Bosnia´s Chetnik Problem

Attack on N1 journalists last month in Dobrun

Last month´s attack on two Bosnian journalists in Dobrun, near Bosnia-Serbia border, at a place called Undrulje but dubbed by members of the Ravna Gora Chetnik movement as “Mala Draževina” (Little Draževina) shone a light at one of the most disturbing and frequently overlooked aspects of life in the Bosnian entity of Republika Srpska. The yearly commemoration of the Nazi-collaborationist Ravna Gora Chetnik movement and their leader Dragoljub “Draža” Mihailović in Dobrun, part of the Višegrad municipality, Višegrad and Dobrun were a scene of some of the worst atrocities committed against Bosniak civilians in the Bosnian war, as Predrag Blagovćanin points out resulting in the death of at 1.760 civilians (according to the Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo) of which at least 100 were children.

From last year´s gathering, Chetniks dressed in black paramilitary fatigues in Visegrad
From last year´s gathering, Chetniks dressed in black paramilitary fatigues in Visegrad

50 years earlier, during WW2 Višegrad and its Bosniak community was subjected to atrocities carried out by Chetnik forces in which over 3000 people; men, women and children were systematically killed. As historians Vladimir Dedijer and Antun Miletić point out in their book: Genocid nad Muslimanima (Genocide of the Muslims, Svjetlost 1990) Višegrad was a scene of a string of massacres carried out by Chetnik forces working under the protection of the Italian occupation force. Massacres in the summer, fall, and winter of 1941-42 where over 1500 people were killed and again in the fall of 1943 when 2000 people were killed by Chetnik forces. (By then the Italians had left Bosnia, the Axis and the war.) The description of the massacres of Bosniaks that took place throughout Eastern Bosnia during WW2 in Vladimir Dedijer and Antun Miletić´s book, the systematic nature of the mass killings and the ideology behind the genocide (The Chetnik ideoluges genocidal intent was clear, as seen by their instructions) as well as the names of the places: Višegrad, Foča, Goražde, Rogatica, Vlasenica,Čajniče and Srebrenica sends a chill down the reader´s spine, for those of us who have spent years learning about the genocide of the 90s the similarities are eerie.

As Blagovćanin points out in his article the gathering in Dobrun and the celebration of an ideology which during the the 90s (as was the case during WW2) and the iconography that followed with it was used as mechanism for ethnic cleansing which resulted in the death of close to 2000 people.  Sadly, gatherings of this nature still permitted by law, to this day there has not been a majority in Bosnian institutions for passing a ban on this kind and similar types of gatherings, commemorations and celebrations which mean to idealise fascist and quisling movements.

According to another Bosnian writer; Filip Mursel Begović, in an article on the 18th of March; according to some estimates there are tens of thousands Chetniks, they are mostly registered as members of “NGO´s” and are for the most part highly motivated, wearing uniforms with officer insignia on them which as Begović says; means that there is a hierarchy and a command chain, and when there is a hierarchy means that if you add guns we have a military formation. Begović also points out that; they wear fascist uniforms with labels that they had on in 1940s and 1990s when they engaged in mass slaughter and rape of Bosniaks. They are in Begović´s opinion the biggest security threat in Bosnia today.

Another overlooked aspect which Begović points to about Chetniks in Bosnia is the fact that in 2008 there were 60,000 registered so-called “long barrels” (duge cjevi)  i.e hunting rifles in Republika Srpska, eight years later no one knows the exact number but by now it could be double that. Many of the members of various Chetnik chapters around Republika Srpska are also members of various hunting associations and have legal firearms.

Despite the outrage the incident in Dobrun caused in many parts of Bosnia, and the despite the fact it´s known there are thousands of men in Republika Srpska who consider themselves part of this movement, many of them armed and in uniform, the minister of security: Dragan Mektić former member of VRS, Army of Republika Srpska, whose commander-in- chief was sentenced to 40 years in prison for persecution, murder, kidnapping, deportation, terror, and genocide carried out against civilian population of Bosnia and Herzegovina does not consider these men a security threat. Sadly, the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with all three ethno-nationalist blocks all equally corrupt means that high-ranking political appointments are rarely given to competent people and for the most part resemble more horse-trading then anything else. In all likelihood Mektić was a compromise, and questioning how his past as a soldier in an army where many of the men who now wear the Chetnik uniform served (and given the ideology at the heart of Republika Srpska ) reflects his performance as minister of security is not unreasonable.

It´s also not unreasonable to wonder what role these men, thousands of them would play should Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik make good on his longstanding threat to secede from the rest of Bosnia and Herzegovina? Specially now that Serb nationalists and separatists don´t have the former JNA with it´s massive arsenal to back them. It should be said though that it´s a common held belief that Dodik´s threats of secession are a form of blackmail to use against the international community in Bosnia, much of it directed towards securing his own position and wealth and avoid ending up in jail should the day come and he has to pay for embezzling millions of taxpayer’s money during a decade in power in RS, a decade in which he has turned the entity into his own fiefdom.

As I wrote last year opposition politicians in RS have accused Dodik of turning the MUP RS (Ministry of the Interior) into his own praetorian guard and trying to silence critical voices by accusing them of calling for the destruction and undermining of the institutions of Republika Srpska, especially the Ministry of Interior. That accusation was levelled by Dragan Lukač, head of MUP RS, considered to be one Milorad Dodik´s closest aides.

And as I wrote in January Dodik-controlled media, including the Banja Luka-based Nezavisne Novine (which ironically translates to Independent Newspaper) has also accused his critics of working for “foreign centres of power” most prominently George Soros and his Open Society Foundation, which of course plays nicely with the  already  excesivly  paranoid Serb nationalist belief that the Vatican, CIA, IMF, Great Britain and of course Germany are working against the Serbs. Along with the “traitorous” and “conniving” Bosniaks and Croats all done in order to destroy the “great Serbian nation”. Conspiracy theories happily spread by Milošević´s media  during the wars of the 90s and now recycled by Dodik in order to keep people from asking why they don´t have any jobs and why their stomachs are empty while Mile Dodik flies around in helicopters, private jets, is driven around in limousines, and as Lily Lynch pointed out for The Balkanist in 2014: hypocritically  spending millions of their taxpayer money on consultants and lobbyists in Washington D.C all designed to keep him in power, while his media talks about western conspiracies intended to destroy the Serbs.

Milorad Dodik is used to manipulating  bone-headed Serb nationalists. Given the lengths he´s gone to in order to protect himself; his actions have crippled Bosnia and Herzegovina for the last 10 years, (with  considerable help from Bosniak and Croat nationalist politicians) it´s should not be inconceivable that he eventually goes too far.

The annual commemoration at Undrulje and the iconography used and the ideology behind the Chetnik movement is also stark reminder of what Bosniak returnees to this part of the Bosnia and Herzegovina have to deal with on a daily basis. Sadly during all the reporting and the outrage expressed over the incident in “Little Draževina” the media failed to interview any Bosniak returnees to Višegrad municipality and ask them about their experiences given that the municipality has now become a hub for adherents to an ideology fully comparable to the KKK and other white supremacists, with the added fact that the same ideology fuelled two genocides with 50 years apart. Needless to say, during those 50 years apart the movement was banned on territory of the former Yugoslavia and the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 29th of August last year in Dobrun, not far from “Little Draževina” a memorial was erected to the 131 Bosniak civilians murdered in this village during the Bosnian war. The memorial was built on the grounds of the now re-built Emperor’s Mosque (Careve džamije), one of oldest mosques in Bosnia and Herzegovina built in 1445. (The mosque was destroyed by Serb extremists in 1992 along with all the other ones in Višegrad municipality and re-bulit in 2006) According to the president of the association „Dobrun – Stari grad“, Esad Hrustić, it was difficult to collect information on all the names of those killed in Dobrun. Most of it was done by interviewing the surviving family members of those killed in Dobrun, the list is not complete. According to Hrustić, they had to do something, “our ancestors, our brothers and sisters deserve that we finally do something like this”.

Memorial to the dead in Dobrun
Memorial to the dead in Dobrun

The ceremony was attended by Dobrun´s pre-war Bosniak residents as well as returnees to this part of Višegrad municipality. Like all Bosniak or rather non-Serb returnees to parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina that were “ethnically cleansed” by the “Great Serb” forces of Ratko Mladić and Radovan Karadžić the returnees to this part of Bosnia, one the very border with Serbia have been subjected to various forms of abuse. The emperor´s mosque, re-built in 2006 was vandalized last year. According to Bilal ef. Memišević, head of Višegrad´s Muslim Parish, unknown persons broke into the mosque, destroyed the windows, damaged the doors, destroyed the sound system, the computer in the mosque along with the lights as well as the carpets and stole a hundred meters of cable from the mosque. According to Memišević, the incident was reported to the police but he doubted that those responsible would be caught, given past experiences. Memišević pointed out that it was telling that the incident took place ahead of the annual ceremony commemorating the genocide of Bosniaks in Višegrad.

Paklenik Massacre

Paklenik massacre exhumation 31.8.2000

On 29th of October Bosnian State Court in Sarajevo found Predrag Milisavljević and Miloš Pantelić, two members of the Reserve Police within the Public Security Station in Višegrad guilty of murder. The two men were sentenced to 20 years in prison for the execution of 48 Bosniak civilians from Višegrad in June 1992.

According to the  indictment against the two men and a third one, Ljubomir Tasić (who was acquitted) they took part in a systematic attack by VRS (Army of the Republika Srpska), Bosnian Serb police forces and paramilitary formations directed against the Bosniak civilian population of Višegrad from April to June of 1992. The indictment said that during that period the men accused took part in the persecution of the Muslim (Bosniak) population of Višegrad; “on ethnic and religious grounds by way of undertaking: killings, forcible transfer of population, imprisonment, torture, coercing another by force or by attack against limb of life to engage in any form of sexual violence, enforced disappearance of persons and other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to physical or mental health.”

Those executed were part of convoy that left Višegrad for Bosnian government-controlled Olovo on June 14th. Local Serb nationalists in Višegrad close to the Serb Democratic Party-led (SDS) Višegrad Municipality organized the deportation of several hundred Bosniak civilians from t Višegrad to Olovo, but on route to Olovo the convoy was stopped by Serb soldiers near Rogatica and all the men were taken out of the buses.

After that they were separated from the other prisoners they were first taken to Rogatica where they spent the night and then taken to the Paklenik pit (translates to roughly; Hell or Hell pit) where they were either shot or beaten to death by Serb police and soldiers. Bodies of the Bosniak civilians were then thrown into the pit; they were exhumed eight years later. The only survivor of the massacre, Ferid Spahić testified in the trial, implicating Predrag Milisavljević in the killings that took place at Paklenik. The convictions were also based on the testimony of bus drivers from the convoy, who said that Milisavljević and  Miloš Pantelić were part of the group that took the men to the Paklenik pit.

Ferid Spahić, the only survivor of the massacre has recounted his experience of that day during several trials as well as in interviews with journalists and filmmakers. According to Spahić; Paklenik was located between Rogatica and Sokolac, he and rest of the men taken from the buses were brought there on June 15 with their hands tied behind their backs, it was the first time Ferid had been there, and then the executions started; “first they killed a group of ten people, and you stand there waiting in line waiting for your turn. I don´t know how to describe it all-you know you´re going to die, you are 29 years old, and yet you are in this situation, and you say to yourself; fine, excecution, it´s the end, is there a way out of this? And then almighty god, who is that I don´t know, but there is some force-someone or something simply gave me the strength to think, to fight and I all of a sudden I found myself running thru the woods, that´s when the massive shooting began, bullets are whizzing past my head but they’re not hitting me. During all that running I somehow managed to avoid all the Serb villages’ without thinking about it, I didn´t fall into their hands, instead I found myself in the village of Mrčići. Execution was around noon, and I managed to get to the village around four-thirty- five o´clock. I had to hide for a while in the bushes, with my hands tied behind my back, my pants had fallen of, I was dirty and bruised. When I came to the village they couldn´t believe that this was happening here, it was peaceful there, the ethnic cleansing started in Višegrad, Rogatica came later”

Ferid found refuge in the house of then 58 year old Mina Jahić, Mina is now 81 years old living in Hrasnica, a Sarajevo suburb one of many “displaced persons” who found a home in Sarajevo or somewhere else after they were “cleansed” in order to make room for an ethnically pure Greater Serbia. Her husband Arif died from cancer in 2002, her youngest son; Muzafer was killed by Serb forces, he was 23 at the time while her other son; Meho was taken to a prison camp in Serbia where his health deteriorated, Meho died in 2005. She still has two sons that are alive, Atif who lives in Germany and Mustafa who lives in Sarajevo and can´t find work as well as daughter; Minka who now lives in Go­ražde. However despite all that Mina found the strength to make the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) back in 2007. Back in 2011 & 2012 when she was interviewed she lived alone in her apartment in Hrasnica.

Mina & Ferid
Mina & Ferid

Most of Mina´s family was killed in 1941 by Chetniks, she recalls what life was like before the war; “I worked for 52 years, got married in 1951 and by the time war started had everything I ever wanted or needed, I had land, a house, a mower, a chainsaw, we had everything, everything got destroyed, burned down, I lost two sons and my husband. I can´t tell anybody the troubles´ I´ve seen, god gives me strength, I turn to him and I never stop praying, I´ve always struggled and I continue to struggle. I gave birth to five children without ever having to go to the doctor, me and my husband had 10 hectares of land which we both worked on, tell that to somebody now and they´ll say; you´re lying.”

Mina also went alone to search for the remains of her son Muzafer who was killed by Serb forces; she found his remains and informed the commission for missing persons about the whereabouts of the remains. Later she traveled to the identification center in Visoko for the confirmation proceedings.

Mina Jahić and Ferid Spahić`s story was turned into a documentary short film by Velma Šarić and Mirko Pincelli from the Post Conflict Research Center in 2013, called; Oridinary Heroes: Mina & Ferid. Mina´s testimony, one of many, was documented by the Post Conflict Research Center:

I was in the field when I heard gunshots from afar. When I went home, my neighbor Pemba came over in a hurry and said that someone had escaped an execution and had come to her door. She said that she had left him in her garden. I told her that we must save the man and that she should bring him to my house during the night. We were afraid because we knew that the Serbs were most likely looking for him. A few hours later, a Serb neighbor came by, claiming that he was trying to find lost sheep. I knew he was checking to see if there was anyone or anything unusual in the village. Ferid, the man we rescued, was in terrible shape. His face and body were completely purple and covered with blood from the beating. I will always remember his mustache. It was totally covered in dried blood. I knew that some neighbors (Bosniaks) could tell the Serbs that I am keeping Ferid in my house. I couldn’t afford to take him out of my house because I knew that my family would also be hurt. I lived with my husband and four sons. I decided to hide him in the attic. He had to remain still and silent because any movement could be heard on the first floor. Why did I save him? I knew that the same fate could befall my children, my sons, and it was completely normal to help a man in trouble. I didn’t separate him from my own children.

For Ferid it felt like being born again, he remembers Mina bringing food to his bedside since he was immobile for a good 10-12 days, after those 10-12 days once he had recovered from the worst of it, the nightmares came as it settled what had happened, he remembers that Mina noticed that he wasn´t eating and drinking again. Eventually Ferid had to run again and made his way to Go­ražde, he was later reunited with his wife in Visoko.

The reason for the attention Mina deservedly got was that in 2011 US State Department honoured her and a number of other people at ceremony held in Washington honouring their heroic efforts in protecting refugees around the world “amid great stress and conflict” the ceremony also commemorated the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, an international agreement that defines the rights of refugees and the legal obligation of nations to protect them. Mina wasn´t the only person with linkes to Bosnia and Herzegovina that was honoured, the other one was Larry Hollingsworth, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees operation in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. Others honoured at the ceremony (posthumously) were Harriet Tubman and Raoul Wallenberg.

Names of the victims at Paklenik via Višegrad Genocide Memories

  1. ABAZ HAMID
  2. AHMETSPAHIĆ ABID
  3. AHMETSPAHIĆ HAMED
  4. ČELIK HILMO
  5. ČELIK MUŠAN
  6. DELIBAŠIĆ HAŠIM
  7. HAJDAREVIĆ ISMET
  8. HALILOVIĆ AHMO
  9. IBIŠEVIĆ OSMAN
  10. JAŠAREVIĆ KASIM
  11. KARAMAN ESAD
  12. KARAMAN FIKRET
  13. KARAMAN HAMED
  14. KARAMAN HASAN
  15. KARAMAN IZET
  16. KARAMAN MIRSAD
  17. KARAMAN SABIT
  18. KARAMAN SAFET
  19. KARAMAN ZARIF
  20. KARIŠIK DŽEMAL
  21. KARIŠIK NESIB
  22. KASAPOVIĆ ADIL
  23. KASAPOVIĆ ZAIM
  24. KUSTURA DŽEMAL
  25. KUSTURA ENES
  26. KUSTURA ESAD
  27. KUSTURA HAMDIJA
  28. KUSTURA HUSO
  29. KUSTURA ISMET
  30. KUSTURA MEDO
  31. KUSTURA MUHAMED
  32. KUSTURA SMAJO
  33. KUSTURA SUVAD
  34. KUSTURA ZAIM
  35. LOŠIĆ IBRAHIM
  36. LOŠIĆ JUSUF
  37. LEMEZAN ISMET
  38. MENZILOVIĆ OMER
  39. MUNIKOZA IBRAHIM
  40. OMEROVIĆ MEHO
  41. OMEROVIĆ MENSUR
  42. OMEROVIĆ MUSTAFA
  43. OMEROVIĆ SALKO
  44. OMEROVIĆ SMAIL
  45. OMEROVIĆ ŠEVAL
  46. SPAHIĆ EŠREF
  47. ZUKIĆ MUHAREM
  48. ZUKIĆ SMAJIL

Remembering the Murders and Abuse of Bosniaks in Rogatica

A sign from 2012 in Rogatica, with picture of Veljko Vlahovic Secondery School. "Once You Were A Place O Knowledge, Then A Prison Camp Were We Spilled Our Blood, Were Raped, Tortured And Killed...
A sign from 2012 in Rogatica, with picture of Veljko Vlahovic Secondary School. “Once You Were A Place of Knowledge, Then A Prison Camp Where We Spilled Our Blood, Were Raped, Tortured And Killed…

Yesterday marked the 22 anniversary of the killings of Bosniaks in the Rogatica area in eastern Bosnia. Rogatica sits between Srebenica Visegrad and Gorazde about 60 km from Sarajevo nestled on Romanija Mountain. The anniversary of the killings and torture was marked by a commemoration as former prisoners as well as families of the dead  vsited the former detention facilities in “Veljko Vlahovic” school building and “Rasadnik” building where most of the beatings and killings took place. According to Bakira Hasecic, President of the “Women, Victims of War” Association: Women and men were held in those locations and were brutally abused and tortured and some were killed.

Some of the methods for torturing Bosniak prisoners were disclosed during the on-going trial of Radovan Karadzic, Karadzic is currently on trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In September 2011 one of those who survived the camps in Rogatica testified about the abuse he saw. Sefik Hurko a former resident of Rogatica described the cruel abuse he suffered together with his father and uncle after their arrest in mid-August 1992. According to Hurko he was arrested together with his father mother and uncle by Serb troops, they were first held prisoner in a garage belonging to a Serb man in the village of Kosovo. According to Hurko they were abused by Serb soldiers who Hurko could name, including Rajko Krsmanovic, Stojan Perkovic as well as other Serb soldiers under the command of Rajko Kusic. Kusic had introduced himself as the commander of Serb forces in Rogatica. Hurko reacounted how Rajko Krsmanovic approached his father ordered him to stick out his tounge like he meant to cut it off and the took out his knife and strated cutting Sefik Hurko´s father´s ears. Hurko´s father fell to the ground, covered in blood. Then Krsmanovic told Sefik to eat three or four rounds from his pistol and started stabbing Sefik´s hands with a knife and beating him.

According to Sefik Hurko, Krsmanovic and Perkovic took his uncle Abdulah Hurko out to the yard and beat him too. He never saw his uncle again. Rajko Kusic was also present while several other members of Hurko´s family were beaten up. Hurko was later taken with his father to a high school that served as a detention camp and then transferred to Rasadnik prison camp. Accodring to Hurko; Rajko Kusic appointed a certain Vinko Bojic as camp warden who “humiliated and abused the detained men and women. They were beaten, tortured and sexually assaulted.”

Aside from testifying at the trial of Radovan Karadzic, Sefik Hurko testified at the trial of Ratko Mladic as well in September 2012, it was Hurko´s second encounter with Ratko Mladic.  (Mladic is alongside Karadzic on trial for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide ) Hurko had first meet Ratko Mladic in 1994 on the front lines outside Gorazde; Serb soldiers had used imprisoned Bosniak civilians from Rogatica as forced labor on the front lines. On the day he meet Mladic, Hurko was forced to cut down trees in the woods near Gorazde with other Bosniak prisoners from Rasadnik prison camp. Mladic was there with the prison warden, Vinko Bojic, the commander of the Rasadnik prison camp, when Mladic asked Bojic who the men cutting wood were; Bojic responded that; they were “loyal Muslims” after which Ratko Mladic spoke to the Bosniak prisoners, pointing at Gorazde he said that “in a day or two it will be in Serb hands” and that those who wish to stay; will have to be baptized; those that don’t will be moved to Alija’s state”.

In his testimony against Ratko Mladic in September 2012 Hurko also described how the Bosniak prisoners from Rasadnik were forced to work every day, doing the jobs that Serbs didn´t want to do. Clearing the streets, and the ruins of the Mosques that had been destroyed, according to Hurko; they were also forced to “remove furniture, household appliances  from abandoned Bosniak homes and bring them to Serb houses”.

Hurko also described the beatings he and his father received while at Rasadnik, including beaing beaten with thick bats in the prison warden Vinko Bojic´s office. At one point Hurko fainted from the beating he had received, only to have water poured on him to wake him up. Hurko talked about the murder of one of the prisoners, a Becir Cutaj, who´s cries according to Hurko could be heard from the warden’s office, and the man that was ordered to bury Cutaj, another Bosniak prisoner told Hurko that Cutaj had been “cut to pieces”

Another survivor from Rogatica recounted his own painful experiences during the trial of Radovan Karadzic; he did not use his name and acted as a protected witness, talking about how it was to be a father to two children, who had both been raped by Serb forces in Rogatica. The daughter was seven-and-a-half year´s old and the son 13 years old when they were raped. The witness said that Serb soldiers raped him too, but that “he had got through it somehow” while it was difficult to come to terms with the fact that his young children were sexually assaulted. He had yet to ask his wife if she had been raped as well, he simply lacked the strength to do it. “I got seriously ill. I have been in treatment for the past 16 years and I have tried to forget at least some of it, but I can’t. To this day I haven’t asked my wife if she was raped, too. I lack strength to do it”

The witness was haunted by the fact that the people who did these things were his former neighbors and people he knew.  According to the witness before the war Rogatica was a little town full of life, people celebrated Bosniak, Catholic and Orthodox holidays. Life was good. All that ended when Serb forces together with Rajko Kusic men came, according to the witness “Rogatica was first shelled brutally from the local hills before Serb forces entered and “cleansed” it ruthlessly  not caring if if their victims were children, invalids or the sick”.

During the on-going trial of Ratko Mladic another protected witness, witness RM 81 talked about the arrests, beatings, rape and murders that took place in Rogatica after the Serb takeover of the town. According to the witness most of this took place in Veljko Vlahovic Secondary School, and that Rajko Kusic was firmly in command of the prison camp. The witness went on to say that, one time, in late June or early July Kusic visited the school and complained about the fact that “people refuse to cooperate” and that was giving him problems. According to the witness Kusic said that he had been given a “deadline” for the “cleansing” of Rogatica and that he “had to report to Pale” The witness also stated that a man named Danko Neric took part in the destruction of Arnaudija Mosque, one of two Mosques in Rogatica to be destroyed by Serb forces, the other one was; Carsijska Mosque. Neric wore “an olive drab military uniform of the former JNA”.

Rajko Kusic
Rajko Kusic

In 2012 the anniversary of the crimes committed in Rogatica was held for the first time. Edvin Kanka Ćudić spoke to some of the witnesses and survivors about what they saw and experienced in Rasadnik. Few of the survivors told Cudic about the abuse and murders they saw and heard about while in the prison camps:

 Almost everyone who was there was a victim of a crime, from the old and disabled to young. They beat us with everything, everything they could get hold of. They forced us to do manual labor; they raped the women and girls. It was unbearable, what they did to us. We didn´t have any kind of conditions, no decent food we slept on pallets. Once the warden got drunk, whoever he could get hold of first, he took with him. We all returned blooded and brused, Vinko Bojic personally knocked out two of my teeth, once they abused us they called us various derogatory names, it was horrible for everyone who was there. For me the hardest part was the murder of Sefjo Mirvic.

 

Sejfo Mirvic and Alija Omerhodzic from Gorazde were killed in Rasadnik, Alija Omerhodzic was killed with a chainsaw and Sejfo Mirvic hacked to death with an axe according to one of the survivors.  But while Sejfo Mirvic was buried, Alija Omerhodzic was thrown down into the sewage system. “I personally saw and will never forget. Vinko Bojic personally abused the prisoners” said one of the survivors, the survivor also named several of those involved, a man he called Ljubinac from Seljani,(Radisav Ljubinac, sentenced to 10 years in 2007) as well as Rajko Kusic, Goran Kanastravac, Slavisa Vukovic, according to the survivor Rajko Kusic personally killed around 20 Bosniaks, while Slavko and Simo Lubarda killed his brother´s children on the door step of their house.

 

2012 was also the first time families of the victims and survivors were able to pay respect to the victims and lay flowers in front of a the secondary school and near the Rasadnik camp which served as prison camps for Bosniaks during the war. It was pointed out during the commemoration that from 1992-1995 women were subjected to mass rape in these camps and that those most responsible from that crime of war, including Rajko Kusic have not been arrested.

Bakira Hasecic who spoke at yesterday´s commemoration also spoke in 2012. According to her:  “In Visegrad, Foca and Rogatica, institutions of learning were turned into mass prison camps were Bosniaks and Croats were murdered. In the pogroms, the killings, and sexual violence that took place there, aside from the local  unit assembled by Rajko Kusic, members of Arkans Tigers, Seselj`s Volunteers, the Bosnian Serb Army, (VRS) as well as the JNA (Yugoslav People´s Army) also participated.”

In May 2006 Dragoje Paunovic, leader of a Serb military formation of the Rogatica Battalion was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for crimes against humanity, for the murder of 24 civilians that were taken from Rasadnik Prison Camp and used as human shields by Serb forces in a battle against the Army of Bosnia And Herzegovina. Altogether 27 prisoners were taken from the camp by Radislav Ljubinac and driven to a place called Jacen in Rogatica, later that day Paunovic lined up the prisoners and ordered his men to shot the prisoners, the verdict said Paunovic took part in the killings at Jacen. So far Bosnian  State Court has sentenced three men;  Radisav Ljubinac, Dragoje Paunovic and Stojan Perkovic for the crimes committed against the civilian population of Rogatica. The three men have been sentenced to 42 years imprisonment totally, however as Bakira Hasecic pointed out on Friday, that is not nearly enough and that those most responsible are still at large, and that the victims  request faster processing of these crimes. Hasecic was referring to men like Rajko Kusic who according to Bakira Hasecic lives in Serbia. She hopes that that Bosnian State Prosecutor´s Office would conclude an agreement with Serbia about the processing of those crimes, given that according to Hasecic it is known that most of the suspects now live in Serbia.

This post has been edited and updated 18/08/2014

Zdravko Tolimir: Ratko Mladic “högra hand” dömd för folkmord i Srebenica och Zepa

Zdravko Tolimir, till höger, med FN-truppen under kriget i Bosnien
Zdravko Tolimir, till höger, med FN-truppen under kriget i Bosnien

Zdravko Tolimir var under Bosnien-kriget medlem av den bosnienserbiska arméns generalstab och chefen för arméns underrättelse och säkerhetstjänst. Åtal mot Zdravko Tolimir väcktes först 2005 då som en del av åtalet mot Vujadin Popovic som sedermera också fanns skyldig till folkmord i Srebrenica. I augusti 2006 då man fortfarande inte kunde fånga Tolimir som då var på flykt så väcktes ett separat åtal mot bara Zdravko Tolimir. 2007 så greps han och flogs till Haag. Tolimir anklagades bla för att vara delaktigt I två separata så kallade JCE ( Joint Criminal Enterprise) där det finns ett övergripande mål att åsamka skada mot bla olika etniska grupper.

Övergripande målet med JCE är att bevisa att det fanns eller finns en avsikt att begå brott och att de/den åtalade är var på något sätt inblandad i detta. Tolimir anklagades bla för överlagt mord på bosniaker från Srebenica, detta skulle ha ägt rum i en tidsperiod mellan 11 juli och 1 november 1995. Den andra åtalspunkten var massdeportaion av bosniaker från Srebrenica och Zepa. Deportationen av bosniaker från de två enklaverna Srebrenica och Zepa var ingenting som bara hände eller att det var ett spontant resultat av den serbiska anfallet mot de två enklaverna. “Rensningen”  av bosniaker från Srebrenica och Zepa var själva målet med anfallet.

2 november 2009 under rättegången mot den förre bosnienserbiske ledaren Radovan Karadzic hävdade åklagaren Alan Tieger att Karadzic visste hela tiden vad som pågick under den militära operationen i Srebrenica, deporatationen av människor samt de massavrättningar som tog plats efter att serbiska stryrkor intog staden. Tieger ville visa hur det hela ingick i ett övergripande serbisk plan. Tieger började med Direktiv 4 som utfärdades av Radovan Karadzic gav order till den bosnienserbiska arméns Drinakår att starta ett offensiv med avsikten att “nöta ut fienden” och tvinga de att lämna eller överge Srebrenica, Zepa och Gorazde. Karadzics direktiv förvandlades till militära handlingar från och med januari 1993 men på grund av press från det internationella samfundet fick man dock avbryta dessa i april 1993 då Srebrenica Zepa och Gorazde utropades till så kallade säkra zoner. Dessa ”säkra zoner” förblev dock under bosnienserbisk belägring under hela kriget.

Då Direktiv 4 misslyckades så valde serberna ett mer ”subtil” strategi enligt Tieger, tanken var att sakta ”kväva enklaverna till döds” genom att man maximalt störde FN:s arbete i enklaverna och att man gjorde livet svårt för de FN-soldater som fanns där på plats och på det sättet skapa en outhärdlig situation för invånarna i enklaven vilket i sin tur skulle göra enklaverna till lätta måltavlor när man väl valde att slå till militärt.

I mars 1995 så skrev Radovan Karadzic under Direktiv 7 där han beordrade den Bosnienserbiska arméns “Drinakår” att påbörja stridsoperationer i regionen med det övergripande syftet att; skapa, osäkerhet, kaos och en känsla hos de som befanns i dessa enklaver att det fanns ingen chans till överlevnad i dessa enklaver, man ville få bort dessa människor med alla möjliga medel.

Domarteamet i Tolimirrättegången kom till samma slutsats som Teiger gjorde i Karadzic-rättegången, d.v.s. att redan 1992 så fanns det en policy i plats, framtaget på högsta nivåerna i den  Republika Srpska, en policy vars mål var att ”ta bort” den bosniakiska befolkningen från östra Bosnien. Denna policy bekräftades i mars 1995 genom Direktiv 7 som skrevs som sagt under av Radovan Karadzic som skrev direktivet med medlemmar av den bosnienserbiska generalstaben, däribland Zdravko Tolimir. Även om Direktiv 4 som utfärdades i december 1992 misslyckades så var dess effekt enorm på den redan då utsatta bosniakiska befolkningen i östra bosnien.

Balkanchefen för FN:s flyktingorgan UNHCR, spanjoren José Maria Mendiluce var våren 1992 på väg till bosnien från Belgrad när han passerade staden Zvornik, enligt Mendiluce:

öppnade jugoslaviskt artilleri eld från den serbiska sidan av Drina och inne i staden härjade Arkans soldater tillsammans med ”Röda baskrar”, en specialstyrka underställd inrikesministeriet i Belgrad. Jag hölls kvar i två timmar och insåg att jag löpte allvarlig fara. Jag kunde se lastbilar fyllda med döda kroppar. Jag såg milismän som tog döda barn, kvinnor och gamla människor från deras hus och slängde dem på lastbilarna. Jag såg minst fyra eller fem lastbilar fyllda med lik. När jag kom till Zvornik hade rensningen redan genomförts. Gatorna var folktomma. Allt var över. Erövrarna plundrade och städade upp efter massakern. Jag var övertygad om att de skulle döda mig.

Mönstret från Zvornik och bla Bjelinja skulle upprepas ett tiotal ställen i östra Bosnien, städer som Visegrad, Rudo, Cajnicje, Rogatica, Vlasenica, Foca, Bratunac, Bjeljina Brcko, Cerska, Konjevic Polje… Cerska och Konjevic Polje var de som höll ut längst, tillsammans med Srebenica, Gorazde och Zepa. Där hade de bosniaker som hade lyckats komma den serbiska attacken under våren och sommaren 1992 sökt skydd. Under vintern 1992 så kom dessa enklaver under hårt tryck från både bosnienserbiska och dåvarande jugoslaviska styrkor, under höjden av den serbiska offensiven så attackerades enklaverna av fyra olika armékår, två från RS och två armékår från Serbien eller dåvarande Jugoslavien,  (Serbien-Montenegro) allt som allt så beräknar man att ca 10 000 serbiska soldater/paramilitärer/polismän deltog i offensiven. När så Cerska och Konjevic Polje föll till slut i mars 1993, de som överlevde tog sig till fots till Srebrenica som var den närmaste enklaven kvar. Gorazde och Zepa var längre söderut, antalet människor som befann sig i Srebrenica var ca 40 000.

2005 så vittnade Diego Arria i rättegången mot Naser Oric, Srebrenicas bosniakiske befälhavare. Enligt Arria så är den slutsatsen som han kunde komma fram till i april 1993 då han besökte Srebrenica som FN-representant; att det handlade om ”folkmord i slowmotion”
Chockerande bilder har etsats sig fast på hans näthinna:  extrem fattigdom, förstörelse, svält och fruktansvärda förhållanden gömdes från omvärlden, enligt Arria med hjälp av FN-trupper på plats, detta var ett sätt att lugna ner de serbiska politiska och militära ledare som inte ville att den sanna bilden skulle komma ut. Arria var den som tog de första bilderna av de förhållandena som rådde i Srebrenica. Enligt honom så ville FN ha hans kamera men han vägrade ge den till de FN-trupper som fanns där.

Omvärlden gjorde inte någonting för att skydda bosniakerna i enklaven och man gjorde det inte möjligt för de att försvara sig. Enligt Arria så sopade FN under mattan rapporter om situationen och för det håller han Boutros Boutros – Ghali ansvarig, det fanns enligt Arria en tendens att försöka jämställa offer och angripare, det var med största sannolikhet det bästa sättet att faktiskt göra någonting. Enligt honom så gjorde FN på plats ingenting för att stoppa vad han kallade för en ”graduell folkmord” tvärtom, så gjorde FN allt för att förhindra honom för att kunna rapportera om vad han egentligen såg.

Enligt Arria så hoppades världssamfundet att serberna skulle köra över enklaven 1993 vilket skulle göra situationen för de diplomaterna på plats i FN-byggnaden betydligt lättare. Det faktum att bosniakerna inte gav och att försvaret i Srebrenica höll fast sina linjer in det sista gjorde att FN var tvungna att ”göra nåt” och skapandet av så kallade ”säkra zoner” (Safe Area)  kom till som en nödlösning.

Brittiske frilansjournalisten Tony Birtley  lyckades ta sig in i Srebrenica vintern 1993 och filma resultaten av Radovan Karadzic “Direktiv 4” för ABC.

Domarteamet kom också fram att direkt efter att Karadzic hade skrivit under Direktiv 7 så började bosnienserberna införa sanktioner av det humanitära hjälp som skulle till Srebrenica och Zepa. Målet med restriktionerna var att göra livet outhärdligt för bosniakerna, samtidigt så började bosnienserberna utföra militära aktioner och fram till juni 1995 så hade bosnienserberna omringat Srebrenica. Domarteamet kom också fram att medan det förekom skärmytslingar mellan Srebrenicas försvarare och bosnienserberna så riktades de bosnienserbiska militära aktioner också till en stor del mot Srebrenica civila befolkning. I början av juli 1995 så uppstod ett katastrofal humanitär situation i båda enklaverna, då bosnienserberna initierade militär operationen Krivaja 95 vars huvudsakliga mål var att skapa ”förutsättningar för elimination av enklaverna”

Den 11 juli intogs Srebrenica av de serbiska styrkorna och 25 000 till 30 000 bosniaker, mest civila, kvinnor barn och äldre, sökte skydd i FN-förläggningen i Potocari. Den 12 juli intogs Potocari av serberna som avväpnade de FN soldater som fanns på plats, vissa av soldaterna gav bröd till de civila medans de filmades av ett serbiskt tv-team. Enligt domen så fort kameran slutade filma så tog soldaterna tillbaka det bröd de hade delat ut. Enligt domen så började man separera män från kvinnor och barn, inklusive unga pojkar och äldre sjuka män. Kvinnorna och barnen sattes på bussar som hade arrangerats av serberna medan männen kvarhölls i ett hus som sedermera blev känd som ”det vita huset”

Männen transporterades senare till Bratunac där de sen fick sällskap av tusentals bosniakiska män som hade fångats in av serberna eller som hade gett upp och överlämnat sig. Många av dessa män hölls kvar i byggnader och bussar i Bratunac under vidriga förhållanden där de fick utstå grova förolämpningar från de serbiska soldater och där många misshandlades, också till döds. De serbiska soldaterna var fria att gör a som de ville med fångarna. Många av dessa män avrättades också i Bratunac. Den 14 juli de kvarvarande fångarna flyttades till staden Zvornik och hölls kvar där innan de möte sitt öde.

Domarkammaren kände att de var tvungna att påpeka ett antal fall av dokumenterade massavrättningar. Den 13 juli transporterades hundratals bosniakiska män till ett lagerlokal i byn Kravica, när serberna hade lyckats packa lagerlokalen full, så började de skjuta mot fångarna med maskingevär och även granater och raketkastare. De sköt i flera timmar och avrättningarna fortsatte framtill morgonen 14 juli då en serbisk kamera man lyckades filma lagerlokalen och de döda bosniaker som låg utanför.

Offren i lagerlokalen i Kravica
Offren i lagerlokalen i Kravica

En av Tolimirs officerare; Ljubisa Beara, själv dömd för folkmord var direkt inblandad i begravningen av de som hade dödats i massavrättningarna i Kravica 13-14 juli 1995. En annan sådant tillfälle var massavrättningen av bosniaker i en skola, i närheten av byn Orahovac, fångarna forslades in en gymnastik sal och senare transporterades till med buss till avrättningsplatserna, skjutandet började så fort de klev av bussen, vissa av de fångar som hade lyckats överleva avrättningarna fick utstå förolämpningar från från serberna och man lät de lida innan man tillslut utdelade nådastöten. I en av grupperna fanns en fem-sex årig pojke som efter att man hade skjutit mot den gruppen han var i reste sig från den högen av kroppar och ropade efter sin far. Uppemot 2500 bosniaker mördades den dan och begravdes i en massgrav. Domarkammaren kom fram till att det lidande fångarna fick utstå måste ha varit fruktansvärt, i många fall så utspelades det så att de som väntade på att bli skjutna fick se de som stod framför de bli skjutna. De få som överlevde och har vittnat har gett en skrämmande bild av det som skedde.

Domarkammaren kom fram till att det lidande fångarna fick utstå måste ha varit fruktansvärt, i många fall så utspelades det hela så att de som väntade på att bli skjutna fick se de som stod framför de bli skjutna. De få som överlevde och har vittnat har gett en skrämmande bild av det som skedde.
Den 16 juli så transporterades hundratals bosniaker till en by som heter Branjevo, efter ankomsten så avrättades fångarna av de serbiska styrkorna, fångarna avrättades i omgångar, efter varje omgång så frågade serberna de som var skjutna ifall det fanns några som överlevde, de som svarade blev skjutna i huvudet. Avrättningarna fortsatte fram till eftermiddag sammanlagt så avrättades 1000-1500 bosniaker i Branjevo.

Enligt domarteamet så är det enda möjliga slutsatsen som man kan dra utifrån all bevisning som hade lagts fram är att Zdravko Tolimir inte bara visste om att det fanns ett övergripande plan för folkmord utan att han själv var delaktig i det genom att de säkerhetsstyrkor som han var ansvarig för dels rapporterade till honom om vad som skedde på marken men att han själv var högst inblandad i utformandet av planer för massdeportation och mord av bosniaker.

Samt mördandet av tre bosniaker i Zepa som dommarkammaren anser faller inom ramen för folkmord. Mord på Mehmed Hajrić, Avdo Palić och Amir Imamović, tre prominenta bosniakiska ledare från Zepa efter att Zepa hade fallit sågs av domarkammaren som ett sätt att vidare göra livet omöjligt för bosniaker i drinadalen och kan nog räknas som ett form av eliticide, dvs att man dödar toppskicktet i samhället så att den inte kan organisera sig. Zdravko Tolimir var chefen för den bosnienserbiska arméns underrättelsetjänst och säkerhetsstyrkor samt medlem av den bosnienserbiska generalstaben. Han hade en nära relation till Ratko Mladic som ofta konsulterade Tolimir innan han fattade de beslut han gjorde, Mladic ansåg Tolimir vara en del av sitt ”innersta krets” Vittnen har beskrivit Tolimir som Mladic ”högra hand” och hans ”ögon och öron” och mer en jämlike med Mladic än en i den långa raden av underställda. Stabchefen för den bosnienserbiska armén Manojlo Milovanovic vittnade om att; Tolimir var den bäst informerade officeraren i VRS och att ”han alltid visste mer än andra”.

När det gäller åtalspunkten rörande förföljelse mot folkgrupp så fanns det gott om bevis för Tolimirs inblandning, överlagt mord på bosniakiska fångar, grym och omänsklig behandling av den bosniakiska befolkningen samt terror mot civilbefolkningen, förstörelse av bosniakiska hem och moskéer, påtvingad massdeportation av kvinnor barn, och äldre ut ur enklaverna gjordes allt med målet att diskriminera denna grupp på ett politisk rasmässig och religiös plan. När det gäller mord på bosniaker i Zepa så kom kammaren fram till att, mord på dessa indivder som ansågs tillhöra Zepas bosniakiska elit samt massdeportationen av stadens bosniakiska befolkning gjordes med avsikten att göra rehabilitation av denna etniska grupp i just det området omöjligt.

Uppläsning av domen mot Zdravko Tolimir, 2012-12-12 ICTY, Haag