Dragan Lukač Seen Abusing a Prisoner Before Execution

Dragan Lukač (top left) with the prisoner (screencap)
Dragan Lukač (top left) with the prisoner (screencap)

Last Thursday, two of Bosnia and Herzegovina´s most prominent publications/news-sites: Faktor and Slobodna Bosna revealed the news that the current Minister of the Interior of RS ( Republika Srpska enitity) Dragan Lukač was caught on tape abusing a captured, young Bosnian soldier who was later on Dragan Lukač´s order taken away and killed by another Serb soldier, (the young soldider was brutally executed with a bayonet).

According to Faktor and Slobodna Bosna: On the footage released you can clearly see Dragan Lukač, then commander of the Banja Luka detachment of the “special brigade of Republika Srpska Police”. Lukač and rest of the Serb soldiers on the tape are seen physically and verbally abusing the captured young soldier whose name was Nedžad Dizdarević. The young soldier was forced to wear a fez and after a couple of questions the visibly terrified young soldier was taken away on Dragan Lukač´s order. On the footage you can see Lukač telling the others to “take him away”. Dizdarević was later killed by a one Pavle Gajić from Ključ. Gajić admitted to killing Nedžad Dizdarević during his war crimes trial in 2011. According to Faktor; the Bosnian Court sentenced Gajić to seven years in prison for the brutal murder of Dizdarević a member of the Bosnian Army from the Bihać area. Gajić was sentenced in June 2011 after a plea bargain where he admitted to murdering Dizdarević.

Gajić admitted that he had as a member of Bosnian Serb rebel army unit “Orlovi Grmeča” (The Eagles of Grmeč) in November 1994 in a neighbourhood called Sokolac (Bihać municipality) killed the young soldier using a bayonet. According to the presiding judge Vesna Jesenković; the video evidence as well as witness testimony confirm that on the 24th of November 1994 Gajić killed the visibly frightened prisoner; Nedžad Dizdarević  by slicing his throat with a bayonet. Nedžad Dizdarević, a native of Velika Kladuša was only 22 years old when he was brutally murdered by Pavle Gajić. According to Slobodna Bosna, one of the reasons for the low sentence of only seven years for the brutal murder was partly due to admittence of guilt, as well as other extenuating circumstances which have raised eyebrows since the news broke. According to the court, his invalid status, Gajić´s personal family situation, as well as his uneplyoment  were taken into account at the time of sentencing, while another news-site published a more detailed description of Dizdarević´s execution in the form of and excerpt from the verdict.

According to court records, after the Serb takeover of Sokolac, Dizdarević who was captured during the attack was taken to a spot near the village mosque where a large number of Serb soldiers had gathered, they had heard over the radio that someone had been captured and they “wanted to talk to him”. As seen on the footage, after the abuse and the “questioning”  Lukač told the others to take him away. Dizdarević´s throat was slit, which killed him,  afterwards several Serb soldiers fired their guns into his dead body, leaving wounds of his face, head and neck.

The Bihać enclave found itself under a vicious three way, three-and-a-half-year siege, in part by the VRS (Bosnian Serb Rebel Army), the forces of the Republic of Sebian Krajina (Rebel Croatian Serbs) as well the quisling followers of Slobodan Milošević ´s puppet and convicted war criminal, Fikret Abdić later on during the war. But the citizens of Bihać, Cazin and Bužim, the three towns affected by the s siege, managed to hold on, along with refugees from towns in North West Bosnia that had been “ethnically cleansed” by Radovan Karadžić´s Bosnian Serb extremists.

As I´ve written on this blog before; Lukač and the RS Ministry of the Interior are seen by independent observers in Bosnia and Herzegovina to be in essence acting as Milorad Dodik´s Preatorian Guard. In fact, at the beginning of the year Lukač held a press conference in Banja Luka where he accused an independent journalist and blogger Slobodan Vaskovič  of trying to destroy the entity’s institutions. “For years, Slobodan Vaskovič  with his blog has been calling for the destruction and undermining of the institutions of Republika Srpska, especially the Ministry of Interior,” Lukač told the press that day.

The bizarre notion, that a blogger can “destroy the institutions of RS” shows the conspiratorial nature and the volatility of the Dodik-regime and his aides. Vaskovič has not made his feelings about the RS government a secret, regularly calling it a criminal organisation on his blog which is more or less exclusively dedicated to documenting the malfeasance and criminal activity of the leading politicos in RS.

Vaskovič fired back instantly, accusing Lukač of war crimes, including the murder of a young Bosniak in Bihać in 1992, a one Jasmin Kajtazović. At the time I honestly didn´t think much about it, sadly Vaskovič  didn´t offer any proof and his blog post was more of a rant where  Vaskovič  accused Dragan Lukač of Jasmin Kajtazović´s murder and tried to chip away at Lukač´s image as a Serb strongman by saying that he had spent a large part of the war on the other side, i.e. Bosnian Army and various militias, that he met regularly with Hamdija Abdić-Tigar, one of the Bosnian Army commanders in Bihać and that it was the murder of Jasmin Kajtazović that led to his transfer to Serb-held territory, according to Vaskovič; he was transferred in order to avoid retaliation for Jasmin Kajtazović´s murder.

The problem with Vaskovič ´s claims is that he offers very little proof, and there is nothing out of the ordinary about former soldiers meeting each other, even soldiers that served on opposite sides, it happens all the time, even in Bosnia. Unfortunatly for Vaskovič he still mostly known in Bosnia for a tape that surficed in 2011 showing what he himself did during the war. That being said, if one is to treat Vaskovič with some benevolence,  the video of Lukač ordering the young soldier to be “taken away” shortly before he had his throat slit gives some weight to his claims about Kajtazović. Vaskovič, as a veteran journalist also probably knows more about  Lukač´s past then he´s willing to share in a blogpost and should the day come and Dragan Lukač finally brought before a Bosnian court whatever Vaskovič knows about him might be useful.

However as Bosnian writer Amila Kahrović – Posavljak points out for Tacno.net, Dragan Lukač may never see his day in court, that´s in part due to the state of the Bosnian society as a whole, a society that has decided to tolerate the results of the heinous mass atrocities of the 1990´s. To her Dragan Lukač is a symbol of the criminal policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide of the 1990´s. A policy which as she points out led to the birth and consolidation (thru Dayton) of Republika Srpska. Kahrović – Posavljak also points that since its formation at the beginning of the 90´s MUP RS has only served one purpose; ethnic cleansing and genocide or it´s legalization. “The Ministry of the Interior” starting in the early 90´s worked together with Serb paramilitary units like Vojislav Šešelj´s White Eagels or Sima´s Chetniks. A lot of times the groups were subordinate to the MUP RS.

As Kahrović – Posavljak points out: “MUP RS reached the pinnacle of its existence in July 1995 with  genocide in Srebrenica. Verdicts at the ICTY have also legally established the role of MUP RS in the conflict. The campaign of the 90´s has continued into this century with members of MUP RS showing up at the doorstep of returnees, under the pretence of seeing if the people registered at those homes were the ones really living there, all that continued until SNSD (Milorad Dodik´s party) got what it wanted, a new law which seeks to finish the ethnic cleansing of the 90´s. This is just one of many examples. MUP RS never gave up on its wartime “legacy” but instead has continued with the same ideological platform.”

The other side of the story according to Kahrović – Posavljak is the silence of Sarajevo, above all the fighters for human rights, the cultural elite, and the BiH Prosecutor´s Office.  As she rightly points out had this footage, the footage of a minister taking part in the murder showed up anywhere else in the world, that minister would along with the entire government that protects him, and the prosecutors that remain silent be removed. But as Kahrović – Posavljak says; in Bosnia none of that will happen, simply because the ideology of Republika Srpska has happily come togheter with Sarajevo´s  Bosniak political elite.

Dragan Lukac
Dragan Lukač

However, for Kahrović – Posavljak the saddest role here is played by activists in Sarajevo. According to her; easily recognizable by their concern for the fate of the Canadian squirrel, the lack of parking space for bycilces in Sarajevo and the fact that women don´t have the same rights as men in Papua New Guiana and Afghanistan. As she says; “they´ll happily keep tabs on Aleksandar Vučić´s idiotic statements in the media, or the appointment of ministers in Croatia, but they´ll somehow miss that the Minister of the Interior of RS has taken part in a war crime. Is their silence based on the fact that it´s not that fancy to talk, make appeals, protest or seek immediate removal from office? Or is it that pointing out the war crime of a minister in the RS goverment is uncool and won´t lead to reconciliation and all the other cool stuff which lead to even cooler grants. All that remains unknown….”

Kahrović – Posavljak ends by rightly pointing out that Republika Srpska is abundantly clear when it comes to what they want. The reaction of unofficial and official Sarajevo, the NGO sector as well as the government leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth, because it shows a willingness to accept war crimes. As well as the fact that Banja Luka, as well as Mostar have been written out of the sphere of interest, and aside from that when a crime (along with the silence of the moral watchdogs) can act as means to an end, that means a compromise with fascism, something which all of them are fighting against, at least on paper.

The Truth About “A Town Betrayed”

Srebrenica
Srebrenica

Most people outside of Scandinavia, more precisely Norway and Sweden have never heard of “A Town Betrayed ” a revisionist take on the genocide in Srebrenica and the events that led up to it. It first aired in Norway in the spring of 2011 and later in Sweden in fall that same year. On the surface, it looked like a typical Norwegian documentary with high production values packaged as a “new truth” about the genocide in Srebrenica and the events that led up to it, however it didn´t take long before most people with basic knowledge of the events in and around Srebrenica and the Bosnian genocide to see that this “new truth”  was in fact old lies and discarded conspiracy theories that the filmmakers Ola Flyum and David Hebdicth had repackaged as a “new truth”.

I have written extensively on the documentary on my blog (1 2 3, in Swedish) along with a long host of others. This list includes some of the most noted experts on the Balkans in Scandinavia. As well as journalists and human rights groups who were exposed to the same type of recycled Serb propaganda and conspiracy theories that the filmmakers were peddling as a “new truth”

However I never considered writing about it in English. I honestly saw no need for it, until now. By the spring of 2012 the documentary had been widely perceived as recycled Serb nationalist propaganda. Swedish journalist, of Croatian origin, Tonchi Percan who had covered the wars in Bosnia and Croatia for Swedish press, wrote several times about the documentary saying that Swedish Television should apologize to the victims and survivors for broadcasting what were essentially discarded conspiracy theories that had been floating around in the Balkans and had been debunked by amongst other things the court proceedings at ICTY in Hague. Percan compared it to Swedish Television broadcasting a documentary about the 9/11 attacks being a false flag, without showing any actual evidence.

Still, in time of the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, the documentary floated up again on twitter, spread by Serb nationalists, propagandists and their sympathizers, including far-right loons, in other words; people like: John R. Schindler.

By the fall of 2011 the documentary had been debunked in Norway and exposed as recycled Serb propaganda and conspiracy theories with one of the journalists working on the documentary, the Bosnian Mirsad Fazlic publicly distancing himself in interviews in Norway and Bosnia from it, saying that he protested in several e-mails to the filmmakers that they were in fact trying to distort the what had happened in Bosnia. According to Fazlic once he saw the finished results of several years of work he was shocked, the documentary was clearly pro-Serbian and in it went out of its way to downplay and shift the blame for the genocide from the Serbs.

The documentary was the first program to be brought down in both the Press Complaints Commission ( PFU ) in the fall of 2011 and the Investigation Committee , the Swedish equivalent of PFU in the spring of 2012. The Norwegian PFU wrote that the documentary leaves out some of the most basic facts about the Bosnian war.

Aage Borchgrevink, the senior advisor at The Norwegian Helsinki Committee wrote back in 2011 that the documentary described the Bosnian war in a way that reminded him of the way Serbian state media used to report from Bosnia when Slobodan Milosevic was president.

According to Borchgrevink : ”the documentary was historical revisionism disguised as groundbreaking journalism. Using factually incorrect information, selective use of sources, fringe experts and biased portrayals of events, NRK had described the genocide in Srebrenica the same way Serbian state media had reported from Bosnia when Slobodan Milosevic was president. Ratko Mladic, the general indicted for genocide is portrayed as a decent soldier while Izetbegovic who didn´t bother answering Srebrenica´s calls for help is responsible.”

Borchgrevink also pointed to the fact that the Bosnian Army´s attack on Kravica in January 1993 is described as a “massacre” in the documentary, however the ICTY cleared the Bosnian commander Naser Oric of any wrongdoing during the attack. Several civilians were killed in the attack. However most of those killed were Serb soldiers and the village of Kravica was according to the ICTY  a legitimate military target. According to RDC ( Reaserch and Documentation Centre) 35 Serb soldiers and 11 civilians died in the fighting. An additional 36 Serb soldiers were wounded. This information was collected from offical Bosnian Serb documentation, a document entitled: Warpath of the Bratunac Brigade.

According to the ICTY´s verdict against the Bosnian Army commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric:

Between April 1992 and March 1993, Srebrenica town and the villages in the area held by Bosnian Muslims were constantly subjected to Serb military assaults, including artillery attacks, sniper fire, as well as occasional bombing from aircrafts. Each onslaught followed a similar pattern. Serb soldiers and paramilitaries surrounded a Bosnian Muslim village or hamlet, called upon the population to surrender their weapons, and then began with indiscriminate shelling and shooting. In most cases, they then entered the village or hamlet, expelled or killed the population, who offered no significant resistance, and destroyed their homes. During this period, Srebrenica was subjected to indiscriminate shelling from all directions on a daily basis. Potočari in particular was a daily target for Serb artillery and infantry because it was a sensitive point in the defence line around Srebrenica. Other Bosnian Muslim settlements were routinely attacked as well. All this resulted in a great number of refugees and casualties.(Oric, par.103)

In comparison, it appears that the Bosnian Muslim side did not adequately prepare for the looming armed conflict. There were not even firearms to be found in the Bosnian Muslim villages, apart from some privately owned pistols and hunting rifles; a few light weapons were kept at the Srebrenica police station. (Oric, par.94)

Between June 1992 and March 1993, Bosnian Muslims raided a number of villages and hamlets inhabited by Bosnian Serbs, or from which Bosnian Muslims had formerly been expelled. One of the purposes of these actions was to acquire food, weapons, ammunition and military equipment. Bosnian Serb forces controlling the access roads were not allowing international humanitarian aid – most importantly, food and medicine – to reach Srebrenica. As a consequence, there was a constant and serious shortage of food causing starvation to peak in the winter of 1992/1993. Numerous people died or were in an extremely emaciated state due to malnutrition. (Oric, par.104)

In regards to Kravica, the verdict says:

The fighting intensified in December 1992 and the beginning of January 1993, when Bosnian Muslims were attacked by Bosnian Serbs primarily from the direction of Kravica and Ježestica. In the early morning of the 7 January 1993, Orthodox Christmas day, Bosnian Muslims attacked Kravica, Ježestica and Šiljkovići. Convincing evidence suggests that the village guards were backed by the VRS [Bosnian Serb Army], and following the fighting in the summer of 1992, they received military support, including weapons and training. A considerable amount of weapons and ammunition was kept in Kravica and Šiljkovići. Moreover, there is evidence that besides the village guards, there was Serb and Bosnian Serb military presence in the area. The evidence is unclear as to the number of houses destroyed by Bosnian Muslims as opposed to those destroyed by Bosnian Serbs. In light of this uncertainty, the Trial Chamber concludes that the destruction of property in Kravica between 7 and 8 December 1992 does not fulfil the elements of wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages not justified by military necessity. (Oric, par.662,)

A report from the Bosnian Serb Army´s Bratunac Brigade dated January 4th 1993 says that combat operations in the area Bratunac – Kravica will continue until Serb forces have control over that area. Meaning that far from being on the defensive, the VRS were in fact on the offensive. Lazar Ostojic, the Bosnian Serb commander in Kravica during the attack says in his book, “The Bloody Christmas in Kravica” (Krvavi Božić Sela Kravica) that he had at his disposal 50 elite soldiers from Bjelijna and a so-called “Internventni vod” along with 400 soldiers. According to his account he decided to evacuate the village around 9 o´clock in the morning, leaving only soldiers in Kravica. Last group of Serb soldiers left Kravica at around four in the afternoon. That day he signed off on 22 cases of infantry ammunition and more than 400 artillery shells along with 5000 anti-air craft rounds to his soldiers, proving that Kravica was a highly militarized village and one of the staging points for Serb attacks on Srebrenica.

The Trial Chamber also found that there was  evidence that in Kravica and Ježestica, Serbs fired artillery from houses and other buildings, which led to house-to-house fighting  between Bosnian Army soldiers and the Serb rebels. Furthermore, according to the Trial Chamber;  Serbs located on hills north and northeast of Kravica fired artillery in the direction of Kravica and Ježestica. A witness observed shells landing on houses in the villiges, causing fire. (Oric, par.665)

According to the RDC, the number of Serbs from Central Bosnia buried in Bratunac was consistent with the population movements after the war, especially the Serb population from the Serb-held parts of Sarajevo, which had under the Dayton Peace Accords became part of a re-integrated Sarajevo, having previously been held by Bosnian Serb forces.The political leadership of the Bosnian Serbs called on the population to leave those areas and even take the graves of their loved ones with them. According to RDC such a large percentage of Sarajevo Serbs followed the instructions that parts of the city that had been under  occupation remained deserted for months. Most importantly though,  the RDC notes that the Serb dead from Sarajevo who were later re-buried in Bratunac area are represented as results of actions taken by the Bosnian Army units from Srebrenica.

The RDC also concluded from their investigation of the military cemetery in Bratunac that 139 of the dead soldiers buried there had lived and fought elswhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina during the war, but where nevertheless buried at the Bratunac military cemetery. According to the RDC: “48 victims buried in Bratunac fought and died in Hadzići; 36 fought and died in Srebrenica; 34 and died in Vogosća; 3 in Konjic and 3 more in Ilijas; 2 fought and died in Sarajevo, two more in Ilidza; one in Trnovo, Pale and Tuzla each.” All of these figures are  presented as results of Naser Oric´s actions as well. ( the only ones actually being the 34 soldiers who died in fighting around Srebrenica)

Serbs in Ilijas digging up their dead in winter of 1996
Bosnian Serbs in Ilijas digging up their dead in winter of 1996

In January 1996 HRW´s Emma Daly reported from Sarajevo about the removal of bodies from cemeteries and Serbs burning their own houses rather then let it fall into the hands of the “Muslim enemy” as well as the fact that Bosnian Serb forces were still firing into the city, and killing civilians months after Dayton Peace Accords had been signed. (Daly reported for The Independent during the Bosnian war)

Borchgrevink also points to the United Nations 155-page report on the fall of Srebrenica, where former UN-secretary general Kofi Annan says that the Serbs exaggerated the Bosnian Army attacks as way of disguising their real objective; which was an ethnically pure Serb state. That meant that Serb forces killed tens of thousands Bosniak and Croat civilians during the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. According to Borchgrevink; – “Srebrenica was not an ordinary military operation as NRK´s expert (John R. Schindler) points out but the culmination of the ethnic cleansing of eastern Bosnia.”

Borchgrevink goes on to say that the documentary´s expert (John R. Schindler) recycles old controversial Serb nationalist claims about 1300 Serb civilians killed around Srebrenica, and that of the Bosniaks killed by Serb forces after the fall of Srebrenica only some “2000 disarmed prisoners of war were executed by elements of the Bosnian Serb Army´s counterintelligence” while the rest were killed in combat while trying to reach Tuzla.

This is of course nonsense, even if it´s cleverly packaged. As Borchgrevink writes; John R. Schindler´s  claims are refuted by RDC´s findings, which show that of the 567 Serbs killed in the Bratunac area (Where Naser Oric´s alleged crimes took place) 448 were Serb soldiers, and the rest, 119, were civilians. This is of course a lot, but nowhere near the figures Schindler cites. It should be added that John R. Schindler  himself has used RDC findings in his now eviscerated propaganda tract Unholy Terror. British historian, well known Balkan expert and genocide scholar Marko Attila Hoare, who reviewed Schindler´s book pointed to Schindler´s amusing blunders in regards to RDC figures. Hoare writes:

One of the more amusing of Schindler’s blunders concerns the scientific calculation of the figure for Bosnian war-dead carried out by Mirsad Tokaca’s Research and Documentation Centre in Sarajevo, which placed it at about one hundred thousand. Schindler seems to endorse this figure wholeheartedly, seeing it as proof that earlier estimates of Bosnian war-dead had been ‘grossly exaggerated’, and complaining that Tokaca’s result ‘got minimal attention in Bosnia or abroad’ (p. 317). The reason this is amusing is that Tokaca’s figures disprove several of the figures for Serb dead at the hands of Bosnian forces that Schindler himself cites. Thus, Schindler claims that ‘more than 3,000 Bosnian Serbs, some soldiers but at least 1,300 unarmed civilians, had been killed by Muslim forces based in Srebrenica’ (p. 228).

Borchgrevink also points out that international forensics experts have identified 6481 individual victims from various mass graves from around Srebrenica and have determend that over 8100 Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) were killed. Subsquent trials that have taken place at the ICTY and ICJ (International Court of Justice) have proven that Srebrenica was an act of genocide, a well planned and carried out mass murder with the intent to destroy the Bosniaks of Srebrenica and Zepa as an ethnic, religous and a political group.

It should also be added that Borchgrevink´s and Norwegian Helsinki Committee critique of  “A Town Betrayed” and it´s main “expert” John R. Schindler came in May 2011. Since then figures regarding those found in mass graves has changed, given that Srebrenica is still an active crime scene and that about 1000 of those killed in the genocide still are uncounted for. As of June 2015, the figure of those Bosniaks who have been identified stands at 6930, working from a set of 17,000 human remains located in 93 mass graves. This of course destroys the filmmakers and John R. Schindler´s thesis that the majority of Srebrenica´s Bosniaks were “killed making their way to Tuzla” instead they were captured and taken to various execution sites. For more, see Christian Jennings: Bosnia´s Million Bones- Solving the World´s Biggest Forensic Puzzle)

Borchgrevink also refutes Schindler´s claim that the reason Ratko Mladic wanted to take the town was due to arms smuggling into Srebrenica. Schindler and the filmmakers remain quiet about the notorious Directive 7 order issued out by Bosnian Serb leadership in March 1995, four months before the genocide in Srebrenica. Directive 7, signed by Radovan Karadzic called for the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims from the safe areas. The safe areas included Srebrenica and Zepa. On March 8th 1995, Radovan Karadzic issued Operational Directive 7 from the Supreme Command of the VRS. The Directive ordered the VRS (Bosnian Serb Army) to “complete the physical separation of the Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves as soon as possible, preventing even communication between individuals between the two enclaves. By planned and well-thought-out combat operations, create an unbearable situation of total insecurity, with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica or Zepa.”

As Ed Vulliamy and Florence Hartmann point out in a new report published by The Guardian, Mladic had told the Bosnian Serb assembly, “My concern is to have them vanish completely”, and that Karadzic pledged “blood up to the knees” if his army took Srebrenica.” Directive 7, was of course known, or should have been known to the filmmakers and John R. Schindler, yet it does not appear anywhere in the documentary. A pretty big omission in my opinion…

But the most telling sign of what this documentary´s objective really was, is the fact that behind the scenes, the documentary´s advisors and consultants were made up of what Eskilstuna-Kuriren´s political editor Alex Voronov called “a Serb nationalist propaganda centre and a revisionist sewer”

This sewer included Zorica Mitic, a physician from Belgrade who had since 2000 lived in Norway. In Serbian media, like Pecat and various Serb Diaspora sites she had repeatedly denied that what had happened in Srebrenica was an act of genocide and had highly recommended sites and organizations that had “exposed the myth of genocide” (go ahead, just read the link from Pecat and Glas Dijaspore) among the sites she had recommended was a Hague-based NGO called “Srebenica Historical Project”  led by a Serb-American lawyer Stephan Karganovic who was in 2012 compared to Holocaust denier David Irving by USHMM and Foreign Policy Magazine. Srebenica Historical Project is funded in part by Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik as USHMM and Foreign Policy explain. Dodik is one the most fervent genocide deniers in the Balkans, as late as June 2015 he called the genocide in Srebrenica “the biggest sham of the 20th century.”

Another “consultant” to the documentary was a man named Ozren Jorganovic, who for a while worked for Norwegian State Television. (NRK) I don´t  know how he got the job in Norwegian State Television, but what is known is that during the Bosnian war Jorganovic was station manager of Radio Ozren, a Bosnian Serb propaganda station near Doboj, as well as Radio Doboj during the war.

Aside from Borchgrevink´s critique, the Norwegian Helsinki Committee also sent the Norwegian Television an 18-page report listing 25 (!) factual errors in the documentary. Here is the full report, in Norwegian (PDF)

It would be simply impossible to list and translate all the inaccuracies and falsehoods in the documentary; the Norwegian Helsinki Committee´s report is 18 pages long (!) so here are just a few of the most important ones. (Within the first ten pages!) However the points that NHC raises show the real intent of the filmmakers and the level of deception that they engage in.

1 (3) the documentary claims that Bosnia´s Muslim majority declared independence (in the spring of 1992) and that a civil war erupted as result of that. This is misleading. There was a referendum on March 1, 1992 about the independence where Bosniaks, Croats and some Serbs voted for independence. A large number of Serbs voted against or boycotted the referendum. What happened after was that Bosnian Serb forces along with Serb forces (both regular and paramilitary) attacked the Bosniak civilian population and representatives of the Bosnian authorities in April 1992. After the initial attack on Bosnia, Serbia officially tried to distance itself from the war, but Serbian authorities continued to support and exercise control over those forces. This has also been established by the ICTY and the ICJ (International Court of Justice)

2 (4) 6:32 The documentary says that “two years later (1992) there is a civil war in eastern Bosnia” The documentary does not explain how that war played out in that part of the country. During the ethnic cleansing of eastern Bosnia thousands of civilians were killed and the surviving Bosniaks expelled to Bosnian-government controlled territory or forced into the enclaves of Gorazde, Zepa and Srebrenica where they were subjected to artillery attacks. These areas were declared “safe areas” by the UN Security resolution on 16 of April 1993. One of the main problems with that was that the despite the Security Council´s decision there was a lack of willingness from the UN-member states to send enough soldiers to protect the area.

3 (8) 25:20 The documentary says that the Bosniaks promised that they would not attack Serb villages from Srebrenica and not harass the Serbs the area of Sarajevo in connection to the establishment of the safe areas. It´s true that both sides broke the agreement on demilitarization, but the documentary avoids mentioning that the situation was asymmetrical and that the Serbs did not remove their heavy artillery from around Srebrenica. Instead Serbs used it to shell the area. In addition to blocking aid to the enclaves and taking UN-personnel as hostages on several occasions.  A delegation from the UN-Security Council, led by Diego Arria arrived in Srebrenica on April 25  1993 and in its report the UN condemned the Serb forces for carrying out that what was called a “slow-motion process of genocide” The report concluded “that Serb forces must withdraw to points from which they cannot attack, harass or terrorize the town”. In the end the Serbs captured two of the enclaves, Zepa and Srebrenica.

And lastly, the report points out that it has been proven in the Krstic verdict that Srebrenica had immense strategic importance for the Serb war effort. Being situated as it is in the middle of what was planned to be a “Greater Serbia”

”Srebrenica (and the surrounding Central Podrinje Region) were… of immense strategic importance to the Bosnian Serb leadership. Without Srebrenica, the ethnically pure Serb state of Republika Srpska they sought to create would remain divided into two disconnected parts, and its access to Serbia proper would be disrupted.”

NHC concludes that is the reason why Srebrenica was attacked and that the decision to kill the male population of Srebrenica has to be viewed in that context.

Note: As I wrote above, the full report is 18-pages long and points to in total 25 similar falsehoods and factual errors which show that this is not a question of innocent mistakes, but a deliberate deception on the part of the filmmakers and the “experts” and “consultants”.

For my Bosnian readers, I can highly recommend Sanjin Pejkovic´s dissection (in Bosnian) of the documentary. Sanjin has written extensively about it in Swedish. He, along with Alex Voronov  and others were engaged in a debate with the filmmakers, a debate which the filmmakers lost.

There is of course plenty more to be said about this documentary, and a lot of it explained by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee´s 18-page report as well Pejkovic´s dissection of the methods used by the filmmakers and what they were alluding to.

As for me, I can only say that I am proud to have been a small part of a larger group of dedicated people who worked on exposing the lies told in the documentary.

Furthermore for those not interested in recyceled Serb nationalist lies and propaganda, I can highly recommend the following documentaries on Srebrenica:

Srebrenica- A Cry From The Grave, from 1999. Full Documentary.

As well as the new Dutch documentary: Why Srebrenica had to Fall

Also check out BBC´s new documentary about the genocide:

 

This post has been edited and uppdated on 19/07/2015

P.S. I had previously (erroneously) written that 448 Serbs died in the Bratunac area in total. That has been corrected. The correct figure is; 567, of those 448 Serb soldiers and 119 civilians. Follow the RDC link for full info.

Thinking of Graham Bamford

Graham Bamford
Graham Bamford

Very few people know who he was, indeed most Bosnians and Herzegovinians (for whom he did what he did) don´t know who Graham Bamford was but on April 29 1993 at the height of massacres, ethnic cleansing, systematic sexual violence and all the other horrors of the Bosnian genocide, he stood in front of the House of Commons in London and poured gasoline on himself and set himself on fire as a way of drawing attention to the suffering of the Bosnian people. He was 48 years old at the time and had one child. Reportedly, his final words were: “The British must stop the war in Bosnia, even by force, if necessary. The British army does not (only) have to be a guardian of honor at mass funerals. Bosnian babies, children, and women are patiently waiting for the politicians to do what they know they need to do – acquire military protection. They should not stand aside and calmly observe”.

Bamford had been very moved by images coming first from Croatia and then from the carnage in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to testimony from his friends and acquaintances and his psychologist, he saw his own daughter in every victim from Bosnia and Herzegovina. What drew him to finally act was the HVO massacre in Ahmici in April 1993, where 116 men, women and children were killed.

But it wasn´t until 2009 that the city of Sarajevo gave him some of the recognition he deserved by naming an award after him, an award given to Bosnian and foreign citizens and individuals  for “acts of civic courage, solidarity, humanity and altruism.”  Be that as it may, to this day most Bosnians and Herzegovinans don´t know of Bamford and his ultimate sacrifice. Plans for a memorial in his honor were in the works but it has thus far not been realised. In the meantime people like Milan Bandic (later revoked)  and the utterly inept ( go ahead, tell me I’m wrong) Valentin Inzko have been named honorary citizens of Sarajevo. We should be ashamed of ourselves for not honouring this man properly.

It´s long overdue that he receives the recognition he deserves. One can of course question his actions, if it was too much, and if there maybe have been better ways to protest the horrors of the Bosnian war? If his actions brought even more pain to his family? Nevertheless, it happened and we should at least properly honor his sacrifice. It`s really as much about us as it is about him. Failure to properly acknowledge Bamfords ultimate sacrifice while at the same time awarding people like Inzko and Bandic, and others (however much the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina disagree with those politically motivated awards) says a lot about the current state of things. We need to  rise above it, or finally admit to ourselves that we really aren’t as wonderful as we like to tell ourselves, and that thru our silence we are very much complicit in what has been going on.

Trailer for a documentary about Bamford written and directed by Croatian director Nenad Puhovski, called: Graham and I- A True Story ( Graham i ja)

Srebrenica är vad som kan ske ifall man nonchalerar nationalister

Jag gör en uppdatering på min blogg just nu, vilket inkluderar artiklar som har publicerats i tidningar och nyhetsajter. Den här artikeln publicerades på SVT Opinion 11-07-2014 

9 maj i år återinvigdes Sarajevos Vjecnica, det gamla nationalbiblioteket.

Den hade förstörts av serbiska styrkor natten mellan 25-26 augusti 1992 i en riktad attack som ödelade nationalbiblioteket, förstörde en överväldigande del av de böcker, manuskript och publikationer som fanns där. En stor del av Bosniens skrivna historia gick upp i rök den dagen trots hjältemodiga insatser från brandmän och vanliga medborgare att rädda så mycket de kunde.

Detta var också anledningen till att biblioteket skulle förstöras, det som fanns där motsade det som hade predikats av Radovan Karadzic, Biljana Plavsic Ratko Mladic och andra serbiska politiker och ledare, nämligen att Bosnien som stat kunde inte överleva och att det gick inte för serber att leva ihop med bosniaker och kroater. I biblioteket fanns beviset för att de hade fel.

Biblioteket innehöll bevis för en heterogen bosnisk kultur som hade formats av de som hade bosatt sig landet under århundraden och som motbevisade de som vill ha en mur mellan kristendomen, islam, judedomen, mellan folk.  Bosnier hade visat att det gick….

Fortsätt läsa på SVT Opinion…

Returning To Eastern Bosnia

Muniza Oprasic
Muniza Oprasic

Last month media in the Balkans reported that Muniza Oprasic, a 78-year old Bosniak returnee to Republika Sprska was ordered by a district court in Eastern Sarajevo which is in the RS entity to pay 10 000 euro to a Serb family who lived in her house as squatters in the village of Okruglo for about seven years until 2003. During that time Muniza Oprasic lived as a refugee. Oprasic who now lives of her pension, which is 320 Bosnian marks [160 euro] appealed to anyone who can help since she as an elderly returnee to that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina has no means to pay the fee ordered by the court. The Serb family sued Muniza Oprasic since they most likely had assumed that she would never return to her house and her village and therefore made renovations to the house for which they now expect to be compensated for.

Clearly shocked by the court´s decision Muniza said to reporters from BIRN that she didn´t understand how such a thing could happen. This was her home, and she didn´t understand what gave them the right to go into her home at all? Living there for seven years in her house while Muniza lived as a refugee away from her home. Now the Serb family wanted her to pay for renovations they had made on someone elses house. Since Muniza has no means of paying the large amount set by the district court in Eastern Sarajevo; the court decided to take it out of her  monthly pension, which is 160 euro. The court said that they will take half or maybe as much as 100 Bosnian marks (50 euro) which would be unberable for someone her age, given that she needs medicine and has bills to pay.  When BIRN talked to her she openly appeled to help from anyone who could help her…

According to Muniza this is the way returnees to Visegrad are being treated by the Serb-led authorities in that part of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Muniza´s village; Okruglo lies a few kilometers from the old town of Visegrad, in the past most famous for it´s old Ottoman era-bridge built by Mehmed-pasha Sokolovic and immortalized in Ivo Andric´s novel  Bridge on the River Drina, now infamous as the site of some of the worst atrocities during the Bosnian war. On 6th of April Visegrad was attacked by the Yugoslav People´s Army´s (JNA) Uzice Corps under the command of Dragoljub Ojdanic. Ojdanic later went on to become Chief of General Staff of the “reformed” Yugoslav Army (Vojska Jugoslavije) and was later found guilty for crimes against humanity, and sentenced to 15 years for his role in Milosevic´s Kosovo campagain. By April 14th 1992 his Uzice Corps had with the help of Serb paramilitaries, managed to take over the town installing a Serb nationalist government which proceeded to arrest and harass segments of the Bosniak and other non-Serb parts of the population. After the the JNA formally left the town on May 19th the systematic and wide-spread targeting of the town´s Bosniak community began, with arrests, disappearances, abduction of prominent local figures, executions carried out by local paramilitary units, setting up of detention camps, including the Uzamnica camp  where the inmates, both male and female subjected to physical abuse, including sexual violence. The turning of the hotel and spa resort Vilna Vlas into a rape camp where Bosniak women and girls were systematically raped by Serb police, paramilitary units and soldiers.

As well the mass executions of civilians all around Visegrad, some of the civilians were taken from their houses and rounded up, others abducted from their workplace, others taken off buses, and led to the banks of the river Drina where they were told to go into the water and executed by Serb paramilitaries or taken to ravines where they were executed and their bodies dumped into the ravines or pits. The mass killings in Visegrad also included two of the arguably most horrific cases of mass-murder early on in the war. First being The live pyre at Pionirska Street, where over 60 people were barricaded into a house which was later set on fire, 53 died. Killed by two men who are most likely Europe´s most well-known living mass-murderers; Milan Lukic and his cousin Sredoje Lukic. According to journalists who covered the war, and especially the butchery in Visegrad; the two men, especially Milan, probably killed more people during the Bosnian war than anyone else. Two weeks after they had burned 53 alive people on Pionirska Street, they repeated the act in a Visegrad neighborhood Bikavac where they barricaded another group of people into a house before setting it on fire. One person survived.

But the biggest execution-site was the old bridge itself. As Ed Vulliamy noted in the Guardian back in 1996; “the bridge is visible from almost every balcony and window in Visegrad, it´s cobblestones are a stage at the foot of an amphitheatre; the executions were intended to be as public as possible.” From their balconies witnesses watched as Milan Lukic in his red Passat together with his companions in the trucks behind would arrive at the bridge each evening. They would unload the prisoners and start killing them.  “We saw them by day or by the city lights, whether they were killing men that time, women or children. It took half an hour, sometimes more.” One witness recalled… The prisoners who were between life and death were stabbed before being thrown of the bridge into the river. According to one witness; sometimes they threw people off alive shooting at the same time.  Another witness, recalled how Milan Lukic enjoyed playing music from his car radio while throwing two men into the river; one of the men shouted that “he couldn´t swim” while Milan Lukic fired his gun into the river.

Visegrad, photo: Velija Hasanbegovic
Visegrad, photo: Velija Hasanbegovic

At the start of the Bosnian war, Visegrad and other places like it along the Drina Valley or Podrinje received a minimum of attention from the world press. What was happening in eastern Bosnia, all along the Drina Valley as well Prijedor, Kozarac, Sanski Most, Kljuc and other towns and hamlets in northwest Bosnia, and Bosanska Krajina was part of the hidden war that the Serbs were waging far away from the carnage taking place in Sarajevo. Karadzic could not keep Omarska, Trnopolje & Keraterm a secret for too long, but by then he had “cleansed” much of what was to be “Greater Serbia” of non-Serbs. As Vulliamy, one the chroniclers of the Bosnian genocide wrote in The Nation in June 1996, one of the middle-managers of genocide; Professor Nikola Koljevic a close associate of Radovan Karadzic, and wartime vice-president of RS as well as a Shakespeare scholar had said sardonically to him in the Serbian capital Belgrade 1992; “So you found them! Congratulations!  It took you a long time to find them, didn’t it? Three months! And so near to Venice! All you people could think about was poor, sophisticated Sarajevo. Ha-ha!” And then, as Vulliamy recalls, added with a chill in his voice: “None of you ever had your holidays at Omarska, did you? No Olympic Games in Prijedor!”

He was referring to the concentration camps in northwest Bosnia and the implication was clear: The dismay many felt about what was taking place in Sarajevo and the focus on the Bosnian capital meant that the Serbs were free to carry out their plans more or less uninterrupted elsewhere in the country. After the war Koljevic tried to commit suicide on January 16 1997 by shooting himself in the head and died in a Belgrade hospital a week later from the wounds. By then he had been edged out of the Bosnian Serb political leadership by Biljana Plavsic and Momcilo Krajisnik. Both Plavsic & Krajisnik were later convicted of war crimes by the ICTY.

By the end of June 1992, a Serb police inspector in Visegrad, Milan Josipovic recived a request from the the Bajina Basta hydro-electric plant just across the border in Serbia. The director of the plant asked Josipovic if those responsible could “slow down the flow of corpses” on the Drina river. According to the plant director; the corpses were clogging up the culverts of the Bajina Basta dam at such a rate that he could not assemble enough staff to remove them.

13 years later, Josipovic, who was then 48 years, was shot twice in the chest and once in the head while he was in his coffee-grinding shop. There have been speculations that he was killed by a shadowy group called Preventiva charged with protecting wanted war criminals, including Milan Lukic. In 2005 Josipovic testifed against Novo Rajak, a member of the Visegrad police who  had taken part in the mistreatment of Bosniak civilians. After that rumors started to circulate that Josipovic was ready to give evidence against higher-level officials and that may have sealed Josipovic´s fate. His killer/killers have never been arrested.

In 2010 a small boat got stuck in the turbines of the Bajina Basta hydroelectric power plant, in order for the turbines to be repared the dam had to be emptied. That gave people from Institute for the Missing Persons of Bosnia-Herzegovina what was in effect their last chance to track down the bodies of of Bosniak civilians who had been killed in Visegrad and dumped into the Drina River. As Irena Antic from the Helsinki Committee For Human Rights Serbia  pointed out;

Everybody knew that throughout 1992 bodies of the Bosniaks were ending up in the turbines of the Bajina Basta hydro-electric power plant, thrown there by executioners, Milan Lukic’s “Revengers” and members of other Serb formations, who believed no one would ever find them in such a place. No one – some working for the plant or in hydro-electric sectors of Serbia or Republika Srpska, or an official of that Bosnian entity or the neighboring state – had ever suggested that the Drina lakes or even its basin should be emptied in the search for the killed.

Antic went on to say that once the team from Institute for the Missing Persons of Bosnia andHerzegovina got to Perucac they were met with rough terrain, mines, cracked soil, snakes and piles of clay, as well as high temperatures in the summer and rain, mud and wind in September.  According to the director of the Institute, Amor Masovic; fifteen people from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina made up the investigative team. The team moved on foot down both banks of the lake. They started at the old bridge in Visegrad and moved along the canyon all the way to the lake. “It was a multiethnic team sharing the same goal” according to Masovic. The investigators were soon joined by a team from Serbia looking for the remains of Kosovars killed by Serbian State Security Forces during the 1998-1999 Kosovo war. After a while a survivor organization made up of survivors and relatives of those killed in Visegrad 1992, called; “Visegrad 92” made an appeal for help which lead to hundreds of volunteers from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina and some from Serbia as well showing up at the exhumation-site trying to help the investigators. The long list of volunteers included students from Sarajevo University, utility workers from Sarajevo and former citizens of Visegrad now living abroad and in other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina, many of them had lost loved ones during the massacres carried out by Serb forces in Visegrad area and for them this was the probably the last chance to maybe find the remains of their loved ones. Firefighters, speleologists, rangers, de-miners, and members of Bosnia´s special police forces helped too. In total the remains of 250 people were exhumed during those few months, needless to say, there was no help from the authorities in Republika Sprska who as Antic rightly points out were too afraid of the consequences draining the lakes on the border between Bosnia and Serbia might have, what might be found there, let alone draining the Drina basin, the bottom and the mud which most likely hides the largest amount of remains.

The remains exhumed at Perucac were just a small fraction of what lies beneath, together with the 126 citizens of Visgerad who were exhumed at the village Slap near Zepa back in 2000. The bodies found in Slap were gathered by the villagers as they floated down the river and buried in shallow graves. One of the people Vulliamy interviewed back in 1996 had escaped the carnage in Visegrad and found refuge in Zepa which was together with Srebrenica and Gorazde the only Bosnian-controlled enclave in eastern Bosnia. After Serb forces took Srebrenica in July 1995 they set their sights on Zepa which fell two weeks later after fierce resistance from the vastly outgunned and desperate Bosnian soldiers defending it. Vulliamy´s interview subject, then simply named “Jasmin R” was captured, in Serbia as were many men from Zepa as they tried to make their way to Serbia or Montenegro hoping to avoid the fate of those killed in Srebrenica. By Christmas 1995 Jasmin was evacuated to Dublin from a prison camp in Serbia. When he arrived in Zepa he was 14 and deemed too young to fight, he was instead assigned to Slap, a junction between the Drina and Zepa rivers. His job was to bring up the bodies of murdered civilians from Visegrad as the current flowed to Zepa. He was to bring them ashore in a small boat and bury them, often under fire from Serb forces. Jasmin and others, they dug the graves and buried the people gathered from the river, some of them Jasmin had known personally, they had been his neighbours in Visegrad. According to Jasmin; “the bodies came almost every day Men and women, old and young. They had been beaten and tortured, they were black and blue, and some had been decapitated. Yes, and there were children. Mostly 10 or 12, and two infants of about 18 months.”

During the trial of Mitar Vasiljevic back in 2001, Amor Masovic stated that by then the remains of 311 people belived to be from Visegrad had been exhumed from 14 different locations in Visegrad, Sokolac and Rogatica. Vasiljevic had been one of Milan Lukic´s closest companions. Before Masovic took the stand, another man who had worked on bringing up and burying the bodies floating down the Drina, Mevsud Poljo testified about bringing up about 170 to 180 bodies from the river together with others. Poljo belived that the bodies they pulled out of the Drina constituted maybe one fifth of the total number of corpses floating down the river. After they pulled the bodies out of the river they searched them for any form of identification before burying them, mostly at the banks of the small river Zepa near Slap.

Exhumations At Lake Perucac photo: Velija Hasanbegovic
Exhumations At Lake Perucac photo: Velija Hasanbegovic

Many of those Poljo, Jasmin and others didn´t manage to pull out of the water most likely ended up in the culverts of the Bajina Basta hydro-electrical plant.

A proper search would mean that a greater number of those killed in Visegrad and surrounding villages would be found. As it is now that is improbable as Serb-led authorities in Visegrad have done everything in their power to erase the memory of those atrocities, including an effort to destroy the house on Pionirska Street, the site of the live pyre that took the lives of 53 people. Re-built by survivors to serve as memorial to those killed it came close to being destroyed last year on the same day as Serb authorities in Visegrad erased the word genocide from a the Straziste cemetery. (A large number of those exhumed and identified from Visegrad and the surrounding area are buried there. ) As of today, the house on Pionirska still stands but that does not mean it´s not in harm´s way. The original date set for the destruction of both the house on Pionirska and the removal of the word genocide from the memorial on Straziste was December 24th 2013 Christmas eve, but due to the controversy this caused in Bosnia and the statements made by OHR, the US Embassy and OSCE the action was delyed, until one month later that is, when the Serb-led authorities in Visegrad finally entered the Straziste cemtery and removed the word genocide from the memorial to the fallen. They did not touch the house that time but there are reports that all final appeals to prevent the demolition of Pionirska Street house have been exhausted.

Muniza Oprasic faces a similar fate as the house in Pionirska Street. The original ruling came 2012, which she appealed and at the end of last month the district court in “Eastern Sarajevo” ruled that she had to pay 10 000 euro to the Serb family. Her story isn´t new but it´s indicative of the way returnees are treated in Republika Srpska.

After the original ruling back in 2012 she spoke to Bosnian media about the situation saying that she lived as a refugee in Sarajevo until 2003. The local Serb authorities had given the Serb family material to rebuild the house which had been damaged in the war.  The repairs were carried out without her permission. The Serb family lived there for years, while she had no access to her land and house. They sued her for the renovations that they had made to the house without her permission and that she and her husband were not aware of.  According to Muniza there was a ruling in her favor too, by which the Serb family was forced to pay a 100 KM or 50 euro to Muniza for every month that they had lived there on her property but according to her; she never saw a penny of that money. They refused to remove the windows, doors and some other things they had put in to the badly damaged house; instead they sued her for compensation.

When journalists from Al Jazzera Balkans visited her two years ago they found her living a humble existence in her house on her property in Okruglo. A picture of Mecca along with some Quranic verses adores her living room walls. She was orphaned during World War II. During the visit to Muniza journalists also spoke to Nedim Jahic, a human rights activist from Sarajevo who believes that the verdict against Muniza is absurd. Jahic said that if Muniza had returned to an empty house in 2003 she would have probably received donations and her house would have been renovated at no cost to her. She wouldn´t be facing the situation she is facing today, having to pay 10 000 euros to people who lived in her house at the order of local authorities.

Still, according to Hajro Poskovic, a legal expert with the OSCE in Sarajevo temporary users of abandoned houses have a legal right to be compensated for any repairs they make, but that the owner also has the right to be compensated from the local authorities, in this case the owner is Muniza Oprasic. Strictly legally speaking that would mean that Oprasic would pay the 10 000 euros to the Serb family and then seek compensation from the local Serb authorities who settled the family in Muniza´s house in the first place.

However Muniza Oprasic is a 78 year old pensioner with no other income except her pension which is 160 euros every month, she has no means of paying 10 000 euros and given the legal situation for returnees in Republika Srpska it is naïve to think that the she will ever be compensated from the Serb authorities in Republika Srpska. With the appeal process apparently exhausted, if she does not find the money, 10 000 euro to give to the Serb family she will most likely be evicted from her home.

Note: Irena Antic´s piece for Helsinki Committee For Human Rights referred to Milan Lukic´s paramilitary unit as the “Revengers” (Osvetnici) Most court documents in english as well as articles on Visegrad refer to them as “Avengers” as well as the Balkan Insight piece which claims that Muniza Oprasic is 71 years old, while all the Bosnian articles on her, including articles in Klix, Dnevni Avaz and Slobodna Bosna indicate that she is 78 years old today.

This post has been uppdated and edited on 12/03/2015

Police Raid on Klix.ba

Police from Republika Srpska aided by local police from Sarajevo raided the offices of Bosnian news site Klix.ba in an effort to discover the source of an incriminating audiotape of Zeljka Cvijanovic, ( of Milorad Dodik´s party SNSD) the prime minister of Republika Srpska and close associate of Milorad Dodik. In mid November Klix.ba published an audiotape where allegedly Cvijanovic and another woman are talking about buying off opponents in Republika Srpska.

At the beginning of the recording you can hear Cvijanović telling another woman not to worry, and the other women saying; “it´s probably those two hicks” to which Cvijanović replies; “yes from Šukalo´s party, (Adam Šukalo, leader of Stranka Napredna Srpska, which translates to; The Srpska Party of Progressives)  but we have bought two others, and we´ll see if they are quality purchases, if the first two bail on us we have two others”

At one point in the recording the other woman who is talking to Cvijanović is asking her if “they could force the issue of…” and telling her that “they have already lobbied Miloš Kovačević” (Miloš Kovačević is well known linguist) to start talking about Bosniak/Bosnian language, to which Cvijanović says; “of course, let him run with it. Who´s stopping him… It´s up to the academic community to talk about that and to explain, and to make TV-shows about that..”

Audio-recording published by Klix.ba

Serb nationalists in Republika Sprska have for a long time denied the existence of a Bosnian language instead claiming that there are three separate languages in Bosnia: Serbian, Croatian and “the language that Bosniaks speak” or a “Bosniak laungage.” There is only one official laungage in RS, and that is Serbian with two mandatory alphabets, Cyrillic and Latin. While in the other part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the Federation there are three official languages; Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian.

According to Klix.ba police units from RS and local Sarajevo police entered their newsroom sometime after eight in the morning, told them to get up out of their chairs and directed them to another room. The police were led by one Siniša Kostrešević and they had court order issiued by judge Igor Todorović from Sarajevo Cantonal Court. According to Klix; from the moment the police entered the newsroom, Klix staffers were not permitted to publish any kind of news reports and that only after a couple of hours were they permitted to leave the premises with the exception of one journalist, Edita Gorinjac, owners Dario and Mario Šimić and chief editor Jasmin Hadžiahmetović. Klix employees were not allowed to use the telephones or to have contact with anyone outside the newsroom. Only after a couple of hours were the journalists who at the time were not in the newroom allowed to publish any kind of news reports but were warned not to publish anything about the raid which apparently lasted more the 7 hours. The police took out the hard-drives out of all computers in the Klix newsroom along with USB-sticks, cellphones CDs, and laptops along with other documentation the police thought they needed.

According to Slobodna Bosna; Siniša Kostrešević, the man who led the raid is head of the Republika Srpska MUP´s (Ministry of the Interior) Organzied Crime and Anti Corruption Unit and was once head of the police in small town Laktaši near Banja Luka. Laktaši is also Milorad Dodik´s birthplace and hometown. Apperently Kostrešević rose to prominence togheter with the rise of Milorad Dodik´s SNSD to power in RS.

Bosnian portal Žurnal reported back in November of 2011 that the two main opposition leaders in RS, Mladen Ivanić (PDP) and Dragan Čavić (DP) said that they had credible information that the authorities in RS were planning to “deal with the opposition” in a unlawful matter, mainly the leaders of the opposition. According to Ivanić the intention of the authorities in RS was to intimidate the leadership of these two parties and their closest associates. Dragan Čavić said that he had credible information that the leading structures in RS had issued a directive to the police in which they are obliged to “at all cost compromise him and Ivanić and the people around them” Čavić went on to say that several sources had confirmed that police in RS was conducting illegal wiretapping of Ivanić and Čavić, apparently Čavić raised the issue of illegal wiretapping in the People´s Assembly of RS. Čavić´s claims were denied by Stanislav Čađo, minister of the police. According to Čavić there was nothing else Čađo could do but deny the claims, nevertheless Čavić said that he had credible information about the main players involved and that he had obtained that information from members of RS police who were not ready to be a part of such illegal activities.

Čavić also 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 (Milorad Dodik´s party) 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 Žurnal: MUP RS ( Ministry of the Interior) had spent 1,36 million KM or 513 000 Euros 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. Žurnal´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 and which could only be operated by five people.

The source also said that the new equipment was placed into the old MUP building, known as: ”the blue building” and that the old equipment was removed along with the five MUP employees that handled the equipment. They were replaced by five new specially selected officers who had gone through a special training process at the Belgrade-based Vizus firm. They were all handpicked by Milorad Dodik´s head of security Miloš Čubrilović “Čubri” According to the source the new equipment is capable of monitoring both cell phones as well as land lines.

Žurnal´s source within MUP RS also had confirmed to 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; Siniša Kostrešević who is the man that decides who stays and who goes.

Going back to the raid on Klix.ba; once the police from Republika Srpska was finished with their raid they left the building with the material that they had confiscated, they were followed by Klix photographers and other journalists to their cars. At one point one the RS cops struck a Klix photographer with his elbow. The whole incident can be seen in the video clip below:

Veteran journalist Goran Milić who now works for Al Jazeera Balkans pointed out that cooperation between the two BiH entities; the Federation & RS is apparently possible and only wished that that cooperation would work when it comes to more important things and not when it comes to raiding offices of a news-site like the case with Klix.ba since they have done nothing wrong. Milić also pointed to the case of the Al Jazeera journalists imprisoned in Cairo as well as the fact that journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina have in the past experienced numerous attempts by authorities to disclose their sources.

A number of people on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter have raised the question of why did a judge in Sarajevo agree to issue a court order for raid on a Federation news-site? Especially since they have done nothing wrong. Many see that as evidence that authorities in BiH have no problem with cooperation when it comes silencing the media. It should be added that Zeljka Cvijanović and SNSD have denied the authenticity of the recording published by Klix.ba yet they still apperently felt compelled to raid the offices of Klix.ba to find out who the source was.

Others have brought up the tragic death of Snježana Krajišnik who died two days ago after falling into a deep ravine on Romanija which is in RS yet very close to Sarajevo. People have pointed out that Krajišnik could have been saved if the local authorities in Republika Srpska had requested help from neighboring Sarajevo instead of waiting on a helicopter to arrive all the way from Banja Luka on the other side of the country. Snježana Krajišnik´s life was not important enough to ask for assistance from Sarajevo while when it comes to raiding the offices of a news-site police in Republika Srpska have no problem asking for assistance.

Another veteran journalist and founder of weekly Dani, Senad Pećanin pointed to the fact that Milorad Dodik´s influence now apparently extends beyond Republika Srpska  and that Klix.ba is now going thru what BN TV in RS has been going thru for months and years now.

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

OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović urged authorities in BiH to “do their utmost to stop persecuting journalists and to respect their right to protect their sources” and said that the raid represented a grave and disproportionate intrusion into the journalists right to report about public interest issues. Mijatović pointed to several instances where police in both parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina have tried to silence journalists and expressed concern for the way media and journalists are treated in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Some of the reactions on Twitter to today´s raid on Klix.ba

One of the journalists detained today; Edita Gorinjac tweeted a picture of a desk after the police raid, saying this is a part of something that used to be a computer.

“Journalism is not a crime” written in Bosnian.

Sarajevo Remembers Second Markale Market Massacre

Markale 28th of August 1995 Photo: ICTY
Markale 28th of August 1995 Photo: ICTY

This  week saw Sarajevans pay their respect to the victims of the second Markale Market massacre which took place 28th august 1995 and took the lives of 43 people and injured another 75 when a shell fired from Serb position outside the city landed in the crowded marketplace. According to the UN-report on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina from November 1999, 5  mortar rounds landed in a crowded area of downtown Sarajevo around 11 o´clock on 28th of august 1995, one of those rounds landed in the crowded Markale Market place killing 43 people and wounding another 75. Approximately a year and a half before the market place had been struck by Serb shelling, killing 68 people and wounding 144.

In October last year Jeremy Bowen took the stand in the trial of Ratko Mladic, Bowen had served as BCC´s war correspondent in Bosnia and Herzegovina. According to his statement he had been in Sarajevo for most of the time and that “no place was safe” in the city, there was no shelter from the Bosnian Serb shelling and sniper attacks. Many of those TV reports that Bowen had made for BBC while in Sarajevo were shown during his testimony including the shelling of Hotel Europa where refugees that had been expelled from other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina were staying.

Another video showed an artillery attack on children and other civilians in Sarajevo cemetery during the funeral of Vedrana Glavas. Glavas was a two-year old girl who was killed together with another child in a sniper attack on a bus transporting children from and orphanage. The children were being evacuated from the city.

One of those that had survived the second massacre on Markale, Ismet Svraka recounted his experiences that day during the trial of Ratko Mladic. According to Svraka he had lost his left leg and two toes on his right foot in the massacre as well as suffering from stomach pain and intestinal problems caused by shrapnel in his abdomen. Svraka had gone to downtown Sarajevo to deliver a letter to his sister and had taken the back streets in order to avoid snipers, after he had delivered the letter he went to the Markale market where he saw two friends standing in front of the market building when a shell exploded and the shouting and panic started. According to Svraka he was thrown in to a car and taken to a hospital. The prosecution played two video clips of the massacre, according to the IWPR report, “in the the first one you could see piles of contorted bodies lying on the ground amid the pools of blood and debris. Some are lifted into nearby cars, and screaming and shouting can be heard in the background.”

Ismet Svraka was able to identify himself as one of those on the ground.  The second clip was altogether more graphic and was shown after Svraka had left the courtroom. The clip showed a man lying face-up in the street with the top of his head completely blown open and blood gushing into the pavement.

During the trial of Dragomir Milosevic, a protected witness: W-137 testifed that; “all of the victims of the shelling were being rushed to hospital in the trunks of many cars, without any distinction as to whether the victims were dead or alive”. According to the witness those collecting bodies could not be certain who was dead and who was still alive and so they rushed to pick up everyone and take them to the hospital as soon as possible.

Djula Leka a resident of Sarajevo had been at the Markale Market when the mortar rounds landed, she was about five to seven meters from the place of impact. She was injured while her brother in-law was killed by the Serb mortar round. She said that a policeman at the scene stopped a car to transport her to the hospital but that the car was full of dead bodies so she refused to get in. To this day she feels pain in her chest and shoulder as result of the injures she received on that day.

Mesuda and Ismet Klaric were immediately taken to surgery, Ismet didn´t survive. The mortar round had landed about five meters behind them. Directly after the mortar hit Mesuda felt like she wasn´t fully conscious or able to see what was going on. When she came to she saw  that she was sitting on the ground with her husband next to her. He told her that he had lost his arm while she was bleeding heavily from her leg. Mesuda also saw people lying on the street towards the cathedral as she was being carried to a car to take her to a hospital with her husband. In the car were also a young man and a young woman, according to Mesuda, the foot of the young girl had been severed by the blast. (page 220-221 D.Milosevic Verdict)

Several Bosnian police officers arrived at the scene minutes after the blast at Markale Market. W-137 a KDZ technician said that he had been in the area with a colleague when he heard a lot of cars sounding their horns and human arms and legs sticking out of the cars he arrived seven minutes after seeing the cars as he and his colleague went back to get their equipment. He described the scene he found at Markale Market as “the last, deepest circle of Dante’s hell” (page 224)

Markale Photo: ICTY
Markale Photo: ICTY

During the trial of Stanislav Galic, the first commander of Sarajevo-Romanija Corps the trial chamber found that there was evidence that the sniping and shelling activity of the SRK in and around Sarajevo were under the direct control of the SRK’s chain of command and that if he had wanted, Galic could have punished those who committed crimes since the trial produced ample evidence that he was aware attacks on civilians by SRK (Sarajevo-Romanija Corps) The trial chamber also concluded based on evidence that not only did Galic knew of the attacks on civilians in Sarajevo but that he indeed controlled pace and scale of those crimes. According to the trial chamber Galic did this with the primary aim of of spreading terror among the civilian population of Sarajevo. Galic was sentenced to twenty years in prison´for crimes against humanity, including grave breaches of the Geneva Convention as well as for the first Markale Massarce in February 1994.

Stanislav Galic was replaced by Dragomir Milosevic on August 10th 1994.  In 2009 after an appeal Milosevic´s sentence was reduced from 33 to 29 years. Nevertheless Dragomir Milosevic was sentenced for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. According to the Appeals Chamber verdict: Milosevic conducted a campaign of snipering and shelling attacks on the city of Sarajevo and did so with the primary aim of spreading terror among the city’s civilian population. He conducted a campaign of artillery, mortar and modified air bomb shelling of civilian areas of Sarajevo and on its civilian population.

The siege of Sarajevo was the longest of it´s kind in modern times. It lasted three time longer then the siege of Stalingrad and a year longer then the siege of Leningrad. Beginning on April 5th 1992 and last for almost 4 years, 11541 people lost their lives, of those 1601 were children. Approximately 50 000 people were wounded by artillery and sniper fire coming from Bosnian Serb positions around the city.

List of those who died in the massacre: Omer Ajanović, Hidajet Alić, Salko Alić, Zeno Bašević, Husein Baktašević, Sevda Brkan-Kruščica, Vera Brutus-Đukić, Halida Cepić, Paša Crnčalo, Mejra Cocalić, Razija Čolić, Esad Čoranbegić, Dario Dlouhi, Salko Duraković, Alija Dževlan, Najla Fazlić, Rijad Garbo, Ibrahim Hajvaz, Meho Herceglić, Jasmina Hodžić, Hajrudin Hozo, Jusuf Hašimbegović, Adnan Ibrahimagić, Ilija Karanović, Mesudija Kerović, Vehid Komar, Muhamed Kukić, Mirsad Kovačević, Hašim Kurtović, Ismet Klarić, Masija Lončar, Osman Mahmutović, Senad Muratović, Goran Poturković, Blaženka Smoljan, Hamid Smajlhodžić, Hajro Šatrović, Samir Topuzović, Hamza Tunović Ajdin Vukotić, Sabaheta Vukotić, Meho Zećo Narima Žiga.

On 28th August this year ICTY NEWS posted this short clip of the aftermath.

Short clip from BBC documentary; Death of Yugoslavia on the second Markale Massacre.