Posts Tagged ‘bosnia’


July 9, 2009 Comments off

PHOTO: Amor Masovic, director of the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Promot catalogue of the exhibition “Mass Graves in Bosnia-Herzegovina” (published by the Museum of City of Sarajevo) is also available in .PDF format on CNAB’s web site.

During the aggression against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina which lasted from early 1992 to the end of 1995, 27,734 people were listed as missing, most of them victims of genocide and other crimes against humanity and violations of international humanitarian law. More than 85% of these missing persons were Bosniaks.
Thirteen years after the end of the war, the mortal remains of about 20,000 missing persons who were citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been found.

The victims have been exhumed from primary and secondary mass graves, natural pits as much as 80 metres deep, mines, and multiple, single and other graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Republic of Croatia, and the Republic of Serbia.

A great majority of the victims have been exhumed from more than 400 mass graves, in which the mortal remains of between 5 and 1,153 people were found.

Of the 8,372 persons missing during the occupation of Srebrenica as a UN safe area in July 1995, the mortal remains of about 6,000 victims of genocide have been found, in most cases incomplete.

The quest for the missing, truth, justice and closure for the souls of the deceased and the survivors continues.

Amor Mašović,
Member of the Board of Directors
Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Why stage an exhibition of mass graves in Bosnia-Herzegovina
in the Museum of Sarajevo?
By definition, the Museum of Sarajevo, as its name indicates, is a museum that preserves accounts of the history and culture of Sarajevo Canton, and stages exhibitions to present them to the general public. The exhibition of Mass Graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina might in theory seem to take us beyond the scope of our mission. Why, then, did we decided to do something that is not “our area”? One explanation, a theoretical one again, would be that, as the museum of the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we wanted to dedicate an exhibition to the whole of the country.

In essence, though, the real reasons for our decision to hold this exhibition are quite different. They were prompted by the moral need to tell the truth, in both our human and our professional capacity. Much has been said about what the truth can do, but one thing is certain: however painful it may be, only the truth can help.

Those who witnessed these events, the people who have for years now been working unstintingly and determinedly to discover and investigate mass graves, the camera, as one of the tools of their trade, and the photographs taken as they worked, are all indisputable facts, constituting nothing less than a document – the truth.

As an institution reconstructing history through facts and exhibits, the museum uses photographs as both documents and exhibits. The photographs taken as part of the work of the Missing Persons Institute of BiH as they identified and exhumed mass graves were not intended to be works of art or to end up as exhibits in an exhibition, but were taken in order to document and testify to the work itself as it progressed and to what was found in the course of investigation.

It was these very photographs that were our inspiration for the exhibition, since they speak for themselves. Any commentary, ours or others’, would be superfluous. Judge for yourself!
The Museum of Sarajevo is holding the exhibition of Mass Graves in Bosnia and Herzegovina and its accompanying catalogue to mark 11 July, Remembrance Day, commemorating the genocide in Srebrenica.

Our intention is not that the exhibition in our Museum should be the last, but rather that it will travel around the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina and beyond. Let us hope that we shall succeed in this.

We should like to thank the sponsors who helped to make this exhibition a reality.
Our particular thanks go to Amor Mašović, Muhamed Mujkić and the entire team from the Missing Persons Institute of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Amra Madžarević
Director, Museum of Sarajevo

Some other reality
It is not my intention, even now, to put my name to these documents of horror; it makes me shudder to think that a project or exhibition-performance is to take place which is to add another item to my c.v. which, hand on heart, I must immodestly admit is quite impressive.

But I should like to thank the organizer, the Museum of Sarajevo, for encouraging me once more to launch and appear and, just briefly, to open the window a crack to allow out a sliver of the truth that, even now, slices like a sword through every attempt to forget.

As I visited our killing fields over the years, I realized that my Bosnia has so many wounds, wounds that may be almost impossible to heal.

All this time I have been trying to banish the ambiguities in the question: “what is reality, really?” The one beyond the line of the world that I see what I emerge from a grave pit, or the one down there, in the dark, alone with the remains of the souls that have abandoned both realities, this one down there and the one up there?

I am always in two minds, attempting to tell this reality that there is another, another we can speak of, another we must accept and call by its real name, resolve, and free of all simplifications, speculations and guesswork.

Bosnia is full of pain, this Bosnia of ours is barely breathing, and that’s how it is.

My Bosnia is heart and soul to me – and I have to tell you that both of them hurt.

Muhamed Mujkić
Missing Persons Institute of BiH
(author of the photographs used for the exhibition and the catalogue)

The truth is plain to see: There was Genocide

“To accept and understand the Truth, one needs an interlocutor who wants to see, accept and understand it,” Muhamed Mujkić of the Missing Persons Institute of BiH once said as we held one of our long conversations on the subject of genocide and mass graves. After working so long to assemble and present evidence of the Truth, he has had a variety of experiences. But the Truth is plain to see: there was genocide.

Men, women, children, new-born babies and old people were treacherously murdered, and their bones lie scattered around this misfortunate country of Bosnia and Herzegovina, sometimes in several places (primary, secondary or even tertiary graves). Their mortal remains, exhumed from deep pits, ditches, caves, bulldozed into the holes into which they were thrown, or found in the dense forests, landfill sites, warehouses and camps where they were herded together, tell the Truth. One can try to hide or camouflage the truth with skilful propaganda and manipulation, turning it into something different and alien, one can attempt to sweep it under the carpet and forget it, but it always returns to haunt us.

“We were led to one grave by the killer whose victims were haunting him and calling out to him in his dreams,” one of the team members, Samir Šabanija, told us.

As we prepared this catalogue and the exhibition we spent hours poring over the photographs, trying to understand them, even in part; to enter into the minds of those human beings just before they were murdered, their feelings, their terror, their trembling, their disbelief as they realized what was going to happen to them, their longing for their loved ones, their concern for them.

We have also tried to understand those whom they left behind, who have lost their loved ones. We can only guess at the pain that lances their souls and revives, again and again, the fire in their hearts; only they can know it.

We have no idea how their executioners and killers feel; what is in their hearts and souls.

More than 15 years have elapsed since this Truth first existed. It has been laid bare, it holds no more secrets; it is as we are, each one of us, before God. It is up to us to show it as it is, and to do so again and again, revealing it to everyone, if need be without cease until the Day of Judgment. If we stop, it will happen again.

Our thanks to the good, brave people (Amor, Muhamed, Samir, Sadik and the rest of their team) of the Missing Persons Institute of BiH for their persistence and their efforts, for their refusal to let the task drain their energy. Thank you in this world and the next.

Hamdija Dizdar, Aida Sulejmanagić, Moamer Šehović, Elvis Kondžić
Curators of the Museum of Sarajevo-authors of the exhibition


September 29, 2008 2 comments

On September 23, 2008 Haris Silajdzic reminded U.N. that during 1990s 200,000 people died in the Bosnian Genocide (see photos)

PHOTO: Haris Silajdzic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, addresses the general debate of the sixty-third session of the General Assembly in New York, September 23rd 2008.

Quick Points: In a vehement denunciation of widespread genocide denial, the President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dr Haris Silajdzic, warned the United Nations to be more pro-active in preventing genocides and correcting past mistakes. Dr Silajdzic, who disagrees with RDC figures which account for 100,000 dead in Bosnia, warned the UN that according to the International Red Cross Committee data “200,000 people were killed during the Bosnian war, 12,000 of them children, while 50,000 women were raped, with 2.2 million people forced to leave their homes.” He reminded the World that was a true genocide and blasted the UN for bearing partial responsibility for Srebrenica genocide.

Dr Haris Silajdzic, the presiding member of the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, visited New York last week and started his seven-day summit to remind the World to be more pro-active in preventing genocides and correcting past mistakes.

At the initiative of American-Jewish Committee, Dr Silajdzic met with the Jewish delegation, led by Mr Andrew Bauer and Mr Herbert Bloc, and thanked them for the help their Committee was giving Bosnia so far. Dr Silajdzic attended the opening ceremony of the 4th Annual Meeting of Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), a meeting about developing needs of the world, organized by Bill Clinton, former President of the USA. He also attended the reception organized by US President George Bush for presidents who have peace troops stationed in Iraq, and the one organized by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for heads of state attending the UN General Assembly.

In his address to the UN General Assembly last week, Dr Haris Silajdzic has called on the UN to correct the mistakes made during the Bosnian Genocide. He has also demanded that the UN send the message that genocide cannot be rewarded.

“Some in the international community insisted on maintaining the arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council in 1991, thus adding to the obviously overwhelming military advantage of Milosevic’s regime that was bent on destroying Bosnia and its people. They justified this course by claiming that the lifting of the embargow ould add oil to the fire. The result, inevitably, was quelling that fire the blood of the innocent,” – Dr Silajdzic said.

The president of Bosnia-Herzegovina quoted the International Red Cross Committee data which says that 200,000 people were killed during the Bosnian war, 12,000 of them children, while 50,000 women were raped, with 2.2 million people forced to leave their homes. “That was true genocide,” he said. “This was a veritable genocide and sociocide. The intent of the perpetrators of this genocide was to forever destroy the unique multi-ethnic fabric of Bosnia and Herzegovina through mass slaughter, rapes, torture, abuse, expulsion and plunder.” He added that “despite of this, defenders of our country conducted themselves honorably, as demonstrated by the ICTY acquittals of most of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s military leadership.”

Dr Silajdzic reminded the World about Srebrenica genocide referring to the International Court of Justice’s verdict, which stated that “those were the acts of genocide committed by the members of the Republic of Srpska (RS) army in and around the town of Srebrenica from July 13, 1995, until the end of the war.”

The United Nations must take action to reverse the de facto “ethnic apartheid” that has taken root in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as part of efforts to redress the failure surrounding the Srebrenica genocide, Silajdzic warned. The UN has acknowledged that, by its own acts and omissions, it is partially responsible for the July 1995 Srebrenica killings in which more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys lost their lives, casting a shadow over the world body forever, said Dr Silajdzic.

“We do not want the United Nations to be haunted,” he told world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters in New York. “This Organization’s credibility is too important to the world to carry the burden of this failure.” Rather, the world body must ensure that mistakes are not repeated and that past errors are corrected, Mr. Silajdzic stressed.

“Without righting this wrong, can we genuinely celebrate the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this December. Moreover, can we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Genocide Convention if the first and only judgment of the international Court of Justice on the crime of genocide remains in the archives of that Court?” – asked Dr Silajdzic. “Certainly, there are those in Bosnia-Herzegovina who would not agree with this, but they are surely not the victims of genocide,” – he added.

“We cannot bring back the dead, but we can give dignity and justice to the survivors,” he said. “What we say today is not aimed at the past, but at the future, and not only for Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

Despite the positive results delivered by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, many key issues remain, including the blocking of ‘minority’ returns by the authorities of the Republika Srpska, an entity within the country, by either directly taking part in violence or by not protecting people from attacks due to their ethnic background, Dr Silajdzic said.

One day ahead of Silajdzic’s speech in New York, the Serb representative in the Bosnian presidency Nebojsa Radmanovic sent a letter to the UN General Assembly stating that the address would be Dr Silajdzic’s personal opinion and not an official position of Bosnia-Herzegovina, adding that a three-member presidency did not reach a consensus on his appearance before the assembly.

Dr Silajdzic responded back with a letter to the UN Secretary- General, and the UN General Assembly President, in relation to Mr. Mr Radmanovic’s letter, sent to those officials. Chairman Silajdzic underlined in his letter that Mr Radmanovic’s claims in fact represent his personal view, and contain a series of factual oversights. First and foremost, Dr Silajdzic emphasized that the BiH Presidency, on May 28, at the 38th regular session, adopted a decision authorizing Dr Silajdzic, as BiH Presidency Chairman, to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina at the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly, including the need for a general debate on that assembly. This decision was made unanimously, including the vote of Mr Radmanovic.

Bosnian Croat member of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Presidency, Mr Zeljko Komsic, issued a press release stating that “it must be clearly underlined and emphasized that, at least, Dayton Peace Agreement was not obligatory to sign, as well as April package of constitutional changes” for which Dr Silajdzic was responsible. “B-H Presidency Chairman Silajdzic should be reminded that unfortunately for most of B-H citizens, genocide was rewarded by the mere act of signing of Dayton Peace Agreement.”

In his address the UN General Assembly in New York, Dr Silajdzic said that the Dayton peace deal, apart from bringing peace, was intended to “annul the results of genocide and ethnic cleansing” and “was never meant to “maintain ethnic apartheid in Bosnia-Herzegovina”. He said that “rewarding genocide could send a dangerous message to the world that would most certainly jeopardize the chances for permanent peace and stability in Bosnia and in the rest of the region.”

Before his departure from Sarajevo to the U.N. General Assembly, Bosnian media reported that Dr Dilajdzic said that the Serb Republic was using a U.S. lobbying group to promote its interests among U.S. officials on issues such as foreign trade, diplomatic relations, and constitutional and other reforms. He accused the Serb Republic of trying to “position itself as a separate and independent international entity.”

The Serb Republic hired Quinn Gillespie & Associates LCC in 2007 for about $1.5 million per year to lobby for what it said were its cultural, economic and sports interests.

Dr Silajdzic is also widely quoted in the Bosnian media as saying that he will take the Serb Republic to the constitutional court over its decision to pull out from the state electricity network it formed along with the federation to enable Bosnia to join the southeast Europe’s energy community. The international community involved in the implementation of Bosnia’s peace process said the Serb Republic’s move was illegal and asked the government to revoke it.


June 22, 2007 1 comment

A three-year investigation by the Sarajevo-based non-governmental Research and Documentation Center revealed that the figure of dead was 97,000 and could rise by a maximum of another 10,000 due to ongoing research. (full article starts after Quick Facts)

Quick Facts: Estimates of the number of people killed during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war were severely inflated and in some cases grossly manipulated. Serbian politicians have often used grossly inflated numbers of Serb casualties around Srebrenica to justify genocide against Bosniaks. For example, Belgrade researcher and Serbian nationalist, Milivoje Ivanisevic, published several books containing grossly inflated numbers of Serb casualties which were discredited by this research, human rights organizations, and even the International Crimes Tribunal. Milivoje Ivanisevic also published a book denying Srebrenica genocide – so much about his credibility. Research and Documentation Center (RDC) found that “the allegations that Serb casualties in Bratunac [just outside of Srebrenica], between April 1992 and December 1995 amount to over three thousand is an evident falsification of facts and that the overall number of victims is three to nine times smaller than indicated by Serbia and Montenegro.” Also, during the war, local authorities in Sarajevo publicly mentioned, on several occasions, that about 200,000 people had been killed in B&H – the number which had also been inflated. With respect to Srebrenica massacre, another interesting point to make is under-reporting of civilian deaths and grossly inflated number of military deaths in Srebrenica where 8,000 Bosniaks died as a result of Genocide. During and after the war, many families of Srebrenica massacre victims asked that their family members be buried as soldiers – the most common reason being access to social support for surviving families. When registering such cases, RDC was governed by the official data that was available. Of the 97,000 documented casualties in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 83 percent of civilian victims were Bosniaks, 10 percent of civilian victims were Serbs and more than 5 percent of civilian victims were Croats. The percentage of Bosniak victims would be higher had survivors of Srebrenica not reported their loved-ones as ‘soldiers’ to access social services and other government benefits. More than 240,000 pieces of data have been collected, processed, checked, compared and evaluated by international team of experts in order to get the final number of more than 97,000 of names of victims, belonging to all nationalities. Full article starts below…

Photo: Mirsad Tokaca, head of the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center, showing a DVD that contains the results of the research on human losses during the Bosnian war during a presentation in Sarajevo, Thursday, June 21, 2007. Contrary to the widely used rough figure of 200,000, the team documented over 97,000 deaths caused by military activity during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. This is so far the most detailed scientific research regarding this issue and has been evaluated by foreign experts for several months.

Photo: During his visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, United States Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues Clint Williamson, left,and Mirsad Tokaca, President of RDC , visits the Library of the Research and Documentation Center in Sarajevo,on Thursday, June 14, 2007. Ambassador Williamson said in Sarajevo that the prosecution of war crimes suspects from the former Yugoslavia remains one of the priorities of the US administration.

A three-year investigation by the Sarajevo-based non-governmental Research and Documentation Center revealed that the figure of dead was 97,000 – said Mirsad Tokaca, head of the research project – the only scientific research conducted into the issue so far. The figure could rise by a maximum of another 10,000 due to ongoing research, he added. Tokaca said the group began their research in 2004 in an effort to prevent death toll numbers from being used for political purposes. The research was concluded in June 2006, but it took several months for an international team of experts to evaluate the data. The Bosnian Book of the Dead was finally released in Sarajevo today by the Research and Documentation Centre (RDC) after almost four years of work.

According to the group’s research 97,207 people were killed during the Bosnian war. Of those, about 60 percent were soldiers and 40 percent civilians. Some 65 percent of those killed were Bosniaks, followed by 25 percent Serbs and more than 8 percent Croats. Of the civilians, 83 percent were Bosniaks, 10 percent were Serbs and more than 5 percent were Croats, followed by a small number of others such as Jews or Roma. Almost half of the victims died in the first months of the war, when Serb forces helped by the Yugoslav army gained control of two-thirds of Bosnia by expelling and killing many in their notorious “ethnic cleansing” campaign. The total number also includes names of 3,372 children who died during the war. According to this data, 89 per cent of victims were men and ten per cent were women.

“To avoid manipulation with numbers not based on facts, which then appear as an additional element for incitement [of hate] …, we launched this project to establish the truth,” said Tokaca.

Casualty figures from other conflicts in the region, especially during World War II, were often manipulated by Serbian politicians, and statistics and death tolls were used to justify attacks against other ethnic or religious groups, which culminated in horrendous genocide in Srebrenica of at least 8,000 Bosniaks.

Serbian politicians have often used grossly inflated numbers of Serbs victims around Srebrenica to justify genocide against Bosniaks. Radical nationalist Belgrade researcher, Milivoje Ivanisevic, was responsible for circulating most of this unreliable and incomplete data about Serb casualties. It is important to note that Ivanisevic recently published a book denying Srebrenica genocide – so much about his credibility. In a “Myth of Bratunac: Blatant Numbers Game” the RDC examined Ivanisevic’s claims and concluded the following:

QUOTE: The allegations that Serb casualties in Bratunac, between April 1992 and December 1995 amount to over three thousand is an evident falsification of facts. The RDC research of the actual number of Serb victims in Bratunac [just outside of Srebrenica] has been the most extensive carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina and proves that the overall number of victims is three to nine times smaller than indicated by Serbia and Montenegro. Perhaps the clearest illustration of gross exaggeration is that of Kravica, a Serb village near Bratunac attacked by the Bosnian Army on the morning of Orthodox Christmas, January 7, 1993 . The allegations that the attack resulted in hundreds of civilian victims have been shown to be false. Insight into the original documentation of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) clearly shows that in fact military victims highly outnumber the civilian ones. The document entitled “Warpath of the Bratunac brigade”, puts the military victims at 35 killed and 36 wounded; the number of civilian victims of the attack is eleven…. [Full Report] END QUOTE

Human Rights Watch’s conclussions were in line with the RDC research, quote:

QUOTE: “The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party launched an aggressive campaign to prove that Muslims had committed crimes against thousands of Serbs in the area. The campaign was intended to diminish the significance of the July 1995 crime, and many in Serbia were willing to accept that version of history. But as the Oric judgment makes clear, the facts do not support the equivalence thesis. Take the events in the village of Kravica, on the Serb Orthodox Christmas on January 7, 1993, for example. The alleged killing of scores of Serbs and destruction of their houses in the village is frequently cited in Serbia as the key example of the heinous crimes committed by the Muslim forces around Srebrenica. In fact, the Oric judgment confirms that there were Bosnian Serb military forces present in the village at the time of attack. In 1998, the wartime New York Times correspondent Chuck Sudetic wrote in his book on Srebrenica that, of forty-five Serbs who died in the Kravica attack, thirty-five were soldiers. Original Bosnian Serb army documents, according to the ICTY prosecutor and the Sarajevo-based Center for Research and Documentation of War Crimes, also indicate that thirty-five soldiers died. The critics also invoke unreliable statistics. A spokesman for the ruling Democratic Party of Serbia in the wake of the Oric judgment, for example, claimed that “we have documents showing that 3,260 people were found dead around Srebrenica from 1992-1995.” However, the book Hronike nasih grobalja (Chronicles of Our Graveyards) by the Serb historian Milivoje Ivanisevic (the president of the Belgrade Centre for Investigating Crimes Committed against the Serbian People), uses the significantly lower figure, of “more than 1,000 persons [who] died,” and contains the list, mostly made of men of military age. Among those killed, there were evidently a significant number of Bosnian Serb soldiers who died in the fighting, like in Kravica.” [Full Report] END QUOTE

Office of the Chief United Nations War Crimes Prosecutor also made a statement confirming lack of reliability with respect to Serb sources grossly inflating number of Serb victims around Srebrenica. Asked to comment on the different number of Serb victims in the Srebrenica region published in Belgrade, Florence Hartmann, Spokesperson for the Office of the Prosecutor, made the following statement:

QUOTE: First of all, the OTP is always very careful in the use of the word “victim”. Military or Police casualties from combat should not be considered victims in a criminal investigation context, in the same way people are victims from war crimes, such as summary executions. Before speaking about the whole area of Podrinja, including at least the municipalities of Srebrenica, Bratunac, Vlasenica and Skelani, I would comment on the various figures circulating around the Kravica attack of January 1993. The figures circulating of hundreds of victims or claiming that all 353 inhabitants were “virtually completely destroyed” do not reflect the reality…. For the whole region, i.e the municipalities of Srebrenica, Bratunac, Vlasenica and Skelani, the Serb authorities claimed previously that about 1400 people were killed due to attacks committed by the B&H Army forces for the period of May 1992 to March 1995, when Srebrenica was under the control of Naser Oric. Now the figure has become 3,500 Serbs killed. This figure may have been inflated. Taking the term “victims” as defined previously, these figures just does not reflect the reality. [Full Report] END QUOTE

On the other note – during the war, local authorities in Sarajevo publicly mentioned, on several occasions, that about 200,000 people had been killed. Up to now, this estimate is the one mentioned most frequently by the domestic and international public, although it has been denied by various parties on several occasions. However, it is not the only estimate we have. Thus, estimations varied from 25,000 to 250,000. According to Tokaca, this “playing with numbers” was the main reason why the RDC decided to collect details and names of victims.

Tokaca’s team worked for three years with thousands of sources, collecting 21 different facts about each victim, including names, nationality, time and place of birth and death, circumstances of death and other data. In any case, a brisk discussion is expected in Bosnia in Herzegovina about the possible ways of using the data for the determination of truth and for reconciliation.

Mirsad Tokaca, RDC president, has said that the aim of the project was to identify each single victim and prevent any type of manipulation of numbers, which he considers has been the case for years.

“This is not a story about numbers, but about citizens who died during the past period,” Tokaca told Justice Report.

In a case of Srebrenica massacre, during and after the war, many families asked that their family members be buried as soldiers, for various reasons, although they died as civilians or as soldiers away from front lines. The most common reason for these requests was access to social support for families of killed soldiers. Mr Tokaca drew attention to this problem back in 1995, but the state authorities did nothing. When recently asked to clarify his classification method, Mr. Tokaca replied:

QUOTE: This is a problem for the state to solve. Back in 1995, immediately after Srebrenica, I drew the attention of certain officials to this problem. For many families, the fact that one of its members was filed as a soldier in the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina was a matter of sheer survival. When these people were confronted with the choice between existence and a lie regarding the status of the victim, they opted for the lie. The arrival of a family from Srebrenica in Sarajevo immediately after the war precisely represented such survival. The only ones who could count on some kind of state support were members of the armed forces, or rather their families. The authorities themselves, however, have failed to confront the problem of civilian casualties. This is my answer to your question. This is nothing new, after all. Throughout the past sixty years, in this country you could claim the status of a soldier on the basis of just two people’s testimony. I chose not to become involved with this problem. [Source: BH Dani (Sarajevo), December 23rd, 2005 – Genocide is not a matter of numbers.] END QUOTE

In other words and with respect to Srebrenica genocide; a POW, a surrendered soldier without a weapon would all be listed as ‘soldiers’ on the RDC list; even though they were clearly non-combatants at the time of the deaths. When registering such cases, RDC was governed by the official data that was available. The evaluation indicates that such practices lead to over-reporting of soldiers and under-reporting of civilians.

“It is important to emphasise that ‘status in war’ does not provide correct insights in relation to victims of combat versus non-combat situations, neither does it inform about legitimate victims of violations of the International Humanitarian Law, IHL,” the evaluators say.

“Status in war is a simple measure of whether or not a person was a member of a military/police formation at the time of death, or generally was a defender, or a civilian. As such it offers a good basis for a further more specific investigation into this issue. We therefore advise that this part be improved,” it is said.

Three international experts – Patrick Ball, Ewa Tabeau and Philip Verwimp – all with rich experience in similar projects, have reviewed the database and have assessed it favourably.

“This database represents an extraordinary achievement of all those who were involved in its preparation,” the experts have said, adding that some improvements are still possible.

The trio considers that the data collected by RDC gives a “good overview of war happenings related to victims and the way the individuals died”.

Verwimp, a researcher in the field of political economy in developing and post-war countries, human rights and genocide, warns that the RDC database does not mean that work on determining the number of war victims in BiH is over.

“Many consider the number of 96,895 as the overall total of victims of the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia, which is not correct. For several reasons, this number should be seen as an approximation of a minimum and not as a complete total,” he told Justice Report.

Tabeau believes that the information from the database can be an efficient tool for fighting myths about the war.

“These results might be an extremely efficient tool in fighting myths, but only if there is a will in the society to deal with the past in terms of facts, not myths,” said Tabeau, who worked as a project manager in the demographic unit of the Hague tribunal’s prosecution office. In this role, she studied the demographic consequences of conflicts in the former Yugoslavia, with a main focus on the number of victims during the wars in this region.

However, even though more than 90,000 names have been included in the database, the RDC does not consider that its work on the project has been concluded.

“The database remains open and whoever contacts us and offers new data we are willing to consider it and add new names,” said the IDC’s Tokaca.

Patrick Ball, a member of the evaluation team who took part in the work of nine truth commission across the world, said Tokaca’s database “is better than any I worked with so far. The project continues but I do not expect his number to rise for more than 10,000 cases.”

The figures include both the missing and those who died due to military activities or torture. The project does not include people who died during the war in accidents, through reckless handling of weapons, due to starvation or lack of medication.

“What comes to mind are 12 babies that died in Banja Luka because the hospital had no oxygen or six civilians in Gorazde who died because an airdropped American humanitarian aid package fell right on them,” Tokaca said. “Such cases were not counted as they are regarded indirect deaths.”

The organisation also plans a breakdown of the total into those who died from the “indirect” effects of the war, like the lack of medical treatment or conflict-related accidents.

Tokaca’s team of 20 people conducted thousands of interviews, visited 303 graveyards and went through records of all three armed forces involved in the war as well as other sources.

“This study was done to change the perception of the past and to allow us to overcome the hot heads and switch to calm dialogue,” Tokaca said.

The project, called “The Bosnian Book of Dead,” was funded primarily by the Norwegian government.

“Truth and knowledge are crucial prerequisites for reconciliation,” said Norwegian Ambassador to Bosnia, Jan Braathu. “The long-term consequences of not facing the past on a basis of established truth are alarming.”

Ewa Tabeau, head of the Demographic Unit research team of the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, said the project’s figures were the minimum number of war deaths. Although not complete, “it is the largest existing database on Bosnian war victims,” she said.

Other funders were the Swedish Helsinki Committee, the U.S. government, the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Dutch government, the United Nations Development Program and the non-governmental Heinrich Boell Foundation, the group said.

Similar databases exist in several post-war countries. In 1999, research was undertaken to determine the exact number of victims in Rwanda, Kibuye province, and the project was called Victims of Genocide in Kibuye.

Similar efforts have been undertaken in Northern Ireland in 2000, in South Africa within a Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, in El Salvador in 1997 and in Guatemala by the Commission for Historical Clarification in 1998.

Justice Report has found out that similar databases might soon be available in Serbia, Croatia and Kosovo, where work is already being done along the same lines as those applied in BiH.

It is significant that local authorities have not done much to help the research, although they did not try to prevent it. Instead, the Book of the Dead has been compiled with support from foreign governments, mainly those in Norway and Switzerland.

The research itself started in 2004. More than 240,000 pieces of data have been collected, processed, checked and compared in order to get the final number of more than 96,000 of names of victims, belonging to all nationalities.

“We are not publishing the number but rather the names of BiH citizens who died in the period from 1991 to 1995. Our intention is to stop talking about numbers and start talking about people,” Tokaca has said and added that the RDC, while researching the population loss, registered all BiH citizens who were killed or disappeared due to direct military actions or were murdered in detention centres.

“This group comprises of soldiers and civilians. What is important to us is that the total number has its structure, a range of details and explanations. For almost every case, we explained the time and geographic dimension of death, distance from place of residence to place of death, formation in which soldiers were,” the president of IDC Sarajevo explains.

The research was done in several ways. Most pieces of information were collected through direct contact with witnesses, families of victims, through newspaper articles, various registers and also by visiting of cemeteries. Tokaca says that his researchers have visited more than 400 cemeteries in order to collect names of victims.

It is interesting that the database also contains 512 names of BiH citizens who died in Slovenia and Croatia during 1991. Tokaca says that most of them were members of the Yugoslav People’s Army. In addition, the names of 16 persons – who were wounded during the war and died in 1996 from their wounds – have also been registered.

“According to available data, the highest number of victims – more than 30 per cent of the total number (28,666) – died in Podrinje, and the second highest number (14,656) perished in Sarajevo,” Tokaca explained.

In addition to the names of victims, many other indicators about the war in BiH can be derived from the database. It is therefore obvious that most civilian victims – 45,110 – died in the period May to August 1992. “Srebrenica was just a finishing act,” says the president of the RDC.

In any case, the evaluation has come to an important conclusion – that the research has been done with no ethnic partiality.

Probably the biggest problem in the database is how to define the status of victims. For IDC researchers, the only possible way was to rely on existing official registers, mostly military.

According to available data, 40 per cent of war victims in BiH were civilians and 60 per cent were soldiers or members of police forces.

Tokaca explains that he is aware of this shortfall. However, he says that the existing registers are unreliable.

For many, the true value of this database is that all who want to can search for the names of family members and friends who were lost in the war. This way, they can find the date and place of death, and the circumstances in which the person died.

Experts consider that the database can be a valuable source of information for people who study the war in BiH, but it can also be used as a relevant source in court processes, both before domestic and international courts. However, Tabeau notes that it cannot be used at every stage of the legal process.

“The Bosnian Book of the Dead can be used at certain stages of investigations. It is premature to speak of many other purposes of the database, such as using it for purposes of evidence where detailed information records about victims and perpetrators are required, and without supporting it with additional sources of data,” Tabeau told Justice Report.

She thinks that the database is important for fighting myths and demystification of various wrong statements about the war.

“The education of the entire society regarding the past is improved,” she said. “One more advantage is that young researchers can learn from this project and apply this knowledge in the future.”

Bosnia-Herzegovina’s pre-war population of 4.4 million was 43 percent Bosniak, 31 percent Bosnian Serb and 17 percent Bosnian Croat, according to a 1991 census.


December 16, 2006 5 comments
Several days ago I received an e-mail from Srebrenica genocide survivor, Mr. Hasan Nuhanovic, who submitted the following opinion on recently awarded ‘medal of honor’ for those in Dutchbat who betrayed Srebrenica. – Srebrenica Genocide Blog Editor

Disclaimer: I have received second email from Mr. Hasan Nuhanovic on December 17th 2006. Mr Nuhanovic advised me that this article was incomplete in translation. I have also noticed that the article was poorly translated. Our readers should bear in mind that the translation of this article was made by site, not by Srebrenica Genocide Blog.


Hasan Nuhanovic, Srebrenica Genocide Survivor“In the Netherlands, during past few years, an ambiance was created in which Srebrenica was turned into “S”-word, disliked even by the second rate medias. Both official and unofficial press releases, as a reaction to numerous legitimate isssues still raised by the families of the salughtered victims, today ask if it isn’t the time for the Netherlands to turn another leaf and once for all conclude the chapter called “Srebrenica”.”

“I didn’t intend to give extensive answer to first few phone calls made by Dutch journalists last week. Too many times, for the past eleven years happened that Dutch journalists inquired about my opinion or reaction regarding something that occured in their country in relation to Srebrenica events from July 1995.

I had a feeling, during past few years, also confirmed by my friends and colleagues in the Netherlands, that public opinion and medias over there are far too saturated with the subject. That immediately change their facial expressions once the world “Srebrenica” is mentioned.

Actually, by the end of nineties, only few years after genocidal crime in Srebrenica and several scandalous attempts and statements by Dutch officials, Srebrenica in the Netherlands became a taboo. Unofficially this issue is addressed only as the “subject S” since then. Therefore, not even full name of this nice Bosnian town is to be mentioned anymore, only its capital letter – “S”. Like, “You know, that subject S.”

And while some were claiming that ex members of Dutchbat 3, the unit of Dutch military which found itself in Srebrenica on July 1995, suffer from PTS, while part of Dutch public opinion truly accepted the excuses that Dutchbat 3 was also a victim of Srebrenica events, while Dutch officials were publishing one report after another in 1995, 1998, 2002, and 2003, I was going from one place to another both in the Netherlands and in Bosnian repeating the misfortunes that had befallen my mother, father and brother whom those same Dutch soldiers, before my very eyes, handed over to Serb soldiers at the gates of their military base in Potocari, Republic Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

One part of Mr. Nuhanovic’s sad narrative was particularly touching, as many Bosniaks who had worked for any UN and NGO in Bosnia during SCG agression may find similar to their own personal experience. Therefore I took the trouble of translating it for your attention. It clearly reflects the innocence and naivety of Bosniaks of 1991-1995 in dealing with arogant UN and other foreign military personnel.


Since the arrival of the very first group of UNPROFOR soldiers to Srebrenica, for which, by pure chance, I happened to work for since April 1993, I had established a custom to invite all newcoming officers I have dealt with daily, home for a dinner. My parents, my brother and me lived in a house not our own, being refugees from Vlasenica, together with another 20 persons. Despite all our powerty and misery, due to the fact I had been a paid interpterer, I was able to buy some food supplies. Supplies from which my mother always new how to make up some Bosnian specialty for these foreign guests – Bosnian pies, sarma rolls and hurmasica deserts.

For each of these occasions we did our best to offer our guests food much better in quality and quantity than the one we ourselves ate every day. It was that Bosnian hospitality, I guess. Five, six officers would sit down for food and small talk, talk I would translate at the same time and my father would always say: “You, who came to Srebrenica from afar, from London, Paris, Hague, you are our window into the world. We have no newspapers, no electricity, no TV. We are completely cut from the world, and when I listen and look at you this very moment, I feel as if I’m somewhere else – somewhere in Paris, London – elsewhere in a normal world where there is no war, no suffering, no killing. Thank you for comming…”

And my mother would sit on a side, listening. These aliens in the uniforms, choking in good Bosnian food, would manage to spill it between bites: “Hasan, tell your mother she is great cook.” Some Gary, another Paul, Derksen, Willian, Tony, Mark Foster, dozens of them.

Much later, in 1997, when I accidently came across Mark Foster’s phone number, who left Srebrenica in 1994, and called him in England in order to ask for help in my quest for information about my missing family, he said: “I’m so sorry, Hasan. Your mother used to make such delicious cakes (referring to Bosnian hurmasica which he ate at least twenty.)” I was confused, not knowning if I am talking with someone from the twighlight zone or real person called Mark Foster.

Among many of these aliens who had eaten at my mothers, there was a Dutch captain Andre de Haan.

When, late night on July 12th, sometime around midnight and day after the fall of Srebrenica (handover by UN troops as Bosnians had no weapons any more, com.ed.), I learned that at least nine bodies of men killed in the presence of Dutch soldiers were seen before the base, we were inside Dutchbat base in the improvized office where Andre de Haan was in charge. I said to my mother and brother, who stood next to me and de Haan, what I just learned and my mother fainted. She understood then and there, that all of us will be killed, her both sons and her husband.

I caught her in fall and placed her carefully on a bench nearby. She went yellow in face. In that moment, few feet from me there was de Haan, and next to him German nurse, Christina Schmit, as well as Aussie MD O’ Brien. They’ve just turned their back on us, pretending that nothing was going on in the room. My mother was losing consciousness, yet they were standing and just talking. Just as if nothing was going on around them. Just as if my mother was a plain piece of furniture in that room.

That same de Haan, just few week ago ate Bosnian cabbage rolls at my mother’s (while the rest of the people in the house were starving, com.ed.) and made several compliments how good her cooking was.

Tomorrow, on July 13th, 1995, around 5-6 pm, that same de Haan said the condemning sentence for my family: “Hasan, tell your mother, father and brother to leave the base.” He was looking at me and them, while behind us stood three well armed Dutch soldiers. Everybody was looking at us – as if saying – what are you waiting for? Outside, right in front of Dutch base, Serb soldiers were killing Bosnian people. I still kept begging them to leave my brother at least.

My brother got up. He looked at me and said: “Hasan, don’t you beg them any more. I’m going out..f…them. You stay here, if you can.” And he left me. Forever. Him, my mother, my father, and all other Bosniaks from the base. Dutch didn’t send me out, as there was hanging on my chest a piece of plastic upon which, beside my name, was written – UN.

In that same moment, on the tallest buiding of the base, there were two flags flapping in the wind – the flag of Dutch kingdom and the flag of United Nations.

The Netherlands, Assen, military base of Dutch army. December 5th, 2006. The splendor on the chest of Dutch soldiers shines upon all the shame of the Netherlands and the whole world.

What else there is to say?

Hasan Nuhanović
Sarajevo, 5.12.2006.

Bosnian language version can be read here:


October 6, 2006 3 comments
BOSNIA: The Help That Mattered

Those trying to portray the international crisis as a conflict between the West and Islam should consider the lesson of Bosnia.

By Alija Izetbegovic in Sarajevo
Dated: Nov 16, 2001, Republished Oct 06, 2006

Alija IzetbegovicAfter the tragic events of September 11, the world has seemed polarised between an anti-Islamic West and an anti-American Muslim East. There are important exceptions, little islands of common sense. Despite some strange statements by Western leaders in the first days of rage, efforts have been made, especially by Prime Minister Tony Blair, to insist that this war is against terrorists, not Islam. But still, other less reasoned voices are louder and more persistent.

They should consider the lesson of Bosnia and Herzegovina. We Bosnians understand the feelings of Americans better than most. For nearly four years, we were subjected to irrational terror attacks by Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic. More than 200,000 civilians were killed. In the besieged city of Sarajevo alone, almost 15,000 people died from sniper fire and shells.

Sometimes I wonder whether such an on-going terror, which stretched over 1,400 days, is harder to bear than the instantaneous shock that struck New York and Washington. Yet the question is pointless: both are terrible in their own ways, and both beg questions about the meaning and existence of the human race.

Yet Bosnians can attest that the new forms of conflict are not between types of religion but between forms of civilisation. The struggle is between a modern, globalised world and one of traditional values.

Bosnians can testify, from hard experience, that the West has fought for this new world and certainly not against Islam.

True, the United States responded almost instantaneously to the attacks on its own cities, while it needed more than three years to react to the attacks on towns in Bosnia. But the explanation is a deeply human one: any man feels the pain of his own wounds more deeply than those of others. We take from this not that America is anti-Muslim but that we ourselves need to be as strong as possible to defend ourselves.

Army of Bosnia-HerzegovinaIn the early years of the Bosnian war, the United States considered the conflict a European problem and to a great extent it was right. But Europe was impotent. Hampered by its own conflicting interests and complicated decision-making processes, and tinged perhaps with Islamophobic memories, Europe was not ready to take radical steps to stop the killing.

The tragedy of Srebrenica, the greatest genocide since the Second World War, changed everything. But still the United States had to take the initiative. Otherwise there would have been one genocide after another, until all of Bosnia became one big Srebrenica.

Two other reasons may explain these different responses. A truly diverse society, the United States was better positioned to comprehend the ideas, dilemmas and problems of a multi-ethnic Bosnia. Except for rare exceptions, Europe is made up of nation states. The United States, as a young (and inexperienced) nation, also retains a measure of idealism, in contrast to old and cynical Europe.

When the United States mediated peace talks in Dayton, Ohio, and then sent 20,000 of its soldiers, Bosnia became a US project. Whether the new Washington administration will continue to see it this way, I do not know. But I am certain that the presence of international troops, especially American, is indispensable for at least five more years. Otherwise, Bosnia will return to the situation in 1992, when the war began.

This is the general consensus among ordinary people in Bosnia. A crucial fact, often overlooked, is that in nearly six years there has not been a single attack against the international troops here. This is no coincidence. The vast majority of people, and most politicians, believe that these soldiers are here on a peace mission. Far from any kind of civilisational conflict, Western troops are welcome as essential support for our own effort to build a new, modern Bosnia.

Of course, the experience of Bosnia cannot provide any parallel to Afghanistan because there is no Islamic fundamentalism here.

True, we do have many Muslim believers. After a half century of communist repression and unofficial but enforced atheism, it is natural to see a religious revival. But radicalism is alien to the Bosnian spirit, and fundamentalist elements are a tiny minority. In the words of author Tone Bringa, we are Muslims “the Bosnian way”.

For centuries, the line of contact between the East and the West ran right through Bosnia. While our history is marked with violent periods like any country, the friction between these two worlds produced a specific Bosnian mentality marked by tolerance and openness. Even during the most difficult days of war, when passions were running at their highest, in Sarajevo, Zenica and Tuzla, Orthodox and Catholic churches, and synagogues, remained untouched. People displayed remarkable patience and little desire for revenge.

Revisionists are now trying to rewrite this reality by pointing to the presence of mujahedin. During the war, volunteers from Islamic countries did come, mainly to the central Bosnian towns of Travnik and Zenica. But they came uninvited, across borders we did not control, and still do not completely control. While the number of Islamic volunteers never exceeded 300, the Bosnian Army had more than 200,000 fighters. We did need weapons, because we had our own boys whose surnames, origins and intentions we knew.

Dealing now with those few radicals that remain is a separate issue, for a different time, from the period of war, when innocent people were being killed, women raped, and our houses of worship and sacred objects destroyed.

In our desperation, we took whatever help was offered. But the help that mattered, the help that still matters to Muslims and to all religious and ethnic groups in Bosnia, was that provided by a country now enduring its own period of pain, the United States.

Alija Izetbegovic is the former chairman of the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.


August 6, 2006 1 comment


Europe’s one time wasteland, devastated by war, ideology and ethnic hatred, is staging one helluva comeback.

By Ginanne Brownell

August 7, 2006 issue – Elvir Causevic left Sarajevo in 1990, just before the war engulfed Bosnia and smashed it to smithereens. Now 33 and educated in America, a member of Yale University’s research staff, he recently moved back—and continues to be amazed at the town’s transformation. The city he had seen so often on TV during the dark years was devastated, full of scarred and burned-out buildings, bereft of its once vibrant cosmopolitanism.

But no more. Sarajevo today is the very image of a thriving European capital, chockablock with chic restaurants and upscale art galleries. Cranes punctuate the skyline, erecting offices and putting a new face on, among many other things, Bosnia’s postmodern Parliament, ruined during the war. Strolling the cobbled streets of the capital’s ancient Old Town—a twisty maze of bars and tourist shops selling everything from Turkish coffee sets to T shirts reading i’m muslim, don’t panic—Causevic is positively boosterish. “Now is the time for this country,” he exults. His plan: to set up branches of his New York medical-instruments company in Sarajevo and Tuzla—a great investment, he thinks, because of Bosnia’s strong engineering tradition and still inexpensive work force. He’s already hired 12 employees and expects to grow to 100 within a couple years. “I see a real enthusiasm here,” he concludes, reflecting national optimism.

It’s hard to believe this is Bosnia—the place that introduced the world to the term “ethnic cleansing.” A decade after its brutal war ended, the country is finally emerging from the wilderness. A recent World Bank report touts it as “a post-conflict success story.” And it certainly looks that way. “Our economy used to be entirely dependent on international aid,” Prime Minister Adnan Terzic tells NEWSWEEK. But these days, he enthuses (somewhat nerdily), the signs all point to “serious sustainability.” Bosnia’s GDP has tripled in the last decade. Exports, including steel and timber, are up by 50 percent. The government has successfully privatized banks. Foreign direct investment has tripled since 1999 to €750 million in 2004—and the trend is fast accelerating upward. Unlike neighboring Croatia and Serbia, also part of the former Yugoslavia, Bosnia has practically no external debt. At 2 percent, inflation is lower than Britain’s. “I think boardrooms would be well advised to have a look at Bosnia,” says Dirk Reinermann, the World Bank’s country director.

It’s been a long time since boardrooms bothered with Bosnia, a country roughly the size of Denmark with a population of 4 million. The fighting that raged from 1992 to 1995 killed 200,000 people, made refugees of 2 million more and destroyed almost 90 percent of the country’s infrastructure. War damage totaled more than $60 billion—a magnitude of collapse not seen in Europe since World War II. Bosnia’s three main ethnic groups (Roman Catholic Croats, Orthodox Serbs and Muslim Bosnians, more commonly known as Bosniaks) turned on each other savagely, despite decades of intermarriage and living peaceably together. Rape, torture, mass killings—Bosnia was a Balkan slaughterhouse, ending only with the U.S.- brokered 1995 Dayton peace accords. That agreement became the country’s constitution and set up two quasi-autonomous “entities”—the Republika Srpska (usually referred to as the RS) and the Federation, a shaky alliance between Bosnia’s Croats and Muslims. A weak national government is overseen by a U.N.-appointed High Representative.

As those awkward arrangements suggest, Bosnia’s troubles are hardly over. In the central and southeastern parts of the country, Muslim schoolchildren are segregated from Catholic kids in 52 schools. (When administrators in one such district tried to integrate a school playground, they received so many threatening phone calls that they scrapped the plan.) In the RS, whose population is 90 percent Serb, there have been rumblings of holding a referendum on independence. (With United Nations negotiations underway in Vienna on Kosovo’s independence, this isn’t an entirely idle threat.) Even beer drinking can still become political. In north-central Vitez, whether you order a pint of Bosnian-brewed Sarajevska or a Croatian Karlovacko depends on which part of town you live in. With 20 percent of the country’s population living below the poverty line, those in rural areas barely scrape out a living. Drug trafficking, organized crime and illegal logging are epidemic. Membership in NATO will remain a pipe dream until war criminals Radovan Karadic and Ratko Mladic, who may be hiding in the RS, are arrested.

Nonetheless, by the end of the year, Bosnia is expected to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement, a big step toward EU eligibility. For most of the past decade, each of its factions had their own courts, customs and tax services; now the federal government has taken control. Three years ago, according to a Western diplomat, “Serbs would have laughed you out of the room if you told them they’d be serving in an integrated army.” Today, they’re doing just that. In June, Bosnia was awarded control of its airspace for the first time in more than a decade.

In Sarajevo, especially, you can see the country’s ethnic groups reknitting old ties—not necessarily warmly, but with a heartening mutual acceptance. Many of the Serbs who fled the capital during the war are returning to visit. The ski slopes of Mt. Igman (remember the 1984 Olym-pics?) are becoming more culturally mixed, as are Sarajevo’s packed cafés and concert halls. Earlier this summer, throngs came out to hear a popular Serbian turbo-folk singer, Jelena Karleusa. Orthodox, Catholic and Muslim religious leaders meet regularly and often go on walkabouts together in towns across Bosnia. “It is a much more pragmatic and much less ideologically nationalistic country than it was several years ago,” says journalist Allan Little, coauthor of “The Death of Yugoslavia.”

The picture is harsher outside the capital. Along the road from Sarajevo to Zenica (a new four-lane highway is slowly being built) the scars of war are still evident: carcasses of burned houses, villages that feel far emptier than they should. Yet the signs of progress are obvious here too. The vast majority of Bosnia’s battered towns and villages have been rebuilt; according to government figures, 98 percent of properties illegally seized during the fighting have been returned to their rightful owners or their surviving kin. The ethnic mix of some places has changed. Many Serbs, Croats or Muslims have sold houses in areas where they might feel uncomfortable and bought another where they are in the ethnic majority. But others have returned to places they were driven from, if only because they are their homes.

Visit the Bosniak village of Ahmici, reduced to rubble by Croat forces in April 1993. The local mosque’s white minaret, toppled during a massacre that claimed 118 lives, is back. A high-tech stereo blasts the call to prayer five times daily. A second mosque, up the hill from the outdoor basketball court, is being built. Its skeletal bricked interior is a Sunday-evening hangout for preteen girls, some wearing fashionable head scarves and flirting with boys. Along the curving, pine-forested roads of the RS, where signs are infrequent and marked only in Cyrillic, minarets and Catholic crosses can be glimpsed rising in the distance.

If any place testifies to how far Bosnia has come, it is the northern town of Brcko, hard on the Serbian and Croatian borders. This heavily contested bit of territory was the “bridge” linking the western reaches of the RS to the east and Serbia proper. To this day, Brcko is administered separately from the other Bosnian entities, with an American supervisor appointed by the U.N. The region experienced some of the most intense fighting of the war—and some of its fiercest ethnic hatred. Yet former Army barracks have been transformed into a grassy quad of brightly painted government buildings. Citizens have moved forward, together. Unlike much of the rest of the country, schools in Brcko are mixed. So are the police force and the District Assembly.

“Most people here wanted to live again in a multiethnic society, so we all fought really hard to make Brcko work,” says Ivan Krndelj, the Croat deputy speaker of the Assembly.

You readily see that at Zitopromet, a food-processing firm with an ethnically mixed staff who work together in two shifts baking 10,000 loaves of bread and pastries a day. In offices fragrant with the smell of croissants, the company’s Bosniak director, Bahrija Agic, says he was surprised how quickly people came together. “In the beginning, two employees left, saying they had problems working for a Muslim manager,” he told NEWSWEEK. “But there just aren’t tensions like that anymore.”

More and more, that describes the atmosphere across Bosnia. British Brig. Nigel Alwyn-Foster, deputy commander of the 6,200 troops of the European Union Force that took over from NATO in 2004, describes his theater of operations as “calm and stable.” The garrison atmosphere of the immediate postwar years has disappeared. Bases have shut down and many EUFOR troops are living in local accommodations among the people. In leafy Bihac, to the west, Canadian M/Cpl. Tom Robinson is on his third tour of Bosnia. He’s amazed by how much has changed. “In 1996 Bihac was a ghost town,” he says, strolling past a new multiplex cinema showing the latest Hollywood flicks. “My time here has gone from being like a parent saying ‘No, you can’t do that’ to being like an older sibling standing on the sidelines offering advice when asked.” The city, which saw heavy fighting, has a trendy new mall with clothing shops like Stefanel. Its border crossing with Croatia is a modern complex equipped with the latest EU customs technology.

That’s a metaphor. Bosnia is clearly prepping for EU membership. The country’s newest high representative, German diplomat Christian Schwarz-Schilling, recently announced that he would also be the last. Next summer, he will relinquish his role as Bosnia’s de facto head of state and become the mere “EU representative” to Bosnia—a job that’s essentially monitoring Bosnia’s progress toward joining Europe and that returns full responsibility for the country’s affairs to the central Bosnian government. “This is a serious change of the political agenda,” says Schwarz-Schilling.

There are other signs of political maturation. In April, the Bosnian Parliament, usually split ethnically, rejected reforms to the Constitution that would have strengthened the central government. The good news is that the measure lost by only two votes. Says NATO’s senior officer in Bosnia, U.S. Brig. Gen. Louis Weber: the fact that parties sat down together to reach consensus is huge. “In every sphere you want to measure Bosnia, from the military to the social to the political, it is on a positive slope.”

Perhaps most noteworthy is the way Bosnians—Muslim, Croat and Serb—are slowly coming to terms with the past. This spring, a Sarajevan movie named “Grbavica” won top honors at the Berlin Film Festival. Directed by Jasmila Zbanic, it portrays a Bosniak woman, raped by Serb soldiers, who is forced to tell her daughter how she was conceived. The movie has helped drive forward legislation for things like compensation and health care for civilian victims of war. Pirated copies have been selling like hot cakes in the RS capital, Banja Luka. In June, after a tip-off by locals in the Serbian village of Serovici about a nearby mass grave containing the remains of 35 men—probably Muslims killed during the infamous massacre at Srebrenica—the RS and Federation officials have been working together to solve the crime. That wouldn’t have happened just a short time ago, says Tuzla prosecutor Emir Ibrahimovic, watching as pathologists carefully unearthed clothed skeletons from the sodden dirt. “These days, we’re seeing lots of cooperation.”

Biljana Josic, a fashionably dressed Serb translator who works for the European force, sits in a café in Banja Luka. “I love this country,” she says. “Change takes time but we are getting there.” Back in Sarajevo, Elvir Causevic stops outside Hacienda, a Tex-Mex bar throbbing with Europop music. “Look, we’re transforming into a market economy, dealing with the legacy of a horrific war and learning how to be an independent country all at the same time.” Hitting that trifecta, today Bosnia has become a different kind of model for Europe—and the world.

With Kris Anderson in London

NOTE: Republished for “Fair Use” only from MSNBC Newsweek.


July 28, 2006 7 comments


Bijeljina, Bosnia-Herzegovina, April 1992. Ron Haviv, Saba Press Photos for TIMEJuly 27, 2006 — The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has made precedent-setting decisions on genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said today as it released a comprehensive book that organizes the decisions of that tribunal by topic.

The ICTY has played a critical role in determining responsibility for the horrific crimes that occurred in the Balkan conflicts during the 1990s, Human Rights Watch said. The tribunal suffered a setback with the death of Slobodan Milosevic and the abrupt end of his four-year trial. Just recently, however, the ICTY has begun important trials involving senior officials accused of crimes including genocide committed at Srebrenica, and war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Kosovo.

The book applies the law to the facts of selected cases covering atrocities such as the Srebrenica massacre (where approximately 8,000 unarmed men and boys were executed by Bosnian-Serb forces), the siege of Sarajevo, and brutalities perpetrated in concentration camps such as the infamous “Omarska camp” in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The 861-page book from Human Rights Watch organizes the tribunal’s decisions by topic, including war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, command responsibility, sentences, fair trial rights, and guilty pleas. You can download the book in pdf format free of charge, here. Alternatively, you can order a print copy of the book for $95, here.

Here is a short excerpt from the book with respect to the ICTY’s rullings regarding the question whether or not the international conflict took place in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992-95:

(8) application—international armed conflict

(a) Conflict between Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia

Kordic and Cerkez, (Appeals Chamber), December 17, 2004, paras. 342, 350, 355, 360, 361, 369: “The Trial Chamber held that the armed conflict in Central Bosnia was of an international character, owing both to Croatia’s direct intervention and its overall control of the HVO [Croatian Defence Council].” “The Appeals Chamber observes that the appealed counts relate to the period between October 1992 and September 1993, and will thus focus on this period when examining the finding that the conflict was international.”

“The Appeals Chamber finds that on the basis of [the] evidence, even taking into account thatthere was no requirement for Croatian troops to be present in Central Bosnia, that no reasonable trier of fact could have found that Croatia directly intervened in the armed conflict in Central Bosnia.” “The Appeals Chamber is aware that deference is due to these findings by the Trial Chamber, which under the Statute has the primary responsibility for hearing and evaluating the evidence presented before it. However, the evidence is inadequate to an extent that a reasonable trier of fact could not have established beyond reasonable doubt that Croatian troops were indeed sent to Central Bosnia.”

“The Appeals Chamber now turns to the question of whether the HVO [Croatian Defence Council] acted on behalf of Croatia. It will examine whether the Trial Chamber erroneously held that these criteria were satisfied and thus Croatia exercised overall control over the HVO:

a) The provision of financial and training assistance, military equipment and operational support;
b) Participation in the organisation, coordination or planning of militaryo perations.”

“The Appeals Chamber finds that on the basis of the evidence set out above a reasonable trier of fact could have found beyond reasonable doubt that Croatia exercised overall control over the HVO at the relevant time.” (emphasis in original)

Kordic and Cerkez, (Trial Chamber), February 26, 2001, paras. 108-146: The Trial Chamber concluded that the relevant issues were (a) whether Croatia intervened in the armed conflict between the Bosnian Muslims and the Bosnian Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina through its troops and, alternatively, (b) whether the HVO [CroatianDefence Council] acted on behalf of Croatia. “The Chamber concludes that the evidence in this case satisfies each of the alternative criteria set forth . . . for internationalising an internal conflict.”

Blaskic, (Trial Chamber), March 3, 2000, paras. 83-123: The Trial Chambers concluded that “[b]ased on Croatia’s direct intervention in BH [Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina]” there was “ample proof to characterise the conflict as international,” and that Croatia’s “indirect control over the HVO [Croatian Defence Council] and HZHB [Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna]” and “indirect intervention” would “permit the conclusion that the conflict was international.” The Trial Chamber found that “Croatia, and more specifically former President Tudjman, was hoping to partition Bosnia and exercised such a degree of control over the Bosnian Croats and especially the HVO that it is justified to speak of overall control. [T]he close ties between Croatia and the Bosnian Croats did not cease with the establishment of the HVO.”

Prosecutor v. Rajic, Case No. IT-95-12 (Trial Chamber), Review of the Indictment pursuant to Rule 61 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, 2 September 13, 1996, paras. 13, 26, 32: “[F]or purposes of the application of the grave breaches provisions of Geneva Convention IV, the significant and continuous military action by the armed forces of Croatia in support of the Bosnian Croats against the forces of the Bosnian Government on the territory of the latter was sufficient to convert the domestic conflict between the Bosnian Croats and the Bosnian Government into an international one.”“[B]etween 5000 to 7000 members of the Croatian Army, as well as some members ofthe Croatian Armed Forces (‘HOS’), were present in the territory of Bosnia and were involved, both directly and through their relations with Croatian Community of Herceg-Bosna (‘HB’) and the Croatian Defence Council (‘HVO’), in clashes with Bosnian Government forces in central and southern Bosnia. [T]he Bosnian Croats can, for the purposes of these proceedings, be regarded as agents of Croatia in respect of discrete acts which are alleged to be violations of the grave breaches provisions of the Geneva Conventions. It appears that Croatia, in addition to assisting the Bosnian Croats… inserted its own armed forces into the conflict on the territory of Bosnia and exercised a high degree of control over both the military and political institutions of the Bosnian Croats.”

(b) Conflict between Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)

Delalic et al., (Appeals Chamber), February 20, 2001, paras. 33, 48, 50: “The Trial Chamber’s finding as to the nature of the conflict prior to 19 May 1992 is based on a finding of a direct participation of one State on the territory of another State. This constitutes a plain application of the holding of the Appeals Chamber in Tadic that it ‘is indisputable that an armed conflict is international if it takes place between two or more States,’ which reflects the traditional position of international law….” “Although the Trial Chamber did not formally apply the ‘overall control’ test set forth by the Tadic Appeal Judgement, … the Trial Chamber’s legal reasoning is entirely consistent with the previous jurisprudence of the Tribunal.” “The Trial Chamber came to the conclusion, as in the Tadic case, that the armed conflict taking place in Bosnia and Herzegovina after 19 May 1992 could be regarded as international because the FRY [the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)] remained the controlling force behind the Bosnian Serbs armed forces after 19 May 1992. . . . [T]his Appeals Chamber is satisfied that the facts as found by the Trial Chamber fulfil the legal conditions as set forth in theTadic case.”

Tadic, (Appeals Chamber), July 15, 1999, paras. 156, 162: “It is sufficient to show that [the Yugoslav Army] exercised overall control over the Bosnian Serb Forces. Such control manifested itself not only in financial, logistical and other assistance and support, but also, and more importantly, in terms of participation in the general direction, coordination and supervision of the activities and operations of the VRS [the Army ofthe Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina/Republika Srpska]. This sort of control is sufficient for the purposes of the legal criteria required by international law.” “[F]or the period material to this case (1992), the armed forces of the Republika Srpska were to be regarded as acting under the overall control of and on behalf of the FRY [the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro)]. Hence, even after 19 May 1992 the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina between the Bosnian Serbs and the central authorities of Bosnia and Herzegovina must be classified as an international armed conflict.” See also Tadic, (Appeals Chamber), July 15, 1999, para. 87.

For application of the “overall control” test, the issue of “participation,” and the finding that the armed conflict in the Autonomous Region of Krajina from April 1, 1992 through December 31, 1992 was international, see Brdjanin, (Trial Chamber), September 1, 2004, paras. 144-154.