SREBRENICA GENOCIDE MEMORIAL NO LONGER UNDER SERB JURISDICTION
Srebrenica is located in Republika Srpska, however it is also the site of the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosniak boys and men, Europe’s worst carnage since World War II – ruled genocide by both the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslaiva (ICTY) and subsequently by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The bodies of the victims are being still uncovered from mass graves around the area and then reburied at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial located in Potocari.
Bosnian Serb officials were angered by the fact that the new law would allow Bosnia’s state authorities to control an institution on the territory of their political entity, which along with Bosniak-Croat Federation makes up Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The law was enacted by the High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Schwarz-Schilling, after Bosnia’s state parliament failed to pass it earlier this month. “While no representative voted against the draft, the absence of Bosnian Serb deputies resulted in the lack of the majority required to pass the law,” Schwarz-Schilling said.
To declare the law, the High Representative used Bonn powers and explained his move to the press with the stance that the Memorial Centre must not be part of the political game.
“I could not end my term in Bosnia-Herzegovina by leaving the possibility that this law become the victim of political maneuvring. To allow this law to stay forgotten because of the omissions in its passing in the parliamentary procedure would be inconceivable to me.”– Schwarz-Schilling told the daily newspaper Dnevni avaz.
The government of the Srpska Republic immediately condemned the decision, calling on the high representative to change it back. Bosnian Serbs fear that any measure that allows central institutions to interfere into matters on their territory will eventually lead to the unification of the country.
After the ICJ’s ruling in February, returnees to Srebrenica, mainly the families of the victims, have requested that Srebrenica be exempted from the territory of Republika Srpska and turned into a district under the control of central institutions, claiming it is unacceptable for the town to stay under the control of authorities responsible for genocide. Bosnian Serbs reject such an idea.
The proposal to put at least the memorial center under state control was supposed to be discussed mid-June at the State Parliament, where representatives of all three groups sit. However, Bosnian Serb lawmakers were collectively absent from the session, preventing the passing of the law.
“This law directly affects those who were bereaved at Srebrenica; it ensures that the dead will be remembered in an appropriate way and that the crime perpetrated against them will not be forgotten.” – Schwarz Schilling said.
This is why the law had to be imposed, said Schwarz Schilling, who has the authority to impose laws when domestic authorities fail to do so.
“The Memorial Center is one of the core elements in this country’s effort to come to terms with and to ameliorate the deep sorrow that continues to be caused by the genocide that was committed at Srebrenica. The secure and properly managed future of this Center matters to every decent citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from whichever community he or she may come,” – he said.
“The law applies directly to those who lost their dearest ones in Srebrenica and ensures that the memory of the fallen is preserved and that the crimes committed against them are not forgotten. ” – he said.
“For me to allow this law to go into limbo because of a failure of parliamentary procedure would have been unthinkable,” said the diplomat whose mandate ends on June 30.
FOUR SERB SUSPECTS ARRESTED IN CHICAGO
ICE encourages the public to provide any information they may have regarding Srebrenica genocide suspects living in the United States. Nationwide, anonymous tips about Srebrenica massacre suspects may be reported at 1-866-DHS-2ICE (toll-free line: 1-866-347-2423).
Four Bosnian Serb men residing in local suburbs of Chicago were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents Tuesday for concealing their prior service in the Bosnian-Serb military so they could enter the United States as refugees. All four failed to disclose on their immigration applications that they had served in the Bosnian Serb military which was involved in the genocide of 8,000 Bosniaks in Srebrenica in 1995.
The four men arrested include: Dalibor Butina, 33; Radovan Jankovic, 61; Vlado Kecojevic, 53; all of Loves Park; and Branislaw Cancar, 47, of Schiller Park. ICE agents arrested the men on immigration charges for fraudulently entering the U.S. as refugees between 1997 and 2004. The four Bosnian Serb men committed immigration fraud by concealing their prior service in these Bosnian-Serb military units when filing immigration applications with the U.S. government. The fraudulent applications enabled the individuals to gain refugee status, which allowed them to enter and reside in the United States.
After entering the United States and receiving refugee status, all four subsequently applied for and received U.S. permanent residence. They have been placed in deportation proceedings. They will be scheduled for hearings before a federal immigration judge who will make the final determination in their cases.
“A top priority of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is to ensure that our nation’s immigration system is not exploited by those who wish to illegally gain refuge in the United States,” said Elissa A. Brown, special agent-in-charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Chicago. “We focus our efforts on those individuals who enter this country under false pretenses, especially those who hide their military past.” Brown oversees a six-state area which includes: Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri and Wisconsin.
Identifying and removing persecutors and human rights violators from the United States is one of ICE’s top enforcement programs. To achieve this goal, ICE created its Human Rights Violators Unit, with a specific mandate to deny safe haven to human rights violators by bringing to bear a full range of investigative techniques and legal authorities to identify, locate, investigate and remove them from the United States. ICE has currently identified more than 800 cases from 85 countries involving suspected human rights violators.
2. Butchers of Srebrenica Hiding in the U.S.
Quick Facts: Estimates of the number of people killed during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war were severely inflated and in some cases grossly manipulated. Serbian politicians have often used grossly inflated numbers of Serb casualties around Srebrenica to justify genocide against Bosniaks. For example, Belgrade researcher and Serbian nationalist, Milivoje Ivanisevic, published several books containing grossly inflated numbers of Serb casualties which were discredited by this research, human rights organizations, and even the International Crimes Tribunal. Milivoje Ivanisevic also published a book denying Srebrenica genocide – so much about his credibility. Research and Documentation Center (RDC) found that “the allegations that Serb casualties in Bratunac [just outside of Srebrenica], between April 1992 and December 1995 amount to over three thousand is an evident falsification of facts and that the overall number of victims is three to nine times smaller than indicated by Serbia and Montenegro.” Also, during the war, local authorities in Sarajevo publicly mentioned, on several occasions, that about 200,000 people had been killed in B&H – the number which had also been inflated. With respect to Srebrenica massacre, another interesting point to make is under-reporting of civilian deaths and grossly inflated number of military deaths in Srebrenica where 8,000 Bosniaks died as a result of Genocide. During and after the war, many families of Srebrenica massacre victims asked that their family members be buried as soldiers – the most common reason being access to social support for surviving families. When registering such cases, RDC was governed by the official data that was available. Of the 97,000 documented casualties in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 83 percent of civilian victims were Bosniaks, 10 percent of civilian victims were Serbs and more than 5 percent of civilian victims were Croats. The percentage of Bosniak victims would be higher had survivors of Srebrenica not reported their loved-ones as ‘soldiers’ to access social services and other government benefits. More than 240,000 pieces of data have been collected, processed, checked, compared and evaluated by international team of experts in order to get the final number of more than 97,000 of names of victims, belonging to all nationalities. Full article starts below…
A three-year investigation by the Sarajevo-based non-governmental Research and Documentation Center revealed that the figure of dead was 97,000 – said Mirsad Tokaca, head of the research project – the only scientific research conducted into the issue so far. The figure could rise by a maximum of another 10,000 due to ongoing research, he added. Tokaca said the group began their research in 2004 in an effort to prevent death toll numbers from being used for political purposes. The research was concluded in June 2006, but it took several months for an international team of experts to evaluate the data. The Bosnian Book of the Dead was finally released in Sarajevo today by the Research and Documentation Centre (RDC) after almost four years of work.
According to the group’s research 97,207 people were killed during the Bosnian war. Of those, about 60 percent were soldiers and 40 percent civilians. Some 65 percent of those killed were Bosniaks, followed by 25 percent Serbs and more than 8 percent Croats. Of the civilians, 83 percent were Bosniaks, 10 percent were Serbs and more than 5 percent were Croats, followed by a small number of others such as Jews or Roma. Almost half of the victims died in the first months of the war, when Serb forces helped by the Yugoslav army gained control of two-thirds of Bosnia by expelling and killing many in their notorious “ethnic cleansing” campaign. The total number also includes names of 3,372 children who died during the war. According to this data, 89 per cent of victims were men and ten per cent were women.
“To avoid manipulation with numbers not based on facts, which then appear as an additional element for incitement [of hate] …, we launched this project to establish the truth,” said Tokaca.
Casualty figures from other conflicts in the region, especially during World War II, were often manipulated by Serbian politicians, and statistics and death tolls were used to justify attacks against other ethnic or religious groups, which culminated in horrendous genocide in Srebrenica of at least 8,000 Bosniaks.
Serbian politicians have often used grossly inflated numbers of Serbs victims around Srebrenica to justify genocide against Bosniaks. Radical nationalist Belgrade researcher, Milivoje Ivanisevic, was responsible for circulating most of this unreliable and incomplete data about Serb casualties. It is important to note that Ivanisevic recently published a book denying Srebrenica genocide – so much about his credibility. In a “Myth of Bratunac: Blatant Numbers Game” the RDC examined Ivanisevic’s claims and concluded the following:
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 [just outside of Srebrenica] 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…. [Full Report] END QUOTE
Human Rights Watch’s conclussions were in line with the RDC research, quote:
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.” [Full Report] END QUOTE
Office of the Chief United Nations War Crimes Prosecutor also made a statement confirming lack of reliability with respect to Serb sources grossly inflating number of Serb victims around Srebrenica. Asked to comment on the different number of Serb victims in the Srebrenica region published in Belgrade, Florence Hartmann, Spokesperson for the Office of the Prosecutor, made the following statement:
QUOTE: 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…. 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 B&H 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. [Full Report] END QUOTE
On the other note – during the war, local authorities in Sarajevo publicly mentioned, on several occasions, that about 200,000 people had been killed. Up to now, this estimate is the one mentioned most frequently by the domestic and international public, although it has been denied by various parties on several occasions. However, it is not the only estimate we have. Thus, estimations varied from 25,000 to 250,000. According to Tokaca, this “playing with numbers” was the main reason why the RDC decided to collect details and names of victims.
Tokaca’s team worked for three years with thousands of sources, collecting 21 different facts about each victim, including names, nationality, time and place of birth and death, circumstances of death and other data. In any case, a brisk discussion is expected in Bosnia in Herzegovina about the possible ways of using the data for the determination of truth and for reconciliation.
Mirsad Tokaca, RDC president, has said that the aim of the project was to identify each single victim and prevent any type of manipulation of numbers, which he considers has been the case for years.
“This is not a story about numbers, but about citizens who died during the past period,” Tokaca told Justice Report.
In a case of Srebrenica massacre, during and after the war, many families asked that their family members be buried as soldiers, for various reasons, although they died as civilians or as soldiers away from front lines. The most common reason for these requests was access to social support for families of killed soldiers. Mr Tokaca drew attention to this problem back in 1995, but the state authorities did nothing. When recently asked to clarify his classification method, Mr. Tokaca replied:
QUOTE: This is a problem for the state to solve. Back in 1995, immediately after Srebrenica, I drew the attention of certain officials to this problem. For many families, the fact that one of its members was filed as a soldier in the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina was a matter of sheer survival. When these people were confronted with the choice between existence and a lie regarding the status of the victim, they opted for the lie. The arrival of a family from Srebrenica in Sarajevo immediately after the war precisely represented such survival. The only ones who could count on some kind of state support were members of the armed forces, or rather their families. The authorities themselves, however, have failed to confront the problem of civilian casualties. This is my answer to your question. This is nothing new, after all. Throughout the past sixty years, in this country you could claim the status of a soldier on the basis of just two people’s testimony. I chose not to become involved with this problem. [Source: BH Dani (Sarajevo), December 23rd, 2005 – Genocide is not a matter of numbers.] END QUOTE
In other words and with respect to Srebrenica genocide; a POW, a surrendered soldier without a weapon would all be listed as ‘soldiers’ on the RDC list; even though they were clearly non-combatants at the time of the deaths. When registering such cases, RDC was governed by the official data that was available. The evaluation indicates that such practices lead to over-reporting of soldiers and under-reporting of civilians.
“It is important to emphasise that ‘status in war’ does not provide correct insights in relation to victims of combat versus non-combat situations, neither does it inform about legitimate victims of violations of the International Humanitarian Law, IHL,” the evaluators say.
“Status in war is a simple measure of whether or not a person was a member of a military/police formation at the time of death, or generally was a defender, or a civilian. As such it offers a good basis for a further more specific investigation into this issue. We therefore advise that this part be improved,” it is said.
Three international experts – Patrick Ball, Ewa Tabeau and Philip Verwimp – all with rich experience in similar projects, have reviewed the database and have assessed it favourably.
“This database represents an extraordinary achievement of all those who were involved in its preparation,” the experts have said, adding that some improvements are still possible.
The trio considers that the data collected by RDC gives a “good overview of war happenings related to victims and the way the individuals died”.
Verwimp, a researcher in the field of political economy in developing and post-war countries, human rights and genocide, warns that the RDC database does not mean that work on determining the number of war victims in BiH is over.
“Many consider the number of 96,895 as the overall total of victims of the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, which is not correct. For several reasons, this number should be seen as an approximation of a minimum and not as a complete total,” he told Justice Report.
Tabeau believes that the information from the database can be an efficient tool for fighting myths about the war.
“These results might be an extremely efficient tool in fighting myths, but only if there is a will in the society to deal with the past in terms of facts, not myths,” said Tabeau, who worked as a project manager in the demographic unit of the Hague tribunal’s prosecution office. In this role, she studied the demographic consequences of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, with a main focus on the number of victims during the wars in this region.
However, even though more than 90,000 names have been included in the database, the RDC does not consider that its work on the project has been concluded.
“The database remains open and whoever contacts us and offers new data we are willing to consider it and add new names,” said the IDC’s Tokaca.
Patrick Ball, a member of the evaluation team who took part in the work of nine truth commission across the world, said Tokaca’s database “is better than any I worked with so far. The project continues but I do not expect his number to rise for more than 10,000 cases.”
The figures include both the missing and those who died due to military activities or torture. The project does not include people who died during the war in accidents, through reckless handling of weapons, due to starvation or lack of medication.
“What comes to mind are 12 babies that died in Banja Luka because the hospital had no oxygen or six civilians in Gorazde who died because an airdropped American humanitarian aid package fell right on them,” Tokaca said. “Such cases were not counted as they are regarded indirect deaths.”
The organisation also plans a breakdown of the total into those who died from the “indirect” effects of the war, like the lack of medical treatment or conflict-related accidents.
Tokaca’s team of 20 people conducted thousands of interviews, visited 303 graveyards and went through records of all three armed forces involved in the war as well as other sources.
“This study was done to change the perception of the past and to allow us to overcome the hot heads and switch to calm dialogue,” Tokaca said.
The project, called “The Bosnian Book of Dead,” was funded primarily by the Norwegian government.
“Truth and knowledge are crucial prerequisites for reconciliation,” said Norwegian Ambassador to Bosnia, Jan Braathu. “The long-term consequences of not facing the past on a basis of established truth are alarming.”
Ewa Tabeau, head of the Demographic Unit research team of the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, said the project’s figures were the minimum number of war deaths. Although not complete, “it is the largest existing database on Bosnian war victims,” she said.
Other funders were the Swedish Helsinki Committee, the U.S. government, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Dutch government, the United Nations Development Program and the non-governmental Heinrich Boell Foundation, the group said.
Similar databases exist in several post-war countries. In 1999, research was undertaken to determine the exact number of victims in Rwanda, Kibuye province, and the project was called Victims of Genocide in Kibuye.
Similar efforts have been undertaken in Northern Ireland in 2000, in South Africa within a Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in El Salvador in 1997 and in Guatemala by the Commission for Historical Clarification in 1998.
Justice Report has found out that similar databases might soon be available in Serbia, Croatia and Kosovo, where work is already being done along the same lines as those applied in BiH.
It is significant that local authorities have not done much to help the research, although they did not try to prevent it. Instead, the Book of the Dead has been compiled with support from foreign governments, mainly those in Norway and Switzerland.
The research itself started in 2004. More than 240,000 pieces of data have been collected, processed, checked and compared in order to get the final number of more than 96,000 of names of victims, belonging to all nationalities.
“We are not publishing the number but rather the names of BiH citizens who died in the period from 1991 to 1995. Our intention is to stop talking about numbers and start talking about people,” Tokaca has said and added that the RDC, while researching the population loss, registered all BiH citizens who were killed or disappeared due to direct military actions or were murdered in detention centres.
“This group comprises of soldiers and civilians. What is important to us is that the total number has its structure, a range of details and explanations. For almost every case, we explained the time and geographic dimension of death, distance from place of residence to place of death, formation in which soldiers were,” the president of IDC Sarajevo explains.
The research was done in several ways. Most pieces of information were collected through direct contact with witnesses, families of victims, through newspaper articles, various registers and also by visiting of cemeteries. Tokaca says that his researchers have visited more than 400 cemeteries in order to collect names of victims.
It is interesting that the database also contains 512 names of BiH citizens who died in Slovenia and Croatia during 1991. Tokaca says that most of them were members of the Yugoslav People’s Army. In addition, the names of 16 persons – who were wounded during the war and died in 1996 from their wounds – have also been registered.
“According to available data, the highest number of victims – more than 30 per cent of the total number (28,666) – died in Podrinje, and the second highest number (14,656) perished in Sarajevo,” Tokaca explained.
In addition to the names of victims, many other indicators about the war in BiH can be derived from the database. It is therefore obvious that most civilian victims – 45,110 – died in the period May to August 1992. “Srebrenica was just a finishing act,” says the president of the RDC.
In any case, the evaluation has come to an important conclusion – that the research has been done with no ethnic partiality.
Probably the biggest problem in the database is how to define the status of victims. For IDC researchers, the only possible way was to rely on existing official registers, mostly military.
According to available data, 40 per cent of war victims in BiH were civilians and 60 per cent were soldiers or members of police forces.
Tokaca explains that he is aware of this shortfall. However, he says that the existing registers are unreliable.
For many, the true value of this database is that all who want to can search for the names of family members and friends who were lost in the war. This way, they can find the date and place of death, and the circumstances in which the person died.
Experts consider that the database can be a valuable source of information for people who study the war in BiH, but it can also be used as a relevant source in court processes, both before domestic and international courts. However, Tabeau notes that it cannot be used at every stage of the legal process.
“The Bosnian Book of the Dead can be used at certain stages of investigations. It is premature to speak of many other purposes of the database, such as using it for purposes of evidence where detailed information records about victims and perpetrators are required, and without supporting it with additional sources of data,” Tabeau told Justice Report.
She thinks that the database is important for fighting myths and demystification of various wrong statements about the war.
“The education of the entire society regarding the past is improved,” she said. “One more advantage is that young researchers can learn from this project and apply this knowledge in the future.”
Bosnia-Herzegovina’s pre-war population of 4.4 million was 43 percent Bosniak, 31 percent Bosnian Serb and 17 percent Bosnian Croat, according to a 1991 census.
“We are waiting for 12 years for the problem of Republika Srpska to be solved, for this criminal organization to be dismantled,” said Kada Hotic, a Srebrenica survivor who lost her husband and son in the massacre.
Undated photo of Bosnian Serb Captain Milorad Trbic,
on trial for Srebrenica genocide.
Note: Photos used in the following section are from June 11th 2007 protests in Sarajevo. Bosnian Muslim women from Srebrenica hold banners that read Srebrenica is the symbol of genocide during their protest in Sarajevo, on Monday, June 11, 2007. Thousands of survivors of Europe’s worst massacre since World War II protested Monday, demanding a special administrative status for the town of Srebrenica, saying it should not be run by Bosnian Serb authorities who are responsible for genocide in that town. (Credits: AP Photo/Hidajet Delic – For Fair Use Only)
Earlier today at the Sarajevo International Airport, acting on orders of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Judicial Police officers took custody of Milorad Trbic, an Accused before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) whose case has been referred to the authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina for further processing.
Serb forces killed about 8,000 Bosniak men and boys after capturing the enclave of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995. International human rights groups call the killings the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.
The transfer of Milorad Trbic to Bosnian authorities came as thousands of Srebrenica survivors demonstrated in Sarajevo to press for a special status for the former U.N.-protected enclave. In Sarajevo, survivors of the Srebrenica massacre took to the streets demanding that their eastern town be removed from the jurisdiction of the Serb Republic, which together with the Bosniak-Croat federation comprises Bosnia under the 1995 Dayton peace accords. The town came under Serb jurisdiction after the war, but Bosniaks there have been demanding self-rule, a move vehemently opposed by authorities in the Serb Republic.
“The international community, all member states of the United Nations, are requested by international law not to recognize as lawful the results of genocide and to work together to eliminate the consequences of genocide,” said Bosnian leader Haris Silajdzic, a member of the country’s presidency. But Srebrenica status could change only as part of a constitutional reform, which has been blocked for more than a year over disagreement between Serb and Bosniak politicians.
Protesters carried banners saying “Justice for all,” and demanded Srebrenica no longer be part of the Bosnian Serb entity, Republika Srpska, but to become an independent district within the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
“We are waiting for 12 years for the problem of Republika Srpska to be solved, for this criminal organization to be dismantled,” said Kada Hotic, a Srebrenica survivor who lost her husband and son in the massacre.
The indictment against Trbic charges him with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, extermination, murder, persecutions and forcible transfer committed against the civilians of the Srebrenica area from July to November 1995. According to this indictment, as deputy chief of security of the Zvornik Brigade of the Army of Republika Srpska, Milorad Trbic helped manage the Military Police Company during the events in Srebrenica in July 1995.
The indictment alleges that the Accused was inter alia in charge of supervising the detention and execution of Bosniak victims at various sites in the area around the city of Zvornik .
According to the indictment, on 14 July 1995, at the Grabovac School in Orahovac, together with the chief of security of the Zvornik brigade, the Accused supervised the Military Police in guarding Bosniak detainees and transporting them to a nearby field where they were summarily executed.
The indictment alleges that Trbic entered an agreement with several others, including Generals Ratko Mladic, Milenko Zivanovic, Zdravko Tolimir (‘Chemical Tolimir’) and Radislav Krstic, to kill the able-bodied Bosnian Muslim men from Srebrenica that were captured or surrendered after the fall of Srebrenica on 11 July 1995 and remove the remaining Bosniak population of Srebrenica and Zepa from Republika Srpska with the intent to destroy those Muslims.
In addition, it is alleged that from about 1 August 1995 through about 1 November 1995, Bosnian Serb Army and police personnel including Trbic participated in an organised and comprehensive effort to conceal the killings and executions by reburying bodies exhumed from initial mass graves to secondary graves.
Trbic and others are accused of also plotting to remove the remaining Bosniak population of Srebrenica and Zepa from Republika Srpska with the intent to destroy that population.
The indictment states that Trbic participated with other Bosnian Serb army personnel in an organized effort to conceal the killings and executions of those men and boys by exhuming bodies from initial mass graves and reburying them in secondary graves.
The ICTY which sits at The Hague, has so transferred 10 accused to Bosnia and Herzegovina for trial, as well as two accused to Croatia and one to Serbia. The transfers of cases involving low or intermediate-level accused to courts in the countries of the former Yugoslavia are part of the Tribunal’s completion strategy, designed to allow it to concentrate its resources upon the most serious cases.
The ICTY has indicted 161 persons and completed proceedings in the cases of 108 accused since it held its first hearing in November 1994. Under the completion strategy, the Tribunal is scheduled to finish its work by the end of 2010.
After the war, some Bosniaks returned to Srebrenica but describe life there as hard and humiliating. At the beginning of March, the returnees called for a change in the Bosnian constitution to erase the ethnic division of the country, claiming it was impossible to live in a town that offers few jobs and where, they claim, perpetrators of genocide still live. The International Court of Justice in The Hague declared in February that Bosnian Serb troops committed genocide in Srebrenica.
The survivors base their claim for exemption of Srebrenica from Republika Srpska on this court verdict. The idea of changing the constitution is supported by forces in the federation of Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats, who seek to unify the entire country, but the Bosnian Serb authorities vehemently oppose any change of the status of the town.
More about Dutch shame from previous, June 4th 2007, protests:
(photo credits: Reuters/WFA Frank van Rossum, Netherlands – For Fair Use Only)
Photo (look down): Unidentified women, relatives of the Srebrenica victims, react during a march to Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s office in the Hague June 4, 2007. Angry relatives of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre on Monday sued the Dutch state and the United Nations for allowing thousands of Bosniaks to be killed by Bosnian Serb forces in the U.N. protected ‘safe haven’ enclave of Srebrenica that was guarded by Dutch troops in 1995. Women are holding a portrait of a “Bosnian Girl” with shameful graffiti written by an unknown Dutch soldier.
Graffiti “No teeth…? A mustache…? Smel like shit…? Bosnian Girl!” written by the unknown Dutch soldier on the wall of the army barracks in Potocari, Srebrenica ’94/’95. The Royal Netherlands Army Troops, as a part of the UN Peace Keeping Forces UNPROFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-95 were responsible for protection of Srebrenica safe area.
Shameful Dutch graffiti were transformed into artwork, by Sejla Kameric:
– Chemical Weapons Use in Srebrenica Requested by Zdravko Tolimir
– U.N., Dutch Cowards on Trial (analysis of shameful failures)
– U.N., Dutch Complicity in Srebrenica Genocide
…The Serbs began to “march girls and young women away from the group of refugees. They were raped.” ….A Dutch soldier stood by and watched as the women were raped, even listening to music on his Walkman…. A Serb, says Subasic, “told the mother to make the child stop crying. But when the baby continued to cry, he took it from the mother and slit its throat. Then he laughed. A Dutch soldier also witnessed the murder of the baby, she says, and yet he “didn’t react at all”… The Muslim men, some as young as 12, were almost all murdered. The scenes that transpired in the camp are indescribable. The Serbs would pick out girls from groups. “I saw the Bosnian women begging the Dutchbat soldiers to bring the girls back,” Kadira Gabeljic, one of the plaintiffs, recalls. But they only responded: “no, no, no.” Ramiza Gurdic, another plaintiff, witnessed an incident that she is unlikely to ever forget. She describes a scene in which a 10-year-old boy was placed in his mother’s lap and literally slaughtered. “His little head was chopped off, and the body remained in the mother’s lap.”
Dutch lawyers Axel Hagedorn and Marco Gerritsen, a “Mother of Srebrenica” Maunira Subasic, and lawyers Faruli Capina and Semir Guzin on their way to deliver a civil summons at the Dutch Supreme Court in the Hague, the Netherlands on Monday.
By Udo Ludwig and Ansgar Mertin
Munira Subasic, from the town of Vogosca near Sarajevo, lost 22 members of her family during the massacre at Srebrenica that lasted several days in mid-July 1995. Nine years after Serbian militias murdered more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims, Subasic had to identify and later bury her dead husband. Her 20-year-old son Nermin remains missing today.
The deaths of her family members are not the 58-year-old Subasic’s only inextinguishable memory. To this day, she is still unable to overcome the bitter hours of July 12, when she was staying in a refugee camp near Srebrenica. Dutch United Nations peacekeepers were assigned to protect the camp. But at some point, says Subasic, the Serbs began to “march girls and young women away from the group of refugees. They were raped.”
She also witnessed the murder of a baby. A Serb, says Subasic, “told the mother to make the child stop crying. But when the baby continued to cry, he took it from the mother and slit its throat. Then he laughed.”
Almost 12 years after these crimes were committed, Subasic’s descriptions have acquired new force. Especially now that she has reported that Bosnians were not the only ones to witness such barbaric acts. According to Subasic, a Dutch soldier stood by and watched as the women were raped, even listening to music on his Walkman. A Dutch soldier also witnessed the murder of the baby, she says, and yet he “didn’t react at all.”
Subasic’s story, and others like it, have triggered a new wave of outrage this week. They are part of a 228-page complaint filed on Monday in a court in The Hague. An Amsterdam law firm filed the lawsuit on behalf of Munira Subasic and almost 6,000 other survivors against the Dutch government and the UN.
The Worst Genocide since World War II
The suit alleges that although the Serbs’ murderous intentions were known, neither the Dutch, as a protective power, nor the UN, as the organization providing the mandate, took steps to save the local population. The attorneys are demanding €25,000 in initial damages for each plaintiff, as well as overall damages that have yet to be determined, for what they call the “worst genocide since World War II.”
The disgraceful role the Dutch played in Bosnia has already been investigated by a number of commissions in the Netherlands, and it even led to the resignation of Prime Minister Wim Kok in 2002. But the current suit ventures into virgin territory in international law. It revolves around whether and to what extent UN peacekeepers charged with protecting a foreign population can be held accountable for their mistakes.
The judges will also be faced with the fundamental question of whether the UN can be held responsible for the failures of a military force under its command. It will be the first time that the global organization will be taken to court because soldiers operating under the UN banner were either unwilling or unable to protect the people they had been ordered to protect.
The attorneys responsible for filing the suit, Axel Hagedorn and Marco Gerritsen, of the Amsterdam law firm Van Diepen Van der Kroef, spent years preparing their brief. In it they paint a picture of a force that was incompetent, disinterested and solely concerned about the health and wellbeing of its own soldiers.
Even the training of the UN peacekeepers for the mission in the Balkans was extremely unprofessional, the lawyers write, charging that they were sent to Bosnia without adequate training in the first place.
The light weapons carried by the Dutch battalion, known as Dutchbat, also proved to be completely unrealistic. The unit was careful not to appear too warlike, instead preferring to come across as peaceable. But this stance would come back to haunt them. By early 1995, only about 10 percent of Dutch convoys actually made it through the Serbian ranks, leading to dramatic shortages of ammunition, food and medical supplies.
The Bosnian Serbs, led by Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, were able to gradually prepare their assault against the UN-protected zone, where there were about 40,000 Bosnians. But the Dutch remained persistently lethargic. General Bernard Janvier, the French commander of UN forces in Zagreb, told a national investigative commission: “If we had had 400 Frenchmen in Srebrenica, things would have been different. We would have fought seriously.”
When a UN observation post near Srebrenica was attacked on July 8 and the Dutchbat command requested air support, nothing happened. Dutch soldiers later claimed that UN military officials in Sarajevo had refused to send the planes. “This is simply untrue,” according to attorney Hagedorn, who says that the Dutch chief of staff, General Cees Nicolai, turned down the offer of air support, presumably acting on orders from The Hague. Hagedorn claims that Joris Voorhoeve, the Dutch defense minister at the time, intervened by telephone.
The suit alleges that the Dutchbat troops simply abandoned their position when Serbian paramilitary forces approached. “The Dutch had only one goal from the start,” claims attorney Gerritsen, “namely to get all their soldiers home in one piece.”
The Serbs managed to break through the UN defenses. And because they claimed to have 15 Dutch soldiers in custody, the Dutch commanders continued to categorically reject any air support. But a few peacekeepers didn’t even abandon their posts under duress. “They went along with the Serbs of their own accord,” says Gerritsen, “and with the blessing of the Dutch military leadership.”
With Srebrenica captured, the Serbs had reached their objective. A few frightened Dutchmen even laid down their weapons — a total of 199 rifles, 25 submachine guns, 28 pistols and 29 machine guns. Dutchbat officers advised the terrified women and children to flee to the refugee camp in the nearby town of Potocari, where they told them they would be safe. Between 10,000 and 15,000 men escaped into the forests, planning to make their way to Tuzla, which was considered safer. But very few made it. Most were blown up by landmines, captured or shot to death by the thousands.
Torture, Executions and Slaughter
The refugee camp in Potocari accepted only one in six of about 30,000 Bosnians seeking shelter there. The rest were forced to stay outside the camp. The situation became critical on July 12, when Serbs standing at the gate demanded to be allowed in to inspect the camp. The Dutchbat troops agreed. To avoid provocations, the UN peacekeepers laid down their weapons and placed them on a pile. When the Serbs began marauding through the camp, the Dutch soldiers simply looked the other way. After returning home, a Dutch soldier later said that he preferred to forget what he experienced on that day: “torture, executions and slaughter.”
Instead of preventing the crimes or at least reporting them to the UN command in Sarajevo, the Dutch are even accused of having actively participated in the selection of Bosnian women and men. The Muslim men, some as young as 12, were almost all murdered. The scenes that transpired in the camp are indescribable. The Serbs would pick out girls from groups. “I saw the Bosnian women begging the Dutchbat soldiers to bring the girls back,” Kadira Gabeljic, one of the plaintiffs, recalls. But they only responded: “no, no, no.”
Ramiza Gurdic, another plaintiff, witnessed an incident that she is unlikely to ever forget. She describes a scene in which a 10-year-old boy was placed in his mother’s lap and literally slaughtered. “His little head was chopped off, and the body remained in the mother’s lap.”
An Obligation to Prevent Genocide
The prosecutors are convinced that the Dutch soldiers were criminally negligent when it came to fulfilling their duty to secure the UN-protected zone. As a result, the suit alleges, they “handed over the population to the bloodthirsty Bosnian Serbs.” The suit has gained impetus from a decision handed down in February by the International Court of Justice, under which states are obligated “to prevent genocide.” The Dutch state played a “controlling role” in the UN peacekeeping mission, says attorney Hagedorn, “and for that reason it must now be held liable for the dramatic consequences.”
The fact that the Amsterdam attorneys are also taking aim at the United Nations is even more relevant for international law. The UN generally enjoys immunity so that it can fulfill its goals. But, the plaintiffs say, that immunity can no longer apply in this case. According to the plaintiffs, the UN approved the Bosnian mission in a number of resolutions and executed it with the help of UN peacekeepers. It would be an unacceptable “concentration of power,” says Hagedorn, “if it cannot even be monitored by the courts anymore.”
Even more important, say the plaintiffs’ attorneys, is the fact that the UN’s immunity was established so that it could pursue its humanitarian goals worldwide. But, says Hagedorn, he cannot imagine “that the UN sees genocide as part of its purpose.”
Translated from the German by Chris Sultan. Republished from Der Spiegel, June 05, 2007: Srebrenica Survivors Sue Netherlands, United Nations. For Fair Use Only [Educational / Non-Commercial].
Lawyers for thousands of survivors of Europe’s worst massacre since World War II were filing suit Monday against the United Nations and the Dutch government for their failure to protect civilians in the Srebrenica safe haven when Bosnian Serb forces overran it in 1995 and slaughtered some 8,000 men.
“In the last three years a strong case has been built against the Dutch state and the U.N., who will be held jointly responsible for the fall of the enclave and the genocide that took place there as a result,” Dutch law firm Van Diepen Van der Kroef said in a statement. “The procedure must lead to a result whereby the relatives who survived this drama can finally get recognition and a sense of satisfaction.”
About 200 survivors, known as the Mothers of Srebrenica, were traveling from Bosnia to accompany lawyers as they delivered a civil summons to the Dutch government in the early afternoon, the law firm said. Dutch authorities are expected to pass on details to the U.N.
During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, the United Nations declared Srebrenica — which had been besieged by Serb forces — a U.N.-protected safe area for civilians.
But around 450 soldiers on peacekeeping duty in Srebrenica stood by helplessly and even assisted in separating women from the men when Bosnian Serb forces stormed the region in July 1995. The men were taken away in buses by the Serb forces and murdered, their bodies plowed into mass graves.
An independent study later cleared the Dutch troops of most blame, noting they were outnumbered, lightly armed and under instructions to fire only in self-defense.
Bosnian Serb military leader Gen. Ratko Mladic and Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic have both been indicted for genocide in the Srebrenica massacre but remain on the run.
The legal move against the U.N. and the Netherlands came on the dayZdravko Tolimir, a senior Mladic aide during the slaughter in Srebrenica, was to appear before judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal for the first time since he was arrested last week.
Tolimir was charged in 2005 by the U.N. tribunal with genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, extermination, murder, persecution, forcible transfer and deportation, as well as murder in connection with the Srebrenica massacre.
Serb nationalists chant slogans glorifying Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb commander wanted on genocide charges by a U.N. court, during a rally in Belgrade, Serbia. Many Serbs still view genocide fugitives as heroes of mythical proportions.
By Stefan Bos
Bosnian and Serbian security forces arrested Tolimir late Thursday as he tried to enter Serbia from Bosnia. He was later handed over to U.N, authorities in Banja Luka. Tolimir was considered the third most wanted war crimes suspect in the Balkans after General Ratko Mladic, former Bosnian Serb Army chief, and Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb President.
In comments aired on Reuters television and other networks, relatives of those who died reacted with mixed emotions to the news of his arrest.
“This is good news for the victims, but it should have happened 12 years ago,” said Munira Subasic, a representative of the Association of Women from Srebrenica.
“I hope that [Radovan] Karadzic and [Ratko] Mladic will come out from their hideouts as well to face justice,” added Kada Horic, who survived the Srebrenica massacre.
Olga Kavran, the spokeswoman of the United Nations Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, shares that view. Kavran told reporters she hopes that Serbia will step up efforts to extradite war crimes suspects.
“There are still five remaining [top] fugitives, most of whom we believe to be within reach of Serbia,” she said. “Serbia is in violation of many international obligations by not delivering namely Ratko Mladic, Radovan Karadzic and the other fugitives, and that does not change.”
U.N. officials hope that Tolimir could provide key information about Mladic and Karadzic. Tolimir is thought by experts to have helped commander Mladic evade arrest since his indictment for war crimes in 1995. The European Union has urged Serbia to transfer more war crimes suspects. EU Enlargement Commissioner, Olli Rehn, made clear Friday that the arrest of Tolimir would pave the way to resume stalled talks with the Serbian government about establishing closer ties.
“…it is likely that if a chemical agent was used during the trek from Srebrenica to Tuzla, the people most affected by it are no longer alive to tell their story, having been killed by Serb forces following their incapacitation by BZ or a similar substance. Secondly, Human Rights Watch did not have the resources to do systematic sampling for BZ or a BZ-like compound. Moreover, Human Rights Watch has also not been able to obtain other types of evidence that have been said to exist, including transcripts of Serb radio transmissions from the time of the Srebrenica events…. The United States government apparently took the allegations seriously enough to conduct an investigation, reported to have taken place in late 1996 or early 1997. The results of this investigation have not been made public, but in late 1996 or early 1997 the U.S. intelligence community had information suggesting that chemical weapons may have been used in Srebrenica. The government’s refusal to release the findings may, according to a U.S. official interviewed by Human Rights Watch, be based on a belief that making this information public might hurt the international effort to effect peace in the former Yugoslavia.”
One official told Human Rights Watch in December 1996 that ”we do not see an advantage in declassifying those documents relating to chemical weapons use in Bosnia. We have spoken with people and received assurances that other channels are being pursued that we believe would be more effective and achieve a more favorable outcome than simply publicizing theme.” That is where it’s been left. (Source: The 1998 U.S. Congressional Hearing on Srebrenica Genocide)
(Photo of Peter McCloskey)
In 2006 opening statements, the U.N. Prosecutor McCloskey stated that “criminal orders in war are as a rule issued verbally”, and that a few exceptions existed to the rule. One of the most striking ones is a report sent on 21 July 1995 by General Zdravko Tolimir from Zepa to General Radomir Miletic, acting Chief of General Staff of the VRS. Tolimir is asking for help to crush some BH Army strongholds, expressing his view that “the best way to do it would be to use chemical weapons”. In the same report, Chemical Tolimir goes even further,proposing strikes against refugee columns leaving Zepa, because that would “force the Muslim fighters to surrender quickly”, in his opinion. (Source: SENSE Tribunal, 2006.)
The total Yugoslav chemical weapons arsenal contained sarin, mustard gas, BZ, and the tear gases CN and CS (all in large quantities), together with quite traditional products such as phosgene, chlorine picric acid, cyanogen chloride, adamsite, lewisite, and other materials, often only in laboratory quantities. (Source: Federation of American Scientists)
Key Srebrenica Massacre Suspect Transferred To UN Tribunal – republished from VOA News for Fair Use Only [Educational / Non-Commercial purposes].