Attacks on Returnees in Bosnia and Herzegovina

On the morning of august 12th at around four o´clock four Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) youngsters walking down the center of Prijedor were stopped by a four Serb thugs near the Kozara bakery. According to one of the young men who was attacked the Serbs asked the four Bosniaks if they were “Balije” (A derogatory term for Bosniaks, equivalent to the N-word or “Paki”) and where they were from. Apparently the boys tried to laugh it all off when they were suddenly attacked by the nationalist thugs. One of the boys sustained heavy injures during the beating. According to Balkan Insight the boy that was hospitalized said that he didn´t want to fall for the provocation, even offering shake hands, when he turned around there was no indication that something might happen, it was at that moment that he was hit on the left side of his face and lower lip, the second blow brought him down on the floor.

As Balkan Insight points out the attack follows a string of similar incidents in the past few months in Prijedor, Bosniak weddings have been marred by verbal altercations and fist fights between the wedding guests and some angry Serbs, who apparently were angered to see the Bosnian state flag in the wedding motorcade. Two other Bosniaks were attacked by Serbs in a café in Prijedor this summer, one of them was apparently wearing a shirt with the Bosnian state flag on it. Aside from that several cars belonging to Bosniak returenees have also been set on fire in Prijedor area recently, according to Balkan Insight. Prijedor as well as the surrounding area was subjected to some of the most brutal “ethnic cleansing” of the Bosnian war, with some 4,200 dead. The systematic mass killings and pogroms are also known as the Prijedor genocide. The area was  also home to a string of notorious Serb concentration camps:  Omarska-Trnopolje-Keraterm. 

On the 13th of July 2015, two days after the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, as a group of faithful were breaking fast and getting ready for the Iftar meal on the grounds of the town mosque in Prijedor when someone started throwing rocks into the courtyard. Luckily no one was injured due to the fact that a large tent was set up in the courtyard for the meal. According to the local imam; Omer-ef. Redzic this was just a continuation of attacks on Bosniak Muslims during Ramazan (Ramadan) He was of course referring to the incident in Doboj in June 2015 where a similar event was marred by a group of Serb ultra-nationalists who according to reports shouted various anti-Bosniak curses as well as chanting war criminal Ratko Mladic´s name. (Mladic is currently on trial for war crimes and genocide) As well as number of other attacks on mosques in Republika Srpska and other incidents involving returnees to eaither Republika Srpska or southern Hercegovina.

A video of Serb nationalists chanting Ratko Mladic´s name a few hundred yards from the meal.

The incident in June was not the first of this kind. In March this year, a supporter group for the local football (soccer) team in Doboj named “Vojvode” after the Nazi-collaborationist  & Serb nationalist Chetniks and their dukes (Vojvode) displayed a banner written in cyrillic in the local park saying: “Poturice odvratne mnogo ste nam mrski, Doboj je bio i ostace Srpski” which translates to: Turks we can´t stand you, Doboj is and will remain Serb. They were celebrating the 25-year anniversary of the supporter group. “Poturice” is another derogatory term for Bosniaks used by both Serb and Croat nationalists.

Turks we can´t stand you, Doboj is and will remain Serb.
Turks we can´t stand you, Doboj is and will remain Serb.

Most Bosniaks living in Doboj today are returnees. Prior to the war and the “cleansing” of the town by Serb forces, Doboj was a mainly Bosniak town. According to the 1991 census Bosniaks made up the majority in Doboj. Research and Documentation Center in Sarajevo says there are over 2,300 dead or missing people listed in the Doboj area from the war. Doboj was also  a scene of several horrific war crimes commited against the town´s non-Serb population. Including systematic mass killings, rape, and torture. On 26th of September 1997 Nikola Jorgic, leader of Serb paramilitary unit in Doboj was found guilty by the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court (Oberlandesgericht) on eleven counts of genocide and sentenced to life imprisonment. Jorgic was the first person to be found gulity of genocide for crimes committed Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to the ICD (International Crimes Database) he was found responsible for the killing of 22 villagers in Grabska (including elderly and disabled) and seven villagers in Sevarlije. In addition to murder he also arrested Bosniak civilians, and subsequently detained and abused them in detention camps.

On September 1, 2014 several news agencies including BBC and IBT reported that Bosnian police had arrested 13 former Bosnian Serb police and soldiers suspected of participating in the massacre of 40 people in Bosnian town Teslic. The men were arrested in Doboj and  Teslic. A number of those arrested were members of a notorious Serb paramilitary unit called “Miće”. The unit was formed in a secret JSO (Jedinica za specijalne operacije ) run camp on Mount Ozren overlooking Doboj, JSO are better known simply as the Red Berets, or “The Unit”, elite state sanctioned killers within the notorious Serbian State Security. Others arrested were prominent members of wartime Bosnian Serb police.

Back in 2010 during the trial of Jovica Stanisic and Franko Simatovic a protected witness  told how he came to be recruited by JSO or “The Unit” according to his testimony he was recruited in the beginning of 1992 and received his training with about 50 other recruits in the camp on Mount Ozren above Doboj. The commander of the camp was Radojica “Rajo” Bozovic. According to the witness, Bozovic was also from JSO, he was a lieutenant-colonel with the Red Berets.

The Red Berets came down from Mount Ozren and attacked Doboj. In the weeks after Red Berets swept down on Doboj the town was througly “cleansed” of its non-Serb inhabitants. As was the neighboring town Teslic. Both towns were strategically important for Serbs in establishing a corridor to Banja Luka.

In May this year the mayor of Doboj, Obren Petrovic made an appeal to the police in Republika Srpska, in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole and the International Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina on behalf of Doboj´s Bosniak and Croats communities which he said had come under attack after the decision of the Doboj Municipal Assembly to join an association of municipalities with historic links to Turkey. Bosnia and Doboj once being part of the Ottoman Empire can apply to join the association called Union of Turkish Economic Municipalities. The decision of Doboj´s (Serb) mayor to join the association has sparked outrage among hardline Serb nationalists in Doboj, the Serb Orthodox Church and Milorad Dodik´s nationalist SNSD who have all denouced the decision. According to Petrovic since the decision to join the association he has received death threats as well as threats that have been leveled against the Bosniak community in Doboj. For that Petrovic places the blame on Milorad Dodik and his SNSD, calling on Dodik to stop his fear-mongering, saying that this won´t end well and that someone will get killed sooner or later.

A report from Doboj in May 2015 showed the growing fear of the Bosniak and Croat communities in Doboj in the wake of the decision to join the Turkish association. Just a few days before the arrival of the journalists in Doboj the statues on the main square had been painted over with a fresh coat of paint. Under the paint was graffiti calling for murder and expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats from Doboj.

According to the vice-president of the local assembly, Pejo Krnjic, behind the quiet façade and the peace in the town things look more and more like they did just before the war. He believes that Milorad Dodik´s SNSD has fanned the flames of nationalism and awaken old ghosts and instructed some people to rebel against the decision, adding that few countries helped Doboj as much as Turkey did directly after the floods but that now once that ordeal has passed they are no good anymore, adding that hate-speech is more and more common now in the town and that SNSD and Milorad Dodik simply can´t stand the fact that they are not in power here so the party is doing everything to turn people against each other, and Dodik also has the help of the media in Republika Sprska. According to Krnjic he was amazed to see how the Bosniaks who had suffered tremendously through the war and had now returned to their homes in Doboj put up with with the pressure. Adding that even the returning Croats feel scared. “I can´t say that it´s the same for them as it´s for the Bosniaks but of course they too sense that something is not right, they ask me a lot what to do, of course I always say there won´t be another war”  says Krnjic.

Murvet Bajraktarevic, a Bosniak member of the local assembly and vice president of a football team Sloga says that hate-speech is sadly present even in sports. “As my club, where half of the players are Bosniaks come out on the field they are greeted with “kill balije”, “Knife Wire Srebrenica” “We´ll slaughter balije” aside from that there are the “Vojvode”  the so called supporters of Sloga, who root for their team, in which there are Bosniak players by calling for them to be killed. It´s horrifying” says Bajraktarevic.

Dragan Markovic, the general secretary of the Association of National Minorities in the Doboj region says that it´s unheard of that supporters of a team a calling on the murder of that team´s players, saying that some of the Bosniak players, after a game where the fans cheered the club by calling for the “slaughter of Bosniaks” wanted to leave the game but decided to stay on the pitch. Both Markovic and Bajraktarevic say they reported each time they came across graffiti with hate speech, as well as reporting the supports, “Vojvode” but that thus far nothing has come of that. Markovic says that sometimes he loses the will to do anything, to report the things he sees, saying that the Serb police in Doboj harass him asking him where he´s from, when he was born etc.. “It feels like having your blood sucked through a straw for no use whatsoever”

Bajraktarevic, Krnjic i Markovic all believe that “Vojvode” are supported and instructed by Milorad Dodik´s SNSD, saying that they were the main agitators when it came to the protests against the decision to the join the Union of Turkish Municipalities’ and that they are constantly expanding, new members being brought in from other parts of RS.

As Banja Luka based writer Dragan Brusac pointed out in March when the trouble started, nobody bothered to find out what this union was all about before attacking the mayor of Doboj. The media blitz against Petrovic was led by Milorad Dodik´s media which includes among other things, Public Service Broadcasting in RS and several newspapers.

As Brusac explained to those who yet clearly didn´t know, the Union of Turkish Municipalities´ was simply an association who can thru investments, donations and other funding help not only themselves but municipalities outside Turkey. As Brusac notes, “if you have half a brain you will join this union in order to benefit your, in this case a Bosnian municipality.” Brusac goes on to say “that given the current situation in Doboj, where the population is close to starvation and knowing that the town was devastated during last year’s floods doesn´t it make sense and isn´t it basically the most humane thing you can do ?  To join an economic union like this? At the very least it can´t hurt. People in Doboj don´t have anything to eat, The Red Cross is turning people back because there is no food left, and 50 % of the people going to the Islamic Community´s soup kitchen in Doboj are Serbs, not because they have converted to Islam but because they are hungry. The soup kitchen hands out 1300 meals daily.”

As Brusac points out, Doboj already has similar arrangements with towns in Croatia, Italy, Greece, Slovenia and several other countries without it bothering anyone.  And why would it?

Milorad Dodik knows very well that he can arouse the passions of boneheaded Serb nationalists and extremists by simply mentioning Turkey and alluding to various things without them knowing or really wanting to know the background or that it may very well benefit them as well as rest of the citizens of Doboj, be they Bosniaks, Serbs Croats or others. Given that Dodik controls most of the media in RS it´s easy for him to bring his message across. Disinformation, hate speech and scare mongering has led to verbal abuse and physical attacks on returnees across RS and while ethnic tensions continue to mount nobody is paying attention to more pressing issues, like reconciliation, state of the education in the country, healthcare, welfare, economy, discrimination, equal rights for all of Bosnia and Herzegovina´s citizens. The incidents present a prefect smokescreen for the massive state-wide robbery orchestrated by Milorad Dodik and other politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina that´s been going on for years.

The incidents in Doboj and Prijedor also highlighted once again the situation returnees face in Republika Srpska, where along with institutionalized genocide denial and discrimination they face the wrath of various easily manipulated Serb extremist groups. As another Banja Luka-based writer and debater Srdjan Puhalo pointed out on twitter, the fact that little more than a year ago Doboj was struggling with the floods that devastated large parts of Bosnia last year and that the first to rush to the aid of the citizens of Doboj were the police, rescue workers and citizens of mainly Bosniak town of Tesanj ( in the BiH Federation) who struggled to get to Doboj which was cut off. Bringing food, blankets, medical supplies and other necessities’ to fellow Bosnians trapped in Doboj.

People from Tesanj were joined by a group of rafters from the Una-Aqua Centar (Bihac) who used their rafting equipment to rescue the stranded all the way from Bihac which in the north-west of the country and on the border with Croatia. ( Bihac was subjected to a 3.5 year seige by both Bosnian Serb forces and rebel Croatian Serb forces from RSK). The Bihac crew made their way to Sanski Most, Kljuc, Maglaj and other towns regardless of where they were i.e. regardless if it was in the Federation or RS. One of the towns they reached was Doboj looking for people who couldn´t get out of their houses and flats.

Shortly after they reached Doboj, one of the people who they rescued, Mladen Blagojevic, wrote on his Facebook-page: “they were they only ones who came for us and brought us food. Guys came voluntarily from Bihac! To help us! The first morning they came, everyone in the building cried! Later they came with medicine for my uncle who was trapped with me, so that he wouldn´t miss his therapy! Does anybody know the names of these guys??”

Video of mayor Petrovic and a policeman from Doboj thanking their collegues in neighboring Tesanj, the armed forces and others for the aid.

The solidarity on display during the floods was reaffirmed by mayor Petrovic as well as the police in Doboj who thanked their fellow colleagues from Tesanj and other places in the Federation, as well as the armed forces while admitting that the Republika Srpska crisis staff collapsed immediately after the flooding started and that if it hadn´t been for the aid from the BiH Federation they would have died of thirst.

The situation was not that much better in the BiH Federation, the floods in general revealed how much work Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to do in order to avoid the devastation brought on last year and as I wrote above, the money that should have been used for emergency rescue services and adequte protection against flooding had been pilfered by corrupt politicians and/or going to Bosnia´s many layers of goverment (when in fact it, as Tim Judah pointed out: with  3.8 million citizens, the country only needs a mayor ). Police, rescue workers and stranded civilians across the country had to make do with what they had. However despite everything, most Bosnians showed a level of solidarity which hadn´t been seen since before the war and Doboj which had been cleansed of its Bosniak and Croat population during the war was one of the towns that benefited the most from the selfless aid coming from the BiH Federation. Which to a lot of people makes the attacks even harder to take.

Aside from the attacks in Doboj and Prijedor, a young man was attacked in Vlasenica in July this year by nationalist thugs. Mehmed Kljuancic, born 1994 was attacked and had to receive medical treatment for his injures. During the Bosnian war Vlasenica was scene of some of the most brutal ethnic cleansing and mass killings of Bosniaks in the Podrinje region. Back in 2013 a group of survivors of the notorious Susica concentration camp was shocked by what they saw as they made their way to Vlasenica on foot during the annual “The march of return- by road of salvation Susica” A large poster of general Ratko Mladic was placed by the side of the road on the way out of Vlasenica. The poster read; “General… We Are Waiting For you…Your Vlasencani (citizens of Vlasenica)”… (in cyrillic)

Poster of Ratko Mladic in Vlasenica. Photo by Paulina Janusz.

Just a few days after the attack in Prijedor, six people were arrested in the small, mainly Croat town of Tomislavgrad in western Hercegovina for an attack on Bosniaks going to morning prayer. According to Balkan Insight as Bosniak faithful were going to morning prayers, ten hooligans entered the village of Omerovici, placed a gas bottle in front of the mosque, opened the valve and verbally and physically attacked the Bosniaks. There were no injures and the gas bottle didn´t ignite. However several cars and at least one house was damaged in the attack. The mayor of Tomislavgrad condemend the attack, saying it was carried out by “drunken hooligans who were passing through the area on their way home.” And that the town government and all political parties were “surprised and appalled.” However the regional centre of the Bosnian Islamic Community in Mostar said that several other ethnic incidents had occured in the same area, and expressed concern for the safety of Bosniaks in that area.

While a group of 30 Bosnian Croats was attacked by a three Serbs in a café in Teslic, in RS. They threatened the Bosnian Croats with an axe, apparently injuring one person with the axe handle. The men were arrested, reportedly drunk. As Balkan Insight points out, media in Bosnia has underlined that almost all incidents that have taken place in the last couple of months were aimed at people who had returned to their pre-war homes, and that returnees in different parts of the country are seeking better protection from the police, which when it comes particularly to Republika Srpska is dominated by Serbs due to the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Bosniak and Bosnian Croat population of that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Balkan Insight also points out that at the beginning of the process of return of refugees the international community forced local authorities to hire policemen from those ethnic groups that had returned to their pre-war homes. However after the recent provactions and attacks Bosniak representatives have complained that the number of Bosniaks in the police forces in Republika Srpska has been reduced.

Police in RS has also come under the control of Milorad Dodik, as I wrote in December last year; the raid on the offices of in Sarajevo was carried out by members of MUP RS (Ministry of the Interior) an action that sparked outrage in Bosnia and Sarajevo with several veteran journalists pointing out that apparently Milorad Dodik´s influence reaches beyond Republika Sprska now. And that was going thru what BN TV in RS has been going thru for months and years now. The raid was carried out in an effort to discover the source of an incriminating audiotape of Zeljka Cvijanovic, (SNSD) the prime minister of Republika Srpska and close associate of Milorad Dodik. In mid November published an audiotape where allegedly Cvijanovic and another woman are talking about buying off opponents in Republika Srpska.

Veteran journalist and founder of the weekly Dani, Senad Pecanian said after the raid that:

This is a shocking and strictly legally speaking unbelievable decision by the Cantonal Court in Sarajevo. He went on to say:  “It´s absolutely unbelievable that this kind of brutal attack is allowed on the media in Bosnia and on the freedom of information, given that those freedoms are protected by the constitution and the European convention on basic rights and freedoms, which is a foundation of the Bosnian Constitution. This kind of behavior deserves the reaction and condemnation by the Bosnian public and all forms of media, journalist´s organizations and all those who care about justice and law enforcement in BiH. This kind of brutal attack without any kind of legal basis wasn´t even possible during the 80s, this kind of thing is only possible in Putin´s Russia, Erdogan´s Turkey and in Milorad Dodik´s Republika Srpska.

He added that there is no doubt that the information that published was proof of a scandalous criminal behavior and disregard for the political will of the people in RS by Zeljka Cvijanovic. Instead of prosecuting those that manipulate the electoral process, they hand out reprisals to the media that reports on it. According to Pecanin; “this is look of a totalitarian system and un-democratic society and there is no other explanation for it.

The raid on was led by Sinisa Kostresevic, he is from the same town as Milorad Dodik and had for a while been head of the police in Laktasi, his rise to prominence in both MUP RS and the local police in Laktasi coincided with the rise of Milorad Dodik. Already back in 2011 Bosnian news site Zurnal reported that authorities in RS were planning to “deal with the opposition” in an unlawful matter. One of the leaders of the opposition in RS, Dragan Cavic (DP) said that the police in RS had at that time acquired all new wiretapping equipment and that those officers in charge of such things were replaced by people loyal to SNSD and that the police in Republika Srpska had been “cleansed” of undesirable elements and that the police in RS was now just the extended arm of SNSD.  According to Zurnal: MUP RS ( Ministry of the Interior) had spent 1,36 million KM or 513 000 euro on all new wiretapping and surveillance equipment which they purchased from a Belgrade-based firm “Vizus” and that part of the money came from Milorad Dodik´s personal account. Zurnal´s source within MUP RS said that there was no reason for the purchase of new equipment since only two years earlier they had bought all new equipment at the cost of 2.5 million KM.  Zurnal´s source within MUP RS also had confirmed t that SNSD had in the past months carried out a “cleansing” of MUP RS appointing people loyal to SNSD. According to the source the man in charge of the “cleansing” was a one; Sinisa Kostresevic who is the man that decides who stays and who goes.

Forensic experts in Holland confirmed this week that the audio tape in which Cvijanovic is among other things overheard talking about buying off political opponents in RS as well lobbying linguists to deny the existence of a Bosnian language is authentic. Milorad Dodik and Cvijanovic had claimed that the audio tape was a forgery. The report from Holland lead to a joint statement by opposition leaders in RS in which they said that the report confirms that the government of RS had lied to the public. The opposition called for a resignation of the RS government saying that it and Zeljka Civjanovic had lost all credibility.

( Note: Noz-Zica-Srebrenica (Knife-Wire-Srebrenica) is a Bosnian Serb, Serbian and anti-Bosniak hate slogan glorifying the genocide in Srebrenica. The chant rhymes in Serbian and can usually be heard on football matches, at rallies held by the Serbian Radical Party, and various Serb nationalist movements. It has become fairly common, with several incidents being recorded in recent years. The chant refers to the now well established fact that many of those executed in the killing fields of Srebrenica had their hands tied behind their back with barb wire.

Most recently a friendly between Bosnia´s and Serbia´s U21 teams played in Modrica in March 2014 was stopped as Serb fans chanted “Ubiji Turcina” (Kill the Turks) and “Noz-Zica-Srebrenica” (Knife-Wire-Srebrenica)  

The slogan has also been used outside of Serb nationalist circles, in 2012; during a handball match in Maribor, Slovenia between teams from Maribor and Gradacac, Bosnia and Herzegovina some of the Slovenian fans chanted “Noz-Zica-Srebrenica”

The most notorious incidents to date have been 1) the world cup qualifier between Bosnia and Serbia in Belgrade in 2005 where nationalist fans held up pieces of barbed wire while chanting “Knife-Wire-Srebrenica”. The insults traded between the fans led to a fight in the stands during which 19 people were injured. The fighting in the stands stopped the game and FIFA decided to call it a draw. 

Serbian fans holding a banner that says
Serbian fans holding a banner that says”Knife, Wire, Srebrenica” at the 2005 World Cup qualifying match

2) On the 10th anniversary of the genocide photographer Tarik Samarah ran a giant billboard campaign throughout several cities in Serbia as well as in Zagreb, Croatia using photographs from the genocide in Srebrenica. To the right of each photograph were words: Da vidis, da znas, da pamtis, (That you see, that you know, that you remember). Majority of the 27 giant billboards were destroyed by Serb extremists by spray-painting over the billboards: Noz-Zica-Srebenica (Knife-Wire-Srebrenica) as well as “Ratko Mladic” and  “Bice repriza” (There will be a repeat) See: (To Know Where He Lies: DNA Technology and the Search for Srebrenica’s Missing, by Sarah Wagner. Page 236.) )

Destroyed bilboards in Belgarde 2005.
Destroyed bilboards in Belgarde 2005. “Bice Repriza” (There will be a repeat) written in cyrillic.

Lennart Palm förnekar inte sig

Lennart Palm
Lennart Palm

Det finns en scen i Richard Linklaters film Dazed and Confused  där Matthew McConaugheys rollfigur säger “I get older they stay the same age” nu menade han någonting annat än folkmordsförnekare och historierevisionister men tro mig samma sak gäller här. Det här kunde lika gärna ha hänt 10 år sen, eller fem år sen, eller två år sen. Det kommer alltid vara samma sak och argumenten kommer alltid vara de samma. Med tiden så har det också blivit betydligt lättare att överbevisa deras återanvända argument. På tal om det, så kan jag inte låta bli att imponeras av Lennart Palms påståenden om dels koncentrationslägret Trnopolje dels folkmordet i Srebrenica. Dels den obehagliga och avhumaniserande sifferexercis han ägnar sig kring offren i kriget och folkmordet i Bosnien. Anledningen till det är att han upprepar det som för länge sen har avfärdats som återanvänd serbnationalistisk propaganda, historierevisionism och folkmordsförnekelse.

Redan 1997 så presenterade Thomas Diechmann och Living Marxim det teori om Trnopolje som Lennart Palm saluför nu, det slutade med att Penny Marshall Ian Williams och ITN stämde Diechmann, i mars 2000 en enhällig Londons High Court, kom fram att LM var tvungna att betala skadestånd till Penny Marshall  Ian Williams och ITN för ärekränkning. LM och Deichmann kunde inte presentera några bevis för sina teorier och det kunde inte heller Björn Eklund och Ordfront 2003 då Eklund bestämde att publicera ett intervju med Diane Johnstone där man också återanvända LMs påståenden i Ordfront. Affären är numera känd som: Ordfrontskandalen.

Skandalen kulminerade med att dåvarande chefsredaktören för Ordfront; Leif Ericsson var tvungen att göra avbön och medgav att det som hade publicerats var i stora delar osann, och ”tendensiöst” med syfte att bekräfta en viss tes. Under tiden så dömdes Prijedors förre borgmästare Milomir Stakic till 40 år i fängelse för bla brott mot mänskligheten, domstolen slog fast att han hade spelat ett avgörande roll i den etniska rensningen och förföljelsen av bosniaker och kroater samt etableringen av lägren Omarska, Trnopolje och Keraterm för Prijedors icke-serbiska befolkning, Stakic dömdes bla för mord på 1500 av Prijedors medborgare samt ett stort antal mord i i ovan nämnda lägren, domstolen fann också att; våldtäkter, sexuella överfall och misshandel begicks vid lägren och minst 20 000 icke-serber antingen flytt Prijedor eller deporterades.

Folkmordet i Srebenica är vid sidan av folkmordet i Rwanda den mest väldokumenterade i modern tid, en uttömmande internationell utredning som omfattar grupper av rättsläkare, DNA-specialister, samt demografiska experter har konstaterat att bosnienserbiska styrkor mördade omkring 7.000 bosniakiska män och pojkar i en serie massakrer mellan 12 juli och 16 juli, 1995. Av dessa var drygt 500 barn. Ytterligare 1 000 mördades som ett resultat av bakhåll och väpnade sammanstötningar. Tribunalen i Haag har hittills dömt fyra bosnienserbiska officerare för folkmord. Domen bekräftades av ICJ (International Court of Justice ) 2007. Bägge besluten  grundar sig på folkmordskonventionen från 1948 där avsikten är viktigast och bägge ICTY och ICJ ansåg att det var uppenbart utifrån bevisningen att bosnienserberna hade för avsikt att ”helt eller delvis förinta” bosniakerna som etnisk eller religiös grupp.  Palm verkar inte heller förstå att det är just därför som folkmordskonventionen kom till kraft, efter förintelsen var det uppenbart att man var tvungen att se till att det inte kunde upprepas.

Vid sidan av Srebrenica har Nikola Jorgic dömts för folkmord för avseende brott begångna i norra Bosnien, hans dom bekräftades av Europadomstolen, samt Maksim Sokolovic som dömdes för folkmord av en tysk domstol gällande förbrytelser i Bosnien. Vid sidan av dessa har merparten av den bosnienserbiska politiska och militära och polisära ledningen också åtalats och dömts för brott mot mänskligheten, bla Biljana Plavsic, Radoslav Brdjanin, Momcilo Krajisnik, Mico Stanisic med mera, just nu är Ratko Mladic och Radovan Karadzic i Haag och är åtalade för bla folkmord i sju bosniska kommuner. Fikret Abdic var nära allierad till till Slobodan Milosevic och dömdes till 20 års fängelse för krigsförbrytelser av en domstol i Kroatien. Milosevic hade innan sin död 66 åtalspunkter emot sig bla brott mot mänskligheten och folkmord i Bosnien Hercegovina, Kroatien och Kosovo. Det är oroväckande att en professor vid Institutionen för historiska studier vid Göteborgs universitet väljer att återanvända grundligt motbevisade teser och ägnar sig åt historierevisionism och folkmordsförnekelse.

Palm hävdar vidare att det finns ett viss intresse av att göra bilden “svartvit” han nämner bosniakerna, som han vägrar kalla för just bosniaker utan “bosnienmuslimer” enligt honom så skulle tjänar det deras intressen att upprätthålla en viss bild av  kriget.

Det måste påtalas att Palm inte introducerar några som helst bevis för att styrka sin tes. Han kan inte, för det är nämligen inte bosniakerna som försöker upprätthålla den bilden av kriget i forna Jugoslavien inte EU eller USA heller för den delen. Utan för att nu 18 år efter krigets slut med tusentals böcker skrivna om kriget i forna Jugoslaven, undersökningar gjorda av olika humanitära organisationer, rättegångar i Haag, i Serbien i Bosnien, i Kroatien, FN-rapporter, tusentals vittnesmål alltifrån de som överlevde folkmordet i Bosnien till ångerfulla bödlar, till dagböcker, dokument från sammanträden där de som förde aggressionen mot Bosnien planerade själva utförandet. För att Palm och hans åsiktsfränder ska ha rätt så måste allt det relevant forskning om kriget i forna Jugoslavien vara fel eller manipulerad.

Det känns aningen magstarkt att någon som slänger ur sig floskler och konspirationsteorier som att EU USA och NATO samt bosniaker har intresse av att upprätthålla en viss bild samtidigt eftersträvar saklighet. När det gäller Palm så måste man också påpeka att han har varit en av Diane Johnstones största försvarare här i Sverige. Här kan man läsa en artikel av Johnstone som Palm har varit med och översatt ( Länk ) Det var just intervjun med Johnstone som utlöste det som man numera kallar för Ordfrontskandalen. Johnstone förnekade precis som Deichmann gjorde att det förekom någon systematisk dödande eller systematiska övergrepp i koncentrationslägret i Bosnien och hon stöddes ivrigt av Björn Eklund.

Intervjun ledde till en kritikstorm och ett intern strid inom Ordfront mellan de som stödde Eklund och de som ansåg att tidskriften borde inte publicera serbnationalistisk propaganda och historierevisionism. Till slut fick Eklund gå och dåvarande chefredaktören Leif Ericsson skrev så här om Johnstone i  (Ordfront Magasin 1 / 2004)

En stark ideologisk övertygelse tycks kunna göra att man bli oemottaglig för fakta och argument. Övertygelse övergår i dogmatism. Diana Johnstones bok Fools’ Crusade. Yugoslavia, NATO and Western Delusions (2002) startar med en uttalad tes som hon vill styrka, nämligen att Nato:s militära intervention i Jugoslavien från första stund var en avgörande orsak till tragedin. Men Johnstone tillåter inget som kan ifrågasätta tesen. Hon väljer fakta tendentiöst, tesen blir till en dogm. Institutioner och organisationer som kan komma med fakta som strider mot dogmen dömer hon ut på förhand. Till och med obestridliga fakta från till exempel Haagtribunalen underkänns automatiskt. Haagtribunalen är, enligt Johnstone och Edward S. Herman, NATO:s förlängda propagandaarm som skapades som ett led i krigsförberedelserna mot Serbien. OSSE betecknas som en ockupationsmakt. Människorättsorganisationen Human Rights Watch anser de vara komprometterad, rent av en pro-imperialistisk NGO.

Jag kommer inom kort skriva ett mer utförligt svar till Palm eftersom det finns saker att säga, rent tidsmässigt så är det omöjligt nu dock så anser jag det är beklagligt att Göteborgsposten upplåter plats åt historierevisionism och folkmordförneklese och kränker offren för  Milosevic, Mladic, och Karadzics pogromer i Bosnien Hercegovina, Kroatien och Kosovo och det får inte gå oemotsagt.

För de som vill sätta sig in Living Marxim ITN skandalen och Ordfrontskandalen kan jag varmt rekommendera följande länkar:

Minimising Massacres

Poison in the well of history

Ordfront förnekar folkmord på Balkan

Ordfronts lögner ett hån mot offren

Så förvanskar svenska kulturprofiler historien om offren i ex-Jugoslavien

Till sist kan jag också varmt rekommendera Annika Hamruds replik till Lennart Palm som publicerades 31/01/14 Under titeln : Historien om offren på Balkan är väl dokumenterad  kan också  rekommendera Annika Hamruds reportage om Tomasica  ( Länk ) samt Ulf Martinssons artikel om behovet att belysa det första folkmordet i Europa efter andra världskriget i våra historieböcker. ( Länk )

Minnena tillhör oss


Med början i april 1992 och under de följande tre och halv år, bevittnade omvärlden hur ett land mitt i Europa ödelades, och ett folk utsattes för vad som måste kallas vid dess rätta namn; Folkmord. Målet med aggressionen mot staten Bosnien Hercegovina var att införliva stora delar av den, framförallt östra och norra och nordvästra Bosnien i den tänkta nya Serbiska staten som skulle omfatta stora delar av Bosnien, östra Slavonien och Krajina området i Kroatien. Under de tjugo år som har nu gått sedan Jugoslavens upplösning så har det skrivits stora volymer om kriget men också om det som ledde till upplösningen. Mycket av det är dåligt eller väldigt ofta fullt med missrepresentationer eller författares egen subjektivitet kommer in och det finns en hel del verk som försöker mer eller mindre lägga över skulden för det som har hänt från förövare på offren.

Däremot så finns det en stor mängd material som har kommit, samt ögonvittnesskildringar dels under krigsåren och direkt efteråt från bla Tim Judah, Chuck Sudetic, Ed Vulliamy, Roy Gutman, Stjepan G. Mestrovic och Brendan Simms, David Reiff, Christopher Hitchens, Noel Malcolm och Peter Maas. Michael Sells med mera… Dessa har följts upp eller kompletterats av bla Marko Attila Hoare, Carol Hodge, Michael Libal och nu senast Josip Glaurdic.

Det som har hänt är att det nu tjugo år efter kriget är vid sidan om ovan nämnda författare journalister och historiker så finns det tack vare krigsförbrytartribunalen ett imponerande samling dokument, och vittnesmål så visar på vad som skedde, vem som gjorde vad, kopplingen mellan Pale-Knin-Belgrad. Ett av de stora genombrotten som gjordes under Perisic rättegången var att hemlighetsstämpeln lyftes från ”vissa” dokument från den högsta försvarsledningen. Där fick man se hur de strukturer som hade byggts upp med hjälp av den jugoslaviska armén höll Bosnienserberna och Krajina Serberna ”vid liv” och att utan materiell och finansiellt stöd så hade dessa två mini-stater inte kunna klara sig i mer än ett par månader, man var i själva verket helt beroende av Belgrad.

En annan sak som kom fram var den djupa spricka som fanns mellan ledningen i Belgrad och Pale. VRS fortsatte att få stöd från Serbien även efter Daytonavtalet, sammanträdesprotokollet från den 5 september 1996 visar att Milosevic fortsatte stötta bosnienserberna framförallt så ville han att de bosnienserbiska officerare som den jugoslaviska armén ansåg som ”lojala” skulle fortsätta att få sina lön genom den jugoslaviska armén och att de ska behandlas med respekt bla på grund av att man inte ville att de där ”idioterna” från Pale inte skulle få kontroll över dessa officerare.

Tyvärr så har den senaste tidens kontroversiella domar bla i fallen Perisic men också frikännandet av Franko Simatovic och Jovica Stanisic gjort att revisionisterna har fått vatten på sin kvarn. Det borde de inte få, eftersom det enda man kom fram till var att man i Perisic fallet inte kunde bevisa att han hade känndedom om att de vapen som skickades via den jugoslaviska armén, ofta godkända av honom själv skulle gå till attacker mot civila i Srebrenica Zagreb och Sarajevo. När det gäller Simatovic och Stanisic så visade bevisningen att dessa två hade varit med och byggt upp det säkerhetsapparatur som deltog i striderna i Bosnien och Kroatien, att de hade intim kunskap om förhållandena i både Bosnien och Kroatien samt att brott begicks av dessa styrkor, men man kunde bevisa att dessa två visste att det skulle ske attacker mot civila.

Det måste också tilläggas att ribban har höjts avsevärt sedan Gotovina-Markac och nu Perisic-Stanisic-Simatovic så till den milda graden att många experter inte förstår resonemanget bakom de friande domarna. När det gäller Bosnien så bevisades det redan i rättegången mot Dusan Tadic (1999) att konflikten i Bosnien hade internationell karaktär och att Bosnienserbiska armén stod under kontroll av den jugoslaviska armén.

Den strategi som Milosevic och jugoslaviska militärledningen utvecklade för Bosnien och Hercegovina genomfördes på plats genom Radovan Karadzic och hans SDS samt den Bosnienserbiska armén VRS som hade fått sitt material från den jugoslaviska armén och där majoriteten av officerare däribland Ratko Mladic, som hade tjänstgjort som jugoslavisk överste under första månaderna av kriget i Kroatien. Planen var att skapa ett Stor Serbien, eller ”en stat för alla serber” på ruinerna av det som var Jugoslavien. När det gällde östra Bosnien så innebär det i praktiken att bara serber skulle leva i den nya staten väster om floden Drina. För att kunna uppnå det så gjorde den jugoslaviska armén gemensam sak med serbiska nationalister och extremister lojala mot Radovan Karadzic samt serbiska säkerhetsstyrkor som de röda baskrarna och Arkan´s tigrar som svepte över östra Bosnien under de första veckorna i april 1992.

Bara ett par enklaver överlevde, Gorazde Zepa Srebrenica Konjevic Polje och Cerska. Under sommaren 1992 förvandlades dessa ställen till isolerade och omringade flyktingsläger, fyllda med de som hade flytt den slakten som tog plats i städer som Foca, Vlasenica Visegrad, Cajnice, Rudo Zvornik och Bratunac. Det som var kvar av det bosniakiska livet i Östra Bosnien befann sig i dessa ställen. Dessa flyktingar hade varit vittnen och i många fall överlevt massakerer, våldtäkt, och tortyr och en våg av förstörelse som syftade till att utplåna allt som var muslimskt, eller bosniakisk eller icke-serbiskt. Den amerikanske författaren och journalisten Chris Hedges kommenterade den etniska rensningen av Zvornik, och hur han beskrev SDS-ledaren i Zvornik, Brano Grujic, som förklarade när den etniska rensningen var fullbordad att ”det aldrig hade funnits några moskéer i Zvornik”. Chris Hedges kommenterade det så här: ”Han visste att det hade funnits moskéer i Zvornik. Men hans barn och barnbarn skulle få lära sig lögnen. Serbiska ledare skulle förvandla den till ett accepterat historiskt faktum.” Under vintern 1993 så föll Cerska och Konjevic Polje och dess invånare var tvungna att söka skydd i Srebrenica.

Folkmordet i Srebrenica måste ses som en kulmen av den politik som fördes av den bosnienserbiska ledningen och deras sponsorer i Belgrad. Folkmordet i Srebrenica, var slutet på på den ”etniska rensing” som hade tömt Podrinje och östra Bosnien på dess bosniakiska befolkning.

Det folkmordet undveks våren 1993 då Srebrenica tillsmanas med Zepa Gorazde Sarajevo och Bihac utropades till ”skyddade zoner” men det förhindrade inte den bosnienserbiska armén utföra attacker mot dessa zoner framför allt Sarajevo Bihac och Gorazde. Säkerhetsrådets beslut från april 1993 sågs som bara som ännu ett hinder mot skapandet av ett etnisk ren storserbien, under tiden direkt efter säkerhetsrådets beslut och framtill själva folkmordet i Srebrenica så fortsatte den Bosnienserbiska armén och politiska ledningen med sina planer på att skapa ett etnisk ren sammanhängande territorium som skulle införlivas i ett storserbien. Direktiv 7 från mars 1995 är ett exempel på den politik som syftade till att skapa ”förutsättningar för elimination av enklaverna”

Så varför är allt det här viktigt? De flesta som läser detta kommer säga att ingenting av detta är nyt. Vad är poängen med att upprepa allt detta? Därför att alla inte vet detta, därför att om vi är ärliga och det måste vi vara så besegrades aldrig den storserbiska nationalismen, den belönades tom i Dayton med 49 % av Bosnien där man i skolböckerna i tidningarna och i det offentliga livet förnekar grundläggande fakta om kriget i Bosnien Hercegovina och folkmordet i Srebrenica. Det är uppenbart att den politiska eliten i RS tror att entitetens överlevnad hänger på den bilden av kriget och historien de lyckas förmedla till medborgarna. Milorad Dodik förnekar öppet folkmordet trots att hittills så har fyra personer sammanlagt i Haag dömts för folkmord i Srebrenica. Radislav Krstic, Ljubisa Beara, Zdravko Tolimir, och Vujadin Popovic. Bosniska domstolar har dömt Zeljko Ivanovic och Milorad Trbic för folkmord i Srebrenica.

Den internationella mellanstatliga (ICJ) domstolen kom fram till att det som hände i Srebrenica var folkmord samt att Serbien hade misslyckats med att förhindra det. Domstolar i Tyskland samt Europiska domstolen för mänskliga rättigheter i Strasbourg kom fram till att Nikola Jorgic var skyldig till folkmord för brott begångna i Doboj regionen. Likaså Maksim Sokolovic som dömdes för medhjälp till folkmord. Och så brukar det se ut när jag skriver, väldigt torrt, analytiskt och faktabaserat, jag kan bekräfta varje ord jag har skrivit med länkar, men vad spelar det för roll? Vad gör man med all fakta som har samlats av olika forskare, människorättsaktivister, historiker och åklagare vid Haagtribunalen och andra krigsförbrytartribunaler, främst de i forna Jugoslavien, i Bosnien Hercegovina, Serbien och Kroatien bla Nu 18 år efter folkmordet i Srebrenica och Bosnien så tampas Bosnien med effekterna av Daytonavtalet som om vi ska vara helt ärliga här, belönade tre och halv år av systematiskt etniskt rensning, massmord, förstörelse av kulturella och religiösa objekt, massvåldtäkter, och till slut folkmordet i Srebrenica. Det går inte att se på det på något annat sätt.

Visserligen var det meningen att avtalet skulle leda någonting bättre, men i slutändan så förlitade man sig på tok för mycket på de som ville se till att Bosnien och Bosniaker försvann eller i alla fall kraftigt decimerades. Srebrenica är kulmen på den folkmordspolitik som fördes av Radovan Karadzic och Ratko Mladic, något annat ord för det kan jag inte komma på, men det känns som om det är först nu som uppvaknandet har kommit. D.v.s. att de som faktiskt har drabbats, har förlorat anhöriga eller kom undan med blotta förskräckelsen låter sig höras.

Vi börjar vakna ur dvalan, det är på gott och ont, det märks att vi börjar vakna och det har dragit till sig krafter som inte så mycket vill hjälpa oss utan snarare ser ett sätt att tjäna på vårt lidande och vårt trauma. Bland dessa finns så klart politiker, både i Bosnien men också politiker här i Sverige ser ett sätt att förena vårt lidande och vårt trauma med deras politiska mål. Srebrenica och Bosnien har blivit ett slagträ när man pratar om EU-integration, där vissa partier vill gärna dra paralleller mellan Jugoslaviens sönderfall och det som hotar Europa ifall EU faller samman eller slutar med sin expansion österut, detta är så klart en väldigt försåtligt argumentationsteknik, då de som använder sig av detta brukar prata om det hat och nationalism som släpptes loss då Jugoslaven föll sönder, men man pratar inte om det misslyckade ekonomiska politiken som fördes av den kommunistiska eliten i landet, de misslyckade eller rättare sagt uteblivna reformer som ledde till ökat missnöje och skapade en grogrund för nationalism som sen exploaterades av bla Slobodan Milosevic.

Man nämner inte heller att Jugoslavien bestod av sex federativa republiker, med ganska kraftiga skillnader rent ekonomiskt samt att i slutändan så var kommunismen, den då sönderfallande kommunismen det som höll landet ihop. Under tjugo år som har gått nu sedan Jugoslaviens sönderfall så har man kunnat visa på att den hade inte behövt vara så blodig, om än oundviklig, hade inte det varit för Slobodan Milosevic, och hans expansionistiska politik blandat med giftig propaganda som såg till att orsaka splittring mellan de olika folkgrupperna. De som använder sig av Bosnien Hercegovina som ett sätt att lyfta fram EUs storhet brukar också undvika att prata om det roll flera av EUs ledande länder hade i kriget i Bosnien då man såg till att FN upprätthöll vapenembargot mot landet vilket gjorde aggression och folkmord möjligt. Tanken var att se till att Bosnien inte överlevde som en stat. Ännu en storartad insats av den heroiska instuition som vi kallar den Europiska Unionen.

Andra använder sig av kriget i Bosnien och Hercegovina som ett sätt peka på den pågående slakten i Syrien, ordet Srebrenica dyker upp i den debatten väldigt ofta, och det är bara att instämma, den eftergiftspolitik som “världssamfundet” förde gentemot Bosnienserberna och Milosevic speglas av i den eftergiftspolitiken gentemot Assad och hans mordiska regim. Jag vet dock inte längre vad det spelar för roll, om jag är helt ärlig, ”världssamfundets” (vad det nu må vara) misslyckande i Bosnien Hercegovina och Rwanda har blivit ett stridsrop för många, men dessa inser uppenbart inte att samma geopolitiska och realpolitiska mekanismer som tillät masslakten i Bosnien, förvägrade dess armé vapen så att den kunde förvara sin befolkning och som ledde till folkmordet i Srebrenica spelar ut sin roll i masslakten i Syrien. Om tjugo år så kommer vi troligtvis hålla minnesceremonier för Homs, eller Aleppo tillsammans med Srebrenica, och tjugo år efter det, vem vet andra städer i andra länder som sveks av det vi kallar för “världssamfundet”

För att det är vårt trauma, och våra minnen, våra fäder, bröder, mödrar, och systrar. Politiker kommer och går, människorättsaktivister detsamma. Det ingen av dem vet är hur det egentligen känns, och när de försvinner så våra minnen bestå. 49 % av landet som vi brukar kalla Bosnien Hercegovina är under ockupation. Historierevisionism är instutionaliserad, vi har inte ens rätt att minns offentligt eller bekräfta vad som har hänt oss, att hedra de vi har förlorat.

I många fall är det från officiellt håll, under kriget i Bosnien Hercegovina dog över 100 000 människor, 82% av dessa var Bosniaker. 25 000 dokumenterade våldtäktsfall, 98% av dessa Bosniakiska kvinnor och flickor. Man tror dock att den egentliga siffran kan vara så mycket som 60,000 Då man i mångt och mycket vägrar erkänna från officiellt håll i Serbien och RS den karaktär kriget i Bosnien Hercegovina hade, samt vägrar ge offren, och framförallt de överlevande, ett minimum andrum genom att man faktiskt tillstår vad som har hänt dem är ord som försoning plattityder och den yttersta förolämpningen mot offren och de överlevande.  Igår på årsdagen av folkmordet så skrev Expos Alex Bengtsson, Mona Shalin och APU-medlemen Haris Grabovac om de mekanismer, som ledde till folkmordet, i mång och mycket har de rätt och det de säger är ingenting nytt. Kriget och folkmordet i Bosnien Hercegovina är resultatet av ett nationalpolitiskt projekt för att bilda ett etnisk ren Storserbien, det är ingenting nytt, det har dissekerats i ett antal böcker och rättegångar i Haag.

För att uppnå det var man tvungen att så ett hatets frö så att säga, mot de “andra” detta gjorde Milosevic genom sitt kontroll av media i Serbien och följdes tätt av Radovan Karadzic. Där man missar målet i debattartikeln är när man säger att man “visar solidaritet och vårt stöd till de krafter i Bosnien-Hercegovina och resten av före detta Jugoslavien som i dag arbetar för försoning” så misslyckats man det att förklara att för att försoning ska vara möjlig i Bosnien Hercegovina så måste förövare tillstå vad de har gjort, och framförallt måste samhället som helhet erkänna vad som har hänt och stödja offren för tortyr, våldtäkt, och andra krigsförbrytelser. Så är inte fallet i Bosnien Hercegovina.

Försoning är ett svår ord, för att två folkgrupper ska ”försonas” innebär det att de ska ha varit i fejd med varandra, efter tjugo år med tusentals böcker skrivna om Jugoslaviens sammanbrott, samt 20 år med Haagtribunalen så framgår det med all tydlighet att detta krig provocerades fram från Belgrad som under väldigt lång tid, såg till att sprida hat för att uttrycka det enkelt genom olika typer av media som gjorde serber livrädda för deras icke-serbiska grannar. Resultatet av det var att dels så kollapsade Jugoslavien tidigare än den hade ändå gjort, (se Josip Glaurdic, The Hour of Europe) dels så utsattes då den redan självständiga Kroatien för ett invasionskrig, där östra slavonien och krajina området rensades av sitt kroatiska eller icke-serbiska befolkning. Dels så utsattes staten Bosnien Hercegovina för vad man kan kalla för en folkmordisk kampanj som kulminerade med Srebrenica. Detta har systematiskt förenkats under snart tjugo år från bosnienserbisk och officiellt serbisk håll, resultatet av det är ilska och bitterhet hos de som föll offer för den storserbiska drömmen.

Ordet att föredra när det gäller Serbien är; Katarsis. Serbien, den serbiska nationen måste förlikas med vad som har hänt och vad gjordes i deras namn. Precis som Tyskland gjorde. Den serbiska statens brott är enorma, att säga att man ska försonas gör att man förminskar dessa brott. Jag måste tillägga att jag har rest runt Ex-Jugoslavien efter kriget och jag kan försäkra herrar Grabovac och Bengtsson samt Mona Shalin att det är inte så farligt som man tror, det man hakar upp sig på är just kriget och där är tydlighet önskvärd.

Bosnier, oavsett etnicitet kan sätta sig ner och dricka kaffe med varandra, detta är inte försoning speciellt när runtomkring våra städer så går människor som har begått hemska brott, mord, våldtäkt var som i fallet Marko Pavic i Prijedor direkt inblandad i den etniska rensningen av den staden, han är idag borgmästare i Prijedor och vägrar hedra de drygt 3000 människor som dog där. Enbart för att de inte var serber. Enkelt sagt, man måste vara väldigt försiktig med ordet försoning.

Bosnien var inget vanlig krig, det var inte två stridande arméer som ställdes mot varandra, oavsett om de inser det eller inte så är det så att; Grabovac, Bengtsson och Shalin genom sin artikel ( även om det är skrivet i all välvilja) förminskar (omedvetet får man hoppas) de brott som begicks i Bosnien Hercegovina och indirekt spelar historierevisonister i händerna. För att det ska bli fred och riktig försoning krävs riktig rättvisa. De som bryr sig om offren, och de överlevande har en skyldighet att påtala det. Eftersom jag kan garanterara er att modern som har förlorat alla sina söner inte skyller alla serber, men likaväl vill och förtjänar rättvisa, rättvisa som hon inte kommer få i ett land där mördare och våldtäktsmän går fria och där de som var med och utförde den etniska rensiningen kan inneha höga politiska poster.

Det som hände i Bosnien Hercegovina var ett sätt att decimera eller utplåna ett folk, ett kultur närmare bestämt; oss, Bosniaker, Inte för första gången heller. Våra hem, lägenheter, religiösa objekt, allt som på någon sätt visade att vi hade varit där, vuxit upp där, levt där, älskat där. Det är upp till oss att se till att bevara minnet av det som försökte utplånas, att om möjligt bygga upp nåt nytt eller hjälpa de återvänder till den delen av Bosnien Hercegovina som är idag under apartheidstyre, där deras lidande förminskas, de är utsatta för olika former av diskrimination och de betraktas som andra klassens medborgare, eller icke önskvärda i sitt eget hemland.

Fredrik Malm (Folkpartiet) har rätt att folkmordet är en del av vår samtidshistoria, när han skriver om det i Expressen han också rätt att ”yttersta konsekvensen om nationalism kopplar greppet över ett samhälle och tillåts att härja fritt.” Däremot så är det inte sant att den Europiska Unionen ”var oförmogen att att agera” för att förhindra folkmordet i Bosnien Hercegovina, den ville helt enkelt inte göra någonting för att förhindra aggressionen mot Bosnien Hercegovina och folkmordet i Srebrenica.

Det går inte att komma från det faktum att ledande krafter i Europa däribland Frankrike och Storbritannien såg till att vapenembargot mot Bosnien Hercegovina upprätthölls genom i stort sett hela kriget. Anledningen till det var enkel, Bosnien Hercegovina för att citera Francois Mitterrand hörde helt enkelt inte hemma som land i Europa, och anledningen till det var så klart landets två miljoner Bosniaker, eller om vi ska hårdra det; Muslimer, ett ”Muslimskt Bosnien” hörde inte hemma i det kristna Europa, så man såg till att genom att använda sig av FN som ursäkt förvägra Bosnien och dess befolkning rätt till självförsvar, det som skedde var enligt vissa brittiska diplomater ett ”smärtsamt dock nödvändigt” då Bosnien Hercegovina helt enkelt hörde inte till. Det var onekligen smärtsamt och ingenstans var det så smärtsamt som i Srebrenica.

I dessa sammanhang måste man också nämna den fördärvliga roll som Carl Bildt som spelade, då han som EU speciella sändebud till forna Jugoslavien såg till att genomdriva vad som kan nu i efterhand bara kallas för en eftergiftspolitik som ledde till folkmord. Därefter har Bildt i sina memoarer försökt förminska omfattningen folkmordet i Srebrenica. Fredrik Malm, som känner till det har ett ansvar att påtala det, om hans kritik av EU ska ses som trovärdig. Om Bosnien Hercegovina ska överleva och folkmordsförnekelse bekämpas aktivt så måste man var vara oerhört tydlig med vad som hände och vem som gjorde vad.

Till sist så har Malm också rätt när han säger att sorgen tillhör oss, Bosniaker. Låt oss vara tydliga, i mitt fall övertydlig då jag har nämnt det här förr, folkmordet i Srebrenica var bara kulmen på den kampanj som startades i slutet av mars och början av april 1992. En kampanj som såg till att fördriva med alla möjliga med den Bosniakiska eller rättare sagt icke-serbiska befolkningen från främst östra Bosnien, i den kampanjen förekom massavrättningar av främst män som kan klassas under termen ”Gendercide” men också den Bosniakiska befolkningen som helhet, föll offer för massavrättningar,kvinnor och barn mördades också, äldre, våldtäkter var systematiska och slaveri förekom också, då kvinnor såldes som sexlavar. Kulturella minnesmärken som religiösa byggander demolerades i kommun efter kommun, all spår av Bosniakisk kultur skulle raderas, samma sak hände i nordvästra Bosnien, i städer som Prijedor, Kozarac, Sanski Most, Omarska och Trnoplje. Det är också en kampanj för vilken Haagtribunalen har precis igår bestämt att det kan eventuellt klassas som folkmord ifall Karadzic fälls för det.

Sarajevo utsattes för ett tre och halv år lång belägring, den längsta i modern tid med 11541 människor döda som följd. För min egen del så förlorade jag sex släktingar, den yngste var nio år då. Dock så är det det är en erfarenhet som jag delar med tusentals andra, jag är inte från Srebrenica men det behöver jag inte vara för att veta exakt hur det känns, samma sak gäller de från Prijedor eller Ahmici, eller Brcko, eller Mostar. Alla de är döda pga att de hade en sak gemensamnt.

Det är ett band som vi delar som ingen utomstående kan egentligen förstå, hur mycket man än slänger stora ord omkring som ”anti-rasism” ”nationalism” ”folkmord” sorgen tillhör oss men också minnena, vi vet vem som gjorde vad vi var på plats, så snälla tydlighet från er sida är önskvärt när det gäller Bosnien Hercegovina och Balkan. Srebrenica kan användas för att visa på yttersta faran med högerextremism eller ultranationalism, det kan också vara ett lärdom när det gäller Syrien eller Libyen. Jag tvivlar inte att Alex Bengtsson och Fredrik Malm har hjärtat på rätt ställe och deras stöd uppskattas.

Däremot så är orsaken till folkmordet i Srebrenica och Bosnien Hercegovina, en del av ett politik med rötter som går betydligt längre tillbaks i tiden än kriget under 1990-talet. Planen på ett Storserbien är ingenting nytt, den återuppväcktes av Slobodan Milosevic under 1980-talet. Masslakten i Podrinje är inte heller någonting nytt. Det är ett upprepning från andra världskriget, och det handlade inte om enbart hat då heller utan om ett systematisk massmord med tanke på att “rensa” den delen av gränsen mot Serbien. Den politiken har inte besegrats. Utan sakta håller på och förverkligas genom att staten Bosnien Hercegovina hölls fånge av Daytonavtalet.

All högtidlighållande av folkmordet i Srebrenica uppskattas, missförstå mig inte. Även om del är mindre rumsrent än man skulle vilja att det var. Jag tvivlar inte  att det Bengtsson och EXPO gör grundas på välvilja och det de gör för att motverka extremism uppskattas väldigt mycket. Däremot när folkmassan skingras, och folks samvete är lättad så kvarstår minnena, och de är våra. Det som kvarstår är också Republika Srpska som inte tillåter oss att minnas offentligt samtidigt som de bygger minnesmärken till de som är ansvariga för de mentala och fysiska ärr vi bär på och ser till att undergräva varje försök till normalisering av situationen i Bosnien Hercegovina och ägnar sig åt folkmordsförnekelse och historierevisionism. Jag tänker inte säga mer, men där någonstans borde polletten trillat ner för de flesta.

Mirza Hota -Bosnienbloggen 2013-07-12

Det här inlägget har redigerats och uppdaterats 2013-07-13

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