2. Serbia Must Present Censored Files
3. Holland to Open Srebrenica Files
Accusations and denials abound about censored evidence that could have helped Bosnia’s case against Serbia at the International Court of Justice, as a divided Bosnia considers a review of the ruling.
By Anes Alic in Sarajevo
The discovery of new evidence may lead Bosnian legal experts to request a review of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that cleared Serbia of responsibility for the genocide of Bosniaks and Croats.
Legal experts say that the outcome of the case was seriously affected by the failure to gain access to confidential documents from the war crimes trial of former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.
Last week, a former Milosevic prosecutor accused Carla Del Ponte, the chief prosecutor at the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), of cutting a deal with Belgrade to withhold evidence during the Milosevic trial that would have helped Bosnia’s case against Serbia.
The ICJ on 26 February cleared Serbia of direct responsibility for genocide and complicity in genocide in Bosnia during the 1992-1995 war. In the key verdict, the court ruled that Serbia had “not committed genocide, through its organs or persons whose acts engage its responsibility under customary international law.”
The court said the July 1995 massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosniak (Muslim) men and boys in the eastern town of Srebrenica was an act of genocide committed by Bosnian Serbs. Serbia was found guilty only for failing to prevent the genocide and punish those responsible.Black out In 2003, the Serbian government sent boxes with hundreds of documents to the ICTY. Among other things, the documents contain minutes of meetings of the Supreme Defense Council, the top decision-making body at that time, created in 1992 and comprised of high-ranking Serbian politicians and military officials, as well as Bosnian Serb officials, including war time army commander Ratko Mladic, who is wanted by the ICTY.
Passages in the documents were blacked out at the request of the Serbian government and the court did not request the complete original archive. According to the ICTY Statute, any country handing over sensitive documents has the right to demand protective measures on some documents, due to national security concerns.
At one point, the court rejected a Bosnian request to demand the full, uncensored documents. However, last week, former ICTY prosecutor Geoffrey Nice sent a letter to the Zagreb daily Jutarnji List accusing Del Ponte of striking a deal with former Serbian foreign minister Goran Svilanovic to apply protective measures to the documents sent to the court in 2003.
Nice, who led the Milosevic prosecution until the latter’s death last year, wrote that the existence of these documents was established by his team in 2002, and that he tried to make them public.
“Del Ponte disregarded my advice and agreed in principle that a substantial part of the records could be kept from the public, as the court subsequently ordered,” Nice wrote.
“There was no legal basis for the withholding of the records from the public. There was no conceivable reason for making a deal with Yugoslavia. It served only one purpose: to keep Belgrade’s responsibility from public scrutiny and, significantly, from the International Court of Justice.”
The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) rejected the allegations it had concealed documents from the ICJ or made any kind of deal with Belgrade, but confirmed that the prosecution had had frequent correspondence with Belgrade regarding the delivery of the documents.
OTP spokesperson Olga Kavran then told a Hague press briefing on 18 April that although correspondence between government officials and the OTP was a regular event “the suggestion that there was a deal to conceal evidence is completely false.”
Kavran also cited the ICTY’s Rules of Procedure and Evidence, which says that only the judges and not the prosecutor can decide on the protective measures to keep material from the public. However, she did say that during one correspondence with Belgrade, the prosecution said it would not object to granting “reasonable protective measures” on some documents.
The chief legal representative for Serbia in the ICJ case, Radoslav Stojanovic, told Serbian media that Nice’s accusations were absurd and that his letter coincided with US media reports criticizing the ICJ’s February verdict.
Stojanovic told Belgrade-based Radio B92 that “such writings are related to resolving Kosovo’s final status, trying to put pressure on Serbia to agree with the province’s independence, by blackmailing her with a revision of the verdict.”The evidence Sakib Softic, Bosnia’s legal representative, believes that evidence mentioned by Nice could be crucial for proving the involvement of Serbian authorities in the Bosnian war. He says that even the ICJ’s vice president, Jordanian judge Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh, suggested the genocide ruling was based on incomplete evidence.
“The outcome of the verdict surely would be different if the key evidence from the Milosevic trial were not hidden from the public and the ICJ,” Softic told ISN Security Watch.
Softic said that he, through some channels, saw those documents but could not legally use them as evidence at the trial.
“With no doubt they confirm that Bosnian Serb political and army structures were under direct control by the Serbian government, who also gave them financial and logistical support,” Softic said, though he was unable to give details from the documents.
Softic stressed that he did not blame ICTY prosecutors for not handing over the documents, rather he blamed ICJ judges for not requesting them.
A source close to the Bosnian legal team told ISN Security Watch under condition of anonymity that the most interesting part of those documents was related to time of the Srebrenica massacre, dated from May to September of 1995. According to the source, those documents contain several orders from Serbian army officials regarding military actions in Srebrenica.
“Among them are orders which confirm that Serbian military authorities were placing, promoting and retiring Bosnian Serb officers, but also orders to the Serbian officers to join the Republika Srpska Army [Bosnian Serb army], a couple of months before the Srebrenica offensive,” the source, who has seen the original documents before they were blacked out, said.
He said the Supreme Defense Council held three meetings during the Srebrenica offensive, unusually frequent, and that General Mladic was present at the third session.
The source also said that evidence would have made Serbia liable for the Srebrenica genocide, and that whenever the agenda turned to discussion of the financing of the Bosnian Serb army and personnel matters, as well as to Croatian Serb activities, the documents were blacked out in places.
“For instance, the Serbian Supreme Defense Council decided in 1993 to assist to officers of the Bosnian Serb Army by establishing a body within the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army called the 30th Personnel Center,” the source said.
He also said that during the war in Bosnia, up to 4,000 officers on the Yugoslav Army payroll were serving in the Bosnian Serb Army within the 30th Personnel Center, an office dealing with the officers serving in both armies for short temporary assignments or longer indefinite periods.
The source also said there were other documents, besides those censored for the Milosevic trial, which could be used for a revision of the case. Bosnia’s legal team is hoping to gain new evidence from the trials against Serbian military and intelligence officials, currently ongoing at the ICTY.
The ICTY is trying Momcilo Perisic, former Chief of the General Staff of the Yugoslav Army, who is charged with the aiding, planning and execution of a military campaign of artillery, mortar shelling and sniping on civilian areas of Sarajevo.
“These crimes were, in part, planned, instigated, ordered, committed and aided by members of 30th Personnel Center […] Perisic had reason to know that subordinates of his serving in the Bosnian Serb Army via the 30th Personnel Center had participated in the perpetration of crimes in Sarajevo,” reads the indictment.
Among the members of the 30th Personnel Center are Bosnian Serb Army chief General Ratko Mladic, General Stanislav Galic, commander of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps, and his successor, General Dragomir Milosevic.
General Galic was sentenced in 2003 by the ICTY to 20 years for the shelling and sniping of Sarajevo; General Milosevic surrendered to the ICTY in 2004 facing charges of crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war; indicted General Mladic is still at large, believed to be hiding somewhere in Serbia.
Perisic’s indictment also says that crimes in Srebrenica were planned, ordered and committed by members of the 30th Personnel Center.
Among other ongoing cases at the ICTY that could provide new evidence in Bosnia’s case against Serbia are the trials of the former commander of the Special Forces of Serbian Interior Ministry, Franko Simatovic; former chief of Serbian State Security Services Jovica Stanisic; and Vojislav Seselj, former Serbian deputy prime minister and leader of the Radical Party.
Seselj is charged with founding the White Eagles paramilitary unit, which committed atrocities in Croatia and Bosnia.Its own worst enemy However, seeking a revision of the ICJ ruling could be a challenging task, evidence aside, for Bosnia, where ethnically divided nationalist politicians seldom reach agreement.
The greatest resistance comes from Bosnian Serb officials, who were against the lawsuit from the beginning, though they are also dissatisfied with the ruling, as it found Bosnian Serb wartime political and military leaders guilty of genocide – a ruling that could have future implications. Bosnian Serb leaders fear the ruling could lead to stepped up attempts to abolish Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska.
Officials representing the international community are also against a revision of the ruling, as is it not in the spirit of reconciliation.
Even an attempt last week by the Bosnian presidency to push through a resolution demanding that Serbia arrest and extradite indicted war criminals failed to pass when the Bosnian Serb member of the presidency, Nebojsa Radmanovic, voted against it. Republika Srpska parliament also rejected the resolution.
Some local media quoted sources from the Bosnian presidency as saying that the international community had even interfered, attempting to convince the Bosniak and Croat members of the presidency to “soften” the document to “suggest” rather than “demand” that Serbia arrest indicted war criminals.
A spokeswoman for the Croat member of the presidency, confirmed that there had been meetings with international officials, but that there was no pressure to change the resolution.
“There were meetings on this subject with representatives from United States and several others western embassies in Sarajevo, including High Representative of international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” the spokeswoman said.
In a press release from his cabinet, Radmanovic also suggested he would “veto” any attempt by Bosnia to seek a review of the ICJ judgment.
However, Softic dismissed Radmanovic’s threat, saying that Radmanovic was legally powerless to stop a review of the decision if new evidence were to emerge, and that an attempt to block the revision would be viewed as a political rather than legal issue.
Bosnia has 10 years to start new proceedings at the ICJ if new evidence is discovered proving that Serbia intended to commit genocide in Bosnia. However, if politics is allowed to take a front seat, chances for a review are slim.2. NGOs: SERBIA MUST PRESENT CENSORED FILES
Serbia must make public all censored documents relating to the war in Bosnia, the Regional Women’s Lobby says.
The judgment passed by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which acquitted Serbia from direct responsibility of genocide in Srebrenica, has caused concern among victims, a statement issued by the Humanitarian Law Center said.
“What is now general knowledge of the involvement of Serbia in the Srebrenica genocide was not confirmed in court,” the statement continued.
“The fact that the Republic of Serbia, even after toppling Milošević, continued to hide evidence of its support of, and direct involvement in, criminal acts in BiH, gravely incriminates today’s Serbia and casts a shadow of doubt on the judgment of the ICJ, leading us to believe that it was not based on actual events,” the NGOs said.
The Regional Women’s Lobby, a gathering of NGO’s from Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia, urged the Serbian and Republic of Srpska authorities to “act responsibly towards the legacy of the past and towards future generations”
“Since they were declared responsible for either perpetrating or failing to prevent genocide, the authorities must open public debates in their respective parliaments and in society on accountability, reparations for the victims, and on the importance of official acceptance of the truth,” the statement said.
“Serbia is responsible for making public all censored documents thus proving that it is not protecting the criminal institutions of the Milošević regime,” it concluded.
3. HOLLAND TO OPEN SREBRENICA FILES
A Dutch court has instructed the Ministry of Defense to grant a Srebrenica widow access to confidential files.
The request was filed by a Bosniak woman currently residing in the Netherlands.
Her late husband Rizo Mustafić worked as an engineer in the Dutch battalion of the UN peacekeepers tasked with securing Srebrenica, the media reported.
In July 1995, when the Dutch troops left Srebrenica, Mustafić stayed behind and was subsequently killed during the massacre.
His widow now seeks compensation from the state, as her lawyers already demanded free access to the files the Dutch Defense Ministry tagged as confidential.
The Dutch Government collectively resigned from office in 2001, after the publication of “Dossier Srebrenica”, a report investigating the role of the Dutch Army during the massacre, in which it admits to having sent Dutch Army soldiers into “an ill-conceived and virtually impossible peace mission.”
4. RS (SERB ENTITY) PRESIDENT BLOCKS REQUEST OF B&H PRESIDENCY TO URGE SERBIA TO ARREST GENOCIDE SUSPECTS
Lawmakers in the Bosnian Serb entity backed a decision by the Serb member of the tripartite presidency, Nebojsa Radmanovic, who vetoed plans to urge Serbia to arrest war crimes suspects.
The Republika Srpska National Assembly (RSNA) supported on Monday (April 23rd) a veto decision by the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) presidency chairman, blocking plans to urge Serbia to arrest war crimes suspects charged with genocide.
Sixty-nine lawmakers in the 81-seat assembly voted in favour of the veto cast by Nebojsa Radmanovic, the Serb representative in the BiH tripartite presidency and its current chairman. The bill he rejected was initiated by the Bosniak and Croat members of the presidency, Haris Siladjic and Zeljko Komsic, and was prompted by a recent International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
It would have called on Belgrade to meet its obligations and co-operate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Radmanovic, however, criticised the proposal by his fellow presidency members as “destructive” and contrary to the interests of the Bosnian Serb entity.
“The BiH presidency cannot behave in this way and issue decisions that are damaging to BiH and her entities,” he told lawmakers Monday. The document has an ultimatum-like tone that is “inappropriate for diplomatic communication between the two sovereign and friendly countries”, he added.
“It is also contrary to the Agreement on Special and Parallel Relations between RS and Serbia and it must not be allowed to destroy this agreement,” he said.
Furthermore, Radmanovic argued, the BiH presidency was not empowered to make such moves. Nor, he said, does it have the authority to interpret the ICJ’s ruling on Srebrenica.
While clearing Serbia of direct responsibility, the court ruled that Serbia had violated the UN convention on genocide by failing to prevent it. The ICJ also instructed Serbia to meet its obligations and immediately arrest and hand over all those wanted by the ICTY on charges of genocide, including former Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic.
Radmanovic’s move to veto the decision “turns Republika Srpska into an agent of Serbia,” the AP quoted the Bosniak member of the presidency, Silajdzic, as saying.
According to Tanja Topic of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, such developments highlight the split among BiH’s main ethnic communities.
“Our institutions include people who represent the interests of Serbia and Croatia more than they do Bosnia and Herzegovina’s,” the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network quoted her as saying.
Two of the suspects, former military policemen Zdravko Bozic and Mladen Blagojevic, were deported to Bosnia last June and November for lying to U.S. immigration authorities about their service in the Bosnian Serb military during the 1992-95 war.
Together with Zeljko Zaric and Zoran Zivanovic, who were arrested in Bosnia last December, they were charged with the detention, murder and forcible transfer of Bosniaks after Serb forces overran the U.N. “safe area” of Srebrenica.
“According to the prosecution, the four took part in the illegal military operation in the safe area of Srebrenica in July 1995,” Bosnian radio reported Prosecutor Kwao Hong Ip as telling the court.
“They are also responsible for not preventing the crime or protecting the civilians,” he said.
According to the indictment the accused confined 2,000 to 3,000 unarmed Muslim civilians in a primary school in Bratunac near Srebrenica and participated in the abuse, beatings and cruel treatment of the detainees.
It also said that Bozic and Blagojevic together with six other members of the Serb army executed at least 5 Bosniaks while Zaric and Zivanovic separated three Bosniaks from other detainees and killed them by firing from automatic firearms.
In December, the U.S. authorities arrested 26 Bosnian Serbs and accused a number of them of taking part in Europe’s worst single atrocity since World War Two.
Over 8,000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica and surrounding villages were killed in July 1995. The bodies of about half have been found in more than 80 mass graves in the Srebrenica area and the rest are awaiting DNA identification which could take years to complete.
Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and military chief Ratko Mladic have been indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague over Srebrenica and the 43-month siege of Sarajevo.
Both men are still at large. Karadzic is believed to be hiding in eastern Bosnia or Montenegro and Mladic in Serbia.
Another 11 Bosnian Serbs are on trial for Srebrenica genocide at the Bosnian war crimes court while about two dozen are either being tried or have been convicted by the U.N. war crimes court and courts in Serbia and Croatia.
In-depth research about Srebrenica genocide suspects hiding in the US:1. Phoenix, Arizona – A Mecca for Serb Suspects of Srebrenica Massacre
2. The United States Deports Two Serbs Wanted for Srebrenica Massacre
3. Bosnian Serb Immigrants Failed to Disclose Their Past Service in Genocidal Military
4. Marko Boskic – Srebrenica Murderer
5. Butcher of Srebrenica Wants His Own Admission Kept Silent
6. Srebrenica Massacre Gunman, Marko Boskic, Will Not Face Torture Charges
7. Elusive Justice: A Man Who Gunned Down 1,200 Srebrenica Bosniaks
Revealing no sources, Monitor writes that Karadzic reached Mount Athos upon assistance of Russian intelligence services and Greek monks, and with American permission.
According to Monitor, the ICTY most wanted war crimes refugee, is writing poetry and his memoirs in the Serbian monastery on Mount Athos. The magazine also claims that the former Yugoslav Defense Minister, Veljko Kadijevic, accused of war crimes by a Croatian court, is hiding in Moscow.
Kadijevic is reportedly changing constantly locations, including Florida, Belgrade and Moscow.
Radovan Karadzic’s brother accused the United States of violating a secret arrangement with the war criminal. According to Luka Karadzic, Serb war crimes indictee Radovan Karadzic had arranged with the United States that he would disappear and in return, the US would not pursue him.
Luka Karadzic told the Associated Press that U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke had made the arrangement with Radovan Karadzic in 1996, a year after the UN’s war crimes tribunal in The Hague had indicted Karadzic of genocide and war crimes in Bosnia in the period from 1992 through 1995.
I know that an arrangement existed with my brother. My brother kept his promise, but Holbrooke and the United States did not keep theirs, said Luka Karadzic.
Holbrooke and the United States refuted such an arrangement with Radovan Karadzic several times. Karadzic disappeared in 1998 and has not been seen since.
Sokesman for the U.S. State Department Ssean McCormack said last Friday that the claim about the arrangement between Karadzic and Holebrook was absolutely false.
A former Republic of Srpska (RS) official has confirmed Radovan Karadžić and Richard Holbrooke made an agreement.
In an interview with Banja Luka weekly Fokus, Gojko Kličković, former RS prime minister, said that former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadžić and then U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke signed an agreement that allegedly granted Karadžić freedom in exchange for his giving up politics and disappearing from public view.
“The agreement in question was signed on July 19, 1996, stipulating in five or six points the terms of the deal,” Kličković said.
According to him, the two met in the RS presidential headquarters located in Pale at the time. Kličković claims he was present at the meeting.
When asked to describe Karadžić’s reaction to the offer, Kličković said that Karadžić was ready even to “bury himself in the ground, if it meant the Republic of Srpska could survive.”
Kličković also said that Holbrooke persuaded Karadžić to acquiesce via Slobodan Milošević, adding he saw him last in 1997.
The U.S. State Department has on several occasions issued flat denials of any such deals.
Another defendant, Pero Petrašević, who confessed to the crime, was sentenced to 13 years in jail, while Aleksandar Medić received a five-year sentence.
Petrašević earlier told the court he felt “the deepest regret” over his actions, and asked for a just punishment.
The fifth accused, Aleksandar Vukov, was acquitted by the trial chamber which found no evidence to support the prosecution’s claim of premeditated murder.
The five Scorpions unit members stood trial for the murder of six Srebrenica Bosniaks in July 1995.
The five were identified in video footage first made public in 2005, as part of prosecution evidence in the Hague trial of Slobodan Milošević.
The unit members themselves made the incriminating video, which showed the execution of the prisoners.
The prosecution in the case tried before the Belgrade court sought maximum penalties for all five defendants, while the defense called for acquittal.
The trial, which started on November 20, 2005, heard testimonies from 21 witnesses.
Trnovo execution, a home movie
B92 TV will this evening air a Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) documentary investigating origin, nature and actions of the Scorpions paramilitary unit, operating in the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia.
A press release issued by the NGO says the documentary used the former unit members’ statements and materials recorded by them in the course of the unit’s campaigns “to demonstrate the functioning of a typical combat unit organized by the security service to do the dirty work in the Balkans wars.”
“This film is also an attempt to cast light on the personal, intimate aspect of the crime,” the release adds.
“The strength of the Scorpions [were] the family ties. We all had family ties and were old friends from school,” Duško Kosanović, a.k.a. Owl, a former Scorpions member, told the documentary’s crew.
“The genocide, that is, the killing of those six Muslim civilians, should be condemned. I would say it’s all been pinned on the Scorpions, but, as the trial has shown and as is known, it wasn’t [the fault of] our commander Boco. Now the Scorpions are smeared and blamed for everything. But there was someone else who ran the operation and who made those mistakes and who is the real guilty party,“ Owl is quoted in the HLC release announcing the film.
Another member, Goran Štoparić, says: “Later on it became like a drug, and a man couldn’t get himself unhooked. Even when you decide not to go to a combat zone, some friend calls and you tell him you’re not going. Then he calls another five and, willy-nilly, you always go.“
The documentary was financially supported by the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the Swedish Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (SHC).
Archival footage used includes HLC and ICTY materials, as well as the video of the Trnovo execution the Scorpions made themselves.
By: Marlise Simons, The Hague
In the spring of 2003, boxes with hundreds of documents arrived at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague containing hundreds of pages marked ‘Defence. State secret. Strictly confidential.’ The cache contained minutes of wartime meetings of Yugoslav political and military leaders, including Slobodan Milosevic, and promised the best inside view yet of Serbia’s role in the Bosnian war of 1992-95.
But there was a catch. Serbia, the heir to Yugoslavia, obtained court permission to keep parts of the archives out of the public eye, citing national security. Its lawyers blacked out many sensitive – those who have seen them say incriminating – pages. Judges and lawyers at the war crimes tribunal could see the censored material, but it was barred from the court’s public records.
Now, lawyers and others who were involved in Serbia’s bid for secrecy say that, at the time, Belgrade made its true objective clear: to keep the full military archives from another court, the International Court of Justice, nearby. And they say Belgrade’s goal was achieved in February, when that court, dealing with Bosnia’s lawsuit against Serbia, declared Serbia not guilty of genocide, and absolved it from paying potentially enormous war damages.
Lawyers interviewed in The Hague and Belgrade said that the outcome might well have been different had the Court of Justice pressed for access to the uncensored archives. Legal scholars and human rights groups say that it is deeply troubling that the judges did not subpoena the documents directly from Serbia.
‘It’s a question that nags loudly,’ Diane Orentlicher, a law professor at American University in Washington, said recently in The Hague. ‘Why didn’t the court request the full documents? The fact that they were blacked out clearly implies these passages would have made a difference.’
The ruling – 170 pages long – was in many ways meticulous, and acknowledged that the 15 judges had not seen the censored military archives. But it did not say why the court did not order Serbia to provide them.
Two of the judges themselves criticized that failure, in strongly worded dissents. One, the court’s vice president, Awn Shawkat Al-Khasawneh of Jordan, wrote that ‘regrettably the court failed to act,’ adding, ‘It is a reasonable expectation that those documents would have shed light on the central questions.’
At one point, the court rebuffed a Bosnian request that it demand the full documents, and said ample evidence was already available in tribunal records.
As part of its ruling, the court said that the 1995 massacre at the supposed safe haven of Srebrenica – when in nearly 8,000 unarmed Muslim men and boys were killed – was an act of genocide committed by Bosnian Serb forces, but that it lacked proof that these forces were acting under the ‘direction’ or ‘effective control’ of Serbia.
The ruling raised some eyebrows because aspects of Serbian military involvement are already known from records of earlier trials at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. In late 1993, for instance, more than 1,800 officers and noncommissioned men from the Yugoslav Army were serving in the Bosnian Serb Army, and were deployed, paid, promoted or retired by Belgrade. These and many other men, including top generals, tribunal records showed, were given dual identities, and to handle this, Belgrade created the so-called 30th Personnel Center of the General Staff, a secret office for dealing with the officers listed on active duty in both armies.
The court took note of that information, but said that Belgrade’s ‘substantial support’ did not automatically make the Bosnian Serb Army a Serbian agent.
But lawyers who have seen the archives and further secret personnel files say than they address Serbian control and direction even more directly, revealing in new and vivid detail how Belgrade financed and supplied the war in Bosnia, and how the Bosnian Serb Army, though officially separate after 1992, remained virtually an extension of the Yugoslav Army.
They said the archives showed that Serbian forces, including secret police, played a role in the takeover of Srebrenica and in the preparation of the massacre there.
The story of the blacked-out documents, pieced together from more than 20 interviews with lawyers and court officials and from public records, offers rare insight into secret proceedings in The Hague where hearings, though usually public, can turn into closed sessions and deals often happen behind closed doors.
It took the tribunal prosecutors two years of talks, court orders and diplomatic pressure for the Belgrade government to hand over the documents, the much-coveted minutes of the Supreme Defence Council, created in 1992 when Serb-dominated Yugoslavia was fighting for more land for Serbs outside its borders in Croatia and Bosnia.
Before the handover, lawyers familiar with the case said, a team from Belgrade made it clear, in letters to the tribunal and in meetings with prosecutors and judges, that they wanted the documents expurgated to keep them from harming their case at the International Court of Justice.
The Serbs made this no secret even as they argued their case for ‘national security,’ said a lawyer involved in the negotiations, adding, ‘The senior people here knew about this.’ Confidentiality rules to protect ‘national security interests’ have often been invoked at the tribunal, including by the United States, which has privately provided intelligence like intercepts and satellite images to assist prosecutors.
When Belgrade’s lawyers met with judges to request secrecy for their archives, they produced a letter of support from Carla Del Ponte, the tribunal’s chief prosecutor.
During a recent interview, Del Ponte confirmed that she had sent such a letter in May 2003 to the former foreign minister of Serbia, Goran Svilanovic, saying that she would accept that ‘reasonable’ portions of the records be kept under seal.
‘It was a long fight to get the documents and in the end because of time constraints we agreed,’ she said. ‘They were extremely valuable for the conviction of Slobodan Milosevic.’ Milosevic, the former Serb leader, however, died before his trial was completed.
After the tribunal judges approved Belgrade’s request to keep secret sections of the military archives, Vladimir Djeric, a member of the Serbian team handling the documents, told lawyers there that ‘we could not believe our luck.’ Djeric, now a private lawyer in Belgrade, said by telephone that he could not discuss his former duties at the Foreign Ministry.
Tantalizing glimpses of the secrets of the Defence Council – whose agenda included the military budget, promotions and retirement of generals – can be gleaned elsewhere. Parts of the archives that were not censored and were obtained by The New York Times include minutes of sessions from 1993 to 1995, when the war in Bosnia was in full swing. These wartime meetings in Belgrade were attended by the presidents of then-Yugoslavia, its constituent states of Serbia and Montenegro and the top military command, including sometimes General Ratko Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military leader who was twice indicted by the war crimes tribunal on charges that include genocide. He is a fugitive.
A recent book, Unspoken Defence, by former President Momir Bulatovic of Montenegro, who attended many sessions of the Defence Council, said that in 1994, when more than 4,000 men on Serbia’s payroll were fighting in Bosnia, the council discussed abolishing the 30th personnel center because its discovery might cause political problems. Yugoslav officers were also objecting to their service in Bosnia, the book said.
Lawyers and human-rights groups have searched with special interest for council records from the summer of 1995, when Srebrenica was overrun by army and police officers, many of them, tribunal records show, in the pay of Serbia. Following the massacre there, the council met three times, with Mladic attending at least one session. Verbatim transcripts of those days are missing even from the secret archives, lawyers said.
Bosnia’s team at the World Court was convinced that the archives and the military personnel files were central to their case. Before hearings opened in 2006, Bosnia asked the court to request that Serbia provide an uncensored version of the documents. The court refused, saying that ‘extensive evidence’ was already available from public records at the war crimes tribunal. When Bosnia pressed during hearings, the court ignored the request.
In an interview, Rosalyn Higgins, a Briton who is president of the World Court, declined to say why the judges refused to subpoena the uncensored archives. She said it was the practice of the court not to discuss its findings. ‘The ruling speaks for itself,’ she said.
But the dissents from Khasawneh, of Jordan, and another judge criticized the court’s refusal to seek the evidence. The second dissent, by Ahmed Mahiou of Algeria, said that judges had given several reasons, ‘none of them sufficiently convincing,’ including a fear of creating the impression that the court was taking sides, that it might intrude on the sovereignty of a state, or that it might be embarrassed if Serbia refused.
Phon van den Biesen, a lawyer on the Bosnian team, said that the unexpurgated documents most likely would have demonstrated that the Bosnian Serb forces were agents of Serbia, controlled by Belgrade. ‘This would have made Serbia liable for the Srebrenica genocide,’ van den Biesen said. ‘We believe all this can be found in the documents. The cuts are made whenever the agenda turns to financing and to personnel matters. That’s why Serbia went to such lengths to hide them from us.’
William Schabas, professor of International Law at the University of Ireland in Galway, who closely follows the World Court, said its judges may have wanted to avoid a diplomatic showdown with Serbia and that since it is a civil and not a criminal court, it was more used to relying on materials put before it, rather than aggressively pursuing evidence.
Antonio Cassese, a former president of the war crimes tribunal in The Hague and now a law professor in Italy, said: ‘I was rather taken aback that the judges didn’t see the documents. But this is not an aggressive criminal court, but a very traditional civil court. They gave something to everybody.’’
Natasha Kandic, director of the Humanitarian Law Centre in Belgrade, said she was shocked at the court’s inaction.
‘It was well known in the Serbian government that the archives spelled out the responsibility of the state,’ she said. It was vital for the public in Serbia to know the reality of the war, she said.
After the verdict, she said, she met with a leading member of the Serbian team, a scholar, whom she promised not to identify by name.
‘He was very pleased,’ Kandic said, ‘but I confronted him, I said, you did not tell the truth.’ Her friend the scholar replied, she said, ‘It’s normal. Every country will do everything possible to protect the state. Bosnia wanted a lot of money for damages.’
Kandic went on: ‘I said that one day the truth will come out. And my friend said: ‘But that’s the future. Now it’s important to protect the state.’ ‘
This front-page lead appeared in The International Herald Tribune, 8 April 2007
BUTCHERS OF SREBRENICA HIDING IN THE UNITED STATES
Their names turned up at the Hague on a list of soldiers involved with a notorious brigade of Serbian forces responsible for Srebrenica massacre.
In federal court filings, the government says all three confessed to lying on their immigration forms to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
The men’s arrests were part of a national sweep to detain men who served in the military of the Republic of Srpska [Serb political entity which is part of Bosnia and Herzegovina] that immigrated to the United States on refugee status after the war.
In court filings, the government said all three men were part of the Zvornik Brigade, which was responsible for a massacre of over 8,000 Bosniaks at Srebrenica in July 1995.
The three men are expected to go on trial at the end of this month, but a key hearing today could determine how difficult the government’s case will be.
The defendants are trying to exclude important evidence by questioning its veracity. It includes statements made through the Croatian translator and the validity of the Serbian records that list the men as having been in the military.
Jankovic’s and Vidacak’s family declined to comment in the media.All three are being held in a Durham jail pending trial.
No matter what happens with this criminal trial, the men must face similar charges in immigration court in Atlanta. That court has a lower threshold for judgement and could force their deportation — regardless of the outcome of their criminal trial.
If deported, the men would be sent back to Bosnia where it could take years to resolve any potential charges there, Culbertson said.
Military records from a breakaway Serb republic will likely be allowed in the trial of three High Point men accused of lying on their immigration forms, a federal judge said Wednesday. U.S. District Court Judge N. Carlton Tilley said he was inclined to allow army records from the Republic of Srpska.
The United States government alleges the men were part of a brigade responsible for the massacre of thousands of Muslims during the war. The men deny any involvement with the killings.
Tilley also said he likely would allow statements made through interpreters in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, when the men first applied to enter the United States and statements made following their arrests in December.
Tilley did not enter an order but said one would be forthcoming after he reviews the issues again.
His comments came at the end of a daylong evidentiary hearing for the upcoming trial at which the attorneys for the three men challenged the veracity of the military records, as well as the statements the men made through interpreters.
Richard Butler, who spent six years as an investigator for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, testified about the recovery of records from the headquarters of the Zvornik Brigade of the Republic of Srpska in 1998.
Butler now works for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but he was present when the documents were taken for use in war crimes trials.
He explained how records from the seizure were indexed, scanned into electronic format and stored in The Hague, where the tribunal is based.
“With regard to the military records, I’m inclined to allow them,” Tilley said. “They were seized in the brigade headquarters when it was still a functioning brigade. … There’s no reason to falsify them. They have been kept in pristine condition.”
The three men’s attorneys — Scott Coalter, Chris Justice and Krispen Culbertson — also argued that the statements made on the men’s immigration forms were dubious because none of them speak English.
When the forms were filled out in Belgrade, a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employee wrote down answers given through an interpreter and the men were told to sign.
Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Patrick Auld argued that the information on the forms was corroborated by statements the men made following their December arrests. Statements the men now deny.
Tilley said those issues could be raised in front of a jury.
More research about Srebrenica genocide suspects hiding in the United States:
1. Phoenix, Arizona – A Mecca for Serb Suspects of Srebrenica Massacre
2. The United States Deports Two Serbs Wanted for Srebrenica Massacre
3. Bosnian Serb Immigrants Failed to Disclose Their Past Service in Genocidal Military
4. Marko Boskic – Srebrenica Murderer
5. Butcher of Srebrenica Wants His Own Admission Kept Silent
6. Srebrenica Massacre Gunman, Marko Boskic, Will Not Face Torture Charges
7. Elusive Justice: A Man Who Gunned Down 1,200 Srebrenica Bosniaks
Trial of Bosnian Serb Paramilitaries Transferred From UN Tribunal; Charged with crimes against women and children
Blog Editor’s comment: I have read in local Bosnian news sources that the main reason Milan Lukic and Sredoje Lukic haven’t been charged with numerous rapes against women and children was reluctance of raped women to come forward and testify. I have even voiced my protest with Mrs Bakira Hasecic, president of the rape-victim association “Woman – Victim of War”, for her Association not doing more to convince rape victims to testify against the two. Now that the trial of the two is referred to Bosnia, we can only hope that the rape victims will feel more comfortable coming forward with their testimonies, so rape charges can be added to a long list of crimes Lukic pair committed in the Eastern Bosnia.
The United Nations war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia announced today that it is referring the case of a Bosnian Serb paramilitary leader and his cousin who are accused of burning to death scores of Bosniak women, children and elderly men in 1992.
The trial of Milan Lukic, leader of a paramilitary unit known as the White Eagles or Avengers, and Sredoje Lukic, a member of the same unit, will now take place within Bosnia and Herzegovina’s court system.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which sits in The Hague, has so far transferred nine accused to Bosnia and Herzegovina for trial, along with two accused to Croatia and one to Serbia.
Milan Lukic was taken into custody by the ICTY in February last year after having been transferred from Argentina, where he was arrested in 2005 after nearly seven years on the run.
Lukic and his cousin face multiple charges relating to the activities of their paramilitary unit, which prosecutors say worked with local police and military units to exact a reign of terror over Muslims in the area around Visegrad in south-eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.
The Lukic cousins are accused of murdering about 70 Muslim women, children and elderly men by barricading them in one room of a house in Visegrad, setting the house on fire and then firing automatic weapons at those who tried to escape through the windows.
In a separate incident, the two men are accused of murdering about 70 other Muslims in the nearby village of Bikavac by forcing the victims into a house, barricading all exits and then throwing in several explosive devices.
The cousins are also accused of beating Muslim men who had been detained in a concentration camp at a military barracks in Visegrad.Milan Lukic is charged separately with several other counts of murder in which he is alleged to have led groups of Muslim men to the bank of the Drina River near Visegrad and then killed them.
Source: The United Nations