WORLD COURT ASKED TO RULE ON GENOCIDE
Generals and politicians have been convicted of genocide, but the U.N.’s highest court will consider Monday whether a nation – in this case Serbia – can be guilty of humanity’s worst crime.
The stakes potentially include billions of dollars and history’s judgment.
Thirteen years after Bosnia filed the case with the International Court of Justice, its lawyers will lay out their lawsuit against Serbia and Montenegro – the successor state for the defunct Yugoslavia – charging it with a premeditated attempt to destroy Bosnia’s Muslim [Bosniak] population, in whole or part.
“Not since the end of the Second World War and the revelations of the horrors of Nazi Germany’s ‘Final Solution’ has Europe witnessed the utter destruction of a people, for no other reason than they belong to a particular national ethnical, racial, and religious group as such,” said the lawsuit’s opening paragraph, drafted for the Bosnian government by American lawyer Francis A. Boyle.
It is one of the most complex and far-reaching rulings ever sought from the tribunal, also known as the world court. Arguments are scheduled to take six weeks, and it likely will be a year before the 16 judges deliver their verdict.
The case hinges on whether the court is persuaded that the Serbian state, and not just a group of individuals, had the specific intent to wipe out the Muslims of eastern Bosnia as a distinct community.
If the judges rule in Bosnia’s favor, they would decide later whether to award financial reparations, which could total billions of dollars. The court’s rulings are binding, and a refusal to abide by them could be referred to the U.N. Security Council for action.
Croatia, another republic that splintered from the crumbling Yugoslav federation, has a similar genocide case against Serbia pending at the world court.
The Bosnia case is the first to be heard under the world court’s new president, British Justice Rosalyn Higgins, 68, who also is the only woman among the U.N.-elected judges.
Hundreds of Bosnian survivors will start a vigil Monday outside the neo-Gothic Peace Palace where the court sits.
Bosnia submitted the lawsuit in March 1993, less than a year after Yugoslav-backed Serb paramilitary forces began attacking Muslim villages adjacent to Serbia. The Bosnians claim the Serbs intended to drive out the residents and create a Greater Serbia.
In a horrific roster of atrocities, the lawsuit cites case after case of the slaughter of civilians, mass rape, the systematic destruction of mosques and cultural heritage sites, and the creation of “extermination camps.”
Within weeks, the court issued an interim order against “Yugoslavia and its agents and surrogates” to halt their campaign of “ethnic cleansing,” including the murder, bombardment and starvation of the Muslims.
But worse was to come.
Two years after the documents were filed in The Hague, Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Gen. Ratko Mladic massacred more than 8,000 Muslims during one blood-soaked week in the U.N.-declared safe haven of Srebrenica.
A separate U.N. court in The Hague – the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia – already has ruled that genocide occurred at Srebrenica.
The Yugoslav tribunal convicted two Bosnian Serb army officers of complicity or aiding genocide, and several other suspects struck plea bargains to evade genocide charges. It currently is trying former President Slobodan Milosevic.
Mladic remains at large, branded one of the world’s most-wanted fugitives. He is believed to be hiding in Serbia with protection from hard-liners in the Serb military and police – loyalists of Milosevic.
In recent days, reports of Mladic’s imminent capture circulated, but they have proven false. In Belgrade, the Blic daily newspaper said negotiations on his surrender were under way and that Mladic allegedly “refuses to make a deal” with authorities.
Serbia-Montenegro’s faces a European Union deadline to surrender Mladic by Feb. 28 or have its membership talks with the bloc frozen. The EU’s council of ministers scheduled a Monday meeting in Brussels, Belgium, to decide whether to punish Belgrade if Mladic is not captured.
“Serbia knows that negotiations may be suspended or may never be concluded if Belgrade fails to cooperate fully,” chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said this week.
Genocide was not specifically outlawed until the 1948 Genocide Convention, prompted by the Holocaust.
The first genocide conviction came 50 years later, when a special U.N. court on Rwanda sentenced a former mayor, Jean-Paul Akayesu, to life imprisonment for complicity in the deaths of thousands of Tutsis. The Rwanda court has handed down a score of convictions since then.
Unlike the Rwanda or Yugoslav tribunals, the International Court of Justice does not try individuals. It deals only with claims among U.N. member states, but rarely in claims of this scope. In its 60 years, it has most often has adjudicated border or maritime disputes.
DEFENDANT IN SHOOTING OF SREBRENICA BOSNIAKS ACKNOWLEDGES VIDEO
– Croatian Court Jails Srebrenica Killer
– Serb Soldier Gets 15 years in Srebrenica Video Killings
– Serbia: Second Defendant Admits Killing Srebrenica Muslims
– Denial of Srebrenica Video Killings Collapses
Belgrade — War-crimes fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, accused of genocide and crimes against humanity stemming from the Bosnian war, has been located and authorities are negotiating his surrender, a top state security official said Tuesday.
Gen. Mladic was located but “he has yet not been arrested,” the official, who is close to the operation to locate Gen. Mladic, told the Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The state news agency Tanjug reported earlier Tuesday that Gen. Mladic was arrested in Belgrade and being taken to a U.S.-run air base for transport to the UN war-crimes tribunal.
The Prime Minister’s spokesman denied the Tanjug report that Gen. Mladic was arrested.
Srdjan Djuric, spokesman for Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, told the AP in a statement that Gen. Mladic had not been arrested. He called the report a “manipulation” to attempt to derail the government’s efforts to detain the wartime Bosnian Serb army commander, who has been on the run since the 1990s.
In Washington, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Gen. Mladic “continues to be a fugitive from justice.” When asked if Gen. Mladic had been arrested or apprehended, Mr. Ereli replied that he was not aware of either’s occurring.
The conflicting reports caused confusion in Belgrade. There have been numerous incorrect reports in the past that Gen. Mladic was captured.
Gen. Mladic is wanted by the war-crimes tribunal on genocide charges related to Europe’s worst carnage since the Second World War – the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys (related link) from Srebrenica in 1995 – and for other crimes during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war.
Serbia, seeking to establish closer ties with the European Union and NATO, faces renewed international isolation if it fails to extradite Gen. Mladic to the UN tribunal in The Hague.
European Union officials have warned that Serbia’s initial talks on joining the 25-nation bloc could be frozen unless he is handed over by the end of February.
Officials at the EU and NATO said they had no information about the reported arrest.
Earlier Tuesday, senior Kostunica aide Vladeta Jankovic predicted that Gen. Mladic would be captured “soon.”
“Those who are searching have all means and are in full swing” in efforts to capture Gen. Mladic, Mr. Jankovic said. He said the government wanted to persuade the general to surrender.
He said later Tuesday, however, that he had no information on whether Gen. Mladic’s hiding place had been located or whether the government was involved in any negotiations for his surrender.
Gen. Mladic, 62, is No. 2 on the tribunal’s most-wanted list after Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic (related link), who remains at large.
Under an indictment last amended in October 2002, the UN war-crimes tribunal charged Gen. Mladic with 15 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in 1992-1996.
If tried and convicted, he faces life imprisonment, the tribunal’s maximum punishment. The UN court has no death penalty.
Related link: Ratko Mladic: $5,000,000.00 Reward
GOOD DAY FOR THE WORLD: HOLOCAUST DENIER, DAVID IRVING, JAILED
SARAJEVO PHOTO TOUR, SUMMER 2005
When you think about Bosnia, what is the first thought that comes to your mind? Is it Genocide? War? Hate? Destruction? Well, if you answered “YES” to any of the above questions, it’s time for you to change your opinion. Bosnia is also about Beauty, Love, Peace, and Co-Existence. Let me introduce you to the Capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. You might even want to visit it one day!
Photo tour of Sarajevo (Summer 2005) follows… enjoy it and share it with your friends! And please don’t forget to leave some comments. :)
In 2004 the European Parliament passed a motion formally recognising this tragedy as a genocide.
World Chechnya Day is being commemorated to:
* Recognise the suffering and genocide of the Chechen people as a human catastrophe of historic significance
* Respect all victims of Stalinist deportations
* Raise awareness and understanding of the Chechen genocide as anissue of importance to humanity
* Ensure that the horrendous crimes, racism and victimisation that were committed during the Chechen genocide will never be forgotten or repeated, in Europe or elsewhere in the world
* Reflect on contemporary atrocities that raise similar issues
* Educate subsequent generations about the genocide and the continued relevance of the lessons that can be learnt from it
* Assert a continuing commitment to oppose racism, victimisation and genocide
* Support shared aspirations for the ideals of justice, security, dignity and peace for all
To learn more about World Chechnya Day, its history, its supporters and other events taking place worldwide, please visit: www.worldchechnyaday.org
The website is intended to be a portal for Chechnya commemoration events worldwide. Also attached is an overview document on the Day.
How can you help?
Organise Event! We are encouraging people and organisations all around the world to organise film showings and talks locally, to sell and wear the World Chechnya Day wristbands and, generally, to raise awareness of the Day and the issues concerned. If you are already commemorating the Deportations in any way then we would be grateful if you could let us know by submitting details online at:
Please feel free to contact email@example.com for documentaries, speeches or any other support you require for your local action. Posters and flyers are now available: http://www.worldchechnyaday.org/page/Posters__Flyers
Translate World Chechnya Day Document We are translating the attached document into as many languages as possible to publish on the World Chechnya Day website.
Currently we are still seeking translations into the following languages: Greek, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian/Farsi, Portugese, Spanish, Swedish.
The translation should be of high literary standard and will be checked prior to publishing. Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from many of you very soon,
World Chechnya Day
..a day that few are aware of and yet none should forget..
By: Nisvet Nezic (Serb-run Manjaca Concentration Camp Survivor)
Before I start, I have to warn you and ask parents to remove young children as what I am about to tell you is a graphic recount of only a part of suffering my people had to go through, little more than a decade ago.
My speech tonight is titled “I am a survivor of a Serb concentration Camp.” The last few weeks were very emotional to me because I was faced with two challenges at the same time. The first challenge is to attempt to translate into words what the title of this speech really means and feels like, to us survivors. My second challenge was to deal with the unavoidable reliving of the torture and suffering I and my compatriots were subjected to in the concentration camps all over Bosnia during the whole length of the war. Every time I tried for the past several nights my thoughts wandered away, memories become too real and painful. I again felt the Chetnik’s baseball bats beating on my back like it happened yesterday.
I was arrested on June second nineteen-ninety-two, while hiding in a forest near my birth place, together with five of my friends. Immediately after the first contact with Chetniks, we realized they had no humanity in themselves. They tied our hands behind our backs and started beating. At one moment one of the Chetniks grabbed me by my hair, pulled a long knife from his boot, placed it on my throat, swore at me and said “What are you going to do now? I am about to decapitate you.” All I could do was look at his eyes ad calmly say “The knife is in your hands. Do what you want.” As if someone put the thought in my head that he was seeking pleasure in my fear. Then his commander came, swore at him and said “Leave him alone. You know we need them alive.” I was spared.
I arrived at Manjaca, the concentration camp, on June twelveth. I was surprised by the number of Bosniaks who were already there. Over the next few months over four thousand people turned into over four thousand walking skeletons. We were given so little food that in just two months we lost twenty to forty kilograms in average. At times we went without water for days, and even when we got it, four of us had to share one cup.
In addition to hunger and thirst, we were tortured many other ways. We were beaten with baseball bats wrapped in barbwire, an inch thick electrical cables with metal balls attached at ends – a device specifically created for torture. They cut our skin with knives, cut our ears off, our genitals, leaving us to bleed helpless. They threw hand grenades in rooms full of prisoners. They randomly and aimlessly shot bursts of automatic rifle fire through windows, killing and wounding dozens at a time. They used bulldozers to load corpses onto trucks for transport to destinations unknown. Today we know where they are. Teams of international forensic experts are still excavating mass graves of my people of all ages and both genders. Sometimes they forced us, the inmates, to load our dead friends onto trucks. I had to do that myself. One of the corpses I loaded had a slit throat. Another had a punctured heart. But the image that will never leave me is one of a dead inmate with his eyes still open. A cigarette but was extinguished in his right eye. “Your lives are worth less than our bullets” – they kept telling us. So they killed and tortured us with knives, baseball bats, electricity, hunger and thirst. They competed at inventing harder ways for Bosniaks to die. They took virtually everything from us except our faith and pride.
The real focus of my speech tonight is not to tell you all the details of the torture I personally endured. I wish to give you a brief recount of another person’s story that made me the person I am today and has a strong message for all of us here tonight and all of humanity. His name is Dragan Draganovic, my first cousin and best friend. We slept in the same room at Manjaca. Almost every night about four Chetniks came for him after dusk. They forced him out and beat him for half an hour at a time. At the end they open the door and throw him back inside. Often he had to crawl back to his sleeping spot on bare concrete floor. This went on over 7 months of our imprisonment at Manjaca….
Incredibly, they broke his body many times over but his spirit remained intact. Every morning he found the strength to get up, walk around in the barn where we were kept and sometimes, he even told jokes as if to cheer up the rest of us. About four hundred Bosniak prisoners were held in this barn and we all admired his bravery and refusal to give up. We called him “the Rubber man.” But only him and I knew how much human strength, love and will to live it took to endure what we went through. Many times I wanted to take his place, to receive his beating. But he did not allow it in fear that Chetniks would find out and kill us both. In rare nights when they spared him we talked for hours and gave courage and hope to each other that this horrible evil would end one day. That we’ll again have a chance to hug our children, breathe air with full lungs and look up into the sun…
We never lost hope. Three days before my release we separated for the first time in our lives for more than a few days. Dragan was lead out of Manjaca with five-to-six-hundred other Bosniaks and Croats. They were taken to a different camp. The following three days I dried out my tears crying for him. Because of this separation I think I was the only inmate that came out of there more sad than happy. When I came to Croatia and met Dragan’s family I had to find a way to control my emotions and explain his three year old daughter why her father was not with me. That was harder for me than all the Chetnik torture I endured over my 7 months of horror.
Later I found out that Dragan was transferred to another concentration camp called Batkovic where he spent another year going through similar torture. Midway though the war he was exchanged for a Serb soldier. He then joined the Bosnian defense army and became one of the bravest fighters and greatest human beings I ever had an opportunity to meet.
His humanity and the message here tonight can be most accurately summarized by his visit to a war prison where Serb soldiers were held. When I asked him how he reacted when tables turned, when he had an opportunity to face again the soldiers of an army that tortured him. He said “I remembered what you and I went through. I remembered all the torture and suffering… I felt compassion toward them. I gave them a pack of cigarettes and asked the prison guards not to harm them in any way…”
At the end of the war he joined his family.
I personally am very thankful and privileged today to have spent a good portion of my life with a person like Dragan. I owe my thanks to Dragan, who showed me that regardless of what happens to you, life with love is incomparably better than life with hatred in heart. This is what kind of people we Bosniaks are. We carry love in our hearts, not hatred. Even with over a thousand destroyed mosques, their churches are standing still. For all the evil they released upon us we did not choose to answer with hatred and wish for revenge. We answered with wish for peace and life together. We showed to the whole world how freedom, homeland and family are defended.
Unfortunately, however, we felt alone in this struggle. Some of the world’s powers even encouraged us to give up and surrender. An impossible proposition because we would have handed our lives to the people who raped our mothers and sisters and bombed our schools and hospitals. Who chose not to recognize any human laws at the times of their historic trial. Who, as it is proven today by the International Tribunal for War Crimes, committed the act of genocide.
Dragan’s story also shows that family, love and faith comprise the power that helps us endure even the hardest challenges. It tells us that while we must not allow ourselves the sin to forget the evil some of us are capable of, we must look up and live on. We must pass even our most negative experiences to our next generations in form of lessons of how to cherish and promote universal human values and how not to fall into the trap of hatred and revenge.