FALSIFICATION OF SERB “VICTIMS” AROUND SREBRENICA
(From the Office of the Chief United Nations War Crimes Prosecutor)Florence Hartmann, Spokesperson for the Office of the Prosecutor, made the following statement:
First of all, the OTP is always very careful in the use of the word ‘victim’. Military or Police casualties from combat should not be considered victims in a criminal investigation context, in the same way people are victims from war crimes, such as summary executions.
Before speaking about the whole area of Podrinja, including at least the municipalities of Srebrenica, Bratunac, Vlasenica and Skelani, I would comment on the various figures circulating around the Kravica attack of January 1993. The figures circulating of hundreds of victims or claiming that all 353 inhabitants were “virtually completely destroyed” do not reflect the reality.
During the attack by the BH army on Kravica, Jezestica, Opravdici, Mandici and the surrounding villages (the larger area of Kravica), on the 7th & 8th January 1993, 43 people were killed, according to our information. Our investigation shows that 13 of the 43 were obviously civilians. Our findings are matching with the Bratunac Brigade military reports of battle casualties which are believed in the OTP to be very reliable because they are internal VRS reports.
For the whole region, i.e the municipalities of Srebrenica, Bratunac, Vlasenica and Skelani, the Serb authorities claimed previously that about 1400 people were killed due to attacks committed by the BH Army forces for the period of May 1992 to March 1995, when Srebrenica was under the control of Naser Oric. Now the figure has become 3,500 Serbs killed. This figure may have been inflated. Taking the term “victims” as defined previously, these figures just does not reflect the reality.
I wish to name various Serb sources on Serb victims which has circulated until recently. They are maybe not detailed but as they were presented. According to the RS Commission for War Crimes, the number of Serb victims for the Bratunac-Srebrenica-Skelani region was until recently 995 victims (520 Bratunac area and 475 Srebernica area), of which Kravica, 43 victims.
According to “The Chronicle of Our Graves”; a book by Milivoje Ivanisevic, the president of the Belgrade Centre for Investigating Crimes Committed against the Serbian People, claimed that the number of Serb victims for Bratunac-Srebrenica-Skelani region was 1,200 victims but presented personal details available for only 624 victims. The author claimed that all 353 Kravica inhabitants were “virtually completely destroyed” which is not accurate.
Another book, “For the Honourable Cross and Golden Freedom”; a book (1,508 pages) by unknown authors from RS and in collaboration with the RS Ministry of Interior, claimed that the No. of Serb victims for the Bratunac-Srebrenica-Skelani region is 641 victims, all war-related”. [Read full report]
Research and Documentation Center (RDC) in Sarajevo, which includes joint Bosniak, Serb and Croat investigators, recently investigated number of alleged Serb casualties around Srebrenica and concluded that the alleged number of 3,287 Serb casualties in Central Podrinje is actually incorrect and nine to ten times lower than reported by the Serbian media. RDC closely works and aids ICTY Investigations and is funded by both international community and the joint government of Bosnia-Herzegovina (which is composed of Bosniak, Serb and Croat lawmakers). RDC concluded, quote:
The allegations that Serb casualties in Bratunac, between April 1992 and December 1995 amount to over three thousand is an evident falsification of facts. The RDC research of the actual number of Serb victims in Bratunac has been the most extensive carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina and proves that the overall number of victims is three to nine times smaller than indicated by Serbia and Montenegro. 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…. The number of victims from Central Bosnia buried in Bratunac is consistent with the population movements after the war, especially the Serb population from the suburbs of Sarajevo . Under the Dayton Peace Accords, the suburbs of Sarajevo held by the VRS were to be re-integrated into the city of Sarajevo . The then leadership of the RS called on the local Serb population to leave Sarajevo and even take the graves of their loved ones with them. In fact, such a large majority followed the instructions that parts of the city of Sarajevo remained deserted for months. The remnants of their loved ones have been buried in Bratunac after the war, but their deaths are presented as the result of actions taken by the Bosnian Army units from Srebrenica.
As importantly, a number of foreign nationals (mainly from Serbia and Montenegro and Croatia) are included in the overall figure of Serb victims in Bratunac. At least 15 such individuals lost their lives in Bratunac as a result of fighting; it may be of some significance that all of them were members of a paramilitary group that arrived to Bratunac in April 1992, upon invitation of Bratunac Serb Democratic Party and in coordination with the State Security Service of Republic of Serbia (see testimony of Miroslav Deronjić, President of Municipal Board of SDS Bratunac, at International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia). Some of those individuals are Vesna Krdžalić, Dragica Mastikosa, Aleksandar Grahovac and Sreto Suzić who all died in combat on May 29, 1992 . Subsequently, they were all classified as “victims of Muslim terror” by the RS authorities. However, individuals from Serbia continued arriving to Bratunac throughout the year 1992, if the death records of the Bratunac brigade are to be trusted: one such individual died in fighting in August (Žarko Komnenski) and one more in November (Đuro Vujaklija). Furthermore, death records show that “volunteers” arrived from Serbia to Bratunac even in 1993, such as Dragan Milićev, who died in combat in January 1993 and Dragoslav Stanković who died in February 1993. [Read full report]
Human Rights Watch agrees, quote:
The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party launched an aggressive campaign to prove that Muslims had committed crimes against thousands of Serbs in the area. The campaign was intended to diminish the significance of the July 1995 crime, and many in Serbia were willing to accept that version of history.
But as the Oric judgment makes clear, the facts do not support the equivalence thesis. Take the events in the village of Kravica, on the Serb Orthodox Christmas on January 7, 1993, for example. The alleged killing of scores of Serbs and destruction of their houses in the village is frequently cited in Serbia as the key example of the heinous crimes committed by the Muslim forces around Srebrenica.
In fact, the Oric judgment confirms that there were Bosnian Serb military forces present in the village at the time of attack. In 1998, the wartime New York Times correspondent Chuck Sudetic wrote in his book on Srebrenica that, of forty-five Serbs who died in the Kravica attack, thirty-five were soldiers. Original Bosnian Serb army documents, according to the ICTY prosecutor and the Sarajevo-based Center for Research and Documentation of War Crimes, also indicate that thirty-five soldiers died.
The critics also invoke unreliable statistics. A spokesman for the ruling Democratic Party of Serbia in the wake of the Oric judgment, for example, claimed that “we have documents showing that 3,260 people were found dead around Srebrenica from 1992-1995.” However, the book Hronike nasih grobalja (Chronicles of Our Graveyards) by the Serb historian Milivoje Ivanisevic (the president of the Belgrade Centre for Investigating Crimes Committed against the Serbian People), uses the significantly lower figure, of “more than 1,000 persons [who] died,” and contains the list, mostly made of men of military age. Among those killed, there were evidently a significant number of Bosnian Serb soldiers who died in the fighting, like in Kravica. [read full report]