Genocide Denial and the Need for Maintaining Necessary Illusions

Srebrenica Genocide
Srebrenica Genocide

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.

Orphan Upon His Mothers Grave by Uros Predic, to the left and Vecernje Novosti Picture to the right. Courtesy of Srebrenica Genocide Blog.
Orphan Upon His Mothers Grave by Uros Predic, to the left and Vecernje Novosti Picture to the right. Courtesy of Srebrenica Genocide Blog.

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.

Fikret Alic at Trnopolje august 1992
Fikret Alic at Trnopolje august 1992

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:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 part 5

The truth and other minor details

PHOTO: Forensic experts in 1996 working in a Srebrenica Genocide mass grave in the village of Pilica.

The assault on truth and memory continues as the propaganda war against the victims of the Srebrenica genocide sees no slowing down…

To this day Serb nationalist websites and on Facebook and other social media outlets continue to spread revisionist myths half-truths and flat out lies about the genocide. The picture below is from a Serb nationalist Facebook page “Borac Republike Srpske” according to the writings below the picture the bodies in the mass grave are Serbs killed by Bosniacs then dumped on garbage site. In reality its a picture of mass grave taken in 1996 at the Pilica Farm, one of the execution-sites during the massacre of up to 8000 men and boys from Srebrenica.  What makes this particular episode even more disturbing is that specific picture is probably the most recognizable of all pictures taken from mass graves in and around Srebrenica.

Srebrenica Genocide Blog, a site dedicated to the victims of the Srebrenica genocide and the aggression on the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina has during a period of 12 years collected an impressive amount of documents photos and other material about the persecution and genocide of Bosniacs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is also the most important site dealing with the genocide itself and the exhumed mass graves in and around Srebrenica. The picture of the mass grave toghter with an article describing the arrest of two bosnianserb soldiers that participated in the executions at Pilica Farm can be found here.

What is most worrying and depressing is the comments themselves, people who comment and share the picture are justifiably outraged and appalled and see this as evidence of the crimes committed against the Serbs in Bosnia and Srebrenica area. Some see it also as a justification for the Bosnian Serb leadership’s actions.  In fact,  their outrage is based on a lie, a lie that has been repeated over and over again, a lie that has been repeated over the years. Rezak Hukanovic said in his book “The Tenth Circle of Hell”

“The first victim of the war in Bosnia was the truth”

Guardian journalist Ed Vulliamy wrote in the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter in november 2003,

 “These people don´t ask for much. But I think that the survivors of such crimes and  those suffering from grief over the death of their loved ones, at  least have the right to one thing. Namely this: after being betrayed, they now be allowed to get their lives back, as we admit what happened to them. Their mental health requires that history acknowledges the atrocities committed against them and those they lost. Some of them have had the courage to testify in The Hague, and it is precisely for these reasons. “

He was responding to the then ongoing Ordfront Scandal in Sweden.

The truth is vital for the wounds to heal and some kind of reconciliation process to commence, it is now over 20 years since the Bosnian war broke out, and in November, it will be 17 years since the Dayton agreement which brought peace but also a division of the country and an unofficial endorsement of the policies of Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic by the international community.  (To put it differently;  Dayton awarded aggression and genocide) During that time, not much has changed, it would be wrong to say all is lost (it´s not)  but time is running out. Those that care about Bosnia need to get to work in any way they can. That goes for all ethnic groups…

The reconciliation and rebuilding process is also being undermined  by the current Bosnian Serb leadership of Milorad Dodik, who has since he took over power in Republika Srpska worked methodically to spread falsehoods about the genocide in Srebrenica, he is  assisted in this by  number of shadowy figures that help him,  most prominent being Stephen  Karganovic a self-proclaimed lawyer from the United States that leads “The Srebrenica Historical Project” whose goal is to deny and spread myths about the genocide in Srebrenica. The  American magazine Foregin Policy.com has in cooperation with USHMM (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum) Mladic Files written in detail about this organization and its links with Milorad Dodik, as well as the organizations efforts to propagate revisionist myths about Srebrenica.  While I do stand by my earlier critisism of Michael Dobbs and his naive approach to militant Serbian nationalism, and questionable views on the Bosnian war. The USHMM had done a great job in dispelling many of the Serb nationalist myths about Srebrenica and Bosnia. And  it continues to be a thorne in the side of genocide deniers.

The generations born after the war and the genocide must learn the true picture of what happened in Bosnia and what happened in Srebrenica. Truth is one of the cornerstones of Bosnia’s survival. Future generations cannot be burdened for what happened before they were born but we  cannot expect them can build something new if you don’t deal  properly with the past.

( I posted this entry in swedish on the 19th of september, I translated Ed Vullimy´s text from DN, I do not have access to his original article )

In defense of the victims

My letter to the USHMM concerning Michael Dobbs…

To whom it may concern…

I am writing to you because I feel that the time has come to bring to your attention the writings of Michael Dobbs  on his Foregin Policy Blog   “Origins of Evil”   because of his to say the least, irresponsible way dealing with the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As you may have noticed his latest article on Foreign Policy titled “In defense of the Serbs” Is so irresponsible and insulting to the victims of the Bosnian genocide that I feel that it is my duty  as someone that has lost family members in the Bosnian Genocide to write to you and inform you about the many fallacies in Mr. Dobbs article.

He writes:

To use a phrase attributed to the French statesman Talleyrand, leaving two million well-armed Serbs in other people’s republics was “worse than a crime.” It was a gross error of political judgment.’

The last phrase is or should be offensive to Serbs as well as Croats and Bosniaks, since Dobbs seems to imply that Serbs are inherently incapable of living side by side with other nations, and should according to Dobbs logic be separated or granted autonomy. Dobbs also writes about “two million armed Serbs” that is truly irresponsible and a major fallacy, there were about two million Serbs living in Croatia and Bosnia but not every single Serb was well-armed or armed at all nor did they all agree with Milosevic´s poisonous and divisive politics.

He also writes:

“For what it is worth, my own personal view is that the breakup of Yugoslavia was inevitable, just as the breakup of the Soviet Union was inevitable. On the other hand, the United States and Europe (the nations that created Yugoslavia in the first place) should have been much more vigorous about establishing and enforcing rules for the breakup that guaranteed minority rights.  “

 Brittish historian Marko Attila Hoare of Kingston University wrote recently about the Dobbs controversy and he pointed out several fallacies in Dobbs argument.

“Dobbs claims that ‘The practical effect of these decisions [by the international community] was that Croats and Muslims were given the right to secede from Yugoslavia, but Serbs did not have the right to secede from Croatia or Bosnia’. This is false: ‘Croats and Muslims’ were not given the right to secede from Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was recognised as being ‘in the process of dissolution’, and the six constituent republics were recognised as the entities that inherited its sovereignty. Thus, it was the six republics – including Serbia – not the ‘Croats and Muslims’, whose right to independence was recognised. Serbia was not treated differently from Slovenia, Croatia or Bosnia in this respect, and was entirely free to seek and receive international recognition of its independence, just as they did.

 The right of the Serbs of Croatia and Bosnia to secede from their respective republics was not recognised; neither was the right of the Croats of Bosnia. Nor of the Muslims/Bosniaks of Serbia’s Sanjak region. Nor of the Hungarians of Vojvodina, within Serbia. Nor of the Albanians of Macedonia and Montenegro. Nor, at the time, of the Albanians of Kosovo. In fact, the only group on the territory of the former Yugoslavia whose carving out of a wholly new entity has ever been recognised by the international community is the Bosnian Serbs. Thus, at Dayton, the ‘Republika Srpska’ was recognised, whereas the Bosnian Croats’ ‘Croat Republic of Herceg-Bosna’ has been dissolved, and the right of the Bosnian Croats to establish their own entity within Bosnia has been consistently denied.”  – Marko Hoare

Another point of contention is Dobbs failure to address the causes of the Bosnian war and for that matter all the wars in the former Yugoslavia. The true nature of the conflict and the main players and their goals and aim need to be pointed out, by Dobbs since he does work for the USHMM. As of yet he has failed to do that. His failure to address that is an insult to the victims and dangerous considering he himself has pointed out that the bosnianserb entity Republika Srpska is a financier of genocide denial

Instead he has written at great length about Ratko Mladic, some of the articles have been good some interesting and some have felt redundant and pointless. ”How a dumb blonde took on the Serbs” being the most ridiculously pointless  insulting and depressing so far… What strikes me as most dangerous is that Dobbs seems to have developed an almost fetishistic relationship to Mladic. It seems that every aspect of Mladic professional and private life has been explored whilst his many crimes have not. (Aside from Srebrenica) I will give credit to Dobbs for standing up to Stephen Karganovic and “Andy Willcoxson” two of the most notable members of the Genocide Denial/Milosevic lobby.

     

Michael Dobbs                                Srebrenica/Potocari 2012

(The two prowl the comment forum on Dobb’s blog looking for openings so they can spew out their  unsubstantiated conspiracy theories)

However even there one can say that Dobbs effort  has been lackluster at best, appeasing at worst. He has given space and time to history revisionists and war criminals while at the same time neglecting to focus on the weight of the evidence, and the fact that someone like Karganovic has yet to prove anything and the fate that befell  Ratko Mladic´s victims. Dobbs should know that. Dobbs is guilty of neglecting the victims.

As someone remarked in frustration on his blog:

“Dobbs is slowly losing his mind, “Getting to know the Mladic family” how about getting to his victims familes? You do still work for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum? “

I couldn´t have said it better myself.

From the beginning it was clear that Dobbs would focus on Srebrenica and the genocide that took place there in July 1995, and so he should. However he has failed to address the fact that Srebrenica was only the culmination of the campaign of mass murder and ethnic cleansing, as well as other war crimes against the Bosniak and other non-Serbs in Eastern Bosnia and the Drina valley. Towns and hamlets, such as Visegrad, Rudo, Cajnicje, Rogatica, Vlasenica, Foca, Bratunac,  Bjeljina Zvornik Brcko, Cerska, Konjevic Polje… All fell prey to the onslaught of the Bosnian Serb nationalists – with the logistical, moral and financial support of Serbia and the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA)

Michael Dobbs togheter with “Brane”  Ratko Maldic´s cousin and the man that helped shelter Mladic for five years.

More than three years before the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, 296 predominantly Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) villages in the region around Srebrenica, were destroyed,  forcibly uprooting some 70,000 Bosniaks from their homes and systematically massacring at least 3,166 Bosniaks (documented deaths) including many women, children and the elderly. It was these massacres that should have alerted the international community to the prospect of genocide when the United Nations-protected enclave eventually fell to Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Ratko Mladic three years later, in July 1995.

Any blog dealing with the ”Origins of Evil” should include the fate of thousands of people killed in the first months of the war in eastern, north and north west Bosnia, and the reasons for why  they meet this terrible fate. Dobbs has failed to do that. Dobbs has also failed to address the question of the Siege of Sarajevo where a three and a half year campaign of terror orchestrated  by Mladic, cost the lives of 11541 of it’s citizens. He has also failed to address the fate of the victims in numeous serb-run concntration camps such as Omarska Trnopolje Manjaca Keraterem Uzamnica…

Sarajevo, victims of the siege               Massgrave in Brcko in 1992

I personally lost six members of my immediate family who´s only fault was that they were not Serbs, I really don´t like the fact that his poorly written argument can be used by Milosevic and Karadzic apologists as a way to justife what happend. I understand Dobbs when he says that that Serbs were also victims, yes they were and so were  the Croats. This is the nature of war, war crimes are committed and those victims deserve to be mentioned.

However everything has to be put in it´s proper context. there is abundant amount of evidence that show how the Serbian leadership under Slobodan Milosevic  Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic directed a campaign of physically removing non-Serbs, mostly bosniaks from areas conquered during the first months of the war in order to create a ethnically cleansed,” Serb State” that resulted in the death of thousands of men women and children.  Michael Dobbs should not be making excuses for that ideology.  I ask of  you only that you take a serious look at Michael Dobbs blog at Foreign Policy.com

The victims of the Bosnian genocide deserve at least that…

Mirza Hota