At the end of last month I wrote a lengthy post here about the abuse and discrimination leveled against returnees in parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina that had been “ethnically cleansed” during the Bosnian war. While attacks of this nature have taken place throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina over the years, most of the attacks have taken place in part of the country that was the scene of some of the most brutal pogroms and genocidal violence in Europe since the WWII, Republika Srpska. Once envisioned as an ethnically pure part of a “Greater Serbia” by its creators including Radovan Karadzić, currently on trial at the Hague for war crimes and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, RS remains a part of Bosnia today, it´s wartime legacy of crimes against humanity, segregation and persecution of non-Serbs is still evident today in what has now become institutionalized historical revisionism, with war crimes denial, genocide denial and the abuse of basic rights guaranteed by the Dayton Accords, including the right of children of returnees in RS to attend classes in the bosnian language.
Aside from documenting the attacks on returnees to Republika Srpska this year I wrote about something that has sadly and worryingly become a common occurrence during sports events in Serbia, Republika Srpska or involving teams from those countries, as well as teams from other countries in the Balkans, including Slovenia. But to this date it´s has mostly involved sections of Serb fans, extreme nationalist elements. The chant; Nož, žica, Srebrenica.
The chant rhymes in Serbian and translates to Knife, Wire, Srebrenica, glorying the genocide in Srebrenica it refers to the now well known fact that the Bosniak prisoners executed in Srebrenica had their hands tied behind their back with barbwire. So while Serb nationalist propagandists and their sympathizers and fellow travelers in the west have now embarked on a 20 year campaign to obscure, belittle and deny what happened in and around that Bosnian town in July 1995, Serb extremists on the other hand openly take pride in the slaughter, celebrate it and call for a “repeat” (See my original article)
One such incident took place about two weeks after I had written my original post, at the Eurobasket game between Serbia and Turkey on 9th of September a group of Serb fans wore a T-shirt with a photo Ratko Mladic on it, written on the T-shirt was “Free Ratko Mladić- Serbian Hero” Mladić is currently on trial for war crimes and genocide.
While Bosnian portal, Fokus.ba published a photo from the same game where one of the Serb fans is wearing a t-shirt that says Noz-Zica-Srebrenica on the back, in Cyrillic. There were no actions taken by the organizers of Eurobasket 2015 against the Serb fans, despite the fact that the fans clearly stood out, especially the ones with the Ratko Mladić T-shirts. Of course several Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian news-sites reported on the incidents. One explanation could be that the organizers simply were not aware of this phenomenon which takes place every time Serbia either plays Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Turkey or Albania and almost certainly Kosovo in the near future.
Footage of “Grobari” supporters group of the Serbian football club Partizan Belgrade, singing Nož, žica, Srebrenica.
Serb nationalist Hip-hop song titled Nož, žica, Srebrenica.
Like I wrote above, while Serb nationalist propagandists and their sympathizers and fellow travelers in the west try to minimize the genocide, Serb extremists happily post clips on Youtube glorifying the genocide in various ways, as you can see here.
Most people outside of Scandinavia, more precisely Norway and Sweden have never heard of “A Town Betrayed ” a revisionist take on the genocide in Srebrenica and the events that led up to it. It first aired in Norway in the spring of 2011 and later in Sweden in fall that same year. On the surface, it looked like a typical Norwegian documentary with high production values packaged as a “new truth” about the genocide in Srebrenica and the events that led up to it, however it didn´t take long before most people with basic knowledge of the events in and around Srebrenica and the Bosnian genocide to see that this “new truth” was in fact old lies and discarded conspiracy theories that the filmmakers Ola Flyum and David Hebdicth had repackaged as a “new truth”.
I have written extensively on the documentary on my blog (1 2 3, in Swedish) along with a long host of others. This list includes some of the most noted experts on the Balkans in Scandinavia. As well as journalists and human rights groups who were exposed to the same type of recycled Serb propaganda and conspiracy theories that the filmmakers were peddling as a “new truth”
However I never considered writing about it in English. I honestly saw no need for it, until now. By the spring of 2012 the documentary had been widely perceived as recycled Serb nationalist propaganda. Swedish journalist, of Croatian origin, Tonchi Percan who had covered the wars in Bosnia and Croatia for Swedish press, wrote several times about the documentary saying that Swedish Television should apologize to the victims and survivors for broadcasting what were essentially discarded conspiracy theories that had been floating around in the Balkans and had been debunked by amongst other things the court proceedings at ICTY in Hague. Percan compared it to Swedish Television broadcasting a documentary about the 9/11 attacks being a false flag, without showing any actual evidence.
Still, in time of the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, the documentary floated up again on twitter, spread by Serb nationalists, propagandists and their sympathizers, including far-right loons, in other words; people like: John R. Schindler.
By the fall of 2011 the documentary had been debunked in Norway and exposed as recycled Serb propaganda and conspiracy theories with one of the journalists working on the documentary, the Bosnian Mirsad Fazlic publicly distancing himself in interviews in Norway and Bosnia from it, saying that he protested in several e-mails to the filmmakers that they were in fact trying to distort the what had happened in Bosnia. According to Fazlic once he saw the finished results of several years of work he was shocked, the documentary was clearly pro-Serbian and in it went out of its way to downplay and shift the blame for the genocide from the Serbs.
The documentary was the first program to be brought down in both the Press Complaints Commission ( PFU ) in the fall of 2011 and the Investigation Committee , the Swedish equivalent of PFU in the spring of 2012. The Norwegian PFU wrote that the documentary leaves out some of the most basic facts about the Bosnian war.
Aage Borchgrevink, the senior advisor at The Norwegian Helsinki Committee wrote back in 2011 that the documentary described the Bosnian war in a way that reminded him of the way Serbian state media used to report from Bosnia when Slobodan Milosevic was president.
According to Borchgrevink : ”the documentary was historical revisionism disguised as groundbreaking journalism. Using factually incorrect information, selective use of sources, fringe experts and biased portrayals of events, NRK had described the genocide in Srebrenica the same way Serbian state media had reported from Bosnia when Slobodan Milosevic was president. Ratko Mladic, the general indicted for genocide is portrayed as a decent soldier while Izetbegovic who didn´t bother answering Srebrenica´s calls for help is responsible.”
Borchgrevink also pointed to the fact that the Bosnian Army´s attack on Kravica in January 1993 is described as a “massacre” in the documentary, however the ICTY cleared the Bosnian commander Naser Oric of any wrongdoing during the attack. Several civilians were killed in the attack. However most of those killed were Serb soldiers and the village of Kravica was according to the ICTY a legitimate military target. According to RDC ( Reaserch and Documentation Centre) 35 Serb soldiers and 11 civilians died in the fighting. An additional 36 Serb soldiers were wounded. This information was collected from offical Bosnian Serb documentation, a document entitled: Warpath of the Bratunac Brigade.
Between April 1992 and March 1993, Srebrenica town and the villages in the area held by Bosnian Muslims were constantly subjected to Serb military assaults, including artillery attacks, sniper fire, as well as occasional bombing from aircrafts. Each onslaught followed a similar pattern. Serb soldiers and paramilitaries surrounded a Bosnian Muslim village or hamlet, called upon the population to surrender their weapons, and then began with indiscriminate shelling and shooting. In most cases, they then entered the village or hamlet, expelled or killed the population, who offered no significant resistance, and destroyed their homes. During this period, Srebrenica was subjected to indiscriminate shelling from all directions on a daily basis. Potočari in particular was a daily target for Serb artillery and infantry because it was a sensitive point in the defence line around Srebrenica. Other Bosnian Muslim settlements were routinely attacked as well. All this resulted in a great number of refugees and casualties.(Oric, par.103)
In comparison, it appears that the Bosnian Muslim side did not adequately prepare for the looming armed conflict. There were not even firearms to be found in the Bosnian Muslim villages, apart from some privately owned pistols and hunting rifles; a few light weapons were kept at the Srebrenica police station. (Oric, par.94)
Between June 1992 and March 1993, Bosnian Muslims raided a number of villages and hamlets inhabited by Bosnian Serbs, or from which Bosnian Muslims had formerly been expelled. One of the purposes of these actions was to acquire food, weapons, ammunition and military equipment. Bosnian Serb forces controlling the access roads were not allowing international humanitarian aid – most importantly, food and medicine – to reach Srebrenica. As a consequence, there was a constant and serious shortage of food causing starvation to peak in the winter of 1992/1993. Numerous people died or were in an extremely emaciated state due to malnutrition. (Oric, par.104)
In regards to Kravica, the verdict says:
The fighting intensified in December 1992 and the beginning of January 1993, when Bosnian Muslims were attacked by Bosnian Serbs primarily from the direction of Kravica and Ježestica. In the early morning of the 7 January 1993, Orthodox Christmas day, Bosnian Muslims attacked Kravica, Ježestica and Šiljkovići. Convincing evidence suggests that the village guards were backed by the VRS [Bosnian Serb Army], and following the fighting in the summer of 1992, they received military support, including weapons and training. A considerable amount of weapons and ammunition was kept in Kravica and Šiljkovići. Moreover, there is evidence that besides the village guards, there was Serb and Bosnian Serb military presence in the area. The evidence is unclear as to the number of houses destroyed by Bosnian Muslims as opposed to those destroyed by Bosnian Serbs. In light of this uncertainty, the Trial Chamber concludes that the destruction of property in Kravica between 7 and 8 December 1992 does not fulfil the elements of wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages not justified by military necessity. (Oric, par.662,)
A report from the Bosnian Serb Army´s Bratunac Brigade dated January 4th 1993 says that combat operations in the area Bratunac – Kravica will continue until Serb forces have control over that area. Meaning that far from being on the defensive, the VRS were in fact on the offensive. Lazar Ostojic, the Bosnian Serb commander in Kravica during the attack says in his book, “The Bloody Christmas in Kravica” (Krvavi Božić Sela Kravica) that he had at his disposal 50 elite soldiers from Bjelijna and a so-called “Internventni vod” along with 400 soldiers. According to his account he decided to evacuate the village around 9 o´clock in the morning, leaving only soldiers in Kravica. Last group of Serb soldiers left Kravica at around four in the afternoon. That day he signed off on 22 cases of infantry ammunition and more than 400 artillery shells along with 5000 anti-air craft rounds to his soldiers, proving that Kravica was a highly militarized village and one of the staging points for Serb attacks on Srebrenica.
The Trial Chamber also found that there was evidence that in Kravica and Ježestica, Serbs fired artillery from houses and other buildings, which led to house-to-house fighting between Bosnian Army soldiers and the Serb rebels. Furthermore, according to the Trial Chamber; Serbs located on hills north and northeast of Kravica fired artillery in the direction of Kravica and Ježestica. A witness observed shells landing on houses in the villiges, causing fire. (Oric, par.665)
According to the RDC, the number of Serbs from Central Bosnia buried in Bratunac was consistent with the population movements after the war, especially the Serb population from the Serb-held parts of Sarajevo, which had under the Dayton Peace Accords became part of a re-integrated Sarajevo, having previously been held by Bosnian Serb forces.The political leadership of the Bosnian Serbs called on the population to leave those areas and even take the graves of their loved ones with them. According to RDC such a large percentage of Sarajevo Serbs followed the instructions that parts of the city that had been under occupation remained deserted for months. Most importantly though, the RDC notes that the Serb dead from Sarajevo who were later re-buried in Bratunac area are represented as results of actions taken by the Bosnian Army units from Srebrenica.
The RDC also concluded from their investigation of the military cemetery in Bratunac that 139 of the dead soldiers buried there had lived and fought elswhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war, but where nevertheless buried at the Bratunac military cemetery. According to the RDC: “48 victims buried in Bratunac fought and died in Hadzići; 36 fought and died in Srebrenica; 34 and died in Vogosća; 3 in Konjic and 3 more in Ilijas; 2 fought and died in Sarajevo, two more in Ilidza; one in Trnovo, Pale and Tuzla each.” All of these figures are presented as results of Naser Oric´s actions as well. ( the only ones actually being the 34 soldiers who died in fighting around Srebrenica)
In January 1996 HRW´s Emma Daly reported from Sarajevo about the removal of bodies from cemeteries and Serbs burning their own houses rather then let it fall into the hands of the “Muslim enemy” as well as the fact that Bosnian Serb forces were still firing into the city, and killing civilians months after Dayton Peace Accords had been signed. (Daly reported for The Independent during the Bosnian war)
Borchgrevink also points to the United Nations 155-page report on the fall of Srebrenica, where former UN-secretary general Kofi Annan says that the Serbs exaggerated the Bosnian Army attacks as way of disguising their real objective; which was an ethnically pure Serb state. That meant that Serb forces killed tens of thousands Bosniak and Croat civilians during the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. According to Borchgrevink; – “Srebrenica was not an ordinary military operation as NRK´s expert (John R. Schindler) points out but the culmination of the ethnic cleansing of eastern Bosnia.”
Borchgrevink goes on to say that the documentary´s expert (John R. Schindler) recycles old controversial Serb nationalist claims about 1300 Serb civilians killed around Srebrenica, and that of the Bosniaks killed by Serb forces after the fall of Srebrenica only some “2000 disarmed prisoners of war were executed by elements of the Bosnian Serb Army´s counterintelligence” while the rest were killed in combat while trying to reach Tuzla.
This is of course nonsense, even if it´s cleverly packaged. As Borchgrevink writes; John R. Schindler´s claims are refuted by RDC´s findings, which show that of the 567 Serbs killed in the Bratunac area (Where Naser Oric´s alleged crimes took place) 448 were Serb soldiers, and the rest, 119, were civilians. This is of course a lot, but nowhere near the figures Schindler cites. It should be added that John R. Schindler himself has used RDC findings in his now eviscerated propaganda tract Unholy Terror. British historian, well known Balkan expert and genocide scholar Marko Attila Hoare, who reviewed Schindler´s book pointed to Schindler´s amusing blunders in regards to RDC figures. Hoare writes:
One of the more amusing of Schindler’s blunders concerns the scientific calculation of the figure for Bosnian war-dead carried out by Mirsad Tokaca’s Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, which placed it at about one hundred thousand. Schindler seems to endorse this figure wholeheartedly, seeing it as proof that earlier estimates of Bosnian war-dead had been ‘grossly exaggerated’, and complaining that Tokaca’s result ‘got minimal attention in Bosnia or abroad’ (p. 317). The reason this is amusing is that Tokaca’s figures disprove several of the figures for Serb dead at the hands of Bosnian forces that Schindler himself cites. Thus, Schindler claims that ‘more than 3,000 Bosnian Serbs, some soldiers but at least 1,300 unarmed civilians, had been killed by Muslim forces based in Srebrenica’ (p. 228).
Borchgrevink also points out that international forensics experts have identified 6481 individual victims from various mass graves from around Srebrenica and have determend that over 8100 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) were killed. Subsquent trials that have taken place at the ICTY and ICJ (International Court of Justice) have proven that Srebrenica was an act of genocide, a well planned and carried out mass murder with the intent to destroy the Bosniaks of Srebrenica and Zepa as an ethnic, religous and a political group.
It should also be added that Borchgrevink´s and Norwegian Helsinki Committee critique of “A Town Betrayed” and it´s main “expert” John R. Schindler came in May 2011. Since then figures regarding those found in mass graves has changed, given that Srebrenica is still an active crime scene and that about 1000 of those killed in the genocide still are uncounted for. As of June 2015, the figure of those Bosniaks who have been identified stands at 6930, working from a set of 17,000 human remains located in 93 mass graves. This of course destroys the filmmakers and John R. Schindler´s thesis that the majority of Srebrenica´s Bosniaks were “killed making their way to Tuzla” instead they were captured and taken to various execution sites. For more, see Christian Jennings: Bosnia´s Million Bones- Solving the World´s Biggest Forensic Puzzle)
Borchgrevink also refutes Schindler´s claim that the reason Ratko Mladic wanted to take the town was due to arms smuggling into Srebrenica. Schindler and the filmmakers remain quiet about the notorious Directive 7 order issued out by Bosnian Serb leadership in March 1995, four months before the genocide in Srebrenica. Directive 7, signed by Radovan Karadzic called for the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims from the safe areas. The safe areas included Srebrenica and Zepa. On March 8th 1995, Radovan Karadzic issued Operational Directive 7 from the Supreme Command of the VRS. The Directive ordered the VRS (Bosnian Serb Army) to “complete the physical separation of the Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves as soon as possible, preventing even communication between individuals between the two enclaves. By planned and well-thought-out combat operations, create an unbearable situation of total insecurity, with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica or Zepa.”
As Ed Vulliamy and Florence Hartmann point out in a new report published by The Guardian, Mladic had told the Bosnian Serb assembly, “My concern is to have them vanish completely”, and that Karadzic pledged “blood up to the knees” if his army took Srebrenica.” Directive 7, was of course known, or should have been known to the filmmakers and John R. Schindler, yet it does not appear anywhere in the documentary. A pretty big omission in my opinion…
But the most telling sign of what this documentary´s objective really was, is the fact that behind the scenes, the documentary´s advisors and consultants were made up of what Eskilstuna-Kuriren´s political editor Alex Voronov called “a Serb nationalist propaganda centre and a revisionist sewer”
This sewer included Zorica Mitic, a physician from Belgrade who had since 2000 lived in Norway. In Serbian media, like Pecat and various Serb Diaspora sites she had repeatedly denied that what had happened in Srebrenica was an act of genocide and had highly recommended sites and organizations that had “exposed the myth of genocide” (go ahead, just read the link from Pecat and Glas Dijaspore) among the sites she had recommended was a Hague-based NGO called “Srebenica Historical Project” led by a Serb-American lawyer Stephan Karganovic who was in 2012 compared to Holocaust denier David Irving by USHMM and Foreign Policy Magazine. Srebenica Historical Project is funded in part by Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik as USHMM and Foreign Policy explain. Dodik is one the most fervent genocide deniers in the Balkans, as late as June 2015 he called the genocide in Srebrenica “the biggest sham of the 20th century.”
Another “consultant” to the documentary was a man named Ozren Jorganovic, who for a while worked for Norwegian State Television. (NRK) I don´t know how he got the job in Norwegian State Television, but what is known is that during the Bosnian war Jorganovic was station manager of Radio Ozren, a Bosnian Serb propaganda station near Doboj, as well as Radio Doboj during the war.
Aside from Borchgrevink´s critique, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee also sent the Norwegian Television an 18-page report listing 25 (!) factual errors in the documentary. Here is the full report, in Norwegian (PDF)
It would be simply impossible to list and translate all the inaccuracies and falsehoods in the documentary; the Norwegian Helsinki Committee´s report is 18 pages long (!) so here are just a few of the most important ones. (Within the first ten pages!) However the points that NHC raises show the real intent of the filmmakers and the level of deception that they engage in.
1 (3) the documentary claims that Bosnia´s Muslim majority declared independence (in the spring of 1992) and that a civil war erupted as result of that. This is misleading. There was a referendum on March 1, 1992 about the independence where Bosniaks, Croats and some Serbs voted for independence. A large number of Serbs voted against or boycotted the referendum. What happened after was that Bosnian Serb forces along with Serb forces (both regular and paramilitary) attacked the Bosniak civilian population and representatives of the Bosnian authorities in April 1992. After the initial attack on Bosnia, Serbia officially tried to distance itself from the war, but Serbian authorities continued to support and exercise control over those forces. This has also been established by the ICTY and the ICJ (International Court of Justice)
2 (4) 6:32 The documentary says that “two years later (1992) there is a civil war in eastern Bosnia” The documentary does not explain how that war played out in that part of the country. During the ethnic cleansing of eastern Bosnia thousands of civilians were killed and the surviving Bosniaks expelled to Bosnian-government controlled territory or forced into the enclaves of Gorazde, Zepa and Srebrenica where they were subjected to artillery attacks. These areas were declared “safe areas” by the UN Security resolution on 16 of April 1993. One of the main problems with that was that the despite the Security Council´s decision there was a lack of willingness from the UN-member states to send enough soldiers to protect the area.
3 (8) 25:20 The documentary says that the Bosniaks promised that they would not attack Serb villages from Srebrenica and not harass the Serbs the area of Sarajevo in connection to the establishment of the safe areas. It´s true that both sides broke the agreement on demilitarization, but the documentary avoids mentioning that the situation was asymmetrical and that the Serbs did not remove their heavy artillery from around Srebrenica. Instead Serbs used it to shell the area. In addition to blocking aid to the enclaves and taking UN-personnel as hostages on several occasions. A delegation from the UN-Security Council, led by Diego Arria arrived in Srebrenica on April 25 1993 and in its report the UN condemned the Serb forces for carrying out that what was called a “slow-motion process of genocide” The report concluded “that Serb forces must withdraw to points from which they cannot attack, harass or terrorize the town”. In the end the Serbs captured two of the enclaves, Zepa and Srebrenica.
And lastly, the report points out that it has been proven in the Krstic verdict that Srebrenica had immense strategic importance for the Serb war effort. Being situated as it is in the middle of what was planned to be a “Greater Serbia”
”Srebrenica (and the surrounding Central Podrinje Region) were… of immense strategic importance to the Bosnian Serb leadership. Without Srebrenica, the ethnically pure Serb state of Republika Srpska they sought to create would remain divided into two disconnected parts, and its access to Serbia proper would be disrupted.”
NHC concludes that is the reason why Srebrenica was attacked and that the decision to kill the male population of Srebrenica has to be viewed in that context.
Note: As I wrote above, the full report is 18-pages long and points to in total 25 similar falsehoods and factual errors which show that this is not a question of innocent mistakes, but a deliberate deception on the part of the filmmakers and the “experts” and “consultants”.
For my Bosnian readers, I can highly recommend Sanjin Pejkovic´s dissection (in Bosnian) of the documentary. Sanjin has written extensively about it in Swedish. He, along with Alex Voronov and others were engaged in a debate with the filmmakers, a debate which the filmmakers lost.
There is of course plenty more to be said about this documentary, and a lot of it explained by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee´s 18-page report as well Pejkovic´s dissection of the methods used by the filmmakers and what they were alluding to.
As for me, I can only say that I am proud to have been a small part of a larger group of dedicated people who worked on exposing the lies told in the documentary.
Furthermore for those not interested in recyceled Serb nationalist lies and propaganda, I can highly recommend the following documentaries on Srebrenica:
Srebrenica- A Cry From The Grave, from 1999. Full Documentary.
As well as the new Dutch documentary: Why Srebrenica had to Fall
Also check out BBC´s new documentary about the genocide:
This post has been edited and uppdated on 19/07/2015
P.S. I had previously (erroneously) written that 448 Serbs died in the Bratunac area in total. That has been corrected. The correct figure is; 567, of those 448 Serb soldiers and 119 civilians. Follow the RDC link for full info.
On 29th of October Bosnian State Court in Sarajevo found Predrag Milisavljević and Miloš Pantelić, two members of the Reserve Police within the Public Security Station in Višegrad guilty of murder. The two men were sentenced to 20 years in prison for the execution of 48 Bosniak civilians from Višegrad in June 1992.
According to the indictment against the two men and a third one, Ljubomir Tasić (who was acquitted) they took part in a systematic attack by VRS (Army of the Republika Srpska), Bosnian Serb police forces and paramilitary formations directed against the Bosniak civilian population of Višegrad from April to June of 1992. The indictment said that during that period the men accused took part in the persecution of the Muslim (Bosniak) population of Višegrad; “on ethnic and religious grounds by way of undertaking: killings, forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture, coercing another by force or by attack against limb of life to engage in any form of sexual violence, enforced disappearance of persons and other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to physical or mental health.”
Those executed were part of convoy that left Višegrad for Bosnian government-controlled Olovo on June 14th. Local Serb nationalists in Višegrad close to the Serb Democratic Party-led (SDS) Višegrad Municipality organized the deportation of several hundred Bosniak civilians from t Višegrad to Olovo, but on route to Olovo the convoy was stopped by Serb soldiers near Rogatica and all the men were taken out of the buses.
After that they were separated from the other prisoners they were first taken to Rogatica where they spent the night and then taken to the Paklenik pit (translates to roughly; Hell or Hell pit) where they were either shot or beaten to death by Serb police and soldiers. Bodies of the Bosniak civilians were then thrown into the pit; they were exhumed eight years later. The only survivor of the massacre, Ferid Spahić testified in the trial, implicating Predrag Milisavljević in the killings that took place at Paklenik. The convictions were also based on the testimony of bus drivers from the convoy, who said that Milisavljević and Miloš Pantelić were part of the group that took the men to the Paklenik pit.
Ferid Spahić, the only survivor of the massacre has recounted his experience of that day during several trials as well as in interviews with journalists and filmmakers. According to Spahić; Paklenik was located between Rogatica and Sokolac, he and rest of the men taken from the buses were brought there on June 15 with their hands tied behind their backs, it was the first time Ferid had been there, and then the executions started; “first they killed a group of ten people, and you stand there waiting in line waiting for your turn. I don´t know how to describe it all-you know you´re going to die, you are 29 years old, and yet you are in this situation, and you say to yourself; fine, excecution, it´s the end, is there a way out of this? And then almighty god, who is that I don´t know, but there is some force-someone or something simply gave me the strength to think, to fight and I all of a sudden I found myself running thru the woods, that´s when the massive shooting began, bullets are whizzing past my head but they’re not hitting me. During all that running I somehow managed to avoid all the Serb villages’ without thinking about it, I didn´t fall into their hands, instead I found myself in the village of Mrčići. Execution was around noon, and I managed to get to the village around four-thirty- five o´clock. I had to hide for a while in the bushes, with my hands tied behind my back, my pants had fallen of, I was dirty and bruised. When I came to the village they couldn´t believe that this was happening here, it was peaceful there, the ethnic cleansing started in Višegrad, Rogatica came later”
Ferid found refuge in the house of then 58 year old Mina Jahić, Mina is now 81 years old living in Hrasnica, a Sarajevo suburb one of many “displaced persons” who found a home in Sarajevo or somewhere else after they were “cleansed” in order to make room for an ethnically pure Greater Serbia. Her husband Arif died from cancer in 2002, her youngest son; Muzafer was killed by Serb forces, he was 23 at the time while her other son; Meho was taken to a prison camp in Serbia where his health deteriorated, Meho died in 2005. She still has two sons that are alive, Atif who lives in Germany and Mustafa who lives in Sarajevo and can´t find work as well as daughter; Minka who now lives in Goražde. However despite all that Mina found the strength to make the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) back in 2007. Back in 2011 & 2012 when she was interviewed she lived alone in her apartment in Hrasnica.
Most of Mina´s family was killed in 1941 by Chetniks, she recalls what life was like before the war; “I worked for 52 years, got married in 1951 and by the time war started had everything I ever wanted or needed, I had land, a house, a mower, a chainsaw, we had everything, everything got destroyed, burned down, I lost two sons and my husband. I can´t tell anybody the troubles´ I´ve seen, god gives me strength, I turn to him and I never stop praying, I´ve always struggled and I continue to struggle. I gave birth to five children without ever having to go to the doctor, me and my husband had 10 hectares of land which we both worked on, tell that to somebody now and they´ll say; you´re lying.”
Mina also went alone to search for the remains of her son Muzafer who was killed by Serb forces; she found his remains and informed the commission for missing persons about the whereabouts of the remains. Later she traveled to the identification center in Visoko for the confirmation proceedings.
I was in the field when I heard gunshots from afar. When I went home, my neighbor Pemba came over in a hurry and said that someone had escaped an execution and had come to her door. She said that she had left him in her garden. I told her that we must save the man and that she should bring him to my house during the night. We were afraid because we knew that the Serbs were most likely looking for him. A few hours later, a Serb neighbor came by, claiming that he was trying to find lost sheep. I knew he was checking to see if there was anyone or anything unusual in the village. Ferid, the man we rescued, was in terrible shape. His face and body were completely purple and covered with blood from the beating. I will always remember his mustache. It was totally covered in dried blood. I knew that some neighbors (Bosniaks) could tell the Serbs that I am keeping Ferid in my house. I couldn’t afford to take him out of my house because I knew that my family would also be hurt. I lived with my husband and four sons. I decided to hide him in the attic. He had to remain still and silent because any movement could be heard on the first floor. Why did I save him? I knew that the same fate could befall my children, my sons, and it was completely normal to help a man in trouble. I didn’t separate him from my own children.
For Ferid it felt like being born again, he remembers Mina bringing food to his bedside since he was immobile for a good 10-12 days, after those 10-12 days once he had recovered from the worst of it, the nightmares came as it settled what had happened, he remembers that Mina noticed that he wasn´t eating and drinking again. Eventually Ferid had to run again and made his way to Goražde, he was later reunited with his wife in Visoko.
The reason for the attention Mina deservedly got was that in 2011 US State Department honoured her and a number of other people at ceremony held in Washington honouring their heroic efforts in protecting refugees around the world “amid great stress and conflict” the ceremony also commemorated the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, an international agreement that defines the rights of refugees and the legal obligation of nations to protect them. Mina wasn´t the only person with linkes to Bosnia and Herzegovina that was honoured, the other one was Larry Hollingsworth, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees operation in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. Others honoured at the ceremony (posthumously) were Harriet Tubman and Raoul Wallenberg.
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:
President of the United Nations General Assembly proud Serb nationalist and full-time clown Vuk Jeremic is making headlines in the Balkans and in the US again. The story first appeared in Radio Free Europe and was later picked up by The Atlantic. It seems that Vuk Jeremic has been “outed” as a Bosniak Muslim! Well not really but to those that are not familiar with the history of Bosnia the anti-fascist struggle during the Second World War, and the communist-era Bosnian and Yugoslav politics could be forgiven for thinking that this is a startling revelation especially considering since Vuk Jeremic has spent years cultivating the image of a hardline Serb nationalist.
Which brings us to the latest installment in the traveling comedy act called Vuk Jeremic which premiered on 18th of March when Jeremic attended a ceremony in Belgrade posthumously granting his Bosnian Muslim great-grandparents the Righteous Among the Nations medal, Israel’s highest award honoring non-Jews for brave conduct during the Holocaust. His great grandparents were the Bosniak couple Nurija and Devleta Pozdarec and native of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The heroic Bosniak couple risked their lives to save Jews, Serbs, Roma and others that had escaped from the transport trains that were taking them to Jasenovac and certain death. During the ceremony Jeremic said ;
” he was ”grateful and excited” to honor his great-grandparents’ role in saving Jews and others from the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia, where an estimated 700,000 people were killed.
”I want to say that I am immeasurably proud of my ancestry and of my ancestors who, during World War II, courageously stood up against crimes whose ferocity is unmatched in history, against their Jewish and Serb fellow citizens,”
For those of you that find all this surprising, all I can say is don´t worry it´s perfectly understandable. I´ll try to clear things up for you. As Radio Free Europe and The Atlantic rightly point out the reason why all this is a surprise is that up till now Jeremic has done his best to hide any trace of his Bosniak heritage. The Atlantic rightly points out that the reason for that is that his political career has, until now, been grounded in his image as an unapologetic Serbian nationalist.
During his tenure as foreign minister of Serbia his stance on Kosovo could be best described as “inflexible” it rivaled that of Slobodan Milosevic and and had brought Serbia on a collision course with the EU on several occasions. He has also vocal in his support for Bosnian Serb separatist and genocide-denier Milorad Dodik.
The fact that he decided that playing The March on Drina at the United Nations General assembly and then calling it a peace march only shows Jeremic´s delusional frame of mind. It´s hard for me to imagine any one piece of work in the Balkans that is more linked to Serbian nationalism then The March on the Drina perhaps Petar Njegos Gorski Vjenac, fortunately Jeremic has yet to recite passages from the novel at the UNGA. The song itself is not the problem, the problem is that during the Second World War the song became the unofficial anthem of the Royalist Chetnik Movment, under the leadership of Dragoljub “Draza” Mihajlovic. During WWII the Chetnik´s slowly truned away from fighting the Axis powers and instead collaborating with the Nazis and the Italians as well as the hated Ustasha.
They carried out genocidal massacres of Bosniak (muslim) civilians in towns all along the Drina river. In Visegrad, Foca, Zvornik, Vlasenica and Srebrenica. Fifty years later history would repeat itself as Serbian paramilitaries backed by the Yugoslav Army conquered much of eastern Bosnia and began ethnically cleansing the towns along the Drina killing thousands of civilians and expelling many more. Along they sacked Bosniak homes, destroyed mosques and other non-orthodox places of worship, and set up concentration camps and rape camps, or “brothels” where bosniak women were serially raped. Much of this was done to the tune of “March on the Drina” The March became an unoffical anthem for the Serb nationalist movment during the war. It was banned during Communist Yugoslavia due to its links to the Chetnik movment and even during the height of the struggle for Greater Serbia, the Serbian assembly felt that song was far too provocative to use as the new national anthem, yet it did not stop Vuk Jeremic from playing at the United Nations General Assembly.
Before that he has made bizarre statements on twitter about Kosovars comparing them to evil fantasy creatures, Orcs as well as getting in a heated argument with Luka Misetic the Croat -American lawyer who defended Croat general Ante Gotovina during his appeal at the ICTY. The background of all this was the acquittal of Croatian generals Mladen Markac and Gotovina, which was not liked by Jeremic who called the ICTY a UN-tribunal a “group of international criminals” and said that ”he would inflict serious damage to those crminals” “them” being The ICTY a UN funded tribunal, the very same international body he works for. After the acquittal he decided to schedule a debate on the role and performance of international criminal tribunals founded by the UN.
Frankly I think that it´s all a bit much given the fact that he has best to my knowledge prior to the Gotovina Markac verdict never shown any interest in the work of the tribunal, and that he admitted that he spoke with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic before scheduling the UN debate. Nikolic will be opening the debate on april 10th The same Tomislav Nikolic that as one of his first official acts as president denied the genocide in Srebrenica and Zepa saying that while a crime was committed in Srebrenica it was not genocide and that he saw no reason to attend the yearly commemoration for the victims, since Boris Tadic had been there Nikolic saw no reason why he should attend the commemoration. Well the ICTY did think that what happened in Srebrenica was genocide as well as the ICJ (International Court of Justice)
Another one of Nikolic pearls of wisdom came in May 2012 shortly after his election, when he claimed that Vukovar ”was a Serb city and Croats have nothing to go back to″ he later denied that he had made statement only to be debunked by the journalist that interviewed him. The journalist Michael Martens said that there was audio evidence of his statement. The statement is simply unbelievable, given the fact that Vukovar was precursor to what would later happen in Sarajevo Gorazde Bihac Srebrenica Zepa and other towns throughout Bosnia during Belgrade´s onslaught on the country. The town was subjected to an 87 day siege where some 1700 civilians died the town itself turned into rubble and 22000 of its inhabitants ethnically cleansed.
As I said before it was the precursor to what would happen later in Bosnia, with the Yugoslav Army arming Serb paramilitary units, shelling cities on the other side of the Drina River and then setting loose various paramilitary units under the control of the Serbian security apparatus. It turns out that Nikolic himself was implicated in some of the crimes committed during the Yugoslav army´s and various Serb paramilitaries rampage in Eastern Slavonija. In 2005 Natasha Kandic of Humanitarian Law Center filed a report implicating Tomislav Nikolic in the murder and inhumane treatment of civilians in the Croatian village of Antin. Kandic also accused the political and military leadership of covering up Nikolic involvement in the events at Antin.
According to Kandic it was simply one of many attempts of the Serbian military and political leadership to conceal their ties to people that had or were suspected of committing atrocities whilst under the control of the JNA ( Yugoslav People´s Army) Nikolic had served in Eastern Slavonija as a volunteer with a number of paramilitary units which were under the control of or collaborated with Serbian security forces and the JNA. Nikolic himself recived the title of a Chetnik Duke ( a vojvoda) for his role in the wars in Croatia and Bosnia. The award was given to him by war criminal Vojislav Seselj at a ceremony on Romanija Mountain outside of Sarajevo in 1993. 1991-2008 Nikolic was also a member of Seselj´s Serbian Radical Party and a member of the Serbian Assembly. Seselj is currently on trial in The Hague for his role in crimes committed during the war in Croatia and Bosnia.
Honestly it´s with some hesitation that I write about Jeremic, I have done it before and it feels like there is nothing more to add, much of it is simply repetition of what I have written before. Albeit much shorter, given Jeremic bizarre behavior on the world stage in the past year, or ever since he took over the presidency of the UNGA one could argue that he has simply succumbed to the pressures of the job, granted the duties of the president of the General Assembly are mostly ceremonial, but even though it´s certainly a prestigious position for any young diplomat.
So what´s going on then? Could Jeremic´s bizarre behavior be explained by the fact that he has succumbed to the pressures of the job? Or is he simply having a bad year? Is there another side to Vuk Jeremic then the one of the unapologetic Serb nationalist that has insulted victims of genocide, refered to UN funded tribunals as “group of international crminals” and professed on twitter that he at works for the interest of his country at UN? Well to answer that question one has to look at his track record before he became president of the UNGA.
One can start with his obsession with Kosovo, on August 24 2011 then Croatian Prime Minister, Jadranka Kosor said during an official visit to Kosovo that ; “Croatia was Kosovo’s best friend because both countries had suffered from the nationalist and war-making regime of late Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s”. Jeremic responded by saying that “Whoever has Jadranka Kosor as a best friend, doesn’t need enemies.” Aside from the fact that statement can easily be called un-diplomatic it´s also incredibly hypocritical since he responded to Kosor´s statement while he was visiting Bosnia, and his close friend Milorad Dodik in the Bosnian entity Republika Srpska. Jeremic has been incredibly supportive of Dodik, in October 2010 he attended a pre-election rally for Dodik´s SNSD ( Leauge of Independent Social Democrats) where he was a key-note speaker and claimed that he was speaking in the name of the president of Serbia and all of it´s people when he said that; “there is only one option for Republika Srpska and that is Dodik and the SNSD” He also said that; “The days when Belgarde used to dictate things to Republika Srpska have long since past, RS is now independent!”
It should be noted that RS is not independent but is a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that not what Jeremic meant, he was simply referring to the fact that Belgrade was instrumental in Republika Srpska´s creation. It should also be noted that SNSD ( League of Independent Social Democrats) has been kicked out of the Socialist International. Prior to that the party had been suspended. The suspension was for nationalism and extremist positions of the party. Already before it´s expulsion the Ljubljana- based (Slovenia) The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) stated that “The Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) led by Milorad Dodik is a member of the Socialist International, although its politics and activities pursued since 2006 have had nothing in common with the international organisation’s values. The politics led by Dodik and his SNSD are in many aspects closer to the principles of the French ultranationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen or the late Austrian politician Jörg Haider “
On 5th of July 2012, Foreign Policy Magazine and USHMM( United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) Mladic Files reported that MIlorad Dodik and Republika Srpska had spent a great deal of their funds on genocide denial. Financial records showed that Republika Srpska had paid over the course of five years over a million dollar to a group of group of pseudo-experts that calls itself the “Srebrenica Historical Project” According to Foreign Policy Magazine “the Srebrenica Historical Project specializes in questioning, and in many cases denying, basic historical facts concerning massacres carried out by Bosnian Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic in July 1995. 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.”
In 2010 Dodik also announced that Republika Srpska would set up a fund to finance the defence of Serbs indicted for war crimes, including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. Dodik has also made excuses for Radovan Karadzic saying that while he may “made mistakes, but should be credited for establishing Republika Srpska. RS was founded because of his courage.” The fact that both Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic are right now on trial 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, does not seem to faze Jeremic, he has no problem openly endorsding Milorad Dodik, but heaven forbid that Jadranka Kosor should utter a word of support for the young Balkan nation.
He claims to be “immeasurably proud of his ancestry and who his ancestors were, and that they during World War II, courageously stood up against crimes whose ferocity is unmatched in history” yet he seems to have no problems fraternizing with and endorsing a man that has spent millions of tax funds on minimizing, and denying basic historical facts concerning the single largest massacre on Europian soil since WWII. According to The Atlantic Jeremic´s Bosnian cousin Hamdija Lipovaca expressed his disappointment at the fact that Jeremic had played such a prominent role in the ceremony given his past. . “I’m not happy with his performance as the head of Serbian diplomacy, either before or now as president of the UN General Assembly. Especially after the most recent incident, with ‘March On the Drina’ being played at the UN,” he said. “I think the values that our great-grandfather Nurija Pozderac fought for aren’t the same ones that Vuk Jeremic is supporting today.”Lipovaca didn´t travel to Belgrade, saying he preferred to wait until a similar ceremony is held in his great grandparents homeland Bosnia.
In 2010 Jeremic decided without consulting the president Boris Tadic that Serbia should boycott the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony for Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo. Serbia had joined 18 other countries including Russia in the boycott. It should be noted that Serbia has substantial trade relations with China, which is involved in Serbian infrastructure projects including power plants. The reason he gave for the boycott was that; “China is Serbia’s proven friend, and has offered unconditional support in our difficult moments, which meant a great deal,” he also went on to say that “ all of our decisions as well as decisions of all other governments are closely linked to the realization of their national interest and state priorities. One of our most important partners in the world is The People´s Republic of China.”
Jeremic also said that given the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize had earlier gone to the likes of Martti Ahtisaari, should be taken into account. The reason for that rather populist statement is of course Ahtisaari´s involment in finding a way to stop Slobodan Milosevic and the ethnic cleasning in Kosovo.
While Ahtisaari may not be popular in Serbia, he is certainly not Liu Xiaobo. While I certainly don´t wish to take away anyone´s right to critisize the Nobel committee and it´s decisions, in fact I couldn´t care less who wins the award. ( unless it´s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Alexander Lukashenko.
or Pat Robertson ) The simple fact that Jeremic compares the fate of an imprisoned Chinese dissident to that of veteran finnish diplomat Ahtisaari clearly shows that Jeremic either lacks basic reasoning skills or that he is a simple populist and careerist that would do anything or say anything to justify his decisions. Luckily efter pressure from the EU and a critical public opinion in Serbia the decision was reversed and Serbia attended the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. He apparently takes immense pride in what his Bosniak forbearers did but he can´t be bothered to take the moral high ground when it comes to honoring the imprisoned Chinese Human rights activist.
Given Jeremic´s history it hard for anyone to really believe he is proud of his ancestors, the more likely reason is, the simple fact that his outlandish behavior has not gone unnoticed and he is trying to save face. After all he has called the ICTY a group of international criminals, he has compared Kosovars to evil fantasy creatuers, and the situation in Kosovo to the plot in a fantasy adventure, where the serbs were the heroic dwarfs determend to regain their homeland, a homeland taken away from them by the evil Orcs (Kosovars)
He has decided to play a song at the United Nations General Assembly which to most non-serbs, to Bosniaks Croats and Kosovars brings back painful memories of the Serb nationalist rampage in former Yugoslavia during the nineties. The fact that he fails to comprehend why it´s so offensive, shows his distorted view of events during the Yugoslav wars. His criticism of the ICTY is selective to say the least. Given the fact that most of the members of the former Milosevic regime have escaped indictments for their role in the breakup of Yugoslavia. People like Veljko Kadijevic, Blagoje Adzic, Zivota Panic, Borisav Jovic, Momir Bulatovic, Dobrica Cosic , Zoran Lilic, Pavle Bulatovic, Radoje Kontic and many more.
All of these men were part of Milosevic´s inner circle and had a hand in planning wars of aggression on Bosnia and Croatia, some of them have now died like Blagoje Adzic, one of the main architects of genocide died peacefully, unmolested. The same can be said for Slobodan Milosevic who dispite being indicted and tried died before the final verdict. Yet you will not hear anything about them from Jeremic.While I have no problem disscusing the work of UN tribunals, I have in the past and more recently been critical, the premise being pitched here is hard to swallow. I honestly don´t think Vuk Jeremic gives a damn about the work of international trubunals, if he did, he wouldn´t have Tomislav Nikolic opening the debate, which is like having David Irving open a debate on the Holocaust. What we will see on april 10th is a man who volunteered to go and fight in Croatia and Bosnia and was implicated in crimes against civilians, a man that openly denies genocide in Srebrenica, a man that has been in the company of racists and extreme nationalists for the better part of the last twenty years, a man that claimed that Croats have nothing to go back to in Vukovar open a debate on the work of UN tribunals. That is the contribution of Vuk Jeremic to the United Nations.
Imagine if twenty years after the Second World War, a German diplomat who also happens to be the chairman of the UN General Assembly decided to schedule a debate on the work and the findings of the Nuremburg trials. Also imagine if one of the main speakers was the German head of state, who during the war had been a member of the SS, the elite Nazi units responsible for a large number of the atrocities carried out during the war. If that´s hard to swallow then imagine if that same head of state had denied basic facts about the genocide committed and had insulted both the victims and survivors and also proclaimed that if he was proud of his service during the war and that he was only in the service of his people. If that´s hard to take in then imagine if the chairmen himself had on previous occasions directly insulted members other ethnic groups and exhibiting what can only be described as delusional frame of mine, where a specific ethnic groups is intentionally or un-intentonally compared to humanoid fantasy creatures. Or if that same chairmen had only recently insulted the victims, survivors of war crimes and the surviving family members by playing a particularly offensive military march that was usurped by extremists and became a backdrop for scenes of ethnic cleansing and genocide, calling it a “peace march” or that same chairmen on several occasions said openly that he is in the position he is so that he can further his own goals and that of his country.
By now you could be forgiven for thinking that such a person could never hold such an important position, a position where one is supposed to be impartial, willing to compromise, working in the interest of peace and someone who takes initiative but won´t put his own country´s interest first, you could also be forgiven for thinking that while it´s a fun hypothetical discussion, it´s really all moot point since something like that could never happened in real life, surely not at the UN!? Well perhaps not in 1965 but fast forward to 2013 sadly that is the reality which we find ourselves in. Vuk Jeremic a former Serbian diplomat is the current chairman of the UN General Assembly. In November 2012 he scheduled a debate at the UN about role and performance of international tribunals founded by the UN such as the ICTY, while I see no problem in debating the work, the successes and failures of international tribunals it´s hard for me to believe that Vuk Jeremic is all of a sudden interested in international law and justice. Well maybe he is, but his interest is selective at best.
In december 2012 Jeremic said on twitter that the blockbuster movie: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, “holds important lessons for who is wrong and right in the issue of Kosovo.” According to Jeremic; the book, and now the film, centers on ”the battle of the brave dwarves, determined to reclaim their stolen land from the evil Orcs and powerful dragon Smaug,” Jeremic went on to say that, the land that the dwarves want to reclaim in The Hobbit has a lot of gold, just as Kosovo holds the important Trepica mines complex. Yes that´s right he was comparing the plot of a fantasy adventure to the situation in Kosovo, where the Serbs were the brave dwarves and Kosovars the evil Orcs, the fact that he felt that he had to sneek in the comment about the disputed Trepica mines complex is just as bizzare, my guess is that he really felt he was on to something with his analogy and wanted to end it nicely. (also it shows that Serbia has very real intrests in Kosovo aside from simply claiming historical ties to the region)
While it´s easy to make fun of Jeremic and his misadventures the fact that the chairman of the UN General Assembly is comparing the situation in Kosovo with the plot of a fantasy adventure and that he is dividing ethnic groups in to good and bad, and in this case comparing the Kosovars to Orcs is should give people reason to pause and reflect on if Jeremic is really the men you want as the UNGA. The fact that he decided that playing “March on the Drina” a Serbian military march from WWI, that was later usurped by Chetnik Royalists and Nazi Collaborators during WWII and by Serb nationalists during their latest campaigns in Bosnia didn´t seem to bother him. The song was banned after WWII due to its links with the Chetnik Movement and their genocidal campaign against Bosniaks in Eastern Bosnia. A campaign that would repeat itself fifty years later. In 1992 during the height of the struggle for a “Greater Serbia” Serbian parliament officially rejected it as a national anthem due to its provocative lyrics and history. Yet Vuk Jeremic had felt it was appropriete to play at the UNGA and also called it a peace march.
Two months earlier in november last year Jeremic got into a very public argument on twitter with Croatian-American lawyer Luka Misetic about the acquittal of Croatian generals Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac ( Misetic was Ante Gotovinas defense council) and called the ICTY, a UN tribunal a “group of international criminals” it was in the wake of this that he scheduled the debate at UNGA, he also stated that “he would inflict serious damage to those crminals” prior to that he had to my knowledge expressed zero interest in the work of the ICTY or the ICJ. Well that´s not entirely true, as Serbian foreign minister, Jeremic asked the ICJ a court founded by the UN, to assess whether or not the unilateral proclamation of Kosovo’s independence was in line with international law. The answer he got from ICJ was that Kosovo’s proclamation was not a violation of international law, after which he has done everything in his power to downplay the importance of that rulling because frankly it does not suit his goal of thwarting the young Balkan state addition into the UN. He has personally said on several occasions that as long as he is at the UN he will not allow any decisions to be made about Kosovo without Serbia having a say in the matter.
Vuk Jeremic´s obsession with Kosovo can be traced back to his days as Serbian foreign minister; his hardline stance on Kosovo equaled that of Slobodan Milosevic and had brought Serbia on a collision course with the EU on several occasions, but to make up for that he and his former party have gained support from hardline Serb nationalists instead, not too much though as Boris Tadic Democratic Party lost last year’s elections to a real nationalist; Tomislav Nikolic is a former member of the Serbian Radical Party, a volunteer in Serbia´s aggression on Croatia and then Bosnia and former right hand man to suspected war criminal Vojislav Seselj. In 1993 Nikolic was made a Chetnik Vojvoda ( a Duke) by the president of the Central Fatherland Administration of the Serb Chetnik Movement who just so happened to be Vojislav Seselj, on Mountain Romanija outside of Sarajevo. He was made a duke for his “bravery and heroism” and for “showing by a personal example how one should fight for the Serb idea in the battles in Slavonia” More recently he has made headlines both in the Balkans but also in the international press for his outright denial of the genocide in Srebenica. For years the two men (Nikolic and Seselj) could be seen side by side often in the company of the current First Deputy Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic also a former member of the Serbian Radical Party, prior to that Vucic was most famous for his July 1995 remark in the Serbian Assembly that; ”If one Serb is killed in Bosnia, we will kill a hundred Muslims in turn!” This was days after the genocide in Srebrenica.
On February 13th Serbian news-site B92 reported that Tomislav Nikolic would open the april 10th debate at the UN general assembly on the work of the ICTY. It´s not hard to imagine what his views on the work of the ICTY will be. During the war years Nikolic served as a volunteer in the various notorious Serbian units that attacked together with what was then The Yugoslav People’s Army Croatia in 1991. On 23 june 2005 Natasha Kandic filed a report in which she demanded that Serbia´s War Crimes Prosecution Office initiate an investigation in connection with the war crimes committed in Antin, Republic of Croatia, following the establishment of the Serb Authority (the authority of the Yugoslav People´s Army, JNA) over the territory of Eastern Slavonia in August 1991.
According to Kandic there was evidence and testimony of crimes commited against the civilian population of Antin, those crimes had been committed by members of the notorious paramilitary unit “Seselj´s Followers”, according to Kandic survivors of the crimes perpetrated mentioned amongst other Tomislav Nikolic who at the time (2005) was the vice-president of the Serb Radical Party. Kandic and The Humanitarian Law Center asked Serbia´s War Crimes Prosecution Office to investigate the security organs and the head of the Security Service of former Yugoslav National Army for covering the crime, and of the commanding officers of the YNA unit and of the volunteer units for failing to report the offenders and hand them over to the judicial authorities.
“The fact that almost all institutions of Serbia and the Military Security Service of Serbia and Montenegro have allegedly determined that they are not in possession of any documents implicating or linking Tomislav Nikolic with the war crimes points to, once again, the practice of covering up and denying the crimes committed by the Serb forces in the armed conflicts on the territory of former Yugoslavia. This is confirmed by the fact that the highest officials of Serbia have been hiding the documents about the participation of the members of the Ministry of the Interior in the slaughter of the Srebrenica Bosniacs for the last ten years. The fact that the organs of the military security are hiding the evidence of the criminal responsibility of the citizens of Serbia and Montenegro for the war crimes can be seen from the documents of the Ovcara case conducted before the war crimes chamber of the district court in Belgrade. According to the statement given by a witness, colonel Slavko Tomic, on 14 March 2000, he had, in 1992 or in 1993, informed general Aleksandar Dimitrijevic, the then head of the Security Service, about the shooting of the Croatian prisoners in Vukovar in November 1991.”
According to Kandic´s report Nikolic himself had on several occasions boasted of his war campaign against Croatia. In an interview given to the weekly NIN (19 June 2003), under the title “I went to war with a heart”, Tomislav Nikolic said:
“We proved our belief in the chetnik ideology, our membership in the Serb chetnik movement, during the war outside the territory of Serbia in accordance with the principles the chetnik movement was based on”
Kandic urged the War Crimes Prosecution Office also to review the transcripts of the session of the Assembly of Serbia where Tomislav Nikolic, a member of the Assembly, said that he had been in Srebrenica at the most difficult time and that he had been the last to return from Srebrenica. In her report on Tomislav Nikolic, Kandic continiues by saying;
“The suspicion that Tomislav Nikolic had taken part in the killing of civilians in Antin was first raised by Marko Korac, a member of the Assembly of Serbia, who told RFE (20 June 2005) that the data about what had happened in Antin would be “discovered in the weeks to come”, and by Beba Popovic, the chief of the Communications Bureau in Zoran Dindjic’s Cabinet, in the supplement to TV B92 “Insajder” program (16 June 2005). And lastly, there are the testimonies of the witnesses: “Tomislav Nikolic was in our village together with the chetniks when the most horrendous atrocities were committed to our neighbors”, claims Tadija Mijakic, from Antin, in a statement given to Vecernje novosti (18 June 2005). “I can’t forget him because it was he” (that is, Tomislav Nikolic) “who, together with the deputy chetnik voivode, Slobodan Miljak, forced us to clear the minefield in the present-day Matije Gupca street. We were saved from certain death by a Serb from Markuica who, while we were entering the brushwood, cleared the area by drawing a harrow over it”, says Mijakic about the time when about 50 inhabitants of Antin were killed.”
Kandic ends by saying;
”I have voiced my suspicion of Tomislav Nikolic’s involvement in the crimes in Antin publicly. It is a legal obligation of every citizen, mine in particular, as the director of the Humanitarian Law Center whose objective it is to document the violations of human rights in armed conflicts, to make public or to report any indication that a war crime had been committed. I have learned, from a number of independent sources that Tomislav Nikolic had personally participated in the killing of the old people in Antin. >From a number of members of the Assembly of Serbia I have learned that there had been rumors in the corridors of the previous Assembly of Nikolic having killed some old people and throwing their bodies into a pool. Allegedly, the members of the Serb Radical Party themselves were saying that Tomislav had done it. In his statement for B92 radio station, on 16 June 2005, the chief of the Communications Bureau in the Cabinet of the late Zoran Dindjic said that he had received the information about Nikolic’s participation in the killings in Antin from the former head of the State Security of the Ministry of the Interior of Serbia, Jovica Stansic. From a number of independent sources I have received information that the documentation about Antin is to be found in the Military Security Service (MSS)
As for the perpetrators of the crimes, Serbia has been hiding and protecting them for 14 years. The Military Security Service of the Army of Serbia and Montenegro is in possession of the data about them. The Military Security organs of former Yugoslav National Army, who had conducted investigation of the scene of the crime, have submitted their findings to the higher security organs who, in their turn, were supposed to submit the documentation to the Security Administration of YNA. This documentation contains the names of the officer commanding the YNA unit in Antin, of the corps commander, of the security organs and the commanders of the chetniks and other volunteer units. These documents contain everything about Tomislav Nikolic, from the time he had come to Antin and who he had come with, to the names of the chetniks and other volunteers who had committed the crimes. There lie the answers and the evidence of the criminal responsibility or of innocence of Tomislav Nikolic.
”In view of the fact that the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Vojislav Kotunica, the Defense Minister, Prvoslav Davinic, the Justice Minister, Zoran Stojkovic, and the President of the National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, Rasim Ljajic, have taken Tomislav Nikolic under their protection, they have an obligation to present evidence which will, beyond any reasonable doubt, confirm their statements concerning the innocence of Tomislav Nikolic.”
The fact that Kandic´s report on Antin and Tomislav Nikolic didn´t lead anywhere can be attributed to the fact that Serbia has yet to deal with its tainted past. Most of the nationalists who seized power in Serbia as communism collapsed remain there and have thwarted any effort that Serbia, it´s people and above all human rights advocate´s like Natasha Kandic and Sonja Biserko have put to making sure that the perpetrators of some of the most horrendous war crimes since the Second World War are brought to justice. Telling the truth about Serbia’s past is essential and Serbia´s failure to do that and the fact that the country´s political and intellectual elite has done everything in its power to marginalize the crimes committed and equalize the blame for the wars in former and it shows that rather than dealing with its past like Germany did post WWII Serbia and great many serbs would rather sweep what happened under the rug.
Serbia´s inability to properly deal with its past and the continued genocide denial and attempts at revisionism have hampered any attempts at a real reckoning of the past. Simply put, it´s impossible to expect any form “reconciliation” in the region when Serbia and great many Serbs continue to deny basic facts about the wars in former Yugoslavia and the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In that sense Nikolic is the perfect man for Serbia. As I have written above one of the first things he did was to deny the genocide in Srebrenica. Prior to that he had in May 2012 said that Vukovar “was a Serb city and Croats have nothing to go back to there″ the statement was made in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, later he denied that he made that statement but Michael Martens, the FAZ journalist who interviewed Nikolic, confirmed the authenticity of Nikolic’s statements. ”Audio recording of the interview exists, if there are any doubts,” said Martens, saying that Nikolic said there was no need to authorise the interview. In that same interview he said that Greater Serbia was his ”unrealized dream” while earlier in 2004 he said in an interview that the boundaries of Greater Serbia along the Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag line were not part of any imperialistic politics, but would always remain a ”dream” for him and other Radical leaders. (Yet he had no problems going to war over those borders,and accept the title of a Chetnik Duke for his “bravery and heroism” )
His conversion from a Serb radical and extreme nationalist to a “moderate” or a “progressive” follows a clear pattern, from 2008 and onwards he has tried to downplay his long-term association with the Serbian Radical Party. Excuse he gives for his past nowadays is that; well it was a time of war and that he was saying certain things simply because it was the official policy of that party, yet his political career with the Serbian Radical Party started in 1991 when he was made a deputy in the National Assembly of Serbia and lasted until 6th of September 2008. During that time he participated in a campaign which saw the non-Serb population of Eastern Slavonia “cleansed” and was for the most part in the company of warmongering racists and extreme nationalists and seemed happy to be there.
In later interviews since his split with the Serbian Radicals, whenever he was asked about his former statements on Greater Serbia he said that this was only in line with the party’s ideology, and that he had changed his mind on much of that, which in itself is contradictory since if he was only going thru the motions, he wouldn´t have to say that he had “changed his mind on all that” However in May 2012 after he won the Serbian elections he had no problems claiming that yet again that Greater Serbia was his unrealized dream and that there was nothing imperialistic about it. Yet for those of us who were on the receiving end of a Greater Serbian ideology that ripped thru former Yugoslavia with tanks, heavy artillery, war planes, concentration camps, rape camps and waged total war on its neighbors, it was not as pleasant as it was in Nikolic´s mind. Which is why Nikolic statements about Vukovar and Srebrenica are so offensive, During the war in Croatia, Vukovar was under siege by the former Yugoslav army and rebel Croatian Serb forces as well various paramilitary units such as the notorious Arkans Tigers as well as Vojislav Seselj´s units, the city was surrounded for 87 days during which the JNA attacked from the ground, the air as well as units of the Yugoslav Navy, at most some 36 000 soldiers attacked Vukovar supported by heavy artillery, rockets and tanks and aircraft and naval vessels on the Danube. At the end some 1700 had died during the siege and the town was reduced to rubble with some 22 000 of its inhabitants ethnically cleansed after the fall.
This pattern would repeat itself during Serbia´s genocidal campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina where the Yugoslav Army shelled cities, towns, and hamlets into submission all along the it´s border with Bosnia before setting loose Arkans and Seseljs men as well as numerous other paramilitary units that went in to ”cleanse” the area. This way Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs managed to ”cleanse” some 70% of Bosnia´s territory of its non-Serb population, mostly Bosniaks. All this was done with the goal of linking together ethnically cleansed part of Bosnia with that of ethnically cleansed parts of Croatia and transforming it into a ”Greater Serbia” the ”ethnic cleansing” of Eastern and North-West Bosnia took the lives of thousands of civilians, Serbian authorities also set up concentration camps where people were starved beaten raped and killed on a daily basis. Bosnian towns like Sarajevo, Gorazde, Srebrenica, Zepa, Bihac all suffered the fate of Vukovar. Sarajevo was under siege for three and a half years during that time much of the city was destroyed in deliberate terror campaign intended to make the live of its citizens unbearable and bring the Bosnian government to its knees. But nowhere was it as horrible and as desperate as in Eastern Bosnia and Srebrenica, a town which had long before the genocide that took place been dubbed the largest concentration camp in the world and as far back as 1993 Venezuela’s UN ambassador Diego Arria who visited the town wrote in his report that what was happening there was a slow-motion process of genocide. According to Arria, Shocking images of poverty, destruction, starvation and squalor were hidden from the public in 1993 and that the blue helmets in the enclave did nothing to prevent the “gradual genocide” that was taking place there.
The fact that someone who served as a volunteer in what can only be called a campaign of total war and genocide, where rape was used as a form of weapon, a weapon of terror, where persecution based on ethnicity religion and even gender was not a sideffect of war but the very tool of war. Where cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners and terrorsation of the civilian population was a trademark, where the destruction of homes of and religous objects was seen as a necessery war objective, where wholesale massaceres were not only condoned but incouraged, and Nikolic himself is implicated in some of those crimes is now going to open a debate on the work of international tribunals at the UN general assembly is beyond surreal. Frankly words fail me, but then again given the record of the UN when it comes to the former Yugoslavia why should it be a suprise?
It´s also symptomatic of the entire failed approach of the “international community” in the former Yugoslavia. If were are honest Nikolic and Jeremic are as much a product of that failed policy of appeasment as they are of the rampant Serb nationalism. The very same ideology that was allowed with the help of the Yugoslav Army and the “intrenational community” to wage wars of aggression on it´s neighbors. Where much of the political and intellectual elite that was responsible for the rise of nationalism, the same elite that has build what Croatian historian Branka Magas calls a “bi-polar image of its national history” in which Serbs are the constant victims of aggression from numerious enemies including Serbia’s neighbours, faiths other than Orthodox Christianity, and the West in general are still there and are calling the shots behind the scenes. They know very well that the image of Serbia as the prepetual victim has now come under attack.
During it´s now twenty years of existence the ICTY has after some 160 trials and some 4000 witnesses established what happened in former Yugoslavia, and who was responsible for what. In most cases it was written in black and white, the responsibility for the violent breakup of Yugoslavia falls on Belgrade, the aggression on Croatia, the genocidal campaign in Bosnia, the campaign of ethnic cleansing in Kosovo all left a paper trail leading back to Pale and more importantly Belgrade. It´s getting harder and harder for Serbia and it´s corrupt intellectual and political elite to re-write the past, that does not mean that they are not trying to.
In one of the more bizzare cases of attemped revisionism Ejup Ganic former member of the bosnian presidency was arrested at Heathrow airport in march 2010, at the request of the Serbian war-crimes prosecutor. According to the extradition request Ganic was wanted for the deaths of Yugoslav army soldiers at Dobrovoljacka Street on may 3th 1992. Ganic was forced to stay in London for five months while british courts decided his fate. In the end it turned that the only thing he was guilty of, was defending his country on 2-3 may, against an invasion that was to start with an all out assault on Sarajevo. The court in London and Senior District Judge Timothy Workman found that there was no evidence to support an extradition and that the Serbian war-crimes prosecutor´s actions were politically motivated and that what had happened here was tantamount to ”an abuse of British legal process”.
The motive was simple; prior to Ganic´s arrest a debate raged in Serbia on whether Serbia should pass the European parliament’s resolution condemning the genocide in Srebrenica, Serbia´s nationalist guru Dobrica Cosic weighed in by saying 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.) Before him Cedomir Antic, a well known nationalist and serbian historian wrote that; “by having the Serbian parliament finally accept that what happened in Srebrenica was indeed genocide, Belgrade will accept also collective responsibility on the part of Serbia and Republika Srpska for the crimes their armies committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina“ (Vreme, 4.2.2010)
On august 15 2010 Christian Schwarz-Schilling who had 2006-07 served as High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina wrote an op-ed peice in the german newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung where he summed up the verdict and the reasons for which Ganic was arrested.
The second court decision, issued by a London court after a careful examination, ruled as follows: It has freed Ejup Ganic, who at the request of Serbia had been arrested in London on March 1st and was to be extradited to Belgrade as a suspected war criminal. The court determined that there is no evidence that Ganic had in fact committed the alleged war crimes in May 1992. The judge found that it was not legally valid evidence, but political motives that led the Serbian Public Prosecutor to make false allegations; according to the judge, this was an abuse of British legal process.
The grounds for London Judge Timothy Workman’s judgment also showed that the Serbian side, behind the back of the court, had attempted to cut a political deal with London and Sarajevo: Belgrade would withdraw the request for extradition, if Ejup Ganic were put on trial in Sarajevo and if the Bosnian government would signal its approval of the inadequate declaration adopted by the Serbian Parliament on the massacre in Srebrenica, which avoided using the word “genocide.” This attempt demonstrates in what low regard the Serbian government holds the rule of law in London; of course, the court turned down such a request.
Given Jeremic´s and Nikolic past there should be no doubt that the reason for this debate is to yet again try to equalize the guilt for the wars in former Yugoslavia. This time they have the opportunity to do so at the United Nations General Assembly.