Those who tried to escape would be fired upon and killed. The youngest victim was 2 days old baby whose remains contained multiple bullet holes. Some babies died in their mothers’ wombs as you can see in forensic photos provided below. According to numerous testimonies presented at theICTY, main organizers of these crimes were Mitar Vasiljevic, Milan Lukic, and Sredoje Lukic.
PHOTO: Remains of a pregnant Bosniak woman and her unborn baby excavated from a mass grave Suha in the Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. Fetus body was preserved in mother’s womb with tiny legs and undeveloped brain clearly visible. The woman was barricaded in an abandoned house and then set on fire by Bosnian Serbs. When she tried to escape, she was shot with a single bullet to her stomach. In 1992, Serbs barricaded approximately 150 Bosnian Muslim women, children, and elderly men in two abandoned houses located in the Srebrenica region near Visegrad and then burned them alive. Zehra Turjacanin was the only survivor from the burning house in Bikavac and recently she testified ‘what it feels like to burn alive’ at the trial of Milan and Sredoje Lukic.
PHOTO: Pathologists at the University Clinical Center Tuzla examine remains of a pregnant Bosniak woman and her unborn baby found in mother’s womb. The woman was barricaded in an abandoned house and then set on fire by Bosnian Serbs. When she tried to escape, she was shot with a single bullet to her stomach. The victims were excavated from the mass grave Suha in the Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosnian Muslim population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Remains of a pregnant Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) woman and her unborn baby excavated from the mass grave Suha in Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. Baby’s undeveloped head, fingers, and legs are clearly visible. The woman was barricaded in an abandoned house and then set on fire by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica. When she tried to escape, she was shot with a single bullet to her stomach. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosnian Muslim population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Pathologists at the University Clinical Center Tuzla show remains of a pregnant Bosniak woman and her unborn baby. She was barricaded in an abandoned house and then set on fire by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica. When she tried to escape, she was shot with a single bullet to her stomach. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosnian Muslim population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide, when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Remains of a Bosniak woman and her unborn baby excavated from the mass grave Suha in the Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. Baby’s undeveloped body was preserved in mother’s womb. She was barricaded in an abandoned house and then set on fire by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica. When she tried to escape, she was shot with a single bullet to her stomach. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosnian Muslim population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Pathologist at the University Clinical Center Tuzla inspects remains of unborn Bosniak baby that was found in a womb of a murdered mother. The woman was barricaded in an abandoned house and then set on fire by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica. When she tried to escape, she was shot with a single bullet to her stomach. The victims’ remains were excavated from the mass grave Suha in Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosnian Muslim population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Remains of a baby bottle and baby clothing containing multiple bullet holes were excavated from the mass grave Suha in the Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. The Bosniak victims were barricaded in an abandoned house, set on fire, and burned alive in 1992 by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosniak population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide, when Serbs overtook Srebrenica summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Remains of a baby bottle and baby clothing containing multiple bullet holes were excavated from the mass grave Suha in the Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. The Bosniak victims were barricaded in an abandoned house, set on fire, and burned alive in 1992 by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosniak population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Remains of a baby bottle and baby clothing with a bullet hole were excavated from the mass grave Suha in the Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. The Bosniak victims were barricaded in an abandoned house, set on fire, and burned alive in 1992 by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosnian Muslim population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Remains of Bosniak children killed by Serbs around Srebrenica. The victims were barricaded in an abandoned house, set on fire, and burned alive by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica in 1992. The victims’ remains were excavated from the mass grave Suha in the Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosniak population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide, when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Remains of a Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) child and a baby killed by Serbs around Srebrenica. The victims were barricaded in an abandoned house, set on fire, and burned alive by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica in 1992. The victims’ remains were excavated from the mass grave Suha in the Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosniak population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Remains of Bosniak children killed by Serbs around Srebrenica. The victims were barricaded in an abandoned house, set on fire, and burned alive by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica in 1992. The victims’ remains were excavated from the mass grave Suha in the Srebrenica region, near Bratunac. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosniak population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Dignitaries and forensic workers attend process of exhumation of victims from the mass grave Suha around Srebrenica, near Bratunac. Bosnian Muslim victims – women, children, and elderly men – were barricaded in abandoned houses and then set them on fire alive. Those who tried to escape were shot and killed. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosnian Muslim population of Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Dignitaries and forensic workers attend process of exhumation of victims from the mass grave Suha around Srebrenica, near Bratunac. Bosnian Muslim victims – women, children, and elderly men – were barricaded in abandoned houses and then set them on fire alive. Those who tried to escape were shot and killed. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosniak population of Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
PHOTO: Dignitaries and forensic workers attend process of exhumation of victims from the mass grave Suha around Srebrenica, near Bratunac. Bosnian Muslim victims – women, children, and elderly men – were barricaded in abandoned houses and then set them on fire alive. Those who tried to escape were shot and killed. The events preceding and leading to the Srebrenica genocide included unprecedented levels of cruelty committed by Bosnian Serbs around Srebrenica against the civilian Bosniak population of the Podrinje. In July 1995, crimes against humanity had culminated in a crime of genocide when Serbs overtook Srebrenica, summarily executed between 8,372 and 10,000 Bosniaks (men, children, and elderly), and forcibly expelled more than 20,000 people in a U.N.-assisted case of ethnic cleansing.
According to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, some of the victims that were burned alive included:
- Kurspahic, Aisa – Approximately 49 years old.
- Kurspahic, Aida – Approximately 12 years old.
- Kurspahic, Ajka – Approximately 62 years old.
- Kurspahic, Alija – Approximately 55 years old.
- Kurspahic, Almir – Approximately 10 years old.
- Kurspahic, Aner – Approximately 6 years old.
- Kurspahic, Becar – Approximately 52 years old.
- Kurspahic, Bisera – Approximately 50 years old.
- Kurspahic, Bula – Approximately 58 years old.
- Kurspahic, Dzheva – Approximately 22 years old.
- Kurspahic, Enesa – Approximately 2 years old.
- Kurspahic, first name unknown – Approximately 2 days old.
- Kurspahic, Hasa – Approximately 18 years old
- Kurspahic, Hajrija – Approximately 60 years old.
- Kurspahic, Halida – Approximately 10 years old.
- Kurspahic, Hana – Approximately 30 years old.
- Kurspahic, Hasan – Approximately 50 years old.
- Kurspahic, Hasiba – Age unknown
- Kurspahic, Hasnija – Approximately 62 years old
- Kurspahic, Hata – Approximately 68 years old.
- Kurspahic, Ifeta – Approximately 17 years old.
- Kurspahic, Igabala – Approximately 58 years old.
- Kurspahic, Ismet – Approximately 3 years old.
- Kurspahic, Ismeta – Approximately 26 years old.
- Kurspahic, Izeta – Approximately 24 years old
- Kurspahic, Kada – Approximately 40 years old
- Kurspahic, Latifa – Approximately 23 years old.
- Kurspahic, Lejla – Approximately 4 years old.
- Kurspahic, Maida – Age is unknown, she was a little girl.
- Kurspahic, Medina – Approximately 28 years old.
- Kurspahic, Medo – Approximately 50 years old.
- Kurspahic, Mejra – Approximately 47 years old.
- Kurspahic, Meva – Approximately 45 years old.
- Kurspahic, Mina – Approximately 20 years old.
- Kurspahic, Mirela – Approximately 3 years old.
- Kurspahic, Mujesira – Approximately 35 years old.
- Kurspahic, Munevera – Approximately 20 years old.
- Kurspahic, Munira – Approximately 12 years old.
- Kurspahic, Munira – Approximately 55 years old
- Kurspahic, Osman – Approximately 67 years old
- Kurspahic, Pasana or Pasija – Approximately 56 years old
- Kurspahic, Ramiza – Approximately 57 years old
- Kurspahic, Sabiha – Approximately 14 years old
- Kurspahic, Sadeta – Approximately 18 years old
- Kurspahic, Safa – Approximately 50 years old
- Kurspahic, Saha – Approximately 70 years old
- Kurspahic, Sajma – Approximately 20 years old
- Kurspahic, Seila – Approximately 2 years old
- Kurspahic, Seniha – Approximately 9 years old
- Kurspahic, Sumbula – Approximately 62 years old
- Kurspahic, Vahid – Approximately 8 years old
- A boy whose name is unknown – Approximately 11 years old
- Aljic, first name unknown, father of Suhra Aljic – Approximately 65 years old
- Alijic, first name unknown, mother of Suhra Aljic – Aproximately 65 years old
- Aljic, first name unknown, son of Suhra Aljic – Approximately 1 year old
- Aljic, Suhra – Approximately 25 years old
- Jelacic, first name unknown – Age unknown
- Tufekcic, Dehva – Approximately 28 years old
- Tufekcic, Elma – Approximately 5 years old
- Tufekcic, Ensar – Approximately 1.5 years old
- Turjacanin, Dulka – Approximately 51 years old
- Turjacanin, Sada – Approximately 29 years old
- Turjacanin, Selmir – Approximately 9 years old
- Vilic, first name unknown, daughter of Mina Vilic – Age unknown
- Vilic, first name unknown, son of Mina Vilic – Age unknown
- Vilic, Mina – Approximately 32 years old
- Vilic, Mirzeta – Approximately 8 years old
- Ajanovic, Mula – Approximately 75 years old.
- Delija, Adis – Approximately 2 years old
- Delija, Ajnija – Approximately 50 years old
- Delija, Jasmina – Approximately 24 years old
- Family name unknown – Hasena Age unknown
- Jasarevic, Tima – Age unknown
- Jasarevic, Hajra – Approximately 35 years old.
- Jasarevic, Meho – Approximately 42 years old.
- Jasarevic, Mujo – Approximately 47 years old.
- Memisevic, Fazila – Approximately 54 years old
- Memisevic, Redzo – Approximately 57 years old
- Sadikovic, Rabija – Approximately 52 years old
- Sehic, Enver – Approximately 13 years old
- Sehic, Faruk – Approximately 12 years old
- Sehic, Haraga – Age unknown
- Sehic, Kada – Approximately 39 years old
- Velic, Nurka – Approximately 70 years old
- Velic, Tima – Approximately 35 years old
- Vila, Jasmina – Approximately 20 years old
Last updated: January 7, 2009.
- Risked his life to reach Srebrenica on foot through hostile Serb-held territory in 1992.
- Worked as Srebrenica’s war-Surgeon and saved many lives in the Enclave under the siege.
- Recipient of the Golden Lily medal – the Bosnian Army’s (ARBiH) most prestigious award.
- Recipient of the Saint Peter dabrobosanski medal – the biggest award of Serbian Orthodox Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina (see here).
- His team of pathologists worked on identifying Srebrenica victims, including pregnant women and children that Serbs around Srebrenica burned alive (see photos).
- Served as a a key Prosecution witness at Naser Oric’s trial. [Note: His testimony actually helped the Defence]
- His life in Srebrenica was documented in a book titled “War Hospital: A True Story Of Surgery And Survival” by Sheri Lee Fink (limited preview here)
Dr. Nedret Mujkanovic’s (48) lifeless body was found by his wife Jasminka in their Tuzla home around 4:00 am on December 25th 2008. Local Bosnian media widely reported the cause of his death as “suicide by hanging.” According to a local web portal, Tuzlarije, his colleague Dr. Lejla Muminhodzic said that Dr Mujkanovic’s neighbours heard him begging and screaming for help for about 10 minutes. Apparently, neighbours reported a loud noise, as if somebody was slamming objects. However, his wife Jasminka told police that her husband attempted to commit suicide just a night before. His funeral was held on Saturday, December 27th. The case is under police investigation.
“When the ham radio operators in Srebrenica started calling for a surgeon, the responsibility for finding one fell to Tuzla’s surgery department chairman, an Orthodox Christian in a still-mixed but increasingly Muslim city being attacked by separatist Orthodox Christian Serbs… he knew he had little chance of convincing any surgeons to go to Srebrenica against their will, and, with 40 percent of the surgical faculty in Tuzla having fled at the start of the war, he didn’t have much of a selection. After an unsuccessful search for volunteers among the better-trained surgeons, he landed on Nedret, one of his last hopes. The chairman summoned Nedret from his field station to the hospital and made his request. Would Nedret go to Srebrenica? Nedret was flattered to be asked, but how could he get there given the intervening sixty miles of territory controlled by the nationalist Serb military?”
According to Chuck Sudetic (The New York Times, April 24, 1993), Dr Mujkanovic accepted the risky mission and managed to reach Srebrenica by August 5th 1992. “The medicines, bandages and other medical supplies, carried into Srebrenica by 50 men who accompanied him on his trek through Serbian lines, started to run out in mid-September… Dr. Mujkanovic estimated that during his nine months in Srebrenica about 10 to 15 percent of the 4,000 patients brought to the town’s hospital died… Between December and early March, about 20 to 30 people were dying daily from pneumonia and other diseases worsened by long-term hunger,” reported Sudetic.
As the only surgeon in the besieged town,Dr. Mujkanovic performed 1,390 operations, 100 amputations and four Cesarean sections – many times without anesthetics. According to war correspondent, Peter Maass, (The New Republic, October 12 1998) “…in addition to Muslims, he operated on captured Serb soldiers and protected them from the retribution that many people in Srebrenica desired.”
In The New York Times article, Dr Mujkanovic recalled some of the horrors he experienced during his stay in Srebrenica. “The Serbs knew there was a camp of refugees from Cerska and Konjevic Polje in the school,” he said. “They directed their fire at that location. It came completely by surprise. There were pieces of women scattered about, and you could not see how to fit them together. I saw one dead mother lying on the ground and holding the hands of her two dead children. They all had no heads.”
After the war, Dr. Mujkanovic received the Golden Lily medal (“Zlatni Ljiljan”), the highest level of recognition awarded by the Army of Republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The medal was awarded in recognition of Dr. Mujkanovic’s service, bravery, and commitment to save lives in the besieged enclave of Srebrenica.
In 2005, Dr Mujkanovic served as one of key Prosecution witnesses in Naser Oric case. However, his testimony helped the Defence. He testified that Naser Oric’s forces had to attack militarized Serb-villages around Srebrenica in desperate attempts of starving Bosniak civilians to find food. For example, Serbs used the village of Fakovici as a military outpost for massive attacks on Srebrenica. “No one, including Oric, could have [had] effective control over civilians and the armed forces,” he testified. Oric was “fiercely opposed to those acts of burning and looting” he insisted. Dr. Mujkanovic testified that Oric often visited patients in his hospital. Prosecutors wanted to know whether he was interested in well-being of Serb patients. Dr. Mujkanovic confirmed that Oric “paid the same sort of attention to everyone, [Bosniaks] and Serbs alike.”
PHOTO: Srebrenica Genocide Memorial was opened by the United States President, Bill Clinton, on September 20, 2003, when he told thousands of relatives of the Srebrenica genocide victims: “Bad people who lusted for power killed these good people simply because of who they were. They sought power through genocide. But Srebrenica was the beginning of the end of genocide in Europe…. We remember this terrible crime because we dare not forget, because we must pay tribute to the innocent lives, many of them children, snuffed out in what must be called genocidal madness.”
Approximately 5,800 victims of Srebrenica Genocide have been identified through DNA analysis, but they can be reburied only after 70 percent of the bodily remains have been identified (Reuters). Bosnian Serbs first buried the bodies near the execution sites but then dug out many of them with bulldozers and reburied remains in secondary mass graves in an attempt to hide the crime (ICMP).
To Whom It May Concern,We would inform you that after having updated and checked the information contained in the Preliminary List of Missing and Killed, we have been able to confirm that 8,372 missing victims lost their lives during the Srebrenica genocide. We would also advise you that this is a preliminary list only, and consequntly is subject to further revision and updating.
The fact that we have still not been able to determine the final number of genocide victims in the Srebrenica area is an indication of of the scale of this project and the terrible nature of this crime, during which in the space of a few days entire families disappeared, leaving no-one behind to report them as missing.Respectfully,Samir Sabanija
Member of the Federal Commission for Missing Persons
PostovaniObavještavamo Vas da smo obradom i provjerom podataka na Preliminarnom Spisku nestalih došli do broja od 8372 nestalih žrtava genocida na području Regije Srebrenica. Ujedno Vas obavještavamo da je to još uvijek PRELIMINARNI SPISAK sto znači da se na istom jos uvijek vrše izmjene i dopune.Možda i ova činjenica da ni do danas nismo došli do konačnog broja nestalih u genocidu koji se dogodio u Regiji Srebrenica govori o njegovoj težini i monstruoznosti, gdje su u toku nekoliko dana nestajale kompletne porodice, tako niko nije niti imao mogućnost da prijavi njihov nestanak.S poštovanjemSamir Šabanija
Član Federalne komisje za nestale osobe
Federal Commission for Missing Persons (contact information)
Editor’s Note: This is a photo of a former Bosnian Serb leader who attempted to exterminate Muslims of Bosnia. “These people will disappear from the face of the Earth!” – Radovan Karadzic said in 1991. Take a look at photos of his victims in Serb-run concentration camps in Bosnia.
A U.N.-backed court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague (Netherlands), ruled Thursday the former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic cannot claim immunity for war crimes and genocide he has insisted was offered to him by the United States diplomat Richard Holbrooke. In 2007, Richard Holbrooke described the Karadzic’s allegation as an “outrageous lie” and said he was “astonished that people would believe a war criminal over the word of the United States or people who brought peace to the Balkans.”
According to a panel of UN judges, an immunity deal Radovan Karadzic claims he made with a US peace envoy would not prevent the former Bosnian Serb leader’s trial on charges including genocide. Karadzic has repeatedly claimed Richard Holbrooke offered him a deal in 1996 to relinquish power in return for immunity from prosecution at the ICTY. However, such a deal “would be invalid under international law” judges said.
Radovan Karadzic faces 11 counts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The worst crimes on his indictment include the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, in which 8,000 to 10,000 people – men, children, and elderly – died in a matter of days, while more than 20,000 people were forcibly deported from the Enclave in a UN-assisted ethnic cleansing, as well as the 43-month siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, in which more than 10,000 civilians died, including more than 1,500 children.
Hague Tribunal spokeswoman Nerma Jelacic said that what’s important in judges decision is that even if an agreement between Richard Holbrooke and Radovan Karadzic exists, it would have no significance for a person charged with genocide and war crimes or crimes aganst humanity before an international court. “Quite simply, that kind of immunity cannot be given, particularly not in the context of the Tribunal. No body, not even the prosecution, can make agreements on behalf of the Tribunal,” she said.
He was arrested late July 21, 2008; however, some reports place the timing of his arrest on July 18. Despite Karadzic’s allegations of immunity, he went to great lengths to avoid arrest during his 13 years on the run.
He lived in Belgrade disguised behind a white beard and long hair, living and working as a practitioner of alternative medicine, and freely walking in the city, attending events, traveling, and even giving public speeches. He also used false documents under the name of Dragan Dabic (aka: Dragan David Dabic).
He enjoyed complete freedom, all thanks to the help of Dragan Karadzic, son of Radovan’s brother Luka who is a radical Serb ultra-nationalist with close ties to the Serbian Radical Party. He also kept in touch with his wife Ljiljana Zelen–Karadzic. None of the above named individuals were charged with the crime of helping Radovan Karadzic evade justice for 13 years.
The picture below features Radovan Karadzic’s “business card” promoting his “alternative medicine” business. The photo was taken on July 22, 2008 in Belgrade, a day after Karadzic was officially arrested on genocide charges late July 21, 2008. The Cyrillic writing reads: “Quantum, spiritual, energetic medicine, reiki” and “Support in health and illness.” You can see more photos of Karadzic in disguise at this link.
“I believe my office will be able to put forward strong evidence that will unequivocally prove Karadzic’s responsibility, though it’ll be up to the judges to decide whether or not he’s guilty,” ICTY’s Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz told Belgrade-based B92. “In a broader context, that means four crimes—the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia from 1992-95, the shelling and terrorizing of the peaceful population of Sarajevo, the genocide in Srebrenica, and using UN blue helmets as hostages.”
The ICTY hopes that indicted former Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladic will be arrested and extradited in time to be tried together with Radovan Karadzic. If Mladic arrives in The Hague prior to commencement of the Karadzic trial, the case against him could be promptly included in the proceeding against Karadzic which, according to Brammertz, would make the whole trial more efficient and is the only good solution. He said that the Tribunal’s work will be most probably extended up and including 2012, two years longer than anticipated. It is inconceivable that the UN SC will decide to close the Tribunal without letting us complete all the proceedings, said Brammertz.
PHOTO (click here for higher resolution): Sevket Civic prays at the grave of his son buried among thousands of killed Bosnian Muslims at a cemetery in Potocari near Srebrenica on the first day of Eid al-Adha December 8, 2008.
PHOTO (click here for higher resolution): A young Bosnian who lost relatives in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide walks inside the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial cemetery in Potocari July 22, 2008.
“Dutchbat soldiers told the MSF team about corpses lying near their compound. In the Ministry of Defence debriefing report, various Dutch soldiers say that bodies had been seen or that they had witnessed events that made them fear the worst. Some Dutchbat soldiers also provided horrifying eyewitness accounts when they arrived in Zagreb at the end of July… With so much intelligence pointing to an orchestrated deportation and massacre, it is incomprehensible that Dutchbat had no knowledge of the events unfolding around them. Since they did know about it, which was made clear from later testimonies, why was there silence and inaction?” [Srebrenica: Questions or the Future, Médecins Sans Frontières Holland, 4 April 2002].
PHOTO (click here for higher resolution): A Bosnian Muslim woman, survivor of genocide operations in Srebrenica 1995, looks away in disappointment, as she watches live broadcast of Hague Tribunal’s trial for Radovan Karadzic, in Sarajevo, on 29 August, 2008.
THE PREDICTABILITY OF THE MASSACRES
In July 1995, when the Serbian forces in Bosnia launched their offensive against Srebrenica, the massacre of the local inhabitants was foreseeable, no matter what is said by certain French leaders who have appeared before you.
Since the beginning of hostilities in 1991, the war of “ethnic cleansing” which was ravaging the former Yugoslav federation had already triggered the greatest wave of refugees seen in Europe since the end of the Second World War. In Bosnia-Herzegovina alone, nearly 2.7 million of the 5 million inhabitants had to flee their homes, while hundreds of thousands of others sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Several tens of thousands of civilians were killed by shelling or murdered by snipers.
PHOTO (click here for higher resolution): Forensic anthropologists Ewa Klonowski (right) and Piotr Drukier examine the partially preserved hands of a teenage boy, found in a mass grave of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. Photo by Sara Terry – a former staff correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.
Four years before the Srebrenica massacre, the circumstances of the fall of Vukovar in 1991 had already shown that civilian massacres were an integral part of the war of ethnic cleansing. Before the town of Vukovar fell to Slobodan Milosevic’s men on 18 November 1991 after an atrocious siege lasting 86 days, an MSF convoy had managed to evacuate 100 seriously wounded. They were not allowed to go back for the remaining patients (more than 200). It was a terrible shock to learn a few weeks later that they had all been executed and thrown into mass graves.
The April 6, 1992 assault launched by the Serbian nationalists against the new state of Bosnia then led to the spread of ethnic cleansing to Bosnia. Hundreds of towns and villages were systematically destroyed and burned by the militias of the Serbian leader in Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic. Tens of thousands of civilians were imprisoned and tortured, while the “elite” were massacred in unforgettably sinister concentration camps: Omarska, Manjaca, Trnopolje, Keraterm…. the whole operation running smoothly according to a carefully laid out plan.
Under pressure from international public opinion, shocked by the pictures of emaciated prisoners, the Western states protested and the camps were closed; but the process of ethnic cleansing continued… Who can forget the massacres committed in 1992 and 1993 in eastern Bosnia in Zvornik, Cerska, Bratunac, Foca. Each one was methodically organised; the men and adolescents of fighting age were imprisoned and executed, while the women were raped, tortured or deported.
Everyone, not just the French authorities, was well aware of the methods being used by General Mladic and his troops launched their attack on Srebrenica in July 1995.
France’s ambassador to Bosnia, Henri Jacolin, has told you how he sent a telegram, aptly titled Chronicle of an Ethnic Cleansing Foretold, to Paris in 1993, informing the government of the clearly stated political and military objectives of the Serbian nationalists.
Jean-René Ruez, the chief investigator for the Srebrenica tragedy for the International Criminal Tribunal, said in his testimony that as early as 1994 General Mladic had publicly announced his intention to exterminate the Muslim population of Eastern Bosnia.
Finally, at the initiative of France, UN Security Council Resolution 819 established Srebrenica as a “safe area”. The preamble of the resolution referred to the risk of genocide that threatened the population to be protected.
I first went to Srebrenica in March 1994. What I saw was literally a ghetto, an open-air prison. The United Nations had established the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica as a “protected zone” in April 1993. It had been put under the protection of an UNPROFOR contingent after the Bosnian soldiers had been disarmed.
More than 40,000 civilians, mostly women, children and elderly, were living in terrible conditions. They were subject to both the Bosnian-Serb militia’s blockade and the controls of the UN soldiers. At the time, my impression when I entered Srebrenica was that the law of the aggressors prevailed, and the UN forces simply complied. Although the UNPROFOR presence initially curbed cease-fire violations, what it was mainly doing was playing into the hands of General Mladic’s forces by prohibiting the Bosnians from entering or leaving Srebrenica. The inhabitants were caught in a trap. Access to Srebrenica was controlled by the Bosnian Serb authorities, who at whim refused entry or exit to aid organisations and confiscated the contents of convoys. UNPROFOR was unable to intervene.
The civilian population received the bare minimum to survive. The situation was particularly difficult in the city, where more than 20,000 people were concentrated into an area where only 5,000 inhabitants had lived before the war.
In 1994, action by the UN peacekeepers consisted solely of maintaining the military status quo. No consideration was ever given to using force to end the siege. UNPROFOR’s Canadian battalion was trapped for several months before being relieved. I remember talking with the Canadian forces, who were subjected to daily ridicule and who were disgusted by their mission. I also remember the emaciated refugees, their fear that Srebrenica would be attacked, that they would be slaughtered and their memories of the ethnic cleansing in eastern Bosnia in 1992 and 1993.
The situation continued to deteriorate in the months that followed, which led MSF to question the usefulness of its operations in the eastern Bosnian enclaves. Despite ourselves, we had become “prison doctors”. I remember writing in the MSF newsletter in June 1994 that “the lack of international political will means that we are now providing social services for the occupying forces while waiting for the civilian population to be displaced and the ethnic cleansing in eastern Bosnia to be completed.” The UN forces were not given adequate resources for their mission. There were too few of them, they were poorly equipped, they were trapped and had become hostages.
On October 20, 1994, in an opinion column published in the French daily Libération, I also wrote about the future of the inhabitants of Srebrenica, Gorazde and Zepa. I said that their future “was dependent on the will of the international community to see them survive.” Without support from the international community, I was convinced that Srebrenica and Zepa would soon fall and that the worst would then happen. That is why MSF worked so hard to keep its medical teams in Srebrenica. We hoped that the presence of foreign witnesses would make the murderers hesitate.
The pace accelerated in early 1995, when wide-scale fighting resumed in Bosnia. It was impossible to get supplies to the Bosnian capital. Srebrenica and the other enclaves in eastern Bosnia were effectively strangled. Humanitarian convoys were allowed in only occasionally, with minimum supplies. Several times, teams from MSF, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees came under direct attack from snipers around Sarajevo, Gorazde and Srebrenica.
During another visit to Srebrenica in March 1995, I had to negotiate for several hours with the local authorities in Bratunac before being able to enter the enclave. The militia were arrogant and mocked us. They made no secret of the fact that—I quote—”When the time comes, they would kill all the Muslims.”
The population of Srebrenica was about to experience its third winter under siege, and it had become virtually impossible to get humanitarian supplies into the city. The cease-fire was being violated more and more frequently. The refugees wanted “to leave this living hell, no matter what the cost.”
Beginning on April 15, 1995, the authorities in Pale opposed the rotation of MSF volunteers working in Srebrenica and Gorazde. They blew hot and cold and tried to break the diplomatic isolation to which they had been subject for several months. They were using access to the Muslim enclaves in eastern Bosnia by aid organizations to apply pressure during negotiations with the United Nations.
On the 14 June 1995, right in the middle of the hostage crisis, our representative in Pale, Stéphan Oberreit, still confronted with the authorities’ refusal to let us into Srebrenica and Gorazde, sent us a message. He stressed although the Bosnian Serb military may have given way on the UNPROFOR hostages, they were in fact toughing their stand. Military preparations against the enclaves were taking shape and it was becoming increasingly clear that the military did not want to see us there if there was to be an offensive and slaughter, which he felt to be relatively certain. He also asked us some questions: “What should we do? Should we leave Srebrenica and Gorazde for safety reasons and as it is impossible for us to bring in new teams? Should we stay there despite the risks?”
I am mentioning this message sent in June to demonstrate the fact that at that time our volunteers in the field had no doubts about the attack on the enclave. There was therefore all the more reason that the western military observers should have known this too.
This was the background to my visit to Pale from the 17 to the 26 June 1995. Our teams in the enclaves were exhausted and worried, but they were refusing to leave until they were sure that they would be replaced. In actual fact Professor Nicola Koljevic, the Vice President of the Bosnian Serbs, made no opposition to our staff leaving Bosnia, but put up obstacles preventing us from bringing in new teams. According to him the military opposed this. During my stay I met Professor Koljevic and his Health Minister, Monsieur Dragan Kalinic, many times. During these meetings they put forward their concerns about the fighting, which was intensifying throughout Bosnia. We were accused of being spies, of helping their “enemies” whereas, according to them, the Bosnians were using the enclaves in eastern Bosnia to carry out military actions against the Serbs. They talked about villages being burned down and civilians executed near Srebrenica. At the time Professor Koljevic used this as an excuse to tell us about future reprisals against United Nations safe areas in the eastern Bosnia and made no secret of the military’s wish to seek revenge.
During these meetings we also heard about contact in June 1995 between French officers, General Janvier, Head of the Peacekeeping force in Bosnia, General de Lapresle, and General Mladic. Professor Koljevic talked freely about this, without going into detail, but did not hide the fact that (and I quote) “the hostage business was settled”.
After waiting several days we received permission to enter Srebrenica and then Gorazde with no further explanations given. We just learned that some senior people from the United Nations were expected to visit, in particular Monsieur Bijeveld, the Special Envoy of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in ex-Yugoslavia. Professor Koljevic made no secret of the fact that the entry permits given to MSF were useful to him, as they let him show the West the Pale authorities’ willingness to cooperate, despite the fact that the UNPROFOR was being blocked at the same time. He was convinced that the war was coming to an end, that the enclaves’ fate would soon be sealed and that peace was just around the corner.
A small medical team—a nurse and a doctor—were allowed to go to Srebrenica on the 24 June 1995. The Pale authorities however refused to allow an expatriate surgeon to join them. The ICRC and UNPROFOR were also negotiating permission to enter the enclaves, but were still being refused.
Before this stay in Pale I feared that Srebrenica would be attacked, however when I returned to Paris in early July of 1995 I was convinced it would happen. I knew that it was now just a matter of time.
UNPROFOR’s ABANDONMENT OF THE POPULATION OF SREBRENICA
For the first few days after the Bosnian Serb forces launched their attack on Srebrenica, we thought that NATO and UNPROFOR would react. When I say “we” I am referring to the MSF volunteers in Srebrenica, Belgrade, Sarajevo, and also to MSF management in Paris. Everyone expected NATO air strikes. On the evening of the 10 July, Commander Karremans was still promising air strikes to the Srebrenican authorities. Our team in the field told you about this during their hearing.
We knew that the United Nations troops were limited in number, and lacked equipment, we knew that the few Bosnian soldiers still present in the enclaves were not heavily armed, and yet we still held onto the idea that, just like in Gorazde in April 1994, something would happen, that the presence of forward air controllers in the enclave up to the last day of the offensive was a sign of future NATO actions.
But we were wrong.
As you now know, the many requests for air strikes, which were, according to the UN report, repeatedly put forward by the Dutch contingent in Srebrenica, were all refused. As commander of the United Nations military presence in Bosnia, General Janvier had the power to authorise them. When he finally gave his permission on 11 July it was too late. NATO’s two air strikes became a symbol of the Western states’ lack of courage and abdication of responsibility. The enclave had already fallen and acts of violence against the population were beginning.
I do not have the expertise to judge whether it was possible for NATO to carry out strikes to defend Srebrenica, but what is immediately obvious is that the arguments put forward to justify the absence of strikes are in contradiction to the facts. As in Bosnia, when we wanted to strike, we acted.
General de Lapresle confirmed in his hearing that he never had any technical problems with the much disparaged “double key” system which was said to be responsible for the lateness of NATO air strikes on Srebrenica.
The lack of NATO air strikes was also for a while explained by the refusal by the Dutch authorities to endanger the lives of their soldiers in Srebrenica. We now know that Dutch request for the cessation of NATO air strikes came after the fall of Srebrenica and was even anticipated by the decision of French General Gobillard, who felt that they were no longer of any use as the Srebrenica “safe zone” had already fallen. There was thus no veto by the Dutch government to prevent the NATO aircraft from striking before 11 July 1995.
Finally, another technical argument was put forward to explain the inaction of UNPROFOR and NATO in Srebrenica and that was the lack of forward air controllers to direct the air strikes by the NATO planes. This argument has also been disproved and we now know that there was not one but two teams of controllers on the ground, who were operational up until the fall of the enclave: a Dutch team and a British team. Strangely, the existence of this team has never been officially recognised by the British government, although confirmed by the MSF team present in Srebrenica at the time.
This is why the lack of credible official explanations continues to feed the rumour mill concerning the reasons for the lack of NATO air support when the Bosnian-Serb troops attacked Srebrenica.
Was an agreement concluded outside the UN between the French authorities and General Mladic to free the hostages against a promise to halt the use of NATO aircraft against the positions of the Bosnian-Serb army? Personally, I cannot say. I do however hope that your work will shed light on what really happened.
With the Bosnian Serb forces entering the Srebrenica safe area on July 6, 1995, the question of protection became essential. The massacres were predictable and all men of fighting age were in danger of being killed.
Despite the cynicism shown by most Western states since the beginning of the war in the former Yugoslavia, we nonetheless expected the United Nations force to offer protection to those refugees who sought it. We felt that even if the fall of Srebrenica were foreseeable, the peacekeepers would stand up against violence against the civilian population, which had collected inside and in front of the United Nations base in Potocari. We felt that they would at least attempt to facilitate their evacuation in humane conditions.
We could not imagine that the UN troops would hand the population over to the Serb militias. Right up to the end, the MSF team in Srebrenica refused to believe that the UN would fail to react. We were wrong.
On the morning of 11 July, while we still believed that extensive NATO air strikes would take place, and that the promise made to the Srebrenica authorities by Commander Karremans on the evening of the 10th would be met, nothing of any significance happened. The NATO aircraft attacked, but it was too late, as General Mladic’s men were already in the town.
While part of the terrified population of Srebrenica fled to the UNPROFOR base in Potocari to seek the protection of the United Nations, the Peackeepers barred base access to trucks loaded with wounded and Bosnian medical personnel who had just evacuated Srebrenica hospital. Only the determination of the Bosnian doctors and refugees who mobbed the gates of the United Nations base, forced them to let them in.
On 12 July, the Peacekeeping troops found themselves isolated and were forced to negotiate their surrender with General Mladic. Nothing specific seems to have been envisaged to protect the civilian population on the part of the UNPROFOR hierarchy, at the time in the hands of two French generals, General Janvier in Zagreb, and General Gobilliard in Sarajevo.
Without more material and diplomatic support, the Blue Helmets had no other choice than to “cooperate” with the Bosnian Serb soldiers, who controlled the situation. The peacekeepers found themselves playing an active role in deporting refugees who had sought their protection in Potocari. In practice, they took part in sorting out the refugees and helped the Serbian militias control the crowd before the refugees were forced to board the buses that General Mladic had requisitioned to deport them. Certain peacekeepers were even forced to hand over their uniforms, weapons and vehicles to the Serbian militias, who then used them for their criminal activities, to separate the men from the women and hunt down those who had fled into the forest.
The men who took refuge in Potocari believing that they enjoyed the protection of the United Nations were handed over to the Bosnian Serb forces, some of them having been disarmed by the UN troops themselves. About 700 men had found refuge in the UNPROFOR base in Potocari while nearly 2000 others were in the fields and hangars outside the UN base.
Under the pretext of protecting the women and children, all the men of Srebrenica were considered by the peacekeepers to be “potential combatants” and were handed over to the Bosnian Serb forces. It mattered little that they were unarmed. It mattered little that the shots heard in the hangars near the UNPROFOR base in Potocari, were clear signs that the executions had already started.
The wounded were not spared and on 14 July 1995, when the list of wounded received in the UNPROFOR base in Potocari was drawn up by the MSF team and Bosnian staff, it was above all to protect them and prevent them simply disappearing during the evacuation. To our horror and stupefaction this list, which was then handed over to UNPROFOR, was to enable General Mladic’s men to select their victims more easily, without those in charge of the UNPROFOR force in Potocari being able to do anything about it.
By July 13, 1995, in Tuzla, under the control of the Sarajevo authorities, news was beginning to circulate about a column of refugees who were attempting to flee the enclave through the forest. Nothing however was planned to help them. While the escaped women spoke of the columns of prisoners they had seen leaving the forests near Bratunac and Koljevic Polje, the United Nations and the Western governments did and said nothing. The massacres continued for several days in complete impunity. More than 7000 victims, mostly men, were then executed and thrown into mass graves. More than 2000 were taken prisoner in Potocari, with the others captured as they attempted to escape through the forest.
I find it hard to believe that it was not possible to help them.
If we just stop for a moment and look at the figures, there is no escaping the fact that 100% of the men who trusted the UN and sought refuge and protection from the Blue Helmets on the Potocari base were handed over by the UN and were murdered, whereas a good number of those who tried to escape under the protection of the Bosnian army, taking the risk of crossing Serb military lines and minefields, survived. There were 4000 survivors from a column of about 10,000 people.
On 24 June 1995, with the first Serb incursion into Srebrenica, we in Paris were sure that a large-scale Serb attack had been launched. We were then in contact with the field and with many journalists in Europe, with representatives of the United Nations and the UNPROFOR, to warn them of what was about to happen.
We were constantly on the phone to MSF volunteers in the field, in Belgrade, Zagreb, Pale and Srebrenica, but also with the HCR and the ICRC in Geneva, Mr. Kofi Annan in New York, and many others.
As the news from Srebrenica reached us, we made it public. Starting on 6 July 1995, MSF issued almost daily press releases describing the tragedy and expressed its greatest concern as to the fate of the civilian population. On 12 July, MSF denounced the separation of the men and women, in plain view of the UN peacekeepers, and the transfer of the prisoners to the Bratunac stadium. Several calls for protection of the population were issued. With the arrival of the first escapees in the Tuzla region, our personnel in the field bore witness to the clear signs of ill treatment shown by many women and girls. The escapees also spoke of the massacres in progress. On the evening of 13 July, the Serbian forces had finished deporting most of the population, which had sought refuge with the UNPROFOR in Potocari, some 30,000 people, two thirds of whom were inhabitants of the enclave. However, in a release published on 14 July, MSF already stressed the fact that if the majority of the refugees in Potocari came from the south of the Srebrenica enclave, there was still no news of the several thousand civilians from the villages further to the north. In Tuzla, in Bosnian territory, there were already rumours of a column of more than 10,000 people trying to break through the Bosnian Serb army’s defensive lines. The escaped women explained that most of the men had preferred not to go to Potocari, as they were convinced that they would not be protected by the peacekeepers. They were mostly, although not exclusively, men, refugees, unarmed adolescents, protected by a few Bosnian soldiers.
Despite this information, UNPROFOR stood passively by. The European states, including France, simply protested without doing anything. The French President, Jacques Chirac, issued public declarations to explain that France was ready to retake Srebrenica. But there was no retaking of the town and in fact nothing at all to even try to prevent the massacres in the enclave or help the people fleeing through the forest.
Yet even if the Srebrenica enclave was not defendable, the international community, in this case France, Great Britain and the Netherlands, could at least have organised the safe evacuation of the inhabitants of the enclave as soon as the Bosnian Serb offensive began and in the following days. Several days elapsed between the beginning of the offensive against Srebrenica, on 6 July 1995, and the presumed end of the massacres which lasted at least until 16 July according to the investigations of the International Criminal Tribunal and the United Nations report.
This is why the responsibility of those who were supposed to protect the inhabitants of Srebrenica must be established.
THE MANIPULATION OF HUMANITARIAN ACTION BY FRENCH DIPLOMACY
The French political and military leaders who have passed before you all stressed the key role played by France in Bosnia, within the United Nations. They are all legitimately proud as France was the first country to contribute troops to the former Yugoslavia. Many French soldiers lost their lives there. France was also the instigator behind the adoption of many UN Security Council resolutions, including those setting up the “safe area” and establishing the right to use force to protect them.
I would just like to recall that throughout the war in the former Yugoslavia, humanitarian organisations such as MSF criticised the UN’s militaro-humanitarian operation in Bosnia.
The participation of more than 7000 French soldiers with a humanitarian mandate in the UN peacekeeping force maintained an illusion of French political determination to put an end to the violence perpetrated against the civilian population.
Humanitarian aid was the only response to the ethnic cleansing and shelling of civilians. In other words, faced with war crimes and crimes against humanity, soldiers were sent to hand out medication, blankets and flour.
I feel that this “militaro-humanitarian observation” of ethnic cleansing helped to create the conditions for the massacre of the inhabitants of Srebrenica. Why? Because to give a humanitarian mandate to military forces in an open conflict situation in which mass crimes are being committed is tantamount to disarming them. In other words, this pseudo-humanitarian policy followed by France in Bosnia was in the end conducted to the detriment of real protection of the civilian population.
It is worrying to see that your investigations into the tragedy of Srebrenica have for the time being involved no criticism of this type of operation by the French army abroad. The humanitarian or civilian protection goal continues to be one of the avowed aims in order to legitimise the deployment of French troops abroad, without this aim being in fact borne out in reality.
In the case of Srebrenica, it is of great concern, as mentioned by Mr. Levitte in his hearing, that the reason the French leaders hardened their position with regard to General Mladic and his men was the shock felt by the highest echelons of the government at the images of the UN peacekeepers chained up as a human shield by the Bosnian-Serb forces. It is because the French political leaders felt themselves to be humiliated that they decided on real military action against the gunnery positions shelling Sarajevo in particular. The massacres perpetrated throughout the war in Bosnia by General Mladic’s forces against the local people—ostensibly under the protection of the UNPROFOR—was never really a political preoccupation. This is the substance of what is claimed by Mr. Lévitte who states that the French leaders perceived Srebrenica (and I quote) “as background noise”.
At each attack against the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, against Gorazde in April 1994, then against Bihac in the following November, and finally against Srebrenica in July 1995, humanitarian aid was presented as the only possible answer to the crisis, while the presence of 40,000 peacekeeping troops in the field became an alibi for holding back from any military action which would endanger them, thereby offering the Bosnian-Serb forces a green light to kill at will.
After a further massacre in Tuzla in May 1995, the NATO air strikes finally showed the absurdity and fragility of the UNPROFOR organisation in the field. In the Spring of 95, at a crucial moment in the war and the peace negotiations in Bosnia, the UN found itself even further weakened and obliged to negotiate the release of more than 400 peacekeepers held hostage by the Serbian forces in Bosnia. The United Nations decided to concentrate the UNPROFOR troops scattered throughout Bosnia to prevent such a scenario happening again. This reorganisation of the United Nations’ military forces, promoted by France at the Security Council at the end of May 95 and then validated by the Contact Group, was an early warning sign of military abandonment of the east Bosnian enclaves, in particular Srebrenica.
This reorganisation was closely linked, amongst other things, to the progress of the peace process. Mr. Akashi stated in his hearing that the use of military force did not depend on the imperative of protecting the population, but that it was strictly determined by the progress of the peace process in Bosnia.
It is therefore all the more serious that certain French officials continue to insist, although implausible, that the fall of Srebrenica was unpredictable. Pseudo technical questions are raised that cloud the evident fact: the fall of Srebrenica, as well as the massacres that followed, were clearly predictable.
It is still not clear what role the Peacekeeper’s concern for protection had to play in the decision not to use NATO air strikes during the Bosnian Serb attack. It is also not clear if the concern to facilitate peace negotiations between Serbs, Muslims and Croates did not contribute to the Contact Group’s decision to abandon the enclaves of Srebrenica and Zepa, along with the population in them. However, the facts are there to show that the disappearance of these two enclaves in eastern Bosnia did indeed facilitate the signing of the Dayton peace agreement only two months after these tragic events.
…Finally, I regret that no survivor of the Srebrenica massacres has yet been invited before the French parliament during these hearings. It would have been an important gesture to have a survivor present here in the French Parliament and would have contributed in focusing the debates on the essential issue: why was the population of Srebrenica left to their murderers?
…In order to reply to your questions I feel it important to underline my convictions once again on the tragedy of Srebrenica.
The fall as well as the massacres of Srebrencia were foreseeable.
The promise of protection made to the inhabitants of Srebrencia was not kept and the lack of political will to defend them contributed in leading them to the massacre. They were abandoned.
PHOTO (click photo for higher resolution): Forensic anthropologists Ewa Klonowski (right) and Piotr Drukier examine the partially preserved hands of a teenage boy, found in a mass grave of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. Photo by Sara Terry – a former staff correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor. “I hate exhumations. I hate the smell, the muck of the pit, the horror of decomposing bodies, the thoughts that stream through my mind about what it must have been like for these people in the final frightening moments of their life. Most of all, I hate the hatred that put them there,” she said.
Approximately 40,000 people, of whom most were displaced, lived in the enclave since March 1993 when General Morillon declared Srebrenica a security zone and promised the population protection under the United Nations. Living conditions were oppressive; it felt like being in an open-air prison or a ghetto, with people completely depending on humanitarian aid which often did not arrive sufficiently. Only the bare minimum of food, drugs and relief items was allowed in by Bosnian Serbian authorities. Living under the constant threat of an attack, deprived of their freedom and with an uncertain future, it was a pure matter of survival over many years.
Daniel and I met on June 28 with Commander Tom Karremans [Thomas Karremans] of UNPROFOR, who specifically assured us that the enclave would never fall.
In the afternoon [Thursday, July 6 1995] the sound of a truck horn blaring down the hill announced the arrival of the first casualties at the hospital. They were children, hit while playing in the park in the town center. One boy was already dead – decapitated – and the other children had horrific shrapnel wounds. We went to work with the local hospital staff to treat the wounded. By the end of the day, we had received 13 wounded and 4 dead at the hospital, all civilians from town.
By telex we requested assistance from UNPROFOR for one severely injured young girl, which was declined due to a stated “lack of intensive care capacity and material.” Also some promised blood transfusions for a patient were refused.
During the day [Friday, July 7 2995], seven injured civilians arrived at the hospital. [Of them], five required major interventions and three died within 12 hours [of their arrival].
Dr. Elias Pilav, the Srebrenica hospital surgeon, was tired and at the edge of a breakdown [Saturday, July 8 1995]… Not only was the work overwhelming, but the hospital was exposed to the shelling. In addition, those who were being maimed and killed before them were their
own family and friends.
Heavy shelling continued throughout the day [Sunday, July 9 1995], and the hospital remained busy. At one stage, casualties arrived after a shell fell into a room full of people in the town… After four days of heavy shelling, the Bosnian Serbian forces were on the verge of entering Srebrenica without a clear opposition from UNPROFOR troops.
The hospital became very crowded with new wounded [Monday, July 10 1995], and many people screaming and crying. According to UNPROFOR, despite of some shelling, the situation in the enclave was stable. Around 10:30 a.m., a shell exploded close to the hospital, shattering the windows of the operating theater and the pharmacy. Now the town’s hospital had became a target as well…. Dr. Elias Pilav, the hospital surgeon, requested assistance from the UNPROFOR medical teams. The understaffed Bosnian surgical team was operating around the clock in the Srebrenica hospital and needed help. I sent a telex at the UNPROFOR base in Potocari. The refusal came back by telex a few minutes later, declining assistance with the argument, that “medical care has to be secured for my soldiers…”
In the evening rumors spread that the Bosnian Serb army had entered the southern end of town… People intensely believed that if they fell into the hands of the Bosnian Serbian soldiers they would be killed. The fear was palpable… They begged us to get on our radio and tell the world what was happening… “The UN promised to protect us,” they said, “please get them to do
something before it is too late.”
It seemed now people had lost faith in the UNPROFOR protection… At noon [Tuesday, July 11 1995] the quiet was broken by the resumption of shelling. People started to panic and run north towards Potocari. The UNPROFOR told us that they had requested airstrikes and to be ready.
The mayor of Srebrenica entered our bunker and informed us that the Bosnian Serb army had entered the town. However only at around 3 p.m. did we see planes carrying out airstrikes. By then, the town was already empty of people and the Bosnian Serb army was well advanced into the town… The scene on the road to Potocari was complete chaos; people running in panic, carrying screaming children and their bags; blue helmets walking with the fleeing population; shelling continuing from the mountains… However UNPROFOR refused MSF any of their medicines because it had to be kept for their own soldiers. I had only the supplies of the two emergency cases from our cars: two bags of intravenous fluid and a few vials of painkiller.
Outside the compound, approximately 20,000 people were seeking shelter around some destroyed buildings trying to escape the continuing shelling. UNPROFOR accepted an estimated 5,000 people inside their base at Potocari, where they were protected from the shells and out of view of Bosnian Serb soldiers.
Only later in the morning [Wednesday, July 12 1995], UNPROFOR soldiers received the order to switch to a non combat situation as they were no longer under threat of attack. Therefore they offered us access to all their medical facilities and drugs.
The condition of the displaced people outside and inside was appalling – [they lacked] food, water, shelter, and sewage [was on the ground]. We were informed that Mladic would start the deportation of the population to Tuzla, and the evacuation of wounded people to Bratunac football stadium [where they were later tied, blindfolded, and then massacred]. I personally talked to him and tried to protest against this plan, but he just told me to do my job and walked away… It was so quick and well organized that it looked as if it was planed in advance. Outside the UN compound, men had to register in a house where 35 were kept. I expressed my concern to Deputy Commander Franken and he assured me that they were being well treated. I also discussed this issue with Commander Karremans who was very sure that none of the men were killed. However, later, around this house, I could hear a lot of small arm fire.
Around 7 p.m., the evacuation of the hospital patients who had been waiting in the UNPROFOR base for two days started in vehicles driven by UNPROFOR soldiers. It was very chaotic; everybody wanted to get on the convoy because they saw it as a chance for salvation. It is hard to convey their desperation, but people just jumped into the trucks, others carried their relatives forward via any available means and demanded they be placed on the convoy. It was accompanied by nine Bosnian nurses and one medical technician.
At 7 a.m. [Thursday, July 13] the deportation of the civilians resumed from the camp outside… Everybody who could have stopped this mass exodus, should have been forced to feel the panic and desperation of the people. Everybody should have seen the violence in the faces of Bosnian Serb soldiers, directing the people like animals to the buses, with children screaming in the arms of their mothers, everybody running for their lives.
A father with his one year-old baby came to me, crying, accompanied by an armed Bosnian serb soldier. It was clear to me that he was supposed to be separated and so he handed his child to me. It was a horrible scene. I had to write down the name of the child and felt that the father would never see his daughter again.
Later on, I was informed by a UNPROFOR soldier that there were dead bodies in the back of the factory… In the afternoon I saw a hysterical Bosnian man being beaten up… Since their arrival in Potocari, seven women gave birth in the corridor that was our hospital, with no privacy, among the dirt and desperation.
By 4 p.m., the outside camp was empty and the deportation of the displaced people from inside the UNPROFOR compound commenced… We were told that outside the compound, they were taken by Bosnian Serb soldiers who separated the men from the women, children, and elderly and were put on separate buses and trucks. In two days, the deportation of the 25,000 people was completed… I found three patients in the social center and three patients in the hospital. We heard lots of small arms fire in the late evening in one certain place in the forest nearby.
A UNPROFOR convoy arrived in the evening [Friday, July 14 1995] with new drugs, food and 35,000 liters of diesel… The Bosnian Serbian army confiscated 30.000 liters and kept the material!
I inquired with deputy commander Franken [Saturday, July 15 1995] about the whereabouts of the men and he informed me that some young men had arrived in Kladanj and apparently, there was a group of 700 to 1,000 men kept in Bratunac [football stadium].
Commandant [Momir] Nikolic, the local Bosnian Serb commander from Bratunac insisted on inspecting [interrogating] each of the 55 patients [Monday, July 17 1995] before they could be evacuated with ICRC to Tuzla. He went from bed to bed in the hospital talking to almost every patient. Leaving the hospital, Nikolic had written seven names on a piece of paper and informed everybody that these seven men had to stay in Bratunac in the local clinic…
Editorial Note: Momir Nikolic, mentioned in the testimony above, was sentenced to 27 years’ imprisonment on December 2, 2003 for his involvement in the crimes against humanity during Srebrenica genocide. To avoid Srebrenica genocide conviction, Nikolić admitted in a plea bargain that he was involved in coordinating and organizing the Bosnian Serb army operation aimed to forcibly expell thousands of civilians from the U.N. “Safe Haven” enclave during the Srebrenica genocide. The sentence was reduced from 27 years imprisonment to 20 years by the ICTY Appeals Chamber on March 8, 2006. Nikolic was transferred to Finland to serve his sentence on 11 April 2007.
“Dutchbat soldiers told the MSF team about corpses lying near their compound. In the Ministry of Defence debriefing report, various Dutch soldiers say that bodies had been seen or that they had witnessed events that made them fear the worst. Some Dutchbat soldiers also provided horrifying eyewitness accounts when they arrived in Zagreb at the end of July… With so much intelligence pointing to an orchestrated deportation and massacre, it is incomprehensible that Dutchbat had no knowledge of the events unfolding around them.” (Srebrenica: Questions for the Future, Médecins Sans Frontières Holland, 4 April 2002).
“Any criminal responsibility of Naser Orić was offset by the real and present necessity to acquire food for the survival of the population of Srebrenica. Having recognised that the defence of necessity was an established principle in customary international law in 1992 and 1993, the Trial Chamber considered the extraordinary humanitarian circumstances in Srebrenica at the time. It thus found that there was abundant evidence that Srebrenica was isolated, that the starving population was drastically increasing with the influx of refugees and that there had been repeated calls for help.”
Found: NOT GUILTY
- Born: 3 March 1967, in the village of Potočari, municipality of Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Indictment: Initial: confirmed on 28 March 2003, made public on 11 April 2003; second amended: 4 October 2004; third amended: 30 June 2005 in accordance with Rule 98bis decision of 8 June 2005
- Arrested: 10 April 2003, by the multinational Stabilisation Force (SFOR)
- Transferred to ICTY: 11 April 2003
- Initial and further appearances: 15 April 2003, pleaded not guilty to all counts of the indictment
- Trial Chamber Judgment: 30 June 2006, sentenced to two years’ imprisonment; immediate release ordered on 30 June 2006 (he was entitled to credit for time served in detention since 10 April 2003 and was released on 1 July 2006)
- Appeals Chamber Judgement: 3 July 2008, found not guilty
Trial days : 196
Witnesses called by Prosecution: 52
Prosecution exhibits: 625
Witnesses called by Defence: 30
Defence exhibits: 1024
Witnesses called by Trial Chamber: 1
Chamber exhibits: 7
Commenced: 6 October 2004
Closing arguments: 3-10 April 2006
Trial Chamber II: Judge Carmel Agius (presiding), Judge Hans Henrik Brydensholt and Judge Albin Eser
Counsel for the Prosecution: Jan Wubben, Patricia Sellers Viseur, Gramsci di Fazio, Joanne Richardson, Jose Doria
Counsel for the Defence: Vasvija Vidović, John Jones
Judgement: 30 June 2006
Appeals Chamber: Judge Wolfgang Schomburg (presiding), Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen, Judge Liu Daqun, Judge Andrésia Vaz , Judge Theodor Meron
Counsel for the Prosecution: Michele Jarvis, Christine Dahl, Paul Rogers, Laurel Baig, Nicole Lewis, Najwa Nabti
Counsel for the Defence: Vasvija Vidović, John Jones
Judgement: 3 July 2008
INDICTMENT AND CHARGES
The initial indictment against Naser Orić was confirmed on 28 March 2003 and made public on 11 April 2003. Pursuant to the Trial Chamber Decision of 3 July 2003, the Prosecution filed an amended indictment on 16 July 2003. On 4 October 2004, the Trial Chamber ordered that the second amended indictment filed by the Prosecution on 1 October 2004 was the operative indictment against the accused. Following the decision by the Trial Chamber of 8 June 2005, in accordance with Rule 98bis, the Prosecution filed the third amended indictment on 30 June 2005. This was the operative indictment prior to the presentation of the defence case.
According to the indictment, in May 1992 Naser Orić was appointed commander of the Srebrenica Municipal Territorial Defence (TO) Staff, which was later re-named the Srebrenica Armed forces. His command was further extended when he was appointed the commander of the Joint Armed Forces of the sub-region Srebrenica in early November 1992 encompassing the geographical regions of several municipalities, namely: Srebrenica, Bratunac, Vlasenica and Zvornik in eastern Bosnia.
The indictment generally alleged that, at all times relevant to the charges of the indictment, by virtue of his position and authority as commander, Naser Orić commanded all units that were operating within his area of responsibility. This included all units in combat activities in the municipalities of Srebrenica and Bratunac in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in particular the combat activities in Ratkovići on 21 and 27 June 1992, Ježestica on 8 August 1992, Fakovići on 5 October 1992, Bjelovac between 14 and 19 December 1992 and Kravica on 7 and 8 January 1993 and all units including the military police involved in the detention and custody of Serb individuals in Srebrenica.
According to the indictment, Naser Orić demonstrated both de jure and de facto command and control in military matters and exercised effective control over his subordinates.
Between 24 September 1992 and 20 March 1993, members of the military police under the command and control of Naser Orić, allegedly detained several Serb individuals in the Srebrenica police station and in the building behind the Srebrenica Municipal building. It was alleged that these detainees were subjected to physical abuse, serious suffering and injury to body and health. In some instances, prisoners were beaten to death.
Naser Orić, from about September 1992 to August 1995, knew or had reason to know that his subordinates were about to plan, prepare or execute the imprisonment, killing and/or cruel treatment of Serbs detained at the Srebrenica police station and the building behind the Srebrenica Municipal building, or had done so, and he failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof.
The indictment further alleged that during the period May 1992 to February 1993, Bosniak armed units engaged in various military operations against the Bosnian Serb Army (VRS) in eastern Bosnia. In the course of such operations, Bosniak armed units in the municipalities of Bratunac, Srebrenica and Skelani, burnt and otherwise destroyed a minimum of 50 predominantly Serb villages and hamlets. As a result, thousands of Serb individuals fled the area.
Naser Orić was charged on the basis of individual criminal responsibility (Article 7(1) of the Statute) and on the basis of superior criminal responsibility (Article 7(3) of the Statute) with:
• Wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, not justified by military necessity (violations of the laws or customs of war, Article 3).
He was charged on the basis of superior criminal responsibility (Article 7(3) of the Statute) with:
• Murder and cruel treatment (violations of the laws or customs of war, Article 3).
The trial commenced on 6 October 2004 before Trial Chamber II, Judge Carmel Agius (presiding), Judge Hans Henrik Brydensholt and Judge Albin Eser. The Prosecution completed its case-in-chief on 31 May 2005. On 8 June 2005, the Trial Chamber issued an oral decision pursuant to Rule 98bis. The defence began presenting its case on 4 July 2005 and concluded on 1 February 2006. The closing arguments of the Prosecution were presented on 3 and 4 April and of the Defence 5 ,6 , 7 and 10 April 2006.
RULE 98bis DECISION
After the conclusion of the presentation of Prosecution evidence, the Trial Chamber can rule of whether there is a case to answer. If the Chamber believes that the Prosecution has not presented sufficient evidence to prove certain charge(s), it can dismiss those charges before the beginning of the presentation of defence evidence.
Rule 98bis was amended on 8 December 2004 and the decision in the Orić case was the first application of the amended rule. The new procedure is entirely oral, and it is no longer party driven. Thus, it is much quicker. The Trial Chamber found that the standard of review remains the same, namely whether the Prosecution’s evidence, if believed, is sufficient for any reasonable trier of fact to find that guilt of the accused has been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
In its Rule 98bis ruling, the Trial Chamber found that there was evidence which, if believed, would be capable of proving that the general legal requirements for the application of Article 3 are met, namely that:
• an armed conflict existed between 10 June 1992 and 20 March 1993 on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina;
• there was a nexus between the acts of Naser Orić and such armed conflict;
• the crimes of murder, cruel treatment, wanton destruction and plunder constitute violations of rules of international customary law which protect important values and entail individual criminal responsibility; and that
• regarding the crimes of murder and cruel treatment, the persons alleged to have been killed or subjected to cruel treatment were persons taking no active part in the hostilities at the relevant time.
The Trial Chamber elaborated on the applicable law in relation to both the underlying crimes and criminal responsibility.
Having considered all the evidence presented by the Prosecutor, the Trial Chamber entered a judgement of acquittal of Naser Orić of the charges against him in Counts 4 and 6 of the second amended indictment, namely the charge of plunder of public or private property, a violation of the laws and customs of war. More specifically, the indictment charged Naser Orić only with the plunder of “cattle, furniture and television sets”. The Trial Chamber found that there was very little evidence pertaining to the plunder of furniture and TV sets and thus that the evidence adduced did not fulfil the jurisdictional requirement of Article 1 of the Statute, namely the requirement that the violations be serious.
While the Trial Chamber held that there was ample evidence which, if believed, could lead to the conclusion that several hundred heads of cattle were appropriated during or immediately after the attacks, it found that any criminal responsibility of Naser Orić was offset by the real and present necessity to acquire food for the survival of the population of Srebrenica. Having recognised that the defence of necessity was an established principle in customary international law in 1992 and 1993, the Trial Chamber considered the extraordinary humanitarian circumstances in Srebrenica at the time. It thus found that there was abundant evidence that Srebrenica was isolated, that the starving population was drastically increasing with the influx of refugees and that there had been repeated calls for help.
The Trial Chamber noted that there was no evidence that the taking away of cattle was disproportionate or that the direct perpetrators of the appropriation of cattle had brought about the humanitarian situation themselves, but rather that these acts had become indispensable for the survival of the population of Srebrenica. The Trial Chamber thus held that the Prosecution failed to adduce evidence capable of supporting a conviction for the crime of plunder of public or private property and consequently acquitted Naser Orić of Counts 4 and 6 of the second amended indictment.
The Trial Chamber ordered the continuation of the case against Naser Orić in relation to the other counts in the indictment, namely Counts 1, 2, 3 and 5.
However, with regard to the alleged murder of Bogdan Živanović in Count 1 and the alleged cruel treatment of Miloje Obradović in Count 2, the Trial Chamber found that there was no evidence capable of supporting a conviction and that Naser Orić consequently did not need to address these alleged incidents. Similarly, with regard to the alleged wanton destruction in the villages of Radijevići and Božići set out in Counts 3 and 5, the Trial Chamber found that there was no evidence capable of supporting a conviction and that Naser Orić therefore does not need to address those alleged incidents during the Defence case.
For practical purposes, the Trial Chamber asked the Prosecution to present an amended version of the indictment to reflect the above mentioned findings. The third amended indictment was filed on 30 June 2005.
TRIAL CHAMBER JUDGEMENT
This judgement deals with crimes of murder and cruel treatment of prisoners and of wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages alleged to have happened in Srebrenica in 1992 and 1993 for which the Accused was indicted on 30 June 2005.
After Srebrenica was re-captured by Bosnian Muslims in May 1992, they felt a pressing need to organise an effective defence. On 20 May 1992, an informal group of Bosnian Muslim men, who had already set up individual fighting groups in the area, met in the nearby hamlet of Bajramovici to establish the “Srebrenica TO Staff”. The Accused, who was present during this meeting, was elected as Commander. His appointment was subsequently confirmed by Sefer Halilović, Chief of the Supreme Command Staff of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and by Alija Izetbegović, the President of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 3 September 1992, the Srebrenica TO Staff was re-named the Srebrenica Armed Forces Staff.
Between 24 September and 16 October 1992, and again from 27 December 1992 to 20 March 1993, a number of Serbs were captured by Bosnian Muslim fighters and detained at the Srebrenica Police Station and, during the second time-period, also at a building behind the Srebrenica municipal building (“Building”). While they were generally exposed to the same appalling living conditions as the local population, their condition was significantly exacerbated by the maltreatment.
From the very moment it detained prisoners, the Srebrenica military police assumed all duties and responsibilities (under international law) relating to the treatment of prisoners in time of conflict. Evidence showed that Mirzet Halilović, the commander of the military police until 22 November 1992, did not exercise adequate supervision of the detention facility or the activities of the guards while carrying out their duties. To the contrary, Mirzet Halilović even contributed to the cruel treatment of the Serb detainees. The replacement of Mirzet Halilović with Atif Krdzić on 22 November 1992 did not benefit the detainees. Not one person or document refers to his presence in either of the two buildings where prisoners were kept. In addition, during his term as commander, more murders and cruel treatment took place. The Trial Chamber found that the Srebrenica military police, through its commanders Mirzet Halilović and Atif Krdzić, was responsible for the injuries inflicted on the victims.
The Trial Chamber also found that Naser Orić exercised effective control over the military police but only as of 22 November 1992. Prior to this date, it is not clear whether the Srebrenica Armed Forces Staff and Naser Orić as Commander exercised effective control over the military police. It is clear, however, that there was an attempt to restructure and improve its performance in October and November 1992, such as with the replacement of Mirzet Halilović by Atif Krdzić. The new military police commander reported to Osman Osmanović, the Chief of Staff of the Srebrenica Armed Forces who reported to Naser Orić.
The Trial Chamber found insufficient reliable evidence that Naser Orić ever visited either of the two detention facilities between December 1992 and March 1993, when the second group of Serb prisoners was held there. Although Naser Orić was aware that Serbs were detained in Srebrenica, there is no indication that anyone kept him informed about their condition.
Nonetheless, since Naser Orić was aware that incidents of murder and cruel treatment had previously occurred, the Trial Chamber found that Naser Orić was put on notice that the security and the well-being of all Serbs detained from that time forward in Srebrenica was at risk, and that this issue needed to be adequately addressed and monitored. Naser Orić also knew that the severe malnutrition and the psychological effects of being under siege had severely affected the judgement of people in Srebrenica, several of whom behaved erratically. The Trial Chamber found that Naser Orić had reason to know about acts of murder and cruel treatment committed at the Srebrenica Police Station and the Building between 27 December 1992 and 20 March 1993.
However, the security and well-being of Serb prisoners disappear from Naser Orić’s agenda after an investigation into the alleged killing of a prisoner by Mirzet Halilović and his eventual replacement with Atif Krdzić. In his 2001 interview with the Office of the Prosecutor, Naser Orić is reported as stating that because of the deteriorating military situation, the detention of prisoners was not on his mind, as there were others responsible for it.
The Trial Chamber holds that, as a general rule, the treatment of prisoners in armed conflict, including their physical and mental condition, cannot be deemed less important than military considerations. however important they may be. As a general rule the person entrusted with the responsibility over prisoners is in a position to fulfil this obligation. It does not, and cannot, apply when there is the impossibility to act, or when it would be utterly unreasonable to expect one to act, as in the case of a life-threatening situation. In this case, the Trial Chamber found that Naser Orić, as a commander, could discharge such responsibilities by delegating part of them to a subordinate and enquiring from time to time, and in the absence of reports, at least require them in whatever format.
The Trial Chamber found it unacceptable that commanders, like Naser Orić, could be free of his obligation to protect prisoners from murder and cruel treatment simply by assigning a subordinate to the job and not enquiring further about their status. Naser Orić never enquired about the fate of the Serb prisoners kept at the two detention facilities in Srebrenica from the day Atif Krdzić was appointed commander of the Srebrenica military police in lieu of Mirzet Halilović. In addition, he expressed and explained his lack of further involvement on the basis of his military commitments elsewhere and that there were others in charge of prisoners.
The Trial Chamber rejected the Defence submission that Naser Orić had inadequate means at the time to prevent the crimes committed against the prisoners. The replacement of Mirzet Halilović and the investigation of his alleged killing of a Serb prisoner show that this could be achieved, even in the absence of sophisticated structures and well-trained personnel.
The Trial Chamber therefore found Naser Orić guilty of not taking the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the crimes at the Srebrenica Police Station and the Building between December 1992 and March 1993.
However, with respect to the duty to punish, the Trial Chamber came to a different conclusion, namely that Naser Orić could not be held responsible for having failed to punish the crimes committed. The Judgement explains why the Trial Chamber comes to the conclusion that there is insufficient evidence of effective control over the military police prior to 22 November 1992, when Naser Orić had actual knowledge of murder and cruel treatment. Thereafter, when Naser Orić exercised effective control, the Trial Chamber only found that he had reason to know of the crimes. Naser Orić could not be found guilty of failing to punish his subordinates for crimes, since there was not enough evidence to prove that he knew or could have known that the crimes had taken place and would therefore have been in a position to punish.
Weighing Naser Orić’s individual criminal responsibility in respect of the attack on Jezestica on 7 and 8 January 1993, the Trial Chamber found that the elements of the crime of wanton destruction are not fulfilled with regard to the other attacks for which such responsibility has been charged.
The Trial Chamber was convinced that Naser Orić was generally aware that Bosnian Serb property was destroyed by Bosnian Muslims, primarily civilians, who followed the fighters during attacks. However, the Prosecution failed to prove that he instigated wanton destruction. On the contrary, evidence indicated that Naser Orić opposed this conduct.
With respect to aiding and abetting, the Trial Chamber found that Naser Orić, as a leader of a group of fighters, had the responsibility to prevent reckless destruction by his subordinates. This duty extended to preventing wanton destruction by other fighters and civilians if Naser Orić knew that such reckless destruction was being or was about to be committed in the course of attacks in which his subordinates participated. As a minimum, he had a duty to prevent civilians from being present during such attacks. However, the Trial Chamber did not establish that Naser Orić could have prevented unjustified destruction by civilians that were present before, during and after attacks in massive numbers and who were beyond any control. With respect to fighters, the Trial Chamber was not convinced that in the particular circumstances of the attack on Jezestica on 7 and 8 January 1993, Naser Orić could have prevented fighters from committing destruction, or aiding and abetting civilians to commit such destruction. There was no evidence that his fighting group had any involvement in the wanton destruction that occurred during the attack. There was also insufficient evidence that Naser Orić had control over, or even communication with other fighting groups during the attack. In addition, although Naser Orić participated in the attack, there was no evidence that his presence was that of an ‘approving spectator’ required to hold him individually criminally responsible in light of the above, the Trial Chamber concluded that the Prosecution failed to establish that Naser Orić in any way instigated or aided and abetted the commission of wanton destruction not justified by military necessity in Jezestica on 7 and 8 January 1993.
The Trial Chamber examined Naser Orić’s criminal responsibility for his subordinates only in respect of the attacks on Ratkovici and Gornji Ratkovici (21 June 1992), on Braðevina (27 June 1992) and Jezestica (8 August 1992 and 7 and 8 January 1993). Regarding all four attacks, the Trial Chamber heard evidence that Bosnian Muslim fighters and civilians committed acts of wanton destruction, but there was almost no evidence that would further identify those perpetrators. However, such identification is not required by law, provided that it can be established that those responsible were under the control of the superior.
With respect to the question of the existence or otherwise of effective control by Naser Orić over the perpetrators it has already been explained that effective control can be based on legal, as well as on a factual position of authority.
However, while the Trial Chamber found that Naser Orić exercised effective control over his own fighting group from Potočari, a village located aproximately four kilometres northeast of Srebrenica, the Trial Chamber did not find enough evidence that Naser Orić in fact exercised effective control over the various groups of fighters who participated in these attacks. There was no organised army with a fully functioning command structure, but one of local groups remaining relatively independent and voluntary and a mass of uncontrollable civilians that were present at every attack. Therefore, the Trial Chamber came to the conclusion that regarding all four attacks under consideration, Naser Orić could not be held criminally responsible for his subordinates’ acts of wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages, which were not justified by military necessity.
On 30 May 2006, the Trial Chamber rendered its judgement: Naser Orić, on the basis of superior criminal responsibility (Article 7(3) of the Statute), was found guilty of:
• Failure to discharge his duty as a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence of murder between 27 December 1992 to 20 March 1993 (violation of the laws or customs of war, Article 3)
• Failure to discharge his duty as a superior to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent the occurrence of cruel treatment between 27 December 1992 and 20 March 1993 (violation of the laws or customs of war, Article 3)
He was acquitted of all the other counts.
Sentence: two years’ imprisonment
Naser Orić was entitled to credit for time spent in detention, namely three years, two months and 21 days. The Trial Chamber therefore ordered his immediate release.
APPEALS CHAMBER JUDGEMENT
On 31 July 2006, the defence filed a notice of appeal against the Trial Judgement. The Prosecution also filed its notice of appeal on 31 July 2006.
On 16 October 2006, the defence filed its appeal brief. On 18 October 2006, the Prosecution filed the latest version of its appeal brief.
The appeals hearing took place on 1 and 2 April 2008.
The Appeals Chamber granted Naser Orić’s first and fifth grounds of appeal as he alleged therein that the Trial Chamber failed to make findings on the criminal responsibility of his only identified subordinate, Atif Krdžić. Additionally, the Trial Chamber failed to determine whether Naser Orić knew or had reason to know that Atif Krdžić was about to or had committed crimes. In the absence of these findings, Naser Orić’s convictions under Article 7(3) of the Statute could not stand. These errors therefore invalidated the Trial Chamber’s decision to convict Naser Orić for his failure to prevent his subordinate’s alleged criminal conduct in relation to the crimes committed against Serb detainees between December 1992 and March 1993.
The Appeals Chamber found that the Prosecution, in its first ground of appeal, failed to demonstrate that the Trial Chamber misapplied the burden of proof or erred in failing to consider that Naser Orić’s de jure command over the Military Police between 24 September and 16 October 1992 created a presumption that he exercised effective control over that unit. For reasons explained in its Judgement, the Appeals Chamber further found that the Prosecution failed to demonstrate that the Trial Chamber erred in fact when it found that Naser Orić did not have effective control over the Military Police between 24 September and 16 October 1992.
Under the last part of its first ground of appeal, the Prosecution alleged that, had the Trial Chamber applied the “had reason to know” standard correctly, it would have concluded that Naser Orić had reason to know that crimes of murder and cruel treatment had occurred between 27 December 1992 and 20 March 1993, and convicted him for failing to punish. The Appeals Chamber noted that, whereas responsibility under Article 7(3) of the Statute requires proof of the superior’s knowledge or reason to know of his subordinate’s criminal conduct, the Prosecution contended that Naser Orić had reason to know that the crimes of murder and cruel treatment themselves had occurred. The Prosecution submitted that, in the present case, knowledge or reason to know of the crimes and knowledge or reason to know of the subordinate’s criminal conduct were “one and the same”. The Appeals Chamber considered that the Prosecution fails to substantiate this assertion and, consequently, needed not consider any further the Prosecution’s present sub-ground of appeal.
For the foregoing reasons, the Prosecution’s first ground of appeal was dismissed in its entirety. The Appeals Chambers declined to consider the Prosecution’s fifth ground of appeal and considered that the Prosecution’s remaining grounds of appeal were rendered moot as a result of the Appeals Chamber’s discussion and conclusion on Naser Orić’s appeal.
In light of the foregoing, the Appeals Chamber found that the appropriate course of action can only be a reversal of Naser Orić’s convictions under Article 7(3) of the Statute.
The Appeals Chamber underscored that, like the Trial Chamber, it had no doubt that grave crimes were committed against Serbs detained in Srebrenica at the Srebrenica Police Station and the Building between September 1992 and March 1993. Also, the Defence did not challenge that crimes were committed against Serb detainees.
However, proof that crimes had occurred was not sufficient to sustain a conviction of an individual for these crimes.
On 3 July 2008, the Appeals Chamber reversed the Trial Chamber judgement and found Naser Orić not guilty.
Judge Mohamed Shahabuddeen appended a declaration. Judge Liu Daqun appended a partially dissenting opinion and declaration. Judge Wolfgang Schomburg appended a separate and partially dissenting opinion.
Link to the original document prepared by the ICTY Communications Service (in PDF). All ICTY key documents are available on: www.un.org/icty International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Churchillplein 1, 2517 JW The Hague, the Netherlands.