Flashback: What did Bosnian Serbs do in heavily militarized villages around Srebrenica from 1991-1995? They had participated in a number of brutal massacres against the Bosniak population in and around Srebrenica, including nearby municipality of Vlasenica.
Among the victims in Rakita there are mother and daughter Almasa and Suada Hajdarevic and Salko and Mehmed Efendic who come from a family in which seven brothers and one cousin were murdered.
Serbs from heavily militarized villages around Srebrenica murdered 2.600 Bosnian Muslim civilians in Vlasenica municipality during the past war. Until now, 650 remains were exhumed and 350 bodies identified.
“We are going to Tuzla, Kozarac, Visegrad, to as many places as we possibly can, to places where Serbs committed crimes in our name, led by those who in the name of Serbhood, in the name of Greater Serbia, in the name of criminal politics, those who had committed such horrible brutalities. We express our human responsibility and a community act of solidarity with the victims of these crimes… We are disgusted with the current government in Serbia, as well as with the International community’s injustice toward the victims of this crime, which is one of countless crimes committed against the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, especially against the people of Bosniak nationality.”
Only Dragan Nikolic was convicted to 20 years of imprisonment for crimes in this town, while proceedings are ongoing against two more individuals. Other perpetrators are still free.
Here are NAMES of buried victims and FUNERAL PHOTOS:
- Hajdarević (Derviš) Almasa (1936-1992)
- Hodžić (Ahmo) Sadidin (1965-1992)
- Jahić (Avdo) Almir (1975-1992)
- Musić (Meho) Mehmed (1928-1993)
- Pezić (Sulejman) Enis (1962-1992)
- Salkić (Šaban) Nedžada (1974-1992)
- Hajdarević (Emin) Suvada (1954-1992)
- Heljo (Sejfo) Jasmin (1973-1992)
- Salaharević (Muhamed) Edin (1973-1992)
- Kičić (Munib) Galib (1974-1992)
- Efendić (Ahmo) Mehmed (1973-1992)
- Efendić (Ibro) Salko (1964-1992)
- Arnaut (Ramo) Selim (1956-1992)
- Hidić (Mehmedalija) Hakija (1952-1992)
- Durić (Hamid) Osman (1956-1992)
- Mekić (Haso) Melka (1912-1992)
- Hurić (Himzo) Hajrudin (1965-1992)
- Huremović (Mujo) Osman (1927-1992)
- Mehmedović (Redžo) Nedžad (1966-1992)
- Mehmedović (Redžo) Kemal (1964-1992)
- Gagulić (Alija) Hajrudin (1963-1993)
- Esmić (Muhamed) Mujo (1959-1993)
- Heljo (Sejdo) Paša (1927-1992)
- Jašarević (Sinan) Kadir (1959-1992)
- Hadžić (Muradif) Enes (1961-1992)
- Karač (Hamdija) Sead (1969-1992)
- Patković (Huso) Hasib (1940-1992)
- Ibralić (Šaban) Husein (1951-1992)
- Begić (Hasan) Suljo (1928 -1995)
- Ferhatović (Avdo) Advija (1974-1992)
- Mušanović (Mustafa) Fahrudin (1961 – 1992)
- Mušanović (Mustafa) Mevludin (1958 – 1992)
- Kastrati (Ahmet) Rahman (1931 – 1992)
- Hodžić (Juso) Rešid (1971-1993).
DID YOU KNOW? Serbs have repeatedly blocked the legislation on Holocaust and genocide denial in the Parliament of Bosnia-Herzegovina. After all, the first experiments in mass executions of Jewish camp inmates by poison gas were carried out by Serbs that collaborated with Nazis. Serbia was the first country to declare itself “Judenfrei” (“cleansed” of Jews). Today, Bosniak MP commemorated the Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom Hashoa) and called for this important legislation to be adopted.
Bosniak Member of Parliament Marks the Holocaust Remembrance Day: Yom Hashoah
House of Representatives, Member
Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina
On Tuesday 21st April 2009, we are commemorating Yom Hashoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Day. This date, 27. Nisan according to the Hebrew calendar, marks the anniversary of the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising.
I take this opportunity to honor the heroes of the 1943 Warsaw uprising, and also to remember that we still have to fight fascist ideology, so that this ideology will be defeated once and for all.
Although the fascist states have been defeated, fascism as an ideology has not. I sincerely hope that the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina will find the courage to adopt legislation against Holocaust and genocide denial. And in that way, it would be a contribution to the fight against fascism.
1. Jews and Bosnian Muslims have joint experience in persecution and genocide in Europe
2. Serb Nazi collaborators murdered 20,000 Muslims around Srebrenica in 1943 genocide
3. Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel condemns Karadzic for denial of Srebrenica genocide
4. Hasan Nuhanovic interview for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
5. Jasenovac Research Institute – a Serbian-nationalist organization that denies Srebrenica genocide
6. So called “Srebrenica Historical Project” and Stefan Karganovic’s Anti-Semitic Source
7. Our Friends at the United States Holocaust Museum
8. Holocaust Denier David Irving Jailed in Austria
9. Holocaust Remembrance Day 2008
A case against four Srebrenica genocide survivors – Samir Avdic, Nedzad Hasic, Ahmo Harbas and Behrudin Husic – is marked by severe torture and forced confessions. Serb interrogators are on record for using knives to carve crude Orthodox crosses on the shoulders of tortured prisoners. The human rights groups have asserted that the confessions had been forced and that there was no evidence to support the convictions.
Republished in accordance with the Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
Justice can be a tricky business. Some 8,000 men and boys were killed in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. And while the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) victims have been seeking some form of justice ever since, Bosnian Serb authorities are doing the same by trying Bosniak men for the murder of four Serb men and one Bosniak man in a forest that has become synonymous with the Srebrenica massacre.
What happened in that forest, where thousands of Bosniak men fled after the fall of Srebrenica to Serb forces, is what Bosnian Serb authorities hope will tip the scales of justice. The question now is this: Will the sentencing of a group of Bosniak men for the murder of four Serb men and one Muslim help to balance out the deaths of 8,000?
The war crimes case, which has dragged on in the Republika Srpska courts for 13 long years, is wrought with legal ambiguities, political obstruction and bizarre circumstances.
On 4 March 2009, a local court in Bijeljina (Republika Srpska) sentenced 43-year-old Samir Avdic for murdering a Bosniak man, Munib Mustafic, from Srebrenica, while fleeing from Bosnian Serb forces. The court sentenced Avdic to five years in prison, minus the three years he had already spent in custody following his initial arrest in 1996.
“In my client’s case, all human rights conventions and legal procedures were violated. The case, where no material evidence was found, is marked by humiliation, torture, threats, severe beatings and a false confession,” Damir Alagic, Avdic’s newly appointed lawyer, told ISN Security Watch.
The court based its sentence solely on Avdic’s signed confession given to police investigators immediately following his arrest – despite claims from psychiatrists and medical examiners that the confession was given after days of brutal interrogation. Medical records state that Avdic had suffered broken ribs and a broken leg, head injuries and hand wounds and that interrogators had used a knife to carve a crude Orthodox cross on his shoulder. However, according to the signed confession, the injuries and the carving were inflicted upon the defendant by other members of the group with whom he fled to the forest.
Out of five medical examiners who participated in the case trials in 1997, 1998 and 2009, four concluded that Avdic was mentally unstable and unfit to stand trial or to sign a confession.
During the latest trial, Avdic denied having confessed to the murder, claiming that he had signed documents presented to him by investigators and prosecutors without understanding their contents. Aside from the confession, no additional evidence was produced, nor was the body of Mustafic ever found, though it was determined that he was killed during the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica.
A chain of tragedies
Avdic was in born in Bratunac, a small town near Srebrenica which fell to Bosnian Serb forces in the summer of 1992. Prior to the Serb military offensive, many Bosniak men fled to Srebrenica, while women and children remained behind. While Serb forces overtook Bratunac, Avdic’s wife, mother, six-year-old daughter and dozens of other family members were killed. Over 3,000 Bosniak civilians were killed in Bratunac during the offensive.
In the days between 11-15 July 1995, two years after being designated a UN Safe Area, Srebrenica became the scene of the worst massacre in the Bosnian war, with Bosnian Serb army, police and paramilitary forces killing up to 8,000 men and boys, most of them while trying to reach territory controlled by the Bosnian army, some 55 kilometers away.
The Bosnian Serb army easily disarmed some 400-strong Dutch UN forces. Women and children found shelter in the Potocari UN base near Srebrenica, while the men, both civilians and disarmed soldiers, fled to the surrounding forests.
Following UN negotiations with Serb troops, some 25,000 women were [forcibly] transferred by bus from the Potocari base to territory under the control of the Bosnian army.
UN peacekeepers handed over to the Bosnian Serb forces about 5,000 Muslims who had been sheltering at the Potocari base, allegedly in return for the release of 14 Dutch peacekeepers who were being held captive at the Nova Kasaba base near Srebrenica.
Witnesses estimate that there were between 10,000 and 15,000 men attempting to flee Srebrenica through the forest, and that they had divided themselves up into hundreds of individual groups to avoid ambushes. Some 3,500 of those men made it safely to the city of Tuzla on 16 July. The rest were killed, captured or trapped behind Serb lines.
One of the groups that managed to escape from Srebrenica, but failed to make it out of Serb-controlled territory, was the “Zvornik Seven,” of which Avdic was a member. After the fall of Srebrenica in July 1995, Avdic and six other men remained hidden in the forest for nearly 11 months, near Poljanice, only a few kilometers from besieged Srebrenica.
According to their testimonies, they survived on a diet largely of leaves, grass and snails. The high summer temperatures caused dehydration and finding water sources was a continual problem. A cave in a nearby mountain provided shelter from Serb patrols during the daylight hours, while nights were spent foraging for food.
On 11 May 1996, unaware that the war had ended six months earlier, the group came upon a NATO Implementation Forces (IFOR) patrol and surrendered, asking to be transferred to territory under the control of the Bosnian army.
However, en route to Tuzla, they were intercepted by a Republika Srpska police patrol, who claimed that the seven were wanted for murder. The Bosnian Serb police demanded that IFOR hand them over for questioning. The men were transferred to the city of Zvornik, in Republika Srpska, where they were charged with the murder of four Serb men, while Avdic was additionally charged with the murder of Mustafic, the Bosnian Muslim.
According to their statements to the local media and from IFOR members present at the interrogations, the men were severely beaten by both police investigators and inmates while held in custody, forced to endure sleep deprivation and then tortured into signing documents that are believed to be their alleged confessions. Mysteriously, following the December 1998 retrial, the transcripts and signed confessions disappeared, and the 2009 trial was forced to rely on the 1998 verdict for evidence of the confession.
In the case files, ISN Security Watch discovered that the members of the group confessed to the murder of four men from Milici. The alleged confession stated that after the murder they cut the bodies of the victims, burned and buried them. As for Munib Mustafic, Avdic confessed that he murdered him in August 1995 in the cave in which they were hiding for hoarding salt.
In the quick trial, three of the men – Nedzad Hasic, Ahmo Harbas and Behrudin Husic – were sentenced by a Zvornik court in May 1997 to 20 years in prison. The others were released due to lack of evidence. The allegedly murdered Munib Mustafic, whom police said was the eighth member of the group, was never indicted. (It remains unclear to this day how Bosnian Serb authorities determined that Mustafic was murdered in the forest.)
Interestingly, the court accepted the argument put forth by Avdic’s defense team (assigned by the Bosnian Serb authorities) that in a “state of war a Bosniak, enemy soldier was not a protected object,” referring to Mustafic. The acceptance by the court of this argument is rather contradictory given that Mustafic and Avdic were both Bosniaks.
The members of the group were also sentenced to an additional year in prison for the possession of a large amount of firearms and explosive devices on the territory of Republika Srpska. The defendants confessed in 1996 that they had a single rifle in their possession, but deny the existence of any other weapons.
In the retrial in December 1998, the sentences for Hasic and Harbas were upheld while Husic was sentenced to 11 years for involvement in murdering one of the men. The previously released Avdic, who at that time lived in US, was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in prison for murdering Mustafic, but the sentence was reduced to six years.
Both processes were regarded as unjust by the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina and human rights groups, who asserted that the confessions had been forced and that there was no evidence to support the convictions.
The convictions seem to have been based almost solely on self-incriminating statements signed by the defendants after they had been tortured or ill-treated by Zvornik police in the original investigative procedures. International Police Task Force representatives present at the police interrogation confirmed that the defendants had been beaten by police investigators.
Legal experts and international monitors claimed that little other evidence was produced to sustain the murder charges. Only partial remains of the bodies of two of the murdered Bosnian Serbs were found, while the other two have never been found. The court refused to obtain blood samples from the remains to be analyzed and matched with blood stains found on the clothes of some of the defendants.
Murat Tahirovic, the head of an association of Bosnian prison camp inmates, which provided legal help for Avdic, said that the trials were highly politicized from the beginning and that all seven men were victims of a dysfunctional system.
“These trials, from 1997 until today have nothing to do with the law or punishing murderers, rather with Bosnian Serb efforts to equalize the crimes from Srebrenica massacre. With this case they are trying to say that maybe Serbs killed Bosniaks in Srebrenica, but Bosniaks were killing each other as well,” Tahirovic told ISN Security Watch.
“I can’t say whether Avdic is guilty or not, but if Republika Srpska cares about Srebrenica Bosniaks, why didn’t they punish the murders of the rest of the 8,000 people killed?” he asked.
“Several reports noted that around 25,083 people from Republika Srpska were involved in the events in Srebrenica. We prepared a file of 430 persons directly involved in the Srebrenica massacre who are still working in the entity institutions. The question is, why Republika Srpska authorities so far have not charged anybody for the Srebrenica massacre or made any arrests,” Tahirovic said.
In January 1999, the Republika Srpska Justice Ministry decided to exchange three of the indicted men for three Bosnian Serbs serving sentences for war crimes in Tuzla, in the Bosniak-Croat run Federation entity, and soon afterward amnestied them, while the Federation Justice Ministry moved to temporarily release Hasic, Husic and Harbas.
All three have fled the country. ISN Security Watch has learned that Hasic and Harbas currently live in Switzerland, holding Swiss citizenship, and that authorities there have refused to hand them over to Republika Srpska. Husic lives and works in Croatia. Furthermore, all members of the group have been deemed mentally and physically handicapped as a result of their months of hiding in the forest and the subsequent police torture.
Following his initial release, Avdic lived in the US on a temporary visa until 2000. He remarried and had a child. In March 2007, he was arrested for assault and reckless driving, but charged only with being a fugitive from a foreign country. Acting on a warrant issued by Republica Srpska in 1998, the US extradited Avdic in August 2007 to authorities there.
After his deportation, Avdic gave a new statement to the court claiming that Mustafic had not been a member of their group and that he had not had contact with the victim following the fall of Srebrenica.
“After that I never saw him again. I signed the confession document but the content was written by the prosecutor […]I don’t know how they came up with the information but I did not tell them anything,” Avdic wrote in the statement obtained by ISN Security Watch. He also denied his previous statement that the he had not been severely beaten by police investigators in Zvornik. The original 1996 confession said his injuries had been inflicted by Hasic.
“For Samir Avdic, the war is still not over. He is the victim of the leftovers of war propaganda while some figures are trying to build their political careers on his case. This is all about bad people in very influential positions,” Alagic said.
The lawyer also said that even now, some Bosnian Serb authorities are trying to pressure Avdic into not withdrawing his confession and implicating wartime Bosniak officials from Srebrenica by threatening to issue an extradition request for his 7-year-old son now living in the US and offering to reveal the location of the remains of his slain wife and daughter.
Alagic says he is sure that with new witnesses, new evidence and expert testimonies, Avdic and the other members of the “Zvornik Seven” group will soon be freed.
Anes Alic is a senior writer for ISN Security Watch, based in Sarajevo. He is also the co-founder and executive director of ISA Consulting, based in Sarajevo and Tel Aviv. Republished for “Fair Use” in accordance with the Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.
That date will mark the 14th anniversary of the genocide in the town, said Munira Subašić, chairman of the Movement of Mothers from the Srebrenica and Žepa Enclaves Association.Furthermore, the association will hold a series of Round Tables, book promotions and other events to mark the ccasion.
“Who could ever have imagined 50 years after ‘Never Again’, after Auschwitz, Treblinka, Mautthausen, Oranienburg Sachsenhausen… that we would again see concentration camps (photos), mass expulsions, mass murder… that genocide would happen again? And happen again it did, in the heart of Europe – in Bosnia & Herzegovina.” – Fadila Memišević
TRANSCRIPT / TRANSLATION
Today, on the birthday of Sarajevo, as citizens of Sarajevo like to call it, we are organising a worldwide campaign to commemorate and remember the victims of genocide – not just in Bosnia & Herzegovina but all around the world. We are organizing this event together with the US Genocide Prevention Project organization.
Mario Mančić, Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Croatia:
We are gathered here today in order to mark out the Sarajevo Rose – at the place where a crime was committed – as a way of keeping alive the memory of what happened. The most important thing is that it is young people from all across the region who are doing this together. So we have come from Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, from Montenegro, to mark out this spot together as part of our programme of joint activities with partner organizations.
Sarah Harović, Youth Initiative for Human Rights – Montenegro:
I am Sarah Harović and I have come from Podgorica ahead of Youth Initiative Montenegro and – I am here also with the Youth Initiative Bosnia &Herzegovina – we are here together with the rest of the team from across the region. There are representatives from Croatia – from Zagreb, Youth Initiative Zagreb, there are people from Serbia – Youth Initiative Serbia.
I consider it a great honour that we, as young people and as people from across the region, are able to take part today in a really great activity like painting the Sarajevo roses which is important to all of you and also to us young people, firstly of course because we were unable to do anything ourselves in the past but also I think we can help build better relations and create a better future for ourselves – a better future for all of us in the region.
Fadila Memišević, Director of Society for Threatened Peoples – BiH:
We came here to send a message out to the world – and to the United Nations in particular – that preventive action must be taken to ensure that genocides will happen never again. Who could ever have imagined 50 years after “Never Again”, after Auschwitz, Treblinka, Mautthausen, Oranienburg-Sachsenhausen… that we would again see concentration camps (see photos), mass expulsions, mass murder… that genocide would happen again? And happen again it did, in the heart of Europe – in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
From Genocide Prevention Project’s press release:
“I lost my whole family during the crimes committed in Srebrenica. Today, all I hope for is to find the remains of my sons and my husband and to bury them properly,” said Hatidza Mehmedovic, a Srebrenica survivor and President of the Mothers of Srebrenica.
“Together, as survivors of genocide, we come together to raise our collective voice to call on the international community to stop and prevent mass atrocities and genocide all over the world. The world failed to stop these crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but we call for action today in Darfur.”
“Today, we send a strong message to all the governments of the former Yugoslavia that those responsible for genocide, such as Ratko Mladic, must be held accountable and sent to the ICTY for prosecution and punishment,” said Fadila Memisevic, Director of the Society for Threatened Peoples – Bosnia & Herzegovina.
“In addition, we stand in solidarity with all other survivors of genocide around the world to demand that those responsible for the horrendous crimes committed in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur are held accountable.”
The International Association of Genocide Scholars held its 7th biennial meeting in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 9-13 July 2007. Also in 2005, Dr. Kathleen Young took students with her to the Genocide Conference and memorial service to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. Please watch her video:
For translated transcript of this video, click here.
Youth from throughout the former Yugoslavia repaint “Sarajevo Rose” to urge world leaders to remember the lives lost and to seek accountability for crimes committed.
Survivors and youth from throughout the region came together today to commemorate the start of the Siege of Sarajevo and the beginning of the war and genocide in Bosnia & Herzegovina. The event, which is part of Genocide Prevention Month, was organized by the Society for Threatened Peoples – Bosnia & Herzegovina together with the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (sections in all the countries of the former Yugoslavia), Education Builds Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Children – Pillars of the World.
More than 250 events will take place around the globe during April to commemorate past genocides and to call for an end to ongoing and future mass atrocities. “It is remarkable – tragically so – that six civilian slaughters have anniversaries in April. This new network of genocide survivors is calling on world leaders to end the violence in Darfur and to outline how genocide prevention will be an international priority,” said Jill Savitt, Director of Genocide Prevention Month.
The commemoration ceremony in Sarajevo began in front of the memorial plaque to the victims of the Ferhadija Street Massacre on 27 May 1992, when 26 people were killed and 108 wounded as they stood in line queuing for bread.
“I lost my whole family during the crimes committed in Srebrenica. Today, all I hope for is to find the remains of my sons and my husband and to bury them properly,” said Hatidza Mehmedovic, a Srebrenica survivor and President of the Mothers of Srebrenica. “Together, as survivors of genocide, we come together to raise our collective voice to call on the international community to stop and prevent mass atrocities and genocide all over the world. The world failed to stop these crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but we call for action today in Darfur.”
Participants then marched through the centre of Sarajevo, accompanied by representatives of the survivors of the genocide – the Mothers of Srebrenica, surviving camp detainees, women victims of rape and relatives of victims and refugees from all across Bosnia & Herzegovina.
“Today, we send a strong message to all the governments of the former Yugoslavia that those responsible for genocide, such as Ratko Mladic, must be held accountable and sent to the ICTY for prosecution and punishment,” said Fadila Memisevic, Director of the Society for Threatened Peoples – Bosnia & Herzegovina. “In addition, we stand in solidarity with all other survivors of genocide around the world to demand that those responsible for the horrendous crimes committed in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Darfur are held accountable.”
PHOTO: The blood-spattered Muslim survivor of the 1993 Srebrenica child massacre, identified as Sead Bekric, in hospital with his mom and brother. Click on a photo to view higher resolution.
On April 12th 1993, Serbs from militarized villages around Srebrenica attacked the town with heavy artillery hitting hospitals and schools. In this brutal attack, Serbs instantly killed 62 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) children, and injured more than 100 children in front of Srebrenica’s elementary school.
Another 12 children died in a hospital as a result of serious injuries sustained during the heavy artillery attack, bringing the total number od dead to 74.
Bosnian Serb police was in charge of securing this peaceful commemoration and no incidents were reported.
Between 1991-1995 – not including the 1995 genocide – Serbs around Srebrenica torched approximately 95% of all Muslim villages in Podrinje region (where Srebrenica is located) and murdered more than 1,000 Bosniaks in brutal raids, ethnic cleansing, and horrific practices of torture. In 1992 alone, Serbs ethnically cleansed more than 90% of pre-dominanly Bosniak territory in Podrinje. To view photos of Serb terror around Srebrenica, click here.
Note: You can view short video clip from Associated Press (for full-length video, you need to purchase a licence), at this link.
PHOTO: The blood-spattered Muslim survivor of the 1993 Srebrenica child massacre, identified as Sead Bekric, in hospital with his mom. Click on a photo to view higher resolution.