is not that there are people out there claiming that black is white, but that the denial industry is being financed by the Bosnian Serb authorities. A rough analogy might be the German government and parliament voting every year to fund the research of David Irving and other revisionist Holocaust historians.
As British journalist George Monbiot pointed out 2012 ; “In order for these people to be right the entire canon of serious scholarship, human rights investigations, exhumations and witness statements would have to be wrong. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But they offer little but the recycled claims of genocidaires and genocide deniers, mashed up with their own misrepresentations” In his response to another set of Milosevic apologist and genocide deniers. Those of the internationalist left, most notably Edward Herman and David Peterson, as well as Noam Chomsky and John Pilger.
Needless to say, Dobbs article drew fire from Karganovic and rest of the creepy-crawlies of the “Great Serb” genocide-denial lobby that quickly rushed to the comment section to attack him, and that is where Karganovic and his sympathizers are most at home. People like Karganovic look for certain things, that they can isolate and latch on too, picking selective portions of evidence and deliberately miss-quoting witnesses in order to spread doubt, They cater to a specific kind of crowd, people like Karganovic, Nebojsa Malic, Srdja Trifkovic. None of their followers really demand of them to present any evidence for their theories but then again they don´t really have to try very hard. They tend to preach to the choir, of Serb nationalists, far-right extremists, people that hate the west or ”anti-imperialists” conspiracy theorists and and ideologues to whom human life is less valuable then the notion of a “Yugoslavia as the last socialist country in the Balkans” under threat from “The Empire” meaning the west and above all the hated USA. These are the kind of people that deny Srebrenica happened at the same time as they secretly and sometime not so secretly glorify and/or openly justify that it did happened. Simply because they wanted the Serbs and their cause to win. Nevermind the victims of Serb fascism…
The most extreme example of that is Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist whose Balkan obsession and his hatred towards Islam and Muslims spills out over the pages of his manifesto 2083: A European Declaration of Independence. A look thru the manifesto shows that he had a unhealthy obsession with the Balkans and admiration for the Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic who Breivik considers to be a “honorable Crusader and a European war hero” for his efforts to rid Europe of Muslims. (Radovan Karadzic is currently on trial same as Ratko Mladic for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and crimes that were perpetrated against the civilian population and against places of worship throughout the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovinia, ) As well revealing that altogether, the words “Serb” shows up 341 times, “Bosnia” 343 and “Albania” 208 times while Srebrenica, the site of the biggest massacre in former Yugoslavia after WWII does not appear anywhere in the document.
To Breivik, Radovan Karadzic is a hero, and his delusions mirror those of others on the far right, and Serb nationalist circles in the sense that they view what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a struggle against ”the genocidal hate ideology known as Islam” as Breivik puts it. In that sense all the atrocities committed against Muslims or Bosniaks in Bosnia can be explained away and justified by the need to get rid of Islam and Muslims. The murder of men women elderly, the rape of women and young girls, torture, setting up of concentration camps and mass killings and deportation perpetrated against a specific groups are justifiable as self-defense as long it´s committed against a feared and hated enemy that has to be eliminated in order to protect Serbs and Serbia against “Muslim genocide” or in Breiviks case Europe and Western Civilization. Therefore people like Karadzic and Mladic are heros and crusaders and any crimes they might have committed against non-Muslims are regrettable or as Breivik himself puts it:
He (Karadzic) even went as far as offering the Muslims certain enclaves. When they refused he wanted to deport them by force. When this was made impossible by NATO he gave the order to fight the person who refused which was his sovereign right and responsibility as one of the primary leaders of Serb forces. This was never about ethnicity but about ridding the country of the genocidal hate ideology known as Islam. I do condemn any atrocities committed against Croats and vice versa but for his efforts to rid Serbia of Islam he will always be considered and remembered as an honorable Crusader and a European war hero.
Oddly enough he is sort of right that it was never really about ethnicity, when it came to the actual reasons for the war, but not for the reasons he thinks, it was not about ridding Europe of Islam but a simple land grab, orchestrated by Milosevic his close associates and a cadre of JNA generals in Belgrade loyal to Milosevic, who´s prime motive was power, if he could not make himself ruler of Yugoslavia, then he would be the creater of a new “Greater” Serbia as a home for all Serbs. There was however a need to convince people, above all Serbs and to instill fear into them about ”the others” mainly Bosniaks, Slovenes, Croats and Kosovars. For that there was a need to control the media in former Yugoslavia. As Borisav Jovic, a former Milosevic aid and probably his closest associate wrote in his book, ”The Last Days of SFRY”
For years, he (Milosevic) paid the biggest attention to the media, especially television. He personally appointed editors-in-chief of the newspapers and news programmers – especially directors-general of radio and television. “Perhaps in no other area was he in direct communication with all editors who “fed” the public with the news comments and generally with the information. He was deeply convinced that citizens formed their view not on basis of their real material and their political position what was not published has not happened at all – was Milosevic`s motto
During the Milosevic trial the Trial Chamber heard from Professor Renaud de la Brosse, a propaganda expert from the University of Reims in France who took the stand as part of the prosecution’s effort to prove a link between what the media said and war crimes perpetrated on the battlefield. de la Brosse had studied some 20,000 pages of newspaper articles, transcripts of television and radio broadcast from the former Yugoslavia in order to produce his 100-page raport called; “Political Propaganda and the Plan to Create a State for all Serbs”
According to de la Brosse; Milosevic’s propaganda was based on the same techniques as used by Adolf Hitler, with the added power of television. ”Nazi propaganda had shown that myths bind the masses together tightly. Indeed, it was through myths and, therefore, the appeal to the forces of the unconscious, to fear and terror, the instinct of power and the lost community that the propaganda orchestrated by Goebbels had succeeded in winning over the Germans and melding them into a compact mass”
In 1990 in order to facilitate Slobodan Milosevic´s takeover of control of Kosovo, Serbian television launched a campaign of generalizations and lies against the Kosovars, accusing them of “poisoning wells” and “slitting throats of children” and then following it up with a campaign in the newspaper Politika which published readers’ letters, often made up, by Politika staff that “the Albanians were raping hundreds of Serb women there” . On February 9 1990 Vojislav K. Stojanovic president of the University Teachers and Scholars of Serbia wrote that “the savage Albanian terrorists are now running amok in Kosovo and Metohija destroying anything that is Serbian, breaking into homes of the few Serbs that have stayed behind, Kosovo and Metohija are in the grip of fear by terrorists armed to the teeth.”
Even Slobodan Milosevic participated in the stigmatization of the Kosovar community by proclaiming that “Even children know the truth about Kosovo and Serbia, so it´s quit superfluous to say anything more about it. To those that think otherwise, I should say that I refuse to talk about because we need never to try and find excuses to stop the murder of Serbs and Montenegrins in Kosovo and for our unwillingness to accept an Albanian state on Serbian territory. To avoid further confusion I hasten to add that anyone seeking concessions along those lines would have to first depose the ruling Serbian leadership”
Another example of propaganda “winning over the Serbs and melding them into a compact mass,” that de la Brosse Points too is the is the story of the so called “baby-massacre” from November 1991, in a suburb close to Vukovar, called Borovo Naselje. As the siege of Vukovar was drawing to an end Serbian media reported that soldiers from the JNA had found the bodies of 41 massacred Serbian children, in village that had fallen days before. The story turned out to be untrue, and even the JNA was forced to issue a public denial, yet it was given widespread coverage by the Milosevic controlled media, who did not try to verify the story of the children having their “throats slit by blood thirsty Croats” even though all of the children had in fact been evacuated from that village months before and no schools had been open for a long time in that area.
That was not important, the story served a purpose, and it was there to enforce the image of Croats as “bloodthirsty genocidal maniacs” and undermines those that were opposed to the war. In fact when the story broke, a number of anti-war demonstrations were taking place in Belgrade. People in Serbia, above all parents who had family members serving in the JNA were opposed the ongoing campaign in Croatia. The story did well to silence those that opposed the war, and it would also lead to a flood of Serb volunteers going to the Croatian front.
Another such example was the story of Serb children being fed to lions at the Sarajevo Zoo. The story goes that due to the siege of Sarajevo; for which “the bloody thirsty Muslims” in Sarajevo were themselves responsible, there was a shortage of food and other supplies in the city so the Muslims were feeding Serbian children to the starving lions. The “news” was carried by TV Pale, and Risto Djogo, the official voice of the Karadzic regime. The news was also picked up by Serbian media, SRNA and TANJUG reported the story with any sort of checks being made in order to verify the story. Viewers in Belgrade got to see and above all hear on the 19:30 news that; “The Muslim extremists have come up with the world’s most horrible way of torturing people. Last night they threw Serb children to the lions at the local zoo, reports the Serb patrol”
In 1994 Serbian newspaper Vecernje Novosti published a story about a Serb orphan whose whole family was killed by Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) in the area around Srebrenica. The story came with a photo of the boy, lying down next to what was described as his family´s grave, the text under the photo read; “The biggest casualties of war are children, that is the case as well in this most recent one, a one in which the Serbian people are again fighting for their very existence. The picture which had the year before circulated the globe, is that of a graveyard in Skelani, (near Srebrenica) on which this boy, now an orphan is crying on the graves of his mother father and rest of his family, “that were killed in a Muslim offensive” is still shocking those who know about the suffering of children. The boy has however in the meantime been adopted by a family in Zvornik and is a member of a military school”
The photo was in fact a forgery, in reality it is a 19th century oil painting by Serbian painter Uros Predic known as ”Orphan Upon His Mother’s Grave”, it was painted in 1879, the painting was made as an illustration for a poem by Hungarian poet Janos Arany.
If one were to de-construct the text under the “photo” or the painting it go something like this, in order convince people in Serbia about righteousness of their cause, there is no better way of doing that then focusing on the suffering of small children in this case a small boy, abandoned and helpless whose parents were only killed because they were Serbs. And that their struggle is now much like it was in past wars justified, since they are simply struggling to survive and fighting a ruthless enemy bent on destroying the whole of the Serb nation. By adding that the picture circulated the globe, which is not true, and that it caused outrage and shock, it even more re-affirms that the Serbian cause is just, and there is hope and that they should not give up the fight, since the poor boy isn’t going to, there is after all a silver lining; he has enlisted in military high school.
The situation was of course drastically different in the Srebrenica region, then Vecernje Novosti led the Serb public to believe nowhere was at as bad as in Eastern Bosnia and in particular the area around Srebrenica. From the beginning of the war the town had been isolated from the rest of Bosnian-controlled territory. It was one of few towns’ hamlets and villages that had escaped the onslaught of the Yugoslav Army and various Serb paramilitary units that had made their way from Serbia to join forces with nationalists and extremists loyal to Radovan Karadzic. The other ones in the area were Cerska and Konjevic Polje, and to the south Zepa and further along the Drina river Gorazde. In November 1992 Radovan Karadzic signed Directive 4 ordering the Drina corps of the Bosnian Serb army to engage the enemy with the intent of; “wearing out the enemy and forcing them to leave Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde areas together with the inhabitants…” The plan was implemented during the month of January 1993, slowly Bosnian Serb forces with the help of the Yugoslav Army chipped away at the territory that Bosnians had managed to defend during the initial invasion of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Altogether some 10 000 Bosnian Serb Soldiers with the help of the reformed Yugoslav Army (VJ) participated in the offensive on the isolated Bosniak enclaves. Two of the smallest enclaves fell in March 1993, Cerska and Konjevic Polje after bitter fighting, the Bosnian defenders isolated and without access to food or ammunition were forced to retreat together with civilians, women children and elderly into Srebrenica which was slowly becoming the world´s biggest refugee camp with some 40 000 people trapped inside.
One of those that witnessed what was going on in Srebrenica was former Venezuealan ambassador to the UN, Diego Arria. He testified as defense witness at the trial of the Bosnian commander in the enclave Naser Oric and as a prosecution witness at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Arria arrived in Srebrenica in April 1993. According to Arria, what was taking place in Srebrenica then was a form of “genocide in slow motion” Bosniaks in Srebrenica and surrounding villages were exposed to “extreme poverty, destruction, starvation and squalor” that were according to Arria deliberately being withheld from the public by the UN. Arria managed to take the first photographs of of the destruction of Srebrenica and its starving inhabitants. Hundreds of people that had fled the surrounding villages were now living on the streets of Srebrenica, a town that before the war had some 8000 inhabitants. To stay warm they burned trash, plastic bags, and everything else they could get their hands on, as the children wandered thru the streets, shivering in their tattered sweaters and worn out shoes and smelling of excrament and smoke and sweat. The photographs taken by Arria were the only ones in existence at the time. He refused to hand over his camera to UN troops in Srebrenica. According to Arria the international community “did not move its little finger” to protect the Bosniaks in the enclave and “did not make it possible for them to defend themselves”
In fact the UN was withholding reports that showed the true situation in Srebrenica. For that Arria blames UN Secratery General Boutros Ghali and his staff who according to Arria misinformed the Security Council about the situation in the enclave. It was not until after an appeal by the then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata that the report on the humanitarian disaster in Srebrenica was shown to the Security Council. Diego Arria warned of a “potential massacre in which there could be 25,000 victims.” Arria went on to say; “it was clear that it was just a matter of time before the massacre would happen” or before the “slow-motion genocide” would become a “real genocide.” The United Nations, according to Arria; was unwilling to do anything to prevent that.
The reason for that is that there was in the tendency in The Security Council to as Arria puts it “morally equate the victims and the aggressor” the reason for that was that it made it more simple not to take action to prevent the atrocities, if you gave the impression that all sides are equally at fault, well then why should the International Community intervene on anyone´s behalf? In fact according to Arria the UN had been hoping that the Serbs would overrun the enclave, before it became a “safe area” and thus “solving the problem” the fact that the Bosnian defenders saw things differently created a problem for the UN. On April 16 after heavy fighting the Bosnian lines held. Naser Oric and his men had launched a desperate counter-attack in the hills above Srebrenica with the few artillary shells they had left and manged to push the Serbs back, on that same day Srebrenica was declared a “safe area” with an ambivalent UN tasked to protect it if Serb forces tried to re-take it. That ambivalence was on full display in July 1995 as was the willingness of the international community to end the arms embargo against Bosnia…
Or as former British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd put it; “lifting the arms embargo would only create a level killing field” a statement that prompted a response from a retired Margaret Thatcher who pointed to the obvious, the fact that there was already in Europe a killing field in Bosnia “killing field the like of which I thought we would never see in Europe again It is in Europe’s sphere of influence. It should be in Europe’s sphere of conscience”. The arms embargo imposed on the countries in the former Yugoslavia only hurt one country, and that was Bosnia, Croatia could easily purchase weapons despite the embargo from any of the neighboring countries, and Serbia, well it had inherited the vast arsenal of the former Yugoslav People´s Army which was flowing freely across the border into the hands of the Bosnian Serbs. The chief opposition to arming the defending Bosnian Army or lifting the arms embargo came from UK and France, according to Robert Hunter, the former US ambassador to NATO; Britain has the greatest responsibility when it comes to this, “they carry a huge burden of responsibility for what happened at Srebrenica.” claimed Hunter.
The Americans had tried to ease the arms embargo against the Bosnian Army, the new administration under Clinton had sought to at least “relax” the arms embargo which they considered was punishing the weakest, most victimized nation; Bosnia and Herzegovina. Unlike the Serbs and Croats in Bosnia which had the support of Croatia and Serbia, the Bosnian Army was hopelessly landlocked. The Bosnian government wanted the arms embargo lifted in order to defend it people and country, but according to Clinton, his proposals for the relaxation of the arms embargo were blocked by US allies in Europe. Mainly the UK and France.
According to Clinton the offical reason they gave was that that as Douglas Hurd said before it would create a “level killing field” more guns in the area meant more bloodshed. However according to Clinton the real reason for the objection was the fact that Bosnia as a predominantly Muslim country would be “unnatural” in Europe. In Taylor Branchs book “The Clinton Tapes” (2009) Clinton discussed openly the role US European allies played in the destruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They wanted the arms embargo precisely because it locked in Bosnia´s disadvantage. What´s even worse according to Clinton was that they used the UN forces on the ground as an excuse, claiming that the options the Clinton administration proposed in order to save the Bosnian state and stop the ongoing genocide would endanger UN troops on the ground as well as jeopardizing emergency shipments of food and medical supplies that were being delivered to a population that was on a daily basis being subjected to a terror campaign and was not allowed to defend itself. In other words; the UN troops in Bosnia were being used in order to facilitate the dismemberment of the Bosnian state.
Clinton claimed that French president Francois Mitterrand had said to him that “Bosnia quite simply did not belong,” and that British diplomats in private spoke of a “painful but realistic restoration of Christian Europe” Such Anti-Muslim and bigoted views could of course not be uttered openly but it shows why the carnage and the dismemberment of the Bosnian state was allowed to happen. Bosnia and Herzegovina or more to the point a predominantly “Muslim Bosnia” did not belong and as painful as it was, it had to disappear. That´s where the biggest betrayal of Bosnia and Herzegovina lied, in their fear of a “Muslim Bosnia” French and British diplomats had missed the fact that at the beginning of the war some 25-30 percent of the Bosnian Army consisted of non-Muslims or non-Bosniaks, that at the highest levels of command, there were both Serbs and Croats, people like Jovan Divjak, Stjepan Siber, Zeljko Knez a Croat who was the first Commander of the Bosnian Army´s Second Corps, Divjak a Serb was the Bosnian Army´s second in command, there were also men like Dragan Vikic, (a Croat) Head of the interior ministry, Zoran Cegar his deputy, (a Serb) but above all those anonymous soldiers manning the trenchers, together with Bosniak soldiers, forced to fight with their hands tied behind their back depending on what they could beg steal or borrow, or more accurately what they could capture from the Serb nationalists who had no such problems, they had come to the war armed to the teeth courtesy of the former Yugoslav People´s Army.
The diplomats had also missed or decided to ignore people like, Stjepan Kljuic, Gordana Knezevic, Mirko Pejanovic to name a few more prominent non-Bosniaks who in their own way fought and still fight for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Those are of course the more prominent ones as is the case with the Bosnian Army soldiers many unnamed heroes fought and still fight the good fight. They were, we were all betrayed and for every shell that was fired and for every day the embargo was in effect the very fabric of Bosnian society was being ripped apart. So yes, it was indeed painful.
However nowhere was as painful as it was in Srebrenica, heroic Srebrenica that had withstood the initial Serb onslaught, it had withstood the intial invasion of Serbian forces into Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Karadzic´s extremists and the genocidal campaign that followed. It had whitstood the final solution sanctioned by France and Great Britain which had cleared most of the Drina valley north-west Bosnia, eastern Bosnia of its non-Serb population, it had become a safe haven for those that had escaped certain death, those that had escaped rape camps, and torture from all across the Drina Valley as well as other parts of eastern Bosnia, it was together with Zepa and Gorazde the last of the free territory in eastern Bosnia.
The fact is that the picture of the “Orphaned Boy” published in Vecernje Novosti was there to mobilize and galvanize the Serb people against their enemy. It is also a way of inciting hate that can have, and has had horrible consequences. It´s not difficult to understand Serbs reading, listening and above all watching the reports coming in from Croatia and Bosnia about various atrocities committed against Serbs by Bosniaks and Croats, wanting to take revenge on the perpetrators. According to de la Brosse Serbian media used certain words to stir up defensive reaction amongst the Serbs. Words like “Ustasha Fascists” and “cut-throats” were used to stigmatize Croats and “Islamic Ustasha” or “Jihad Fighters” to stigmatize the Bosniaks. de la Brosse also pointed to the fact that the JNA (Yugoslav People´s Army) had during the fighting in Croatia issued memos ordering that all enemies be called “Ustasha”.
During the genocidal campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina the Serbian Television, according to de la Brosse more or less banished the use of the word ”Bosnian” or more to the point ”Bosnian Forces” On August 17 1992 Serbian journalist Branko Elez called Bosnian forces;”Islamic Fundamentalists” ”Islamic Chauvinists” and branded them as”cruel hordes of Alija” (Alija Izetbegovic, the Bosnian president)
Bosnian Army soldiers were referred to as; ”Warriors of Allah” armed by Saddam Hussein, ”conducting a holy war in the name of Islam” even though Saddam Hussein had established a secular dictatorship in Iraq, but that did not matter, most Serbs did not know the nature of Saddam Hussein´s regime, they did however know that he was a Muslim, and an Arab and that would for some be enough. Ironically Saddam Hussein and Muamar Gadafi had on several occasions bought weapons and jet engines including spare parts from Milosevic´s regime and his cronies in Republika Srpska as well as playing host to Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serb Radical Party back in 2001 when Seselj along with a delegation from the Serb Radical Party including current Serbian prime minister Aleksandar Vucic visited Iraq.
In June 1993 Swedish journalist Peter Kadhammar traveled to Pale, the former ski-resort that during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina served as war-time capitol of Republika Srpska. Kadhammars first impression of Mladic was that of a commander at the very peak of his power, he exuded self-confidence and it was obvious that he was the most powerful man in the Bosnian Serb Army. “ I am the Cassius Clay of war” he claimed “ I can knock anybody out, but I am a merciful man” According to Kadhammar he loved to talk about his victories and how he back then in 1993 was in the control of the fate of the Bosniak population in Srebrenica. Kadhammar recalls that Mladic as a joke suggested to Kadhammar that the Bosniak (Muslim) population of Bosnia and Herzegovina would be better of relocating the Swedish archipelago, and the world was conspiring against the Serbs. This whole war was a conspiracy against the Serbs. At one point, Kadhammar asked Mladic if he knew how many people had been killed by Mladic´s men in Sarajevo, Mladic´s response was “that those were not people, those are Muslims”
After the Serb takeover of Prijedor, a town in northwest Bosnia, the Serb-controlled media in Prijedor both broadcast and printed media spread stories about non-Serbs, particularly a doctor named Mirsad Mujadzic who was a member of the SDA, the main Bosniak political party in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the reports in the Serb-controlled media, Dr Mujadzic was accused of “injecting drugs into Serb women making them incapable of giving birth to male children” Another doctor, a Croat named Zeljko Sikora referred to as the “Monster Doctor”, was accused of making Serb women abort if they were pregnant with male children and of castrating the male babies of Serb parents.
During the trial of Milomir Stakic, the former mayor of Serb-controlled Prijedor, the Trial Chamber saw proof that the weekly known as “Kozarski Vjesnik” became the voice of the local Serb authorities. The director of “Kozarski Vjesnik” and and “Radio Prijedor” Mile Mutic and journalist Rade Mutic regulary showed up at the meetings of the “Serbian Crisis Staff”, the “National Defence Council,” or the “Executive Committee” During the Stakic trial the prosecution tendered into evidence minutes of the Municipal Board of the SDS in Prijedor from 30 April 1991 session record showed that the Secretary of the Serbian Municipal Assembly, Dusan Baltic, put forward the opinion that “Kozarski Vjesnik” should be brought under the control of the SDS, Radovan Karadzic party. After the Serbian takeover of Prijedor, most of the articles were aimed at discrediting and undermining the credibility of prominent non-Serbs in Prijedor. In an article published on 10th on June 1992 Dr. Osman Mahmuljin (a Bosniak) was accused of deliberately having provided incorrect medical care to his Serb colleague Dr. Zivko Dukic, who had a heart attack. According to Kozarski Vjesnik; Dr. Dukic’s life was saved only because Dr. Radojka Elenkov (Serb) discontinued the therapy allegedly initiated by Dr. Mahmuljin.
Radio Prijedor also broadcasted forged “biographies of prominent non-Serbs”, including Prof. Muhamed Cehajic, Dr. Eso Sadikovic and Dr. Osman Mahmuljin in order to discredit them. According to the Trial Chamber, after the Serb takeover, Radio Prijedor mostly played Serb nationalist songs and broadcast propaganda against the main Bosniak party in Bosnia, the SDA and prominent non-Serbs characterizing them as “criminals and extremists who should be punished for their behavior”
Others frequently interviewed by “Radio Prijedor” were Milan Kovacevic Dusko Tadic and Simo Drljaca. Kovacevic was the President of the Executive Committee of the Municipal Assembly of Prijedor. In 1996 he was indicted by the ICTY for genocide, for complicity in genocide, extermination, persecutions, torture, deportation. For murder; cruel treatment; torture; wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity. For willful killing; torture; willfully causing great suffering; unlawful deportation or transfer; extensive destruction of property and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Kovacevic was indicted together with Simo Drljaca, who served as the chief of police in Prijedor. According to the indictment during the period from 30 April 1992 to 31 December 1992 Drljaca was both a member of the municipality of Prijedor Crisis Staff and the Chief of the Public Security Station (SJB) for the municipality of Prijedor.
According to the indictment Kovacevic and Drljaca ordered and implemented a plan designed to expel Bosniak and Croat population from what had been proclaimed to be “Serb Territory” The plan consisted limiting the movement of the Bosniak and Croat populations to their villages, and then ordering or initiating attacks on those areas by combined forces of the 43rd Brigade and other Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) units, Territorial Defence (TO) units from Prijedor, regular and reserve police members from Prijedor, and paramilitary units organized and equipped by the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS).
Those civilians captured in these attacks were usually taken to Omarska, Keraterm or Trnopolje which were called “detention camps” by the authorities but in fact resembled in many ways the concentration camps set up in WWII by the Nazis, the prisoners in those camps were subjected to daily physical abuse, sexual abuse of both male and female prisoners as well as young girls. Torture and murder were also common place. According to the indictment, Serb forces under the control of the Prijedor Crisis Staff systematically looted and destroyed Bosniak and Croat villages and property, including homes, businesses, mosques and churches. The destruction was so extensive that nothing but portions of buildings and rubble were all that remained in many of villages of the area and not one mosque was left standing in the towns of Prijedor and Kozarac. To the detriment of the victims Milan Kovacevic died in 1998, not having received a verdict. Simo Drljaca, was killed in an attempt to arrest him in 1997 near Omarska.
Dusko Tadic who served as President of the Local Board of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) in neighboring Kozarac was arrested in Germany in 1994 and transferred to the hague to stand trial, the Trial Chamber found convicted him of “Willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health” Tadic was also found guilty of participating in the in the forced transfer of civilians into “Detention Camps” or more appropriately concentration camps such as Omarska Trnopolje and Keraterm. The Tadic verdict was also the first legal confirmation that what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina was indeed and International conflict. The Yugoslav Army was in fact in control of the Bosnian Serb Army, according to the Appeals Chamber verdict ;
Tadic, (Appeals Chamber), July 15, 1999, paras. 156, 162: “It is sufficient to show that [the Yugoslav Army] exercised overall control over the Bosnian Serb Forces. Such control manifested itself not only in financial, logistical and other assistance and support, but also, and more importantly, in terms of participation in the general direction, coordination and supervision of the activities and operations of the VRS [the Army ofthe Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina/Republika Srpska]. This sort of control is sufficient for the purposes of the legal criteria required by international law.” “[F]or the period material to this case (1992), the armed forces of the Republika Srpska were to be regarded as acting under the overall control of and on behalf of the FRY [the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)]. Hence, even after 19 May 1992 the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina between the Bosnian Serbs and the central authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina must be classified as an international armed conflict.” See also Tadic, (Appeals Chamber), July 15, 1999, para. 87.
Milomir Stakic who had been the Vice-President of the Prijedor Municipal Assembly as a member of the Serbian Democratic Party, was found guilty of murder, persecution, extermination and deportation, all crimes against humanity. Stakic rose to prominence, during the May 1992 Serb takeover of the municipality of Prijedor. According to the judgement;
the takeover was an illegal coup d’état which had been planned and coordinated for months and which had as its final goal the creation of a Serbian municipality eventually to form part of an envisaged pure Serbian state.
A comprehensive pattern of atrocities amounting to a campaign of a prosecutorial nature was proved to have been committed against non-Serbs in Prijedor municipality in 1992. This included killings on a massive scale in the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps, in Bosniak towns and villages throughout the municipality, and, finally, on Mount Vlasic. The Trial Chamber held Dr. Stakic responsible for more than 1,500 killings and was able to identify by name 486 victims. Rapes, sexual assaults and beatings were committed at the camps and at least 20,000 non-Serbs either fled Prijedor or were deported
According to latest statistics 3173 people were killed in Prijedor in 1992, of those 102 were children, the youngest was a three month old baby, many of the children were killed from a close range. A total of 256 women were killed as well during the spring and summer of 1992, the most common killing grounds were the Concentration Camps in Omarska Keraterm and Trnopolje. The Dayton accords placed Prijedor Kozarac as well as Omarska Keraterm and Trnopolje with the entity of Republika Srpska. During the negations in Dayton in November 1995 the Bosnian delegation was forced to halt the Bosnian Army offensive which was in effect routing the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) the offensive stopped before the Bosnian Army could reach Prijedor, and all chances of recapturing Prijedor as well as Omarska and Trnopolje disappeared of the table.
Today twenty one years after the “ethnic cleansing” and mass murder of several thousand of Prijedors non-Serb inhabitants, albeit mostly Bosniaks, there is not a single monument dedicated to non-Serb victims in urban parts of Prijedor municipality. Today there is however some 60 monuments dedicated to “the soldiers who died in the homeland war, 1991-1995” or that they “courageously died for the fatherland of Republika Srpska” According to Haris Subasic from the Ministry for Issues of Veterans and Disabled Veterans of the Defensive-Liberation War of Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) this is due to a culture of denial that shapes the past, present and future memories of the crimes against humanity committed. For example the local government in Prijedor does not allow construction of monuments for non-Serb victims in those areas where Concentration Camps were located, Omarska Trnopolje Keraterm. Excuses used are that it would incite “inter-ethnic hatred” or that “there must be a minimum consensus on it at state level” Bosnia and Herzegovina today has no laws prohibiting genocide denial and the denial of war crimes, most attempts at passing such laws have been obstructed by SNSD, the party of Milorad Dodik.
The most of offensive example of genocide denial in Prijedor and the institutionalized culture of denial that is widespread throughout Republika Srpska is a monument erected at the site of the former concentration camp Trnopolje by the Serb-dominated local government. “The monument for all Serb soldiers who were killed” was erected in close proximity to the infamous concentration camp. Images from Trnopolje together with images from Omarska of have become iconic, in august 1992 as the first reporters were allowed to enter the gulag of concentration camps set by the Bosnian Serbs in the Prijedor area, they broadcasted to the world, the men and women of the concentration camps who were subjected to physical as well as mental abuse on a daily bases, many of the prisoners both male and female were subjected to sexual abuse, murder was commonplace. A female prisoner from Omarska identified only as “J” told Helsinki Watch investigators:
We saw corpses piled one on top of another…. The bodies eventually were gathered with a forklift and put onto trucks—usually two large trucks and a third, smaller truck. The trucks first would unload containers of food, and then the bodies would be loaded [on]…. This happened almost every day—sometimes there [were]…twenty or thirty—but usually there were more. Most of the deaths occurred as a result of beatings
(See: War Crimes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Volume II, p. 103)
Ed Vulliamy of The Guardian was the first one in Omarska, describes his first meeting with prisoners of Omarska:
I don´t want to tell any lies, but I cannot tell the truth” says the young man emaciated, sunken-eyed and attacking his watery bean stew like a famished dog, his spindly hands shaking. The guards swinging their machine guns are watching and listening carefully. His name is Sabahudin Elezovic. “Let me eat my lunch first” he says “then I´ll talk” The stew in the aluminum bowl is gone within seconds, showed into his mouth with an old spoon clenched with difficulty by a rangy fist.
This is lunchtime at the Omarska concentration camp or “investigation center” run by the Bosnian Serb police for mainly Muslim internees near Prijedor. The prisoners are horribly thin raw bones; some are almost cadaverous with skin like parchment folded over their bones. Their faces are lantern-jawed and their eyes are haunted by the inimitable empty stare of the prisoner dumb with fear, who has no idea what is going to happen to him next. No one from the red cross the UN or the press has been this far inside the belly of the beast until the day we arrived at Omarska on Wednsday 5 august 1992
(Vulliamy: Seasons in Hell, 1994 Chapter Five, The Camps, Echoes of the Reich, page 98)
Trnopolje concentration camp like Omarska was set up by the Bosnian Serb military and police forces in the village of Trnopolje near Prijedor. Like Omarska the camp served as a prison camp for Bosniak s and Croats, and like Omarska many of the prisoners were subjected to physical and mental abuse. Many were also murdered. Trnopolje produced the most iconic image of the Bosnian genocide, the picture of emaciated prisoner Fikret Alic staring at the cameras behind the barb-wire fence.
No memorial has as of yet been erected to the victims of Trnopolje and Omarska, nor do survivors have the right to visit the former concentration camps when they choose, they are only granted access to the camps on the day of commemoration. Not that always happens, this year on May 25th survivor groups were not allowed to gather at the camp, they were not granted access to the camp by the local authorities. But that did not stop the survivors and their family members as well as family members of those that had lost loved ones in the camp. On May 26 about a hundred people gathered in front of the camp in order to commemorate the 21 years since the camps were first set up by the Bosnian Serb military and police forces. Something has however happened, staring last year a campaign under the name Stop Genocide Denial has been working to “to give a voice to victims of mass atrocities from around the world in their struggle for the truth, dignity and remembrance” as they put it. On 31th of May 2012 families of the victims of those killed in the Prijedor area gathered at the event called ‘White Ribbons Day’ the white ribbion, is symbolic, on May 31, 1992 the Bosnian Serb authorities in Prijedor issued a decree for all non-Serbs to mark their houses with white flags or sheets and to wear a white armband if they were to leave their houses.
The gathering had been banned at first by the mayor of Prijedor, Marko Pavic of the SDS, Radovan Karadzic former party. Pavic had expressed concern that the event would “undermine the town’s reputation”. Forgetting that the deaths of over 3000 of the towns citizens has yet to be honored in the town itself and the fact there was no statue or plaque anywhere to the 3173 dead civilians, men women and children. Pavic also objected to the use of the word “genocide” saying that the organizations were “politicizing” the commemoration. Obviously unaware that those that had lost their loved ones in the concentration camps had the right to call the commemoration whatever they wanted, Marko Pavic seemed totally also unaware of the fact that the ICTY had ruled that what had happened in Srebrenica was genocide, and that the International Court of Justice came to the same conclusion as well as the fact that courts in Germany had sentenced Serb paramilitaries for the crime of genocide in other places in Bosnia and Herzegovina. One of those convictions was upheld by the the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Pavic also seemed unaware that Milomir Stakic who had been the Vice-President of the Prijedor Municipal Assembly as a member of the Serbian Democratic Party, (SDS) was found guilty of murder, persecution, extermination and deportation, all crimes against humanity. Also there was no law in Bosnia and Herzegovina prohibiting victims and survivors from calling the commemoration of their fallen loved ones whatever they wanted. Sadly there is no law against genocide denial and denial of crimes against humanity either in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Though the gathering last year was relatively small, it had brought worldwide attention to the issue of genocide denial in Bosnia and the denial of crimes against humanity in Republika Srpska. The culture of denial has become institutionalized in Republika Srpska so much so that last year Amnesty International reported that the police in Prijedor had banned s march to commemorate the International Human Rights Day without giving any valid reason as to why they would do something like that. If the gathering in Prijedor last year was humble, the same cannot be said for the turn out this year, on May 31 hundreds of activists, from across Bosnia and Herzegovina, survivors and family members of the victims showed up at the town square in Prijedor. Bosnians from all across Bosnia had to show their support with citizens of Prijedor, the victims, the survivors and their families as the support from the world was pouring in. Marko Pavic true to form dismissed the fact Bosnians, now even across ethnic lines were starting to take a stand against genocide denial and the denial of war crimes and crimes against humanity. His responsse to the gathering of Bosnians in Prijedor was to dismiss it by calling it “nothing more then a gay pride parade” that kind of horrible homophobic remark shows the nature of the political scene in Republika Srpska, Pavic was simply trying win points with his racist, nationalist and above all homophobic constituance. For if the rights of victims of genocide and crimes agianst humanity rank low on the list of concerns in a Bosnia and Herzegovina imprisoned by Dayton, then the rights of the LGBT Community are non-existent. Sadly when it comes to the question of denying war crimes and genocide denial in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it does seem that Bosniaks have to face that struggle, despite positive signs from Prijedor for the time being anyway, more or less alone. Hopefully that will change in time.
When it comes to the ICTY, I have to admit to being a bit disillusioned to put it mildly, some have argued that after latest string of acquittals of high ranking officers by The Hague, most prominently Momcilo Perisic-Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic, that the legal record does not match the historical one. Well yes, sadly that is true. will say this; the ICTY has during its 20 years of existence compiled an enormous amount of documentation and above all evidence of who did what. The fact that the Trial Chamber could not convict those three men, does not mean that they are innocent, it means that the prosecutions case did not meet the current legal standards. Nor does it mean that crimes were not committed. However, when it comes to Stanisic and Simatovic, the reasoning of the court is astonishing, the standards set are ridiculosly high. In the case of Stanisic and Simatovic, as Eric Gordy points out; “The tormented reasoning of the tribunal’s 800-page verdict offers some fascinating reading: It affirms that crimes were committed and describes them in excruciating detail. It names the victims, names the perpetrators, and in most cases details the connections between the accused parties and the direct perpetrators. Then it declines to convict, on the ground that the evidence does not show that the support provided to the criminals was “specifically directed towards the commission of the crimes.”
One of the great achivments of the Perisic trial was that for the first time, we could see how the the Yugoslav Supreme Defense Council worked and those that were a part of it, including Momcilo Perisic, Zivota Panic, Blagoje Adzic, Momir Bulatovic, Dobrica Cosic, Radoje Kontic, as well as of course Slobodan Milosevic. We could also see how the support system created by the JNA and later VJ worked to enable the Bosnian Serb and Krajina Serb or “Croatian Serb” rebel armies to continiue fighting and that without the financial military and logistical support from Belgrade those two entities would crumble within weeks. They were in fact completely dependent on Belgrade and Serbia.
In most cases the paper trail leads to Knin, Pale, Belgrade and as we could recently see in the guilty verdicts of the Herceg Bosna six, to Zagreb as well, as Franjo Tudjman Janko Bobetko and Gojko Susak were all found to be guilty albeit posthumously of being a part of Joint Crminal Enterprise in regards to the crimes of the HVO and the Croatian Army in Herzegovina and central Bosnia.
History is written by historians, not by politicians. As I wrote above one of the great, if overlooked, achievements of the ICTY is the astonishing trove of documents and other evidence assembled by researchers and prosecutors. Now 20 years after the war in the former Yugoslavia there is a an abundance material on the breakup of Yugoslavia, some of it is good some poor and some of it great, above people like Tim Judah, Josip Glaurdic, Marko Attila Hoare, Roy Gutman, David Rhode, Christopher Hitchens, Ed Vulliamy, Michael A. Sells, Stjepan G. Mestrovic, David Rieff, Chuck Sudetic, Michael Libal, Brendan Simms and others have written extensively about the breakup of Yugoslavia and the war and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Now it is up to us to honor the memory of the victims of the Bosnian genocide by fighting the deniers and revisionists, at every turn not only with the verdicts, of which there are many. Most of the political and military leadership of Republika Srpska have been found guilty of persecution, based on ethnic or religous ground, of murder, and genocide. People like Biljana Plavsic, Momcilo Krajisnik, Dragomir Milosevic Stanislav Galic, Mico Stanisic, Radislav Krstic Dusko Tadic, Milomir Stakic… We must also fight the deniers with the facts, with the truth. We must safeguard the memory of our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, cousins, friends, lovers, husbands, wifes. All those killed in Srebrenica, Prijedor, Visegrad, Vlasenica, Rudo, Mostar, Ljubuski, Sanski Most, Bjeljina, Brcko, Cajnicje, Rogatica, Stolac, Sarajevo, Kozarac, Bratunac, Foca, Ahmici, Omarska, Trnopolje…
Professor Reunald de la Brosse´s rapport on Milosevic´s political propaganda and the Plan to Create a State for all Serbs is split in five seperate parts. Here are all five parts:
On 28th of Febuary the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) acquitted on appeal Momcilo Perisic, the former Chief of Staff of the Army of Yugoslavia. He had originally been sentenced to 27 years for his role in assisting and supporting war crimes in Bosnia and Croatia. The trial chamber originally found Perisic guilty of assisting and supporting the killing of around 8,000 Bosniak civilians and displacing the Srebrenica population in July 1995, artillery and sniper attacks on civilians in Sarajevo and for the rocket attacks on Zagreb in May 1995. Sadly his acquittal means that so far nobody from the former JNA high command has been convicted by the ICTY for war-crimes in Bosnia. After sixteen years of existence this has to be considered to be a monumental failure on the part of the ICTY. As someone already remarked; whether it´s a failure of the prosecution or the judges is certainly open to debate. And it has been debated furiously ever since.
The decision follows another controversial decision from November last year to acquit two Croatian generals, Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac. There was certainly no shortage of evidence against Perisic, he had from the moment he took over as Chief of Staff of the Army of Yugoslavia from Zivota Panic, actively supported both the rebel Bosnian Serb army (VRS) under the leadership of Radovan Karadzic and the rebel Croatian Serb army (RSK) under the leadership of Milan Babic and Milan Martic.
One of the reasons for the acquittal given by the appeals chamber was that the trial chamber did not Identify VRS (The Bosnian Serb Army) as a criminal organization per se and that only some of their actions were criminal, the appeals chamber writes ;
“With respect to the first inquiry, the Appeals Chamber recalls that the Trial Chamber did not characterize the VRS as a criminal organization; indeed, it stated that “Perisic is not charged with helping the VRS wage war per se, which is not a crime under the Statute. Having reviewed the evidence on the record, the Appeals Chamber agrees with the Trial Chamber that the VRS was not an organization whose actions were criminal per se; instead, it was an army fighting a war. “
However the appeals chamber goes on to say that the Trial Chamber did find, “that the VRS’s strategy was inextricably linked to crimes against civilians” but that it also was an army fighting a war, and that the Trial Chamber limited its findings to characterizing as criminal only certain actions of the VRS and the appeals chamber agrees with that. That is clearly problematic, and contradictory, certainly crimes are committed during wartime, and crimes were committed on all sides but claiming that the VRS was simply an army fighting a war and that during that time it “committed crimes” shows a lack of understanding for the nature of the Bosnian War both from the prosecution and the appeals chamber. The JNA (Yugoslav People’s Army) planned thoroughly the invasion and dismemberment of Bosnia.
It also flies in the face of other verdicts concerning amongst other Sarajevo. In the Stanislav Galic verdict the trial chamber concluded that;
the evidence demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that Sarajevo civilians were indeed made the objects of deliberate attacks by VRS forces. The Chamber heard from local witnesses who had experienced multiple attacks in their neighbourhoods. They were attacked while attending funerals, while in ambulances, trams, and buses, and while cycling. They were attacked while tending gardens, or shopping in markets, or clearing rubbish in the city. Children were targeted while playing or walking in the streets. These attacks were mostly carried out in daylight.
They were not in response to any military threat. The attackers could for the most part easily tell that their victims were engaged in everyday civilian activities. The topography of Sarajevo, with its ridges and high-rise buildings, provided vantage-points for VRS personnel to target civilians in the city. Certain locations in Sarajevo became notorious sniping spots. For example, several witnesses testified that the main thoroughfare in Sarajevo was known as “Sniper Alley”. Although civilians adapted to some extent to the frequent attacks, by closing schools, by living at night and hiding during the day, by moving around Sarajevo as little as possible, and by setting up steel containers to shield against sniper fire, they were still not safe. They were still seen and targeted. There was little effective protection against shelling.
This was the reality of life during the 44 month long siege of Sarajevo, the longest siege of a capital city in modern time, a siege that cost the lives of 11541 people. The fact that the VRS engaged in combat with the defending Bosnian Army at the same time does not mean that the criminal nature of the VRS should be ignored, to quote Florian Bieber;
First, the purpose of the VRS seems hard to reconcile with lawful combat activities, second arguing that not all activities were criminal is about as convincing as stating that the Mafia is not only involved in criminal activities and thus supporting it does not mean that one is “aiding and abetting” criminal activities.
The other reason given for the acquittal is that Perisic had no way of knowing that the support that the VJ (Yugoslav Army) gave to the Bosnian Serb Army, would go to the commission of crimes. Now certainly the evidence presented by the prosecution can be interpreted differently but the assertion that Perisic did not know that the support Belgrade and the VJ was giving to the Bosnian Serb Army would be going to the commision of crimes is hard to swallow for anybody with any kind of insight into the horrors of the Bosnian War. Or any kind of insight into the previous verdicts of the tribunal. Or even those who tuned in to watch the news every night for the three and a half bloody years. The sense of disbelief at the conclusion that Momcilo Perisic couldn´t have known that the equipment he was sending to Bosnia and Croatia would be used for other the ”lawful combat” is difficult to shake of, and even more so now a good month and a half after the verdict.
At the end of 1991 the JNA started dismantling and disarming the Bosnian Territorial Defense, and handing over those Bosnian weapons to Serb nationalists and extremists loyal to Karadzic and his party SDS. That left Bosnia pretty much defenseless against the might of the Yugoslav People’s Army and their massive arsenal. During the months leading up to the attack on Bosnia SDS leaders in Eastern Bosnia began with the recruiting, equipping, and apparent training of the new “Serb Territorial Defense” Also leading up to the attack, there were military exercises organized by the JNA in which only Serbs participated. At the end of March 1992, paramilitary units and units of the Serbian State Security apparatus, most prominently Arkan´s Tigers and the Red Berets assisted by the Yugoslav Army and their heavy weaponry crossed the border into Bosnia and joined up with the members of Radovan Karadzic´s SDS and the “Serb Territorial Defense” and attacked towns and hamlets all along the border and along the Drina Valley.
Most of the towns fell in a matter of days; the Bosnian government had tried to negotiate with Belgrade with the JNA and the Bosnian Serbs and had done gone out of its way to provoke neither the Bosnian Serbs nor the JNA. It had certainly not started preparing for a war, and had at the start of the invasion of Bosnia, no standing army other than a few poorly equipped units and those policemen and members of the Interior Ministry that had stayed loyal to the Bosnian government. The Bosnian government naively believed that it could avoid war and that it could prevent the bloodshed that followed. Ed Vullimy summed up the Bosnian government’s official policy towards the Bosnian Serb rebellion in his book Seasons in Hell; ( Vullimy, page 74-75)
the government´s official policy was as the deputy president Ejup Ganic explained “ to try and slowly defuse the mine so as to prevent it from exploding” We´re just talking, talking. When you are face to face with a wolf the only option is to work with it until it becomes a pet. There was however nothing domesticated about the wolves stalking the Serbian-held hills above Sarajevo.
Belgrade and the Bosnian Serbs played along and negotiated with the Bosnian government all the while they were in fact preparing an invasion. They were simply buying time until they could put their plan into action. By then Slobodan Milosevic was in full control of the JNA but he was to cunning to use it openly against Bosnia. The leadership in Belgrade opted for a more Machiavellian method.
They relocated every Bosnian Serb serving in the JNA to units in Bosnia, this way most of the command chain, weaponry, and higher-ranked military personnel, including General Ratko Mladić, (who is Bosnian born) remained in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Army of Republika Srpska (Vojska Republike Srpske, VRS) as the armed forces of the newly created Bosnian Serb republic. According to the UN report on the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, in April when the war broke out the JNA had some 80,000 troops deployed there, as well as armour that was coming back from Croatia had come through Bosnia. Much of it simply changed hands, and the former JNA soldiers changed uniforms and seemingly overnight the newly formed Bosnian Serb Army found itself with some 80 000 well equipped and well trained soldiers as well as a wast array of heavy weapons, all handed to them by the JNA. In fact, it´s officers were on JNA´s payroll and continued to be so during the entire war, and well after the Dayton peace accords. As it was shown during the trial of Momcilo Perisic, both the VRS an the RSK (Republika Srpska Krajina) were dependent on funds and logistical support from Belgrade. Without the help of the reformed Yugoslav army (VJ) the two rebel Serb armies in Bosnia and Croatia could not have continued fighting for very long.
According to the same UN report, in August 1991, Yugoslav Prime Minister Ante Markovic released a tape recorded conversation between Serbian President Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs. The recording revealed that Milosevic instructed Karadzic to receive delivery of weapons. The arms would be supplied by General Nikola Uzelac, the head of the Banja Luka Corps of the Yugoslav People’s Army.
In 2008 during the trial of Vojislav Seselj, prosecution tendered into evidence tapes and transcripts of intercepted telephone conversations from 1991 and 1992, in one of those conversations, this one between Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic from 8th July showed how the Joint Criminal Enterprise worked and the control that Milosevic had over the JNA. In the recording, ( the same one Ante Markovic realesed in august 1991) Milosevic can be overheard giving instructions to Karadzic;
to get in touch with General Uzelac, the commander of the Banja Luka Corps of the JNA. General Uzelac was to provide arms and helicopter transport for all Serbian Democratic Party volunteers supposed to reinforce the ‘Banja Luka group’ in the Bosnian Krajina and in Kupres.” This was ‘of strategic importance for the future RAM’. Milosevic then went on to praise ‘the lunatic Seselj’ for having violently and vulgarly attacked Serbian opposition for their criticism of the JNA.
The UN report goes on to say that Slovenian newspaper Delo, published a story about a plan developed by the JNA to supplement the already existing RAM-plan about the dismemberment of Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to Delo the plan reportedly called for the mass killings of Bosniaks (Muslims) and the use of mass rapes as a weapon of psychological warfare. According to the Delo article, the JNA plan stated that, “analysis of the Muslim’s (Bosniaks) behavior showed that their morale, desire for battle, and will could be crushed most easily by raping women, especially minors and even children, and by killing members of the Muslim nationality inside their religious facilities”
By the end of March the stage was set for the dismemberment of Bosnia, Serbian paramilitaries backed by the Yugoslav Army and local fighters loyal to Radovan Karadzic SDS attacked Bjeljina in North Eastern Bosnia. As reports of the terror in Bjeljina reached Sarajevo the presidency, the Bosnian government decided to send a delegation to investigate what had happened in the town, one of those sent was Biljana Plavsic a Bosnian Serb and member of the SDS, she was for a time inmate at a women’s prison here in Sweden not long from where I live, she had been sentenced to 11 years for war crimes in Bosnia. Upon her arrival in Bjeljina she was greeted by Zeljko Raznjatovic Arkan, who´s forces had participated in the attack on Bjeljina. Arkan too had a past in Sweden he had robbed banks and had also worked as a hitman for the Yugoslav Security Services, now he was working for Milosevic. She embraced Arkan, affectionatelly calling him a “Serbian hero” and thanked him for “saving the Serb population of Bjeljina from Muslim Genocide”
That if anything showed the dire situation in which Bosnia was in, the state was from the onset doomed, it had no army, and those willing to fight had no weapons, aside from rag-tag poorly armed units and those police units that had stayed loyal to the government, they would however play an crucial role in the weeks ahead. The civil defense groups were poorly armed, as well as the various armed groups that had formed independently. And most importantly there was no cohesion. Which is what the JNA and the Bosnian Serbs were depending on for their attack on Bosnia and Herzegovina. The pattern from Bjeljina was repeated in other towns along the border with Serbia. Local SDS officials the Serbian territorial defense together with Serbian paramilitary units such as Arkan´s Tigers as well other units from Serbia were in charge of the attack backed by the heavy artillery of the Yugoslav army that pounded the towns from across the border.
In some instances foreign eye witnesses such as members of the UNCHR were present and could later testify as to what they saw, one of them was José Maria Mendiluce, who witnessd the ethnic cleansing of Zvornik. According to Mendiluce, Yugoslav artillery shelled Zvornik from the Serbian side of the Drina river while units of the Red Berets (Serbian state security) and Arkan´s men togheter with The White Eaegles paramilitary group rampaged thru the town. According to Mendiluce , he could see four or five trucks filled with dead children, women and old people. They were dumped on the trucks by serb militiamen. In an excerpt from “This Time we Knew: Western Responses to Genocide in Bosnia”, Mendiluce comments on what he saw in eastern Bosnia;
I saw kids put under the threads of tanks, placed under there by grown men, and then run over by other grown men. … Everywhere people were shooting. The fighters were moving through the town, systematically killing all the Muslims they could get their hands on.
These people had a coherent strategy. The whole point was to inflict as much terror on the civilian population as possible, to destroy as much property as possible, and to target as much of the violence as possible against women and kids. After the irregulars had done their work, the established authorities — the JNA [the federal army of the former Yugoslavia which since the breakup has been in the service of Milosevic of Serbia] or Karadzic’s forces, or the local police — would come in, ostensibly to restore order. But of course, that would mean that the ethnic cleansing of that particular place had been successful, and the White Eagles could move on.
But things were about to get worse, in the coming weeks more and more towns and hamlets across along the Drina Walley fell to pray to the Serb onslaught, Rudo, Visegrad, Foca, Cajnice, and Rogatica, while in the north east, Bratunac, Vlasenica and Srebrenica fell into the hands of the serb paramilitaries. The pattren was the same in all those places, the towns were shelled by the Yugoslav Army while paramilitary units went in to ”sweep” the area.
Approximately six weeks into the campaign the Bosnian Serbs controlled some 60 percent of Bosnia, and by June 1992 some 750 000 people mostly Bosniaks and Croats had been “ethnically cleansed” from large portions of Eastern-Northern and North West Bosnia, all in a bid to link those territories with the Krajina region in Croatia and Eastern Slavonia, those regions had fallen prey to the JNA and various Serb paramilitary units during the summer and fall of 1991. The pattern from Croatia was now repeated in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That Momcilo Perisic had no way of knowing the true nature of the VRS and the campaign being waged in Bosnia is hard to believe, looking at the SDC transcripts, it´s clear that he was very active in lobbying for more comprehensive assistance to the Bosnian Serbs and the Krajina Serbs. To argue that Momcilo Perisic couldn´t have known that the support he was giving to the Belgrade´s clients was going to the commission of crimes mean that he would have had to have lived in a vacuum those three and half years.
One must also remember that during it´s now 20 years of existence the tribunal has indicted over 160 people, most of them members of the Bosnian Serb army or security forces, as well as members of the Serbian state security and above all Slobodan Milosevic.
Most of those indicted have been found guilty of crimes against humanity, Dusko Tadic, former SDS leader in Kozarac and a former member of the paramilitary forces supporting the attack on the district of Prijedor, was found guilty of crimes against humanity for his actions in the Prijedor region, including the Omarska, Trnopolje and Keraterm detention camps.
Milomir Stakic who had been the Vice-President of the Prijedor Municipal Assembly as a member of the Serbian Democratic Party, was found guilty of murder, persecution, extermination and deportation, all crimes against humanity. Stakic rose to prominence, during the May 1992 Serb takeover of the municipality of Prijedor. According to the judgement;
the takeover was an illegal coup d’état which had been planned and coordinated for months and which had as its final goal the creation of a Serbian municipality eventually to form part of an envisaged pure Serbian state.
A comprehensive pattern of atrocities amounting to a campaign of a persecutorial nature was proved to have been committed against non-Serbs in Prijedor municipality in 1992. This included killings on a massive scale in the Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje camps, in Bosnian Muslim towns and villages throughout the municipality, and, finally, on Mount Vlasic. The Trial Chamber held Dr. Stakic responsible for more than 1,500 killings and was able to identify by name 486 victims. Rapes, sexual assaults and beatings were committed at the camps and at least 20,000 non-Serbs either fled Prijedor or were deported.
Radislav Krstic the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Drina Corps was the first person to be convicted for genocide by the tribunal, for his and the roll the Drina Corps played in the Srebrenica Genocide. According to the appeals chamber judgment was found guilty of;
aiding and abetting genocide, aiding and abetting murder (violation of the laws or customs of war), aiding and abetting extermination, aiding and abetting persecutions on political, racial and religious grounds.
Among the grievous crimes this Tribunal has the duty to punish, the crime of genocide is singled out for special condemnation and opprobrium. The crime is horrific in its scope; its perpetrators identify entire human groups for extinction. Those who devise and implement genocide seek to deprive humanity of the manifold richness its nationalities, races, ethnicities and religions provide. This is a crime against all of humankind, its harm being felt not only by the group targeted for destruction, but by all of humanity.
The gravity of genocide is reflected in the stringent requirements which must be satisfied before this conviction is imposed. These requirements – the demanding proof of specific intent and the showing that the group was targeted for destruction in its entirety or in substantial part – guard against a danger that convictions for this crime will be imposed lightly. Where these requirements are satisfied, however, the law must not shy away from referring to the crime committed by its proper name. By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction
the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity. The Bosnian Serb forces were aware, when they embarked on this genocidal venture, that the harm they caused would continue to plague the Bosnian Muslims. The Appeals Chamber states unequivocally that the law condemns, in appropriate terms, the deep and lasting injury inflicted, and calls the massacre at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide. Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act.
Biljana Plavsic, a former biologist a university professor and member of the SDS as well as the former Bosnian Serb president, and one of Radovan Karadzic close associates was found guilty on grounds of;
Persecution on political, racial and religious grounds. In her role as co-President of the Serb leadership, acting individually and in concert with others in a joint criminal enterprise, Biljana Plavšić participated, planned, instigated, devised and executed the persecutions of Bosnian Muslim, Bosnian Croat and other non-Serb populations in the following 37 municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Banja Luka, Bijeljina, Bileća, Bosanska Krupa, Bosanski Novi, Bosanski Petrovac, Bratunac, Brčko, Čajniče, Čelinac, Doboj, Donji Vakuf, Foča, Gacko, Hadžići, Ilidža, Ilijaš, Ključ, Kalinovik, Kotor Varoš, Nevesinje, Novi Grad, Novo Sarajevo, Pale, Prijedor, Prnjavor, Rogatica, Rudo, Sanski Most, Šipovo, Sokolac, Teslić, Trnovo, Višegrad, Vlasenica, Vogošća and Zvornik.
She embraced and supported a campaign of ethnic separation which resulted in the death of thousands and the expulsion of thousands more in circumstances of great brutality. Plavšić contributed to the campaign of ethnic separation in various different ways, by inviting paramilitaries from Serbia to assist Bosnian Serb forces in effecting ethnic separation by force, and by encouraging participation through public pronouncements justifying the use of force against non-Serbs in the territory.
One of Biljana Plavisic´s most infamous statements came at the height of the Serbian campaign to create a “state for all serbs” in 1993 she said that ;
Thats true [i.e. that the Bosnian Muslims were originally Serbs]. But it was genetically deformed material that embraced Islam. And now, of course, with each successive generation this gene simply becomes concentrated. It gets worse and worse, it simply expresses itself and dictates their style of thinking and behaving, which is rooted in their genes…
(Svet, Novi Sad, 6 September 1993).
As a concrete example of her thesis about Bosniaks being ‘genetically deformed material’, she used Ejup Ganic: “I have never met a more deformed person than him in political circles, which abound with such deformed people.
(On, Belgrade, 12 November 1996).
This has led, she further ‘explained’, to a degeneration of the Serb people, as a consequence of the ‘mixing of blood’: ‘We are disturbed by the fact that the number of marriages between Serbs and Muslims has increased… because mixed marriages lead to an exchange of genes between ethnic groups, and thus to a degeneration of Serb nationhood.
(Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, May 1994).
Of all the members of the Bosnian Serb political elite, Plavsic´s statements thruought the war are the ones that resembeled the Nazi ideology of racial purity. Other members of the Bosnian Serb political elite that have been sentenced for crimes against humanity in the war in Bosnia are; Momcilo Krajisnik guilty of being a member of joint criminal enterprise which carried out persecution and deportation of Bosniaks Croats and other non-Serbs. He was the co-founder of the SDS and a member of the Republika Srpska Presidency.
More recently, in March this year Mićo Stanišić and Stojan Župljanin were convicted of persecution on political, racial or religious grounds. Both men were a part of a Joint Criminal Enterprise and committed or individually instigated or otherwise aided and abetted the planning, preparation or execution of persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds; murder; torture; cruel treatment; inhumane acts; deportation and forcible transfer committed against the Bosnian Muslim and Bosnian Croat populations in the municipalities of Banja Luka, Bileća, Bijeljina, Bosanski Šamac, Brčko, Doboj, Donji Vakuf, Gacko, Ilijaš, Ključ, Kotor Varoš, Pale, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Skender Vakuf, Teslić, Vlasenica, Višegrad, Vogošća and Zvornik.
Stanišić was head of the Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry while Župljanin was chief of the Regional Security Services Centre in Banja Luka member of the Autonomous Region of Krajina (ARK) Crisis Staff, and an advisor on internal affairs to the President of Republika Srpska (RS)
While the two of the most prominent members of the Bosnian Serb military and political elite, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are still on trial indicted for “genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions, deportation, inhumane acts, acts of violence the primary purpose of which was to spread terror among the civilian population, unlawful attack on civilians, and taking of hostages”
As I wrote before, this acquittal has been debated furiously, and my own thoughts on it are more the clear, for whatever that´s worth. One thing is perfectly obvious, the fact that the VRS was engaged in lawful combat against the defending Bosnian Army does not and should not obstruct the fact that most of the Bosnian Serb political and military leadership as well as high ranking members of the police and Ministry of the Interior have been found guilty of genocide,murder,persecution on political, racial or religious grounds cruel treatment and other inhumane acts in municipalities all across Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We must not forget that Vojislav Seselj, former leader of the Serb Radical Party is still awaiting judgemnet, he was by far the most vocal suporter of the idea of a “Greater Serbia” and he collaborated from time to time with Milosevic sending his ultra nationalist Chetnik volonteers to fight in both Croatia and Bosnia. Other still awaiting judgements are Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic. Simatovic was the was the head of the Serbian secret police of Slobodan Milosevic, the Special Forces of State Security of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs. Jovica Stanisic was former head of the State Security Service within the Serbian Ministry of the Interior and a close ally to Milosevic. Both men are charged with crimes committed during the wars in Croatia and Bosnia.
If nothing else the Perisic trial showed the reasoning of the Belgrade regime in dealing with their Bosnian Serb and Croatian Serb clients. On May 11 2011 Sense Agency reported that since the seal of confidentiality had been lifted from some of the Yugoslav Supreme Defense Council meetings the public could see what the Trial Chamber saw in the Momcilo Perisic trial, on 9 December 1992 Slobodan Miloevic argued that the VJ (Vojska Jugoslavije /Yugolsav Army) and the Supreme Defense Council should try to assist ”them” the with the most necessary things and what assets, technical equipment etc. they need’. ”Them” being the Serb armies in Krajina and Bosnia that fought in the wars in which “Serbia didn’t participate”. Two months later Zivota Panic, Momclio Perisic´s predecessor reported to the Yugoslav Supreme Defense Council that ”VJ gave complete equipment to form one corps to the Serbian Army of Krajina (SVK). Panic also said that ‘there have been great demands for the infantry ammunition, but the biggest problem is with purchase of artillery ammunition and tank ammunition”.
The minutes form the Supreme Defense Council meeting on 10 February 1993 show that the Bosnian Serb army the Republic of Serbian Krajina were in fact dependent on Serbia for its war effort, according to then fedral prime minister Radoje Kontic;
the financial situation in the Yugoslav Army was more than tragical, since the army had requested 800 million dollar for that fiscal year, with the “ Republic of Serbian Krajina requesting 341 million dollars per month, and the total budget of the FRY amounts to 320 billion per month” Kontic said that ”if there is a need for helping the Republika Srpska, we have to do it again from the fund for special purposes because the Army has no funds for such purposes. I can assure you that in four to five months we will face a situation where Topcider [printing enterprise] will not be able to print that amount of money. The situation is more than tragic.
During this time the Supreme Defense Council was made up of names like Dobrica Cosic who at the time was the Yugoslav president as well as Serbia´s offical national guru, others were the president of Montenegro, Momir Bulatovic Zoran Lilic and of course Slobodan Milosevic. In august 1993 Momcilo Perisic replaced Zivota Panic as Chief of the General Staff of the VJ. The minutes of the Supreme Defense Council clearly show that Perisic continued to provide large quantities of weapons, ammunition, materials and other logistical support to both the Krajina Serbs and Bosnian Serbs, according to the minutes Perisic argued that the Bosnian Serbs and Serbs from Serbia were ‘single people’ which can be interpreted as of course an argument for the continued support of the Bosnian Serb war effort. The minutes also show that he argued strongly for continued aid to both the Bosnian Serbs and the Krajina Serbs thruough the war, including some 66 million for medical aid which the VJ (Yugoslav Army) had been providing to all the wounded soldiers from Republika Srpska and the Republic of Serbian Krajina. By early 1994 the amount required by the VJ (Yugoslav Army) was 2,325,000,000 dollars, this of course included the needs of the Army of Republika Srpska and the Republic of Serbian Krajina. The minutes also show that Perisic requiested funds the for”training and education’ of 4,100 soldiers from Republika Srpska and the Republic of Serbian Krajina.
850,000,000 of that went to the VRS and SVK. Almost 27 million dollars were earmarked to cover the payroll for about 16,000 officers. According to the minutes of the 19th meeting of the Supreme Defense Council, the Bosnian Serbs expected the FRY to give them 522 million dollars. The money was supposed to pay for ‘equipment, scientific research work, construction of military facilities and configuration of terrain, housing construction and strategic war reserves’. At the 22nd meeting of the Supreme Defense Council held on 11 July 1994, defense minister Pavle Bulatovic delivered the message from the VRS and the SVK: ‘Unless they receive assistance, this state will bear responsibility for their future.
It´s clear from the SDC minutes that while the VJ (Yugoslav Army) had provided logistical support to the Bosnian Serb Army and the Army of the Republic of Srpska Krajina, according to the Trial Chambers verdict;
Assistance became more centralized, structured and coordinated during his tenure. General Perišić organized a procurement procedure for the Yugoslav Army General Staff to review requests for logistic assistance. He also regularly met and conferred with General Mladić and General Čeleketić, the VRS and SVK’s respective Commanders, about their armies’ military needs. General Perišić and the Yugoslav Army General Staff did not grant all requests for assistance, although they approved a substantial proportion of them, including millions of infantry bullets and thousands of shells. For instance, in 1994, the VRS Main Staff estimated that it had obtained from the Yugoslav Army over 25 million infantry bullets and over 7,500 shells, among other ammunition.
A large number of VRS and SVK officers were drawn from the ranks of the Yugoslav Army. They officially remained members of the Yugoslav Army even as they were fighting in Bosnia and Croatia under the banners of the VRS and SVK. General Perišić proposed and carefully implemented the idea to create “Personnel Centres” to regularize the status of these officers and allow them to lawfully remain part of the Yugoslav Army. VRS officers retained their salaries and benefits as Yugoslav Army members through what was known as the 30th Personnel Centre, and SVK officers through the 40th Personnel Centre. General Perišić further intended the Personnel Centers system to help legalize the deployment of additional personnel to these armies. In December 1993, General Perišić stated that there were over 7,000 Yugoslav Army officers serving in the VRS and SVK through the Personnel Centers. While many officers voluntarily accepted transfer, General Perišić made clear that those who refused to be sent to the VRS or SVK would be dismissed from the Yugoslav Army in one way or another. General Perišić and other leading Yugoslav officials sought to keep the real function of the Personnel Centres secret in order to avoid further criticism or sanctions from the international community.
The minutes from The Supreme Defense Council are of course a veritable goldmine, since it´s basically all there, in black and white when it comes to who did what, and above the state of mind of those involved. It gives a more complete picture, of Milosevic´s inner circle and the mechanisams put in place both in Croatia and Bosnia. On 16 March 1994 Perisic ‘personally proposed’ that Belgrade set up an air-defense system for the VRS, the Bosnian Serb Army, which would be integrated into the VJ system. In September 1994 Momir Bulatovic, then president of Monte Negro argued that the Yugoslav Army should provide the VRS with “ammunition for 76mm mountain cannons and 76mm pack howitzers” saying that the request had come to him from Ratko Mladic and that Mladic was still ”the most reasonable option and alternative in Republika Srpska”
The mechanisms put in place by the regime in Belgrade have been dissected in numerous trials over the past sixteen years. It´s clear who did what and where, most of it is in black and white with the trail leading back to Knin Pale and above all Belgrade. Yet to this date no member of the JNA or VJ high command has been convicted by the ICTY for war-crimes in Bosnia nor have any members of regime in Belgrade been convicted for crimes in Bosnia. With the death of Slobodan Milosevic also died the great opportunity ICTY had to at least show that the main architect of aggression and genocide would not escape justice, sadly Milosevic died before his trial was finished, it had by then gone on for four long years.
Many attribute the failure to finally convict Milosevic to the fact that he was allowed to defend himself, and that court found itself hostage to his tendentious, time-consuming diatribes. The court seemed, in my opinion anyway, feeble in dealing with Milosevic and for those of us following his trial it seemed clear that he got away with more than most defendants would have, and he did it time and time again. He was after all indicted on 66 counts which charged him with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. It is however possible that mere fact that Milosevic chose to defend himself and that for the first time since the founding of the ICTY there was a head of state on trial, may have played a role. With the world´s media attention on the Milosevic trial the judges could not risk appearing to in any way limit his time. Which he ceartinly exploited to it´s fullest.
The trove of documents, the long list of witnesses and the evidence all takes time to present. One can only compare to the Nuremberg Trials, and wonder how it would have looked if Wilhelm Keitel or Rudolf Hess or Herman Göring for that matter had been allowed to hold time consuming irrelevant speeches for four years? In the end Milosevic died before a verdict came. In a very real sense his death can be seen as a victory for Serbia and Serbian nationalism and as a major defeat for International Justice and the victims of Milosevic´s ”Greater Serbian” project.
However Milosevic´s trial was not a complete loss, During the marathon trial a plethora of documents and evidence was presented and a number of key witnesses, many close to Milosevic gave testimony which could be then backed up by the existing evidence to build a clear picture of a man in charge ”a Svengali figure” to paraphrase Oliver Kamm, who had ultimate control of over the likes of Milan Babic, Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Milan Martic. If for no other reason than beacuse they were selected by him and because they were completely dependent on him and Belgrade. As it was shown in the Perisic trial, neither the Bosnian Serbs nor the rebel Krajina Serbs or “Croatian Serbs” would have been able to carry on with their war effort for long without the much need financial and logistical support from Belgrade.
For further reading I strongly recommend Danijel Toljagas autohorative account on the the systematic ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs in Eastern Bosnia in the first stages of Belgrade’s assault on Bosnia and Herzegovina.