LIFE IN HELL, ENCLAVE OF “SAFE HAVEN”
FACING GENOCIDE, 7/11 1995.
(Feel free to republish with references)
Short Intro: The Srebrenica massacre is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. It is the first and only legally established case of genocide to be recognized by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICTY), as well as, the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Over 8,000 victims perished during the genocide under the watch of the United Nations’ peacekeepers…
The small town of Srebrenica is located in the mountainous valley in north-eastern Bosnia, about 15 kilometres from the Serbian border. On April 16, 1993 or approximately one year after Bosnia-Herzegovina was recognized by the European Community and the United States, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 819 declaring Srebrenica “safe haven” under the UN protection.
As a result of the Bosnian Serb attacks on predominantly Bosniak-inhabited Podrinje region several tens of thousands of Bosniak refugees flooded into “protected area”. Thus far, Srebrenica became an enclave under siege.
Diego Arria who initiated the visit of the UN Security Council delegation to Srebrenica in April 1993, and was at its head, described the situation in the enclave as “genocide in slow motion”. During the siege, the situation in Srebrenica could be described as nothing less but hell. He took the first photographs of the destruction of Srebrenica and its starving inhabitants at the time and refused to hand over his camera to UN members. In two separate ICTY trials (Milosevic, Oric), Arria gave eyewitness testimony at the International Crimes Tribunal (ICTY) about the shocking images of poverty, destruction, starvation and squalor in Srebrenica enclave that were hidden from the public. He described the besieged enclave itself as “a concentration camp policed by UNPROFOR.” (Sense Tribunal)
Back in 1993, with the encouragement and guarantees of the United Nations, the Government of Bosnia-Herzegovina entered into demilitarization agreements with the Bosnian Serb armed forces. The Bosnian Serb side was responsible for disarming and withdrawing heavy weapons around Srebrenica and ceasing attacks on the enclave from surrounding Serb villages. The units of the Army of Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina (ARB&H) in the enclave were also responsible to disarm and hand down their weapons. According to the UNPROFOR press release dated April 21, 1993, the ARB&H did demilitarize enough for UNPROFOR to conclude that “the process had been a success.” On the other hand, the Bosnian Serb side refused to honor their part of the demilitarization agreement and never demilitarized around Srebrenica. As a result, specific instructions from United Nations Headquarters in New York stated that “UNPROFOR 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 Bosnian Serb foces never did withdraw their heavy weapons. (General Assembly resolution 53/35)
At the ICTY proceedings Arria accused the United Nations of not doing anything to protect the Muslims in the enclave. The UN “did not move its little finger” to protect the Muslims in the enclave and “did not make it possible for them to defend themselves” – testified former head of the UN Security Council delegation to Srebrenica. According to Arria, the international community had been hopping that the Serb forces under the command of General Ratko Mladic would overrun the Srebrenica enclave quickly, thereby quickly “solving the problem” of people who refused to be killed or ethnically cleansed from their land. As Arria concluded, there was a “gradual genocide” in Srebrenica far before 7/11 1995 mass scale killing rampage started.
Bosnian Serb forces, who held the enclave under brutal siege, were not allowing international humanitarian aid – most importantly, food and medicine – to reach Srebrenica. As early as the summer of 1992, there was a humanitarian disaster in the making, as concluded by the UN Court (ICTY):
“Bosnian Serb forces controlling the access roads were not allowing international humanitarian aid – most importantly, food and medicine – to reach Srebrenica. As a consequence, there was a constant and serious shortage of food causing starvation to peak in the winter of 1992/1993. Numerous people died or were in an extremely emaciated state due tomal nutrition. Bosnian Muslim fighters and their families, however, were provided with food rations from existing storage facilities. The most disadvantaged group among the Bosnian Muslims were the refugees, who usually lived on the streets and without shelter, in freezing temperatures. Only in November and December 1992, did two UN convoys with humanitarian aid reach the enclave, and this despite Bosnian Serb obstruction. Toward the end of February 1993, US planes began air dropping food and supplies over the Srebrenica enclave. ‘Operation Provide Promise’ gave some relief to the starving population…. Hygienic conditions throughout the Srebrenica enclave were appalling. There was a total absence of running water. Most people were left to drink water from a small river which was polluted. Infestation with lice and fleas became widespread among the population…. Patients suffered in dreadful conditions, as no disinfectants, bandages, aspirins or antibiotics were available with which to treat them. Limbs were amputated without anaesthesia, with brandy being administered to ease the pain.” (Naser Oric Judgment)
Srebrenica town and the villages in the area held by Bosniaks remained constantly subjected to Serb military assaults from surrounding Serb villages, including artillery attacks, sniper fire, as well as occasional bombing from aircrafts. Threatened by starvation, population of Srebrenica participated in searches for food in nearby Serb held villages. As the UN Court described conditions of these searches:
“These searches were very dangerous; many stepped on mines or were wounded or killed by Serbs. Because of the bags in which the searchers carried the food, they were known as ‘torbari’. These torbari also entered Serb villages, alongside Bosnian Muslim fighters during actions, in order to search for food and other items. Most of the time, the torbari greatly outnumbered the fighters themselves.” (Oric Judgment)
“… Complete the physical separation of Srebrenica from Zepa as soon as possible, preventing even communication between individuals in the two enclaves. By planned and well-thought out combat operations, create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica…. The relevant State and military organs responsible for the work of UNPROFOR and humanitarian organisations shall, through planned and unobtrusively restrictive issuing of permits, reduce and limit the logistics support of UNPROFOR to the enclaves and the supply of material resources to the Muslim population, making them dependent on our good will while at the same time avoiding the condemnation of the international community and international public opinion.” (Radislav Krstic Judgment)
At the meeting of the representatives of Srebrenica enclave, members of the international community, and Serb Gen Ratko Mladic at Hotel Fontana in 1995, Mladic made it clear that the survival of the civilian population in the area was conditional upon the capitulation of the Bosnian Government forces in charge of defending the enclave. To secure the capture of the city and surrender of the ARBiH forces General Mladic threatened severe repercussions for the civilian population of Srebrenica. “You can either survive or disappear.”
As the International Crimes Tribunal (ICTY) concluded in the judgment against Vidoje Blagojevic:
“The Bosnian Muslim men were stripped of their personal belongings and identification, detained, and finally taken to execution sites, where the Bosnian Serb forces deliberately and systematically killed them, solely on the basis of their ethnicity. Immediately before and during these massacres, the remainder of the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica was forcibly transferred to Bosnian Muslim-held territory. The forcible transfer of the women, children and elderly is a manifestation of the specific intent to rid the Srebrenica enclave of its Bosnian Muslim population. The manner in which the transfer was carried out – through force and coercion, by not registering those who were transferred, by burning the houses of some of the people, sending the clear message that they had nothing to return to, and significantly, through its targeting of literally the entire Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica, including the elderly and children – clearly indicates that it was a means to eradicate the Bosnian Muslim population from the territory where they had lived.”
“Continuing in March 1995 through July 1995 the VRS [Bosnian Serb Army] deliberately restricted humanitarian aid and relief supplies to the Muslim inhabitants of Srebrenica and Zepa as part of the organized effort to make life impossible for the Muslims and remove them. The forcible transfer of the women and children as described in this indictment created conditions known to the accused that would contribute to the destruction of the entire Muslim population of Eastern Bosnia, including but not limited to the failure in part, of the population to live and reproduce normally. The participation of the accused in the Joint Criminal Enterprise to murder the able-bodied Muslim men of Srebrenica and the specific acts and responsibilities described in this Indictment satisfy the elements required for a finding that, pursuant to Article 7(1) of the Statute of the Tribunal, Zdravko Tolimir, Vinko Pandurevic, Ljubisa Beara, Vujadin Popovic, Drago Nikolic, Milorad Trbic and Ljubomir Borovcanin ‘committed,’ ‘planned,’ ‘instigated,’ ‘ordered,’ and otherwise ‘aided and abetted’ genocide, crimes against humanity (including murder, persecutions, forcible transfer, and inhumane acts), and murder as a violation of the laws or customs of war.” (Popovic et. al Indictment)
“In the words of his counsel, ‘There was unchallenged evidence that General Krstic had organised the transfer of women, children and the elderly from the Srebrenica area so that they would not be affected by the coming holocaust.’ Thus, according to his counsel, the appellant recognised that a ‘coming holocaust’ awaited those who had not been transferred. The transfer and the holocaust combined to constitute one single act of genocide.” (Krstic Judgment)
With respect to the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, it is important to note that on 26 September 1997 Germany handed down first Bosnian Genocide conviction. Nikola Jorgic was found guilty by the Düsseldorf, Germany, Oberlandesgericht (Higher Regional Court) on 11 counts of genocide involving the murder of 30 persons. His appeal was rejected by the German Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Supreme Court) on 30 April 1999. He was sentenced to four terms of life imprisonment for his involvement in the Bosnian Genocide.
The Srebrenica massacre is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. It is the first and only legally established case of genocide to be recognized by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICTY), as well as, the International Court of Justice (ICJ). This, of course, does not mean that the Holocaust was not a genocide, because the Nuremberg trials took place before genocide had a legal meaning.
The United Nations’ ICTY ruled Srebrenica massacre was a Genocide in the judgments “Prosecutor vs. Krstic” and “Prosecutor vs. Vidojevic”. The International Court of Justice has subsequently confirmed the ICTY’s finding that the Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide in a case of “Bosnia vs. Serbia”.
To demonstrate horrors of Srebrenica genocide, here are some excerpts from the ICTY’s 260 page-rulling in the case of Prosecutor vs. Krstic which resulted in first Srebrenica genocide conviction:
According to the Secretary-General’s Report, A/54/549 conclusions: “The same day [17 July 1995], one of the Dutchbat soldiers, during his brief stay in Zagreb upon return from Serb-held territory, was quoted as telling a member of the press that “hunting season [is] in full swing… it is not only men supposedly belonging to the Bosnian Government who are targeted… women, including pregnant ones, children and old people aren’t spared. Some are shot and wounded, others have had their ears cut off and some women have been raped.”43. Killings occurred. In the late morning of 12 July 1995, a witness saw a pile of 20 to 30 bodies heaped up behind the Transport Building in Potocari, alongside a tractor-like machine. Another testified that, at around 1200 hours on 12 July, he saw a soldier slay a child with a knife in the middle of a crowd of expellees. He also said that he saw Serb soldiers execute more than a hundred Bosnian Muslim men in the area behind the Zinc Factory and then load their bodies onto a truck, although the number and methodical nature of the murders attested to by this witness stand in contrast to other evidence on the Trial Record that indicates that the killings in Potocari were sporadic in nature.
44. As evening fell, the terror deepened. Screams, gunshots and other frightening noises were audible throughout the night and no one could sleep. Soldiers were picking people out of thecrowd and taking them away: some returned; others did not. Witness T recounted how three brothers – one merely a child and the others in their teens – were taken out in the night. When the boys’ mother went looking for them, she found them with their throats slit.
45. That night, a Dutch Bat medical orderly came across two Serb soldiers raping a young woman:
“[W]e saw two Serb soldiers, one of them was standing guard and the other one was lying on the girl, with his pants off. And we saw a girl lying on the ground, on some kind of mattress. There was blood on the mattress, even she was covered with blood. She had bruises on her legs. There was even blood coming down her legs. She was in total shock. She went totally crazy.”
46. Bosnian Muslim refugees nearby could see the rape, but could do nothing about it becauseof Serb soldiers standing nearby. Other people heard women screaming, or saw women being dragged away. Several individuals were so terrified that they committed suicide by hanging themselves. Throughout the night and early the next morning, stories about the rapes and killings spread through the crowd and the terror in the camp escalated.150. On 12 and 13 July 1995, upon the arrival of Serb forces in Potocari, the Bosnian Muslim refugees taking shelter in and around the compound were subjected to a terror campaign comprised of threats, insults, looting and burning of nearby houses, beatings, rapes, and murders.
517. More significantly, rapes and killings were reported by credible witnesses and some committed suicide out of terror. The entire situation in Potocari has been depicted as a campaign of terror. As an ultimate suffering, some women about to board the buses had their young sons dragged away from them, never to be seen again.
In some cases, even babies were taken away from their mothers. When Sabaheta Fejzic and her husband ran with their baby to a Dutch military base, the Serbs took her husband, and literally tore her son from her arms. She never saw either of them again. (Der Spiegel, Toast to the Dead)
1. Setting the Stage for Genocide – by Sense Tribunal
2. The Biggest Cover-up in History – by Sense Tribunal
3. Prosecutor vs. Krstic Judgment – ICTY’s Judgment (.pdf)
4. Prosecutor vs. Krstic Appeals Judgment -ICTY’s Judgment (.pdf)
5. Prosecutor vs. Blagojevic Judgment – ICTY’s Judgment (.pdf)
6. Prosecutor vs. Oric Judgment – ICTY’s Judgment (.pdf)
7. CIA World Factbook – Bosnia-Herzegovina
8. Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 53/35 – The Fall of Srebrenica (.pdf)
9. Second Consolidated Amended Indictment against Popovic et al. (Zdravko Tolimir, Vinko Pandurevic, Ljubisa Beara, Vujadin Popovic, Drago Nikolic, Milorad Trbic, Ljubomir Borovcanin)
10. List of Killed and Missing – Contains first and last names of 8373 victims, their fathers names, dates of birth, and personally identifiable Yugoslav state numbers JMBG
11. Srebrenica Massacre Widows Sue UN, Dutch Government: Toast to the Dead – Copy of Der Spiegel article, originally published July 4th 2006. Translated from German by Toby Axelrod.
End of the article