Archive for June, 2006


June 30, 2006 8 comments

Naser Oric was acquitted of all charges on appeal,
read here.


Naser Oric, defender of Srebrenica, listens as Judge reads lengthy judgment acquitting him of most charges and convicting him of failure to punish men under his control for mistreatment of about 16 Serb soldiers.

Naser Oric was found NOT GUILTY and therefore acquitted of any direct involvement in the mistreatment of about 15 Serb captives (of which about 5 died) and of responsibility for the “wanton destruction” of homes and property. But he was found GUILTY of failing to control and discipline men under his command.

The UN war crimes tribunal imposed a light two-year sentence on the commander of the Bosniak defenders of the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica for failing to prevent murder and/or cruel treatment of about 15 Serb captives (about 5 of them died).
But the tribunal in The Hague ordered his immediate release since he has already been detained more than three years.
Naser Oric, 39, was acquitted of direct involvement in the murder of prisoners. He was acquitted of all charges related to the wanton destruction of Serb villages.

But the judges found he had closed his eyes to the mistreatment of captives and failed to punish their killers.

The incidents took place from December 1992 to March 1993 (before Srebrenica became “Safe Heaven”), when Serbian forces were ethnically cleansing, torturing, raping, and killing Bosniak population of Eastern Bosnia.

International Court: Naser Oric cleared of any direct involvement in mistreatment or murder of Serb soldiers“The accused was entitled to credit for the period of time he spent in custody since 10 April 2003 and the Judges therefore ordered that he be released as soon as the necessary practical arrangements have been made,” the court said in a statement.

Many of the 52 witnesses that the prosecution called were members of the Bosnian Serb Army who participated in the seige and massacre of over 8,100 Srebrenica Bosniaks.
Correspondents say many Bosniaks regard Mr. Oric as a hero, and believe the decision to prosecute him was made to counter complaints by Serbs that the tribunal was biased against them.
In court, Oric listened impassively as the lengthy verdict was read out.

Serbian media falsely claimed that over 3,000 Serbs died around Srebrenica. However, the Research & Documentation Center (which aids ICTY war crime investigations) found that number to be 9 to 10 times lower. RDC concluded:

The allegations that Serb casualties in Bratunac, between April 1992 and December 1995 amount to over three thousand is an evident falsification of facts. Perhaps the clearest illustration of gross exaggeration is that of Kravica, a Serb village near Bratunac attacked by the Bosnian Army on the morning of Orthodox Christmas, January 7, 1993 . The allegations that the attack resulted in hundreds of civilian victims have been shown to be false. Insight into the original documentation of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) clearly shows that in fact military victims highly outnumber the civilian ones. The document entitled “Warpath of the Bratunac brigade”, puts the military victims at 35 killed and 36 wounded; the number of civilian victims of the attack is eleven. [Read Full Report]

In fact, the International Court found that only 16 Serb were mistreated in the Naser Oric Case. Contrast that with over 8,000 slaughtered Bosniaks in Srebrenica, hundreds of thousands of Bosniaks who were ethnically cleansed from the area of Eastern Bosnia, and another tens of thousands missing in the area of Eastern Bosnia [RDC].
In determining the sentence the Trial Chamber gave pivotal consideration to the general circumstances prevailing in Srebrenica and those particular to the accused and to the crimes committed. The judges described conditions in Srebrenica at the times of the crimes in 1992 and 1993 as abysmal. They noted that militarily superior Serb forces encircled the town and that there was an unmanageable influx of refugees there, as well as a critical shortage of food and the breakdown of law and order. The judges also noted that it was in these circumstances that Oric, then aged 25, was elected commander of a poorly trained volunteer force that lacked effective links with government forces in Sarajevo. His authority, they assessed, was scorned by some other Bosnian Muslim leaders and his situation became worse as the Bosnian Serb forces increased the momentum of their siege.

The judges found that there is no other case before the Tribunal in which the accused was found guilty of having failed to prevent murder and cruel treatment of prisoners in such a limited manner and in such abysmal personal and circumstantial conditions as in this case. Consequently, the sentence imposed reflects this uniquely limited criminal responsibility.
The Tribunal’s Trial Chamber II convicted Oric because he had reason to know about acts of murder and cruel treatment committed at the Srebrenica Police Station and a building behind the Srebrenica municipal building where Serb prisoners were kept between 27 December 1992 and 20 March 1993, and he failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence of the crimes. The Trial Chamber acquitted the accused of a number of other alleged crimes.
The Trial Chamber, composed of Judge Carmel Agius (presiding), Judge Hans Henrik Brydensholt and Judge Albin Eser heard 80 witnesses. A total of 1639 exhibits were tendered into evidence.
Mr. Oric was found:

NOT GUILTY and therefore acquitted of:

Under Count 1: Failure to discharge his duty as a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence of murder from 24 September 1992 to 16 October 1992 pursuant to Articles 3 and 7(3) of the Statute, and failure to discharge his duty as a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to punish the occurrence of murder from 24 September 1992 to 16 October 1992 and from 27 December 1992 to 20 March 1993 pursuant to Articles 3 and 7(3) of the Statute.
NOT GUILTY and therefore acquitted of:
Under Count 2: Failure to discharge his duty as a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence of cruel treatment from 24 September 1992 to 16 October 1992 pursuant to Articles 3 and 7(3) of the Statute, and failure to discharge his duty as a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to punish the occurrence of cruel treatment from 24 September 1992 to 16 October 1992 and from 27 December 1992 to 20 March 1993 pursuant to Articles 3 and 7(3) of the Statute.
NOT GUILTY and therefore acquitted of:
Count 3: Failure to discharge his duty as a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent or punish the occurrence of acts of wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, not justified by military necessity, pursuant to Articles 3(b) and 7(3) of the Statute.
NOT GUILTY and therefore acquitted of:
Count 5: Wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, not justified by military necessity, pursuant to Articles 3(b) and 7(1) of the Statute.
Under Count 1: Failure to discharge his duty as a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence of murder from 27 December 1992 to 20 March 1993 pursuant to Articles 3 and 7(3) of the Statute.
Under Count 2: Failure to discharge his duty as a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence of cruel treatment from 27 December 1992 to 20 March 1993 pursuant to Articles 3 and 7(3) of the Statute.
Related: Naser Oric Trial Ends – Fairness Questioned

You might also be interested to read lengthy (but very interesting) IWPR piece: Oric Released Following Conviction

Oric’s Two Years – By Human Rights Watch


June 28, 2006 3 comments

Brief intro by Blog’s owner: Marko Boskic allegedly helped kill 12-hundred men and children at Srebrenica, where over eight-thousand Bosniaks were murdered during Srebrenica massacre in 1995. The killings were part of ethnic cleansing by Serb separatists and was the largest massacre in Europe since World War Two. Boskic had been living in Peabody and working as a construction worker when he was arrested last year. Jury selection took place Monday in U-S District Court in Boston. Boskic faces deportation back to Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he could be tried as a war criminal.

By Megan Tench, Globe Staff
Marko Boskic - Serb Soldier who Gunned Down Over 1,200 Srebrenica Civilians (men, elderly, children) during Srebrenica Massacre in 1995.Marko Boskic, a Bosnian immigrant living in Peabody, kept a gruesome secret from US government officials who accepted him as a refugee from the war-torn Balkans, prosecutors said yesterday.
The local construction worker was formerly a soldier in the Serbian military’s 10th Sabotage Detachment, which forced 1,200 Muslim [Bosniak] men and boys onto buses, unloaded them on a farm outside Srebrenica, lined them up in groups of 10, and shot them as part of a horrific campaign of “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia in the 1990s, prosecutors said on the opening day of Boskic’s trial in US District Court in Boston.
Boskic, 41, was charged in 2004 with five counts of lying to federal officials and concealing his role in the 10th Sabotage unit on the portion of the US immigration form that asks whether he had ever persecuted anyone on the basis of their religion or ethnicity. If convicted, he could face prison and deportation.
But his defense lawyer, Max D. Stern of Boston, told the jury yesterday that Boskic, an ethnic Croat and Roman Catholic, was also a victim of the bloody events that took place in Bosnia in the 1990s.
Stern told the 12 jurors that Boskic was arrested after helping family members flee and was held by the Serbian Army in a concentration camp for six months. He was released only on the condition that he join the 10th Sabotage Detachment, Stern said. When Boskic refused to participate in the massacre, a commander threatened to kill him.
“He did it because a gun was put to his head and he was told, ‘You do it or you will be shot,’ “
Stern said. “This is not a war crimes case. This is a case about false statements.”
In opening statements, Assistant US Attorney Jeffrey Auerhahn described in grisly detail the massacre of over 1,000 Muslims at Branjevo farm in 1995. Less than a handful survived, he said.
Through a Serbo-Croatian interpreter, Becir Salihovic, a survivor now living in Milwaukee, told jurors that on July 11, 1995, he was ordered to leave his home in Srebrenica, which had been overrun by the Serbs. He and other Muslim men and boys were later herded onto buses and from the windows saw a horrifying scene: empty shells from automatic rifles, and dead bodies, he said.
On July 16, Salihovic’s hands were tied behind his back, he recalled.
He was loaded on the second of three buses filled with Muslims.
The buses soon stopped at a farm filled with dead bodies, he said, and the soldiers started lining up the men in groups of 10 and shooting them.
“We were holding onto each other,” he said. “I was holding the T-shirt of the guy behind me. They told us to put our heads on the backs of the other guy. I was put in a line right in front of the dead bodies.”
And then the Serbs started shooting, he said.
“I fell down on the field and a dead guy fell on my back,” he said.
The Serbs then started shooting some of the wounded, including Salihovic, to make sure they were dead.
Luckily, the bullet passed through his clothes under his armpit, he said.
He lay still under the corpses until the next morning, he said. “I was crawling through the dead bodies,” he said, until Serb soldiers caught sight of him and he ran.
Salihovic found refuge under a bridge, he said, and he met other survivors. But on July 26, 1995, he was caught by the Serbian army and brought to the same concentration camp where Boskic said he was held months earlier. Salihovic spent five months there before he was exchanged for Serbian prisoners, he said. He was reunited with his family and immigrated to the United States in 2001.
Salihovic was not asked to identify Boskic during testimony.
Megan Tench can be reached at


1. Butcher of Srebrenica wants his own admission kept silent
2. Elusive Justice: Marko Boskic, a man who gunned down 1,200 Srebrenica Bosniaks
3. Bush administration has no interest in prosecuting Srebrenica massacre suspects
4. Phoenix: Mecca for Srebrenica massacre fugitives


June 22, 2006 4 comments


Today I received a comment from someone who identified himself (or herself) as “Canuck10”. Here is my response to the comment:

Canuck10 said:
The simple and most effective solution which the Serbs wanted before the war even began, was a division of land. If the Bosnian Muslims had agreed to the reality that Croats and Serbs have no interest in living in a Muslim-dominated Bosnia, the war would never have started.

My Response:

Srebrenica Massacre (7/11 1995) - Srebrenica child being led away to slaughter

The simple and most effective solution for Serbs was not to boycott the referendum for Bosnian independence. Had they participated, Bosnia would never have been able to gain 60>+% of votes in support for independence. With regard to the division of Bosnia, I need to remind you that this could only happen if three ethnic groups agreed to divide Bosnia politically between Serbia and Croatia. Bosnia-Herzegovina has never belonged (and will never belong) exclusively to Serbs to decide what to do with it. Bosnia-Herzegovina has never been “Muslim-dominated” as you state. Before the war, the Bosnian government was comprised of all ethnicities. Even during the war, the Bosnian government fought for a democratic, united, secular, and internationally recognized Bosnia-Herzegovina. Of course, Serbs had problems with western style democracy and secularism, because they felt comfortable with Milosevic’s type of socialism.

Canuck10 said:
With respect to Srebrenica, it was unfortunately a legitimate military target. The so-called “safe haven” was used to protect Naser Oric, an indicted Muslim war criminal, who ran raids from Srebrenica for years, killing and butchering Serb civilians in the surrounding towns. He even videotaped his murder sprees. As a result, the town became a legitimate military objective and was destroyed. The American military doctrine of applying overwhelming force against a target is well understood and was applicable here.

My Response:

Srebrenica Massacre (7/11 1995) - Srebrenica children being slaughtered by Serbian forces (Scorpions)

You are doing a bad job of trying to justify the slaughter of over 8,000 Bosniaks, many of them children. In other words, your reasoning is sick. Let’s put it this way, if largely demilitarized Srebrenica was a ‘legitimate’ military target as you state, then surrounding Serb villages were also legitimate military targets for Oric’s raids because all these Serb villages around Srebrenica were nothing more but fortified Serbian military strongholds from which Serb forces bombed Srebrenica civilians on a daily basis (read Srebrenica Massacre Answers for more detailed account of Serbian military strongholds in Serb villages around Srebrenica). Another thing: While Bosniaks demilitarized enough for UNPROFOR to issue a press release, on 21 April 1993, saying that the process had been a success, Serbs never demilitarized around Srebrenica. Serbs clearly violated the demilitarization agreement!

Let’s quote some facts. Here is a short excerpt from United Nations’ General Assembly Resolution
53/35 that addresses the issue of demilitarization.

Criticisms have also been leveled at the Bosniaks in Srebrenica, among them that they did not fully demilitarize and that they did not do enough to defend the enclave. To a degree, these criticisms appear to be contradictory. Concerning the first criticism, it is right to note that the Bosnian Government had entered into demilitarization agreements with the Bosnian Serbs. They did this with the encouragement of the United Nations. While it is also true that the Bosnian fighters in Srebrenica did not fully demilitarize, they did demilitarize enough for UNPROFOR to issue a press release, on 21 April 1993, saying that the process had been a success. Specific instructions from United Nations Headquarters in New York stated that UNPROFOF should not be too zealous in searching for Bosniak weapons and, later, that the Serbs should withdraw their heavy weapons before the Bosniaks gave up their weapons. The Serbs never did withdraw their heavy weapons. [Read full report]

Srebrenica Massacre (7/11 1995) - Srebrenica mother cries on her sons' graveyardWith respect to Naser Oric – It should also be noted that Naser Oric is not on trial for genocide, nor is he on trial for mass murder of Serb civilians. During the Bosnian war (1992-1995), Srebrenica was under constant siege by Bosnian Serb millitary; no food or medical supplies were allowed into the enclave. Apart from never ending starvation, the civilian population of Srebrenica was subjected to constant Bosnian Serb & Serbian artillery attacks. The only way to survive was to counter-attack surrounding Bosnian Serb villages (which served as Bosnian Serb military bases) and search for food and other supplies. In fact, long before Naser Oric counter-attacked these villages, close to 90% of Bosniak population of Eastern Bosnia was ethnically cleansed by Bosnian Serb and Serbian military forces.

With regards to Naser Oric’s raids, here is a short excerpt from United Nations’ General Assembly Resolution 53/35 that addresses this issue:

A third accusation leveled at the Bosniak defenders of Srebrenica is that they provoked the Serb offensive by attacking out of that safe area. Even though this accusation is often repeated by international sources, there is no credible evidence to support it. Dutchbat personnel on the ground at the time assessed that the few “raids” the Bosniaks mounted out of Srebrenica were of little or no military significance. These raids were often organized in order to gather food, as the Serbs had refused access for humanitarian convoys into the enclave. Even Serb sources approached in the context of this report acknowledged that the Bosniak forces in Srebrenica posed no significant military threat to them. The biggest attack the Bosniaks launched out of Srebrenica during the more than two years which is was designated a safe area appears to have been the raid on the village of Visnjica, on 26 June 1995, in which several houses were burned, up to four Serbs were killed and approximately 100 sheep were stolen. In contrast, the Serbs overran the enclave two weeks later, driving tens of thousands from their homes, and summarily executing thousands of men and boys. The Serbs repeatedly exaggerated the extent of the raids out of Srebrenica as a pretext for the prosecution of a central war aim: to create geographically contiguous and ethnically pure territory along the Drina, while freeing their troops to fight in other parts of the country. The extent to which this pretext was accepted at face value by international actors and observers reflected the prism of “moral equivalency” through which the conflict in Bosnia was viewed by too many for too long. [Read full report]

Srebrenica Massacre (7/11 1995) - Srebrenica boys, before being led away and murdered.When it comes to Naser Oric – he had every right to videotape Serbian military casualties around Srebrenica. Military targets are always justified. Bosnian government forces also had their share of military casualties (read here) that were videotaped by Serbian forces. One of many things that Canuck10 forgot to mention is Serbian propaganda of lies and deceit, as I already exposed it in a case of alleged beheading of Rade Rogic video. [PS: Since you are here: you might also be interested in a case of videotaped slaughter of Bosnian teens and children by Serbian Scorpions around Srebrenica. It seems Canuck10 forgot to mention that story – to read background click here].

With respect to the alleged Serb civilian casualties around Srebrenica, let me quote conclusions made by internationaly funded Research & Documentation Center (RDC) in Sarajevo, which is comprised of Bosniak, Croat, Serb, and international investigators. In fact, the allegations that Serb casualties around Srebrenica, between April 1992 and December 1995 amount to over three thousand is an evident falsification of facts:

Perhaps the clearest illustration of gross exaggeration is that of Kravica, a Serb village near Bratunac attacked by the Bosnian Army on the morning of Orthodox Christmas, January 7, 1993. The allegations that the attack resulted in hundreds of civilian victims have been shown to be false. Insight into the original documentation of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) clearly shows that in fact military victims highly outnumber the civilian ones. The document entitled “Warpath of the Bratunac brigade”, puts the military victims at 35 killed and 36 wounded; the number of civilian victims of the attack is eleven. [Read full report]

In fact, less than 2,000 Serb civilians died in all of Bosnia as concluded by RDC (data, as of Dec 15, 2005).

Srebrenica Massacre (7/11 1995) - Srebrenica girl remembers her murdered family years later and cries; wounds are still fresh.With regard to the American military doctrine of applying overwhelming force against a target, I have yet to see American military forces slaughter over 8,000 innocent men, teens, elderly and children in one day. Take Iraq for example, have you ever seen American forces slaughter over 8,000 unarmed civilians in one day there?

So, stop using America for all your socialist excuses. American military has done more good than bad and one simply cannot compare professionally trained American soldiers with Serbian thugs who wandered Bosnia seeking to rape, mutilate, ethnically cleanse, and destroy democratic, secular and internationally recognized Bosnia-Herzegovina.


June 18, 2006 Comments off

Court Still Weighing Genocide Case From Milosevic Era


Bosnian women in Tuzla last week with photos of missing kin. They sought arrests of Bosnian Serb fugitives.

THE HAGUE — Among the unfinished business left by the death of Slobodan Milosevic is the central question of whether he was guilty, as charged, of genocide in Bosnia.
But while his death brought a sudden end to his trial at the United Nations war crimes tribunal, the genocide issue may well be decided by another United Nations court based in The Hague: the International Court of Justice.
That court, also known as the World Court, has recently finished nine weeks of hearings on a case filed 13 years ago, in the middle of the Bosnian war. With Muslim [Bosniak] villages under attack and civilians driven into detention camps, Bosnia’s lawyers turned to the court, accusing Yugoslavia of violations “on all counts” of the United Nations Convention on Genocide.
The case was held back by a slow-paced institution and by repeated legal moves by Belgrade to block the lawsuit. In the meantime, Yugoslavia became Serbia and Montenegro in 2003, and in May simply Serbia.
Now, the hearings over, judges from 16 countries must give their interpretation of events from the 1992-1995 war. That is expected within the year.
The terror campaign to clear non-Serbs from large swathes of Bosnia has become commonly known as “ethnic cleansing,” but the line, if any, between ethnic cleansing and genocide has divided legal experts examining events from Bosnia to Iraq and Darfur.
The World Court suit is unique in that it is not a criminal trial of individuals — like those at the tribunals for Yugoslavia, Rwanda or Sierra Leone — but rather a civil proceeding, in which for the first time one state is suing another charging genocide.
The suit may well be the most complex in the 60-year history of the World Court, the United Nations’ highest, which usually deals with issues of sovereignty, diplomatic relations, and land or sea boundaries.
“This will give new relevance to a court that was sidelined by the new war crimes tribunals,” said Antoine Garapon, director of the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies in Paris. “It may ultimately pass a historic judgment on Milosevic and his regime, even if that was not its function.”
Should the court rule in Bosnia’s favor, the Serbian state will suffer the stigma of having committed genocide, an outcome that would implicate the entire Milosevic government.
For Serbian citizens and their fledgling economy, that could mean also being saddled with hefty war reparations. Bosnia has asked the court to award damages for the loss of life and property.

During the war, 100,000 people died, the majority of them Muslims, and entire Muslim towns and villages were destroyed, including their mosques and monuments. No figure was set.
Serbia has argued that there were local excesses of war but no genocidal campaign, that Belgrade did not control events in Bosnia and that a verdict favoring Bosnia will make reconciliation between the neighbors even more difficult.
Bosnia says the opposite, and argues it needs “recognition of Serb guilt” even more than reparations.
Even at this late stage, Serbia has raised new obstacles, challenging once more the jurisdiction of the court. It argued that during the relevant period, Yugoslavia was not a member of the United Nations and, by extension, not a party to the court. In the past, judges twice ruled the court had jurisdiction.
In the recent hearings, the opposing legal teams made ample use of documents, evidence and even witnesses from trials at the war crimes tribunal, which sits a few miles away. The tribunal found genocide at Srebrenica in 1995, when more than 7,000 Muslim men and boys were executed.
But at least one crucial cache of material has remained out of reach. The wartime records of the Supreme Defense Council, which included Yugoslavia’s military and political leaders, were handed to the tribunal after much Western pressure.
But Belgrade secured the guarantee that they be accessible only to the court’s judges and lawyers. Belgrade officials claimed national security, but some have made it no secret they wanted to keep the records out of the hands of the Bosnians suing them at the World Court.
Tribunal officials familiar with the secret archives said the minutes of the meetings revealed much about how Belgrade ran the war in Bosnia.
“Of course people may say things differently if they know they are recorded,” one official said, requesting anonymity because he lacked permission to speak to reporters. “Milosevic was also known to convey important decisions in private.” Parts of the minutes were missing, he said.
During Mr. Milosevic’s trial, prosecutors said the archives provided the best records and insights into his real power and his state of mind.
Human rights lawyers have insisted that opening the archives is necessary for Serbia to be confronted with its wartime history.
For now, Bosnia must demonstrate that Serbia not only supplied but also controlled the troops that were involved in eradicating Muslim communities — including Bosnian Serb troops and Belgrade’s own special forces and militias.
Gen. Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander wanted for genocide by the war crimes tribunal, traveled to Belgrade almost weekly during the war, according to testimony from NATO commanders.
Legally proving genocide requires showing intent to destroy a group, in whole or in part. Phon van den Biesen, of the Bosnian team, said that intent was evident in this case from the pattern of crimes on the ground, including the destruction of close to 1,000 mosques, so evidence from the archives would not be needed.
Lawyers following the case said defining genocide or proving it at this court might be different.
“This is not a criminal trial and the levels of proof needed are not as high,” said Richard Dicker, a director of Human Rights Watch. “In any case, it will be hugely important to see how this court interprets and rules on genocide.”


June 15, 2006 1 comment

BELGRADE, Serbia – The general still has his admirers.

Serb General Ratko Mladic is directly responsible for Srebrenica Massacre in which over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys perished and in which over 25,000 Bosniak women were forcibly deported, many of them raped and degraded - all under United Nation's watchIn the musty headquarters of the Center for the Investigation of War Crimes Against Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina, his portrait is prominently displayed on the wall behind Ljubisa Ristic’s desk. There were about 2,000 Serb civilian casualties in the war which Serbia waged against Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995 [sourceas of Dec 15, 2005 data].

“My personal opinion is that he is a true soldier and a hero of the Serbian people,” Ristic said.

It is not clear how many other Serbs feel that way about Gen. Ratko Mladic, the wartime commander of the Bosnian Serb army and chief executor of its ethnic cleansing campaign.

“I’d say 75 percent of the Serbs see him as a war hero,” said Aleksandar Tijanic, who heads the state-run television network in Serbia. “But if you ask them if he should he go to The Hague to save the Serbs from more suffering, 75 percent would say yes.”

Mladic, who has been charged with genocide by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, has been on the run since the collapse of Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic’s regime in October 2000.

Last month, the European Union broke off talks with Belgrade aimed at preparing Serbia for EU membership after President Vojislav Kostunica’s government missed another deadline for delivering Mladic. The United States followed suit this month, canceling a $7 million aid package to the Serbian government.

Carla Del Ponte, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor, has claimed repeatedly that Mladic is in Serbia and within the reach of Belgrade authorities. She says the government simply lacks the political will to arrest him.

That appeared to be the case in February when there were feverish media reports that the general had been cornered at a hiding place near the Bosnian border.

“But instead of arresting him, they started negotiating with him,” said Bratislav Grubacic, a political analyst who publishes a widely respected newsletter.

The negotiations came to nothing. “And now they really don’t know where he is,” Grubacic said. “For this government, I think they prefer not to know.”

Vladan Batic, the former Yugoslav justice minister who ordered the extradition of Milosevic to The Hague in June 2001, agrees with Del Ponte that the present government lacks the political will to deliver Mladic.

“Kostunica was hoping that Mladic would surrender himself,” said Batic. “He knows Mladic is our ticket to Europe, but he’s afraid that if he gives up Mladic, he’ll lose a lot of votes and won’t be seen as a so-called patriot.” Batic, who heads a small opposition party and who retains good police and security contacts, believes Mladic is holed up at the Topcider military base, a large complex amid a forest outside Belgrade that has an elaborate network of tunnels.

State TV boss Tijanic, who is close to Kostunica, disputes the Topcider theory and also the suggestion that Kostunica is afraid of arresting Mladic.

“Today, Kostunica’s government is willing to send him to The Hague, but they don’t know where he is hiding,” Tijanic said.

Citing the recent arrests of about a dozen people thought to be part of Mladic’s support system, Tijanic claimed that Mladic has cut all of his contacts with the military and security forces and is hiding on his own.

The international community’s focus on Mladic has diverted attention from Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb wartime political leader, also charged with genocide and still on the run.

There are three explanations.

The first is The Hague’s experience in prosecuting genocide cases, which argues that it is much easier to obtain a conviction against military officers, who answer to a clear chain of command, than it is against their political bosses. A second explanation is that Karadzic, who is believed to be in Bosnia, has done a better job hiding himself.

The last, based on a persistent rumor echoed by nearly every diplomat and expert in the Balkans, is that at the time of the Dayton peace agreement, Karadzic cut a deal that he would completely withdraw from politics if authorities would not try too hard to find him. Little has been heard from him since.

A year ago, public opinion in Serbia was shaken by a video recording that came to light during the Milosevic trial. It shows members of an Interior Ministry death squad known as the Scorpions executing six handcuffed Bosniak men and boys from Srebrenica, where more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were massacred in 1995, allegedly on orders from Mladic.

The video [source], shot by one of the participants, was shown on Serbian television and the government, for the first time, acknowledged that Serbs were guilty of atrocities. The killers, who were identifiable on the video, have been arrested and are being tried in Serbian courts.

Ristic, from the center for war crimes against Serbs, said the trials were appropriate, but insisted that the Scorpion tape has not shaken his faith in Mladic’s innocence.

“I was not there (Srebrenica), so I can’t tell you whether he ordered anything or not. But after our clear-cut victory, it was not in Serbia’s interest to do something like that,” he said.

Milan Protic, a historian who served as Yugoslavia’s first ambassador to the United States in the post-Milosevic era, said that only “stupid minds” in Serbia continued to view Mladic as a hero, but that it also is wrong for the EU and the United States to hold all of Serbia hostage to his arrest.

“He is an obsolete symbol, this dirty little Serbian commander from Bosnia,” he said, “but the West is using him to complicate all kinds of things for Serbia.


June 11, 2006 2 comments

Stand Off at the Security Council

Prosecutor hits back at judges for changing rules and slams Serbia, Russia and UNMIK over cooperation. [ read background here ]
By Janet Anderson and Michael Farquhar in The Hague (TU No 456, 9-Jun-06)
New battle lines have been drawn between the judges and the prosecutor in The Hague over methods to speed up trials as the deadline for completion of the tribunal’s work looms.
In separate addresses to the United Nations Security Council this week, the president of the tribunal Fausto Pocar and the Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, agreed on the need for urgent measures to enable the tribunal to substantially streamline judicial processes.
But amendments to the tribunal’s rules adopted at a plenary session of the judges just a few days before the report to the UN was due, which give them the right to direct the prosecution to select which counts of the indictment should be taken to trial, have drawn direct fire from the prosecutor.
Del Ponte vehemently challenged the new rule as a challenge to her independent authority [read here]. She said it would be “impossible to arbitrarily cut and slice cases”, and suggested it would lead to “impunity for certain crimes”.
She said she would interpret the changes as “purely advisory”.
The proposed rule change has been welcomed by some legal experts. Michael Scharf, former state department attorney and professor of law in Ohio, has consistently criticised the prosecution for including too many charges against individuals.
“[The tribunal] is not a truth commission,” he told IWPR, saying it shouldn’t be trying to provide a “detailed account of everything” that occurred.
The prosecution should only file indictments for the most serious crimes where the evidence is strongest, he says.
“These ‘exemplary charges’ will provide ‘snapshots of evil’…sufficient for the objectives of international justice,” said Scharf.
Edgar Chen, who observed trials in The Hague for the Coalition for International Justice, points out that judges already have considerable powers. They can confirm an indictment; dismiss counts after evidence has been presented, and decide on the basis of relevance what evidence they need to hear – all of which, he says, “bolster judicial economy”.
But the prosecution, he says, have to keep other audiences in mind too when drawing up indictments – “the victims, [and those] in the region who do want to see accountability for a vast array of alleged crimes”.
Anton Nikiforov, spokesperson for the prosecutor, explained to IWPR that the prosecution did not expect that the new amendments would affect two big multi-accused indictments in the high profile cases about to begin in the next few weeks.
They include nine high-ranking Bosnian Serb officers charged with genocide in connection with the 1995 massacre of around 8,000 boys and men at Srebrenica, and a case against seven high-ranking Serb politicians and officers in relation to mass deportations and killings in Kosovo in 1999, both of which will begin in July.
But he pointed out that if cuts were requested in smaller cases, for instance that senior Croat generals, which are still to be scheduled, for example, the court could appear “unbalanced” to observers. The counts are often “complex and interlinked” he explained, which would make is very difficult to disentangle them.
He also pointed out that it may be perceived as unfair to those who have already been processed by the court.
Nikiforov said the only recourse available to the prosecutor would be to appeal. But, he acknowledged, the appeals chamber is run by Judge Pocar, who announced the rule change.

Apart from restricting the counts on the indictment, the judges have also decided on a number of steps to control proceedings at the tribunal more tightly, “shifting away from party-driven process to one that is closely managed by the judges of the tribunal”, as Pocar explained.

The innovations mainly focus on the work of pre-trial judges, and how they should write strict timetables, require the prosecution and defence to provide timely pre-trial briefs, disclose witnesses and make “greater use of the power to sanction” either side.
Chen says that the measures Pocar is discussing, and the various suggestions made by Del Ponte in her speech all point to the “daunting crush of the ‘completion strategy’ [that all organs of the court feel] in their work”.
Del Ponte also used her report and speech to the Security Council to attack the cooperation offered to her office by Serbia, Republika Srpska, Russia and the United Nations Mission in Kosovo, UNMIK.
As usual, her criticism of Belgrade focussed on efforts to detain the indicted former head of the Bosnian Serb army, Ratko Mladic. She complained that rather than arresting Mladic, the Serbian authorities had wasted time trying to get him to surrender voluntarily. And while a series of operations targeting his support network earlier this year might have succeeded in producing a lot of column inches, she added, they lacked the discretion needed to acquire information that could have led to his arrest.
In addition, Del Ponte voiced suspicion that inconsistencies in reports submitted to her office by the Serbian authorities were a sign that the information in them had been “doctored for political reasons”.
Del Ponte admitted that she had seen no “credible information” about the location of Radovan Karadzic, the former president of Republika Srpska, also indicted on charges of genocide, “for more than a year now”.
But she pointed her finger at the RS, saying that “part of his network …remains there”, and she complained about a decrease in cooperation.
Following the successful referendum on independence in Montenegro, the prosecutor said that there was a risk that “problems will arise” with cooperation with the tribunal because state union organs are responsible for that area.
Some of Del Ponte’s most scathing criticism, however, was reserved for UNMIK, who she accused in her report of deliberately obstructing access to evidence. “My office has nowadays more difficulties to access documents belonging to UNMIK than in any other place in the former Yugoslavia,” she told the Security Council.
Her report also noted that UNMIK had been negligent in its handling of witnesses on a number of occasions, leading to a loss of confidence in the ability of the system to protect them. And it complained of a perception in Kosovo – “justified by numerous facts” – that The Hague’s highest profile Kosovo Albanian indictee, Ramush Haradinaj, enjoys UNMIK’s support.
Haradinaj was prime minister of Kosovo prior to his transfer to the Hague tribunal last year. UNMIK has praised his work in that past and backed his successful bid to return to Kosovo and re-enter politics whilst awaiting trial on war crimes charges.
In a press release issued the day after Del Ponte’s speech before the Security Council, UNMIK declared her accusations “unfounded”. The statement said that judges at the tribunal had rejected allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the UN administration in Kosovo in relation to Haradinaj.
Towards the end of her speech in New York, Del Ponte also announced plans to press the Security Council to grant her staff the power to arrest fugitives themselves. Given the lack of political will to arrest Mladic and the tribunal’s other top fugitive, former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic, she said, “I do not see any other way for the [tribunal] to fulfil its mandate and satisfy the legitimate expectations the victims placed into the United Nations.”
She reiterated that plans to close the Hague tribunal within a few years cannot go ahead unless the two men have faced trial.
Following Del Ponte’s speech, Russian delegate Vitaly Churkin dismissed her criticism of his government and described her talk of securing the power to arrest fugitives herself as “fantasies”.
Janet Anderson is IWPR’s programme manager in The Hague and Michael Farquhar is an IWPR reporter in London.


June 9, 2006 Comments off


Points of Interest (blog editor’s picks):

1) The Prosecution has proven an international armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina no less than five times. This proves that there was no civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina as previously thought, but a full blown international attack on Bosnia-Herzegovina by neighbouring Serbia.
2) An amendment to the Rules was adopted that would allow a Trial Chamber to direct the Prosecutor to cut counts in an indictment, which Mrs. Del Ponte justly refuses to do.
3) Serbia has the main responsibility to locate, arrest and transfer all six fugitives. The co-operation provided by Serbia to the ICTY has been and remains very difficult and frustrating.
4) Nobody is searching actively for primary orchestrators of Srebrenica massacre: Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic. [Also see: $5,000,000 Reward posted by the US Justice Department for the capture of Radovan Karadzic and/or Ratko Mladic]

Mrs. President,

Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to provide you with my assessment of the progress made in the completion strategy and to highlight the problems we continue to face. A written assessment was delivered already, and I intend to focus on the main issues.

A number of steps were taken internally to increase the efficiency of the Tribunal, while maintaining the highest standards expected from an international court created by the United Nations.

In this regard, I have proposed to join cases with a similar crime base. I have filed four motions for that purpose, and three were accepted by the Chambers. One trial with six accused has already begun. Later this year, a consolidated trial with nine accused charged with crimes committed in Srebrenica will start, as well as another one with six leading political and military figures indicted for crimes committed by Serbian forces in Kosovo.

My second initiative has been to propose the transfer of cases involving mid-and lower-level perpetrators. This undertaking was met with strong opposition from some victims’ groups. However, my assessment of the local judiciaries is that they are now capable of trying such cases. Beginning in September 2004, I have therefore filed 13 motions requesting the transfer of cases to the domestic jurisdictions of the former Yugoslavia. There is no other case at the ICTY that could be transferred to the region, as, according to the criteria set by the Council, they all concern the most senior leaders responsible for the most serious crimes.

Thirdly, I have been working with the Judges in taking all possible measures to ensure that the Tribunal’s own process is as efficient as possible. I have put forward packages of reforms that, if implemented, would significantly accelerate the pre-trial and trial proceedings. Given the seriousness of the cases at the ICTY, it is essential to improve urgently pre-trial management, so that issues are narrowed before the trial starts so that the trial can focus on truly contested matters. Decisions on key issues must be made long before the beginning of the trial. For instance, it is important that a decision be rendered very soon on a motion regarding the disclosure of materials in electronic or hard copy that I filed in the Šešelj case over two years ago.

I have also proposed that a much more dynamic approach be taken on adjudicated facts. Such facts have been proven in previous trials, and the Chambers have the power to decide that they must not be proven again in a given trial. The instrument of the adjudicated facts is therefore a key tool to reduce the scope of the trials. For instance, the Prosecution has proven an international armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina no less than five times, wasting months and months on proving the same facts, sometimes with the same witnesses, in case after case. We have to prove it again, for the sixth time, in the on-going Prlić et al. trial.

I have also taken the lead in promoting the efficient use of time at trial. For example, in the Prlić et al. case, the Prosecution has put forward a 10 point plan to streamline the trial, within the time limit set by the President of the Trial Chamber, for the Prosecution and Defence respectively to present their cases and cross-examination. This plan was accepted by the Trial Chamber and its implementation does have serious positive effects.

During the Judges’ Plenary on 30 May, an amendment to the Rules was unfortunately adopted that would allow a Trial Chamber to direct the Prosecutor to cut counts in an indictment. In view of the checks and balances contained in the Statute, and particularly the duties and responsibilities of the Prosecutor under the Statute, such directions by the Chambers can only be interpreted as purely advisory in nature. Only the Security Council has the power to modify the ICTY Statute, which guarantees the independence of the Prosecutor and assigns to her the responsibility of determining which charges to bring in a prosecution.

I am continuously reviewing our cases and I will not hesitate to cut counts when there are clear judicial reasons for that. It is however impossible to arbitrarily cut and slice cases, which are complex by their very nature. My mandate, given by the Security Council, is to prosecute the most senior officials, that is to say persons who were most often far removed from the crime scenes and whose responsibility can only be established by examining a number of different crimes, often in different geographical areas. Removing one or several counts artificially may seriously undermine the prosecution case. Eventually it leads to impunity for certain crimes and does not do justice to the victims, who are already puzzled by the Completion Strategy.

Allow me to use an example: Srebrenica. Which counts should I eliminate? Those referring to the killings of over 7,000 men and boys? (see: preliminary list of 8,106 Srebrenica massacre victims) Or those relating to the forcible transfer of 25,000 women, children and elderly people? This would mean that I am only presenting half the picture of the serious crimes that took place in Srebrenica. How can I justify presenting only half the picture of the brutal crimes that took place in the former Yugoslavia? These are choices that, as a Prosecutor representing also the victims, I am not ready to make. This would introduce unacceptable disparity in the treatment of the persons accused by the Tribunal. There must be no justice à la carte.

I will again urge the other organs of the Tribunal to focus on the proposals made by the Judges’s Working Group and by my Office. These measures, if fully implemented, would have a serious impact on the length of the proceedings and put the Tribunal closer to realizing the Completion Strategy.

Speeding up the proceedings is a top priority of my Office. Obtaining the arrest and transfer of the remaining indictees at large is another one. It has been said a thousand times: it is inconceivable that the ICTY closes its doors with Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladić at large. I want to stress again before the Council that impunity for these two most serious architects of the crimes committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, both accused of genocide, would represent a terrible blow not only to the success or failure of the Tribunal, but to the future of international justice as a whole.

Serbia has the main responsibility to locate, arrest and transfer all six fugitives. According to my information, Mladić, Tolimir, Hadžić and Župljanin are in Serbia. Furthermore, there are established leads connecting Serbia to Karadžić, whose location is unknown, and to Ðjorđevic, who is still believed to be in Russia. The fact that Mladić has been an active officer of the Army of Yugoslavia till May 2002, one year and a half after the fall of Milosević and seven years after he was indicted, adds to the responsibility of Belgrade for its failure to deliver the former General.

Over the past twelve months, the Serbian authorities have repeatedly promised that Mladić would be delivered soon. I was told regularly by Serbian officials that the circle was closing down around him. At the end of April, in view of Serbia’s failure to achieve the promised results, I re-assessed the whole operation and found out that it had been suffering grave defects. During 2005, there was no real attempt to locate and arrest Mladić. Time was wasted in trying to encourage him to surrender voluntarily. Since the beginning of this year, it seems that more was undertaken. In particular, his support network was targeted, and several of his supporters arrested. These actions were sometimes spectacular, they fed many news articles, but they lacked the necessary discretion that would have allowed to acquire information leading to Mladić.

The most blatant dysfunction is the total lack of co-operation between the military and the civilian authorities. The inconsistencies I could identify in the various reports provided to me came as another surprise and forced me to suspect that some of the information contained in these reports had been doctored for political reasons. In our co-operation with Belgrade, we have not managed to achieve so far the level of trust and transparency that we had achieved with other countries. I will keep on engaging the Serbian Government in the months to come, trying to establish more confidence and a better communication.

As to the other aspects of the co-operation with Belgrade, a mission was sent in the second half of May to test the new arrangement agreed upon with the Government of Serbia and Montenegro regarding access to archives. This has been a long standing problem. The first accounts I received from my staff are encouraging.

To sum up, the co-operation provided by Serbia to the ICTY has been and remains very difficult and frustrating. There is serious political and administrative resistance within the system, and a strong political will is needed to overcome those obstacles. On the basis of the facts in my possession, I cannot be convinced that Serbia is ready to arrest Mladić. For a number of reasons, the authorities may still prefer to force him to surrender voluntarily.

Republika Srpska within Bosnia and Herzegovina also has to increase substantially its efforts to locate and arrest fugitives. Whereas it is unclear whether Radovan Karadžić still resides at times or travels through Republika Srpska, it is certain that part of his network and of his family remains there. In the reporting period, the cooperation provided by Republika Srpska to my office has rather decreased, which is due to political reasons and the reshuffling of personnel in the police. Now that a new team is in place, the search for Karadžić must intensify rapidly.

My office has maintained a positive working relationship with Montenegro for over a year, and I expect this co-operation to continue at full speed. Part of Karadžić’s family is living in Montenegro, and he can count on numerous supporters there.

I am particularly disappointed about the lack of movement on another important fugitive, Vlastimir Ðjorđevic. The investigation carried out by the Russian authorities, as they told us, has failed to produce results. This will have negative implications on the completion strategy, because, if Ðjorđevic is not surrendered within the next weeks, it will be impossible to try him with his six co-accused. Resources will therefore have to be wasted in a separate trial. Ðjorđevic is accused of very serious crimes committed by Serbian forces in Kosovo. The long and unexplained delays in the transfer of Zelenović, who was detained in Russia since August 2005, do not allow for optimism in the future of the ICTY’s co-operation with the Russian Federation.

It is also worrying that a sister organisation of the Tribunal, the UN Mission in Kosovo, refuses to co-operate fully with the Tribunal. My office has nowadays more difficulties to access documents belonging to UNMIK than in any other place in the former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, the UNMIK leadership is encouraging a climate which deters witnesses from talking to my investigators when it comes to the Albanian perpetrators. Very recently, there have been some indications that the UNMIK is willing to take a more constructive attitude in its relations with my office.

Mrs. President,

I explained at length in my last report why Karadžić and Mladić are still at large more than 10 years after they were first indicted. My assessment remains the same today. Serbia has to do much more to arrest and transfer Ratko Mladić. The arrest of Radovan Karadžić is a shared responsibility of Serbia, Republika Srpska, NATO and EUFOR. It is pathetic that today, nobody is searching actively for Karadžić. The planned downsizing of EUFOR will further aggravate the situation. Since no one else seems to have the political will to locate and arrest Karadzic and Mladić, I will have no choice but to seek from the Council the powers to arrest fugitives where ever they are and to allocate to my Office the necessary resources for this. Ultimately, I do not see any other way for the ICTY to fulfil its mandate and satisfy the legitimate expectations the victims placed into the United Nations.