PHOTO: A forensic expert holds an old 100 German marks banknote found with remains of massacre victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in a mass grave near the village of Kamenica July 10, 2009.
Hajra Catic – president of the NGO Women of Srebrenica (Žene Srebrenice) – told BIRN:
“They must have contacted the families of the people whose remains were found. They should not have destroyed the personal documents, because they could have been used as evidence in other trials.”
According to Amir Ahmić, the Bosnian liaison officer for the ICTY, “the destruction was done during the term of [former] chief prosecutor Carla Del Ponte. Nobody outside the tribunal knew about it. I personally consider that they should have informed the victims’ families prior to conducting some kind of a selection.”
HISTORY OF THE CONFLICT: Serbs from heavily militarized villages around Srebrenica had terrorized Srebrenica population and constantly attacked neighbouring Bosnian Muslim villages from 1992-1995. In July 1995 the Bosnian Serb army staged a brutal takeover of Srebrenica and its surrounding area, where they proceeded to perpetrate genocide. Bosnian Serb soldiers separated Bosniak families, forcibly expelled 25,000-30,000 people, summarily executed at least 8,372 boys, men, and elderly, and then dumped them into mass graves.
Read more by visiting BIRN:www.bim.ba/en/176/10/21188/
The sensitive information included confidential orders by the court in the Slobodan Milosevic trial, not to publicise documents that implicate the Serbian state in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, in which at least 8,372 Bosniaks were summarily executed and 30,000 forcibly expelled in a mass scale ethnic cleansing.
1. ICTY SER 2005_0702100347_001 (351 kb / .pdf)
2. ICTY SER 2006_0702100337_001 (621 kb / .pdf)
As CNAB noted in itsletter to the ICTY, “The purpose of the secret agreement was clearly to hide the most relevant evidence which confirms the involvement of Serbia and Montenegro in organizing, planning and executing the aggression, war crimes, and genocide against the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Protective measures were authorized to Serbia and Montenegro in order to protect their national and state interests.”
According to Marlise Simons, “Serbia, the heir to Yugoslavia, obtained court permission to keep parts of the archives out of the public eye, citing national security. Its lawyers lacked out many sensitive – those who have seen them say incriminating – pages… Now, lawyers and others who were involved in Serbia’s bid for secrecy say that, at the time, Belgrade made its true objective clear: to keep the full military archives from another court, the International Court of Justice, nearby. And they say Belgrade’s goal was achieved in February, when that court, dealing with Bosnia’s lawsuit against Serbia, declared Serbia not guilty of genocide, and absolved it from paying potentially enormous war damages.” (Serbia’s Darkest Pages Hidden from Genocide Court)
Currently, a French journalist, Florence Hartmann is facing trial at the ICTY that employed her from 1999 until 2006 – as spokeswoman for the former chief prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte – on two counts of contempt of court for revealing details of the same two decisions in an article,Vital Genocide Documents Concealed, published on the website of the Bosnian Institute on January 21, 2008. We stand in support of Florence Hartmann.
PHOTO: View of Sarajevo with newly built Avaz Twist Tower – the Balkan’s tallest residential building – located in Marijin Dvor business district.
The visiting delegation consists of Judges Moloto (presiding), David and Picard from Trial Chamber I, as well as members of the Prosecution and Defence teams in the case and officials from the Tribunal’s Registry.
The Trial Chamber decided to conduct the site visit on its own accord. The Trial Chamber considered that it would be assisted to visit locations relevant to the case “in order to gain a better understanding of the facts at issue”.
Perišić is the most senior officer of the Yugoslav Army to go on trial for crimes committed during the wars in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. He is charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes including murder, inhumane acts and attacks on civilians committed between 1993 and 1995 in Sarajevo, Srebrenica and Zagreb.
The Indictment alleges that Perišić provided significant personnel, material and logistical assistance to the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Army of Serbian Krajina (SVK) in Croatia. According to the Indictment, the provision and payment of VJ officers serving in the VRS and the SVK was done secretly to hide the involvement of the government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia.
Perišić is charged with aiding and abetting the planning, preparation, or execution of a military campaign of shelling and sniping in civilian areas of Sarajevo between August 1993 and November 1995, which resulted in the killing and wounding of thousands of civilians. He is also charged with the shelling of civilian areas in the city of Zagreb in May 1995, resulting in the killing and wounding of a number of civilians.
He is further accused of aiding and abetting the crimes of extermination, murder and persecutions in Srebrenica between July and November 1995, where his subordinates serving in the VRS, including General Ratko Mladić, captured and executed several thousand Bosnian Muslim men and subsequently engaged in a comprehensive effort to conceal the killings by reburying bodies exhumed from the original mass graves.
The Indictment against Perišić was confirmed on 24 February 2005 and made public on 7 March 2005, when the accused was transferred into the Tribunal’s custody. The Prosecution filed the Second Amended Indictment on 5 February 2008. The trial began on 2 October 2008.
PHOTO: Victim’s belongings found inside of
Srebrenica genocide mass grave in Snagovo.
“This material was of enormous historical value,” says one former investigator, who asked not to be named because of his work with the tribunal. “This was the biggest act of killing in Europe since the Nazis. This was genocide. And for some of the families of the victims, this may have been all they had to mark their loss. This should be a scandal.”
BIRN had earlier revealed that it had received some indications suggesting that the material, that may have provided evidence pertaining to their murder, was destroyed.
During a meeting Wednesday with representatives of the Association of the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa, Serge Bremmertz, Chief Prosecutor from the Hague said that around 1000 materials found in mass graves with bodies of people killed after the fall of Srebrenica were destroyed due to a potential health hazard. Bremmertz said that the Prosecution has data about all those materials.
Muniba Subasic, president of the Association, told BIRN that Bremmertz explained that the destruction was not done during his mandate in the Hague, but that it was part of a regular procedure.
“We are strongly against that. Next month we will go to The Hague and meet with the ICTY president and some other people and tell them that we are unsatisfied because of this,” said Subasic.
She added that she was aware that Hague investigators did find some things in some of the mass graves, and that that material was taken away.
“It is usually like that, when people from the Hague are at exhumations, they take away everything they find. If an exhumation is done only by domestic people, they usually call members of families and they ask us what we want to be done with the things they find. That is how I found a cigarette box from my late husband. I took it and give to museum in Srebrenica,” added Subasic.
BIRN began to investigate the story after journalist Michael Montgomery (photo on the left) wrote about the case on his Blog, alleging that the destroyed material included a certain number of identification cards found in mass graves in which the killed Srebrenica residents were buried. Available unconfirmed data suggest that the personal identification cards were burnt at the Hague and their destruction was authorised by the Prosecutor’s Office at the Hague.
Montgomery’s sources claim that neither the Bosnian authorities nor the Srebrenica victims’ families have been informed of this.
“I have never heard of that. It is hard to believe in it,” Hajra Catic, who left Potocari after joining a convoy of other women in July 1995, told BIRN.
Catic says that most Srebrenica residents did not have their personal documents with them at the time.
“We simply did not think about that, considering all other things that were happening at the time,” Catic says.
Montgomery writes that three different sources had confirmed to him that the documents had been destroyed.
“This material was of enormous historical value,” one former investigator told Montgomery. “This was the biggest act of killing in Europe since the Nazis. This was genocide. And for some of the families of the victims, this may have been all they had to mark their loss. This should be a scandal.”
BIRN found out that the Prosecutor’s Office normally destroys some of the collected material after a certain period of time, unless the material has been admitted as evidence by the Court in the meantime.
In the course of the proceedings both the Prosecution and Defence teams propose their own evidence. The Trial Chambers then render decisions concerning the validity of the proposed evidence.
INTRO: In July 1995, Serbian journalist Zoran Petrovic filmed the Srebrenica genocide unfolding, and then he attempted to cover up the evidence by cutting out and erasing important scenes. We invite you to read the following article and then watch the full documentary [Bosnia – Lost Images, 29 minutes, originally aired June 30th 2003].
Under the watch of Dutchbat soldiers, queues of Muslim men and women are separated by one of General Mladic’s men. They are familiar images, broadcast by TV stations around the world in the wake of the Srebrenica massacre. The War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague used Zoran Petrovic’s tape to secure several prosecutions for the massacres in the early 1990s and to investigate the involvement of Dutch peacekeepers Dutchbat.
But the footage shot by Petrovic appears to be incomplete. There is only one 60 minute tape for two days of filming, and throughout the rushes there are black gaps, cutting right through scenes and camera movements. Petrovic insists he was told to black over those sections by officious checkpoint guards on the roadside: “Everyone wants to be a smart guy. I was told – ‘Don’t film these guys. You erase this’”.
But Jean René Ruez, the man charged with analysing film evidence for the War Crimes Tribunal is adamant Petrovic is lying: “The cuts were done later. Sure”. Journalist John Block agrees. He was granted access to the rushes when they were first aired on Belgrade’s Studio 3 that same day – July 14th 1995. He insists he saw two tapes. He remembers clearly seeing unadulterated shots of piles of bodies – the material now missing from Petrovic’s sole remaining tape. When the BBC called Studio 3 the next day, the incriminating tape was gone, and the other tape was blacked.
A copy of a copy of a copy of the original Studio 3 documentary proves they are right. Although the quality of the footage is poor, there are no gaps. “This is of exceptional importance to the prosecutor” smiles Ruez. “They let you see what the witnesses are talking about. The recordings will help to furnish proof at a future trial of Mladic.”
Among other things – such as the use of German shepherd dogs to hunt Bosnian Muslims and the indiscriminate shelling of refugees – the previously missing pictures show the physical evidence of the Srebrenica massacre. Dead bodies are piled up at the Gravica warehouse. Shooting is clearly audible in the background.
The massacre has long been known about, but until now there has been little hard evidence. Only two survivors from over 1000 refugees seeking shelter in the warehouse survived to give testimony – the only witnesses to talk of a massacre. Both were Bosnian Muslims. “The witnesses are from warring factions” explains Ruez, “so you have to be careful what they say. This confirms the testimonies”.
Chief prosecutor at the War Crimes Tribunal Mark Harmon agrees: “It’s very important footage. Pictures do not lie. This is a very graphic image confirming the massacres took place. It’s important to enlighten the public in Srpska if there is going to be any kind of reconciliation”.
So far, the Yugoslavia Tribunal has never spoken to cameraman Zoran Petrovic. He still denies he was part of any cover-up operation and even offers our journalist a “last warning” when pressed. But these shocking new images had certainly been covered up by someone and their disappearance has hampered moves towards justice and reconciliation. Their discovery is a key step in helping bring Yugoslavia closer to closure.
Director: Gert Corba
Optional: If you wish to buy DVD quality of this documentary, you can do it from Journeyman Pictures here. It’s €24.50 including shipping and handling.
The support is pouring for Florence Hartmann, the autor of the book “PAIX ET CHATIMENT” (Peace and Punishment) and former spokesperson for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), who has been indicted by the Court on two counts of contempt because she allegedly revealed confidential information to the public concerning Serbia’s manipulation of evidence.
The following statement – by numerous human-rights organizations from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosova, Montenegro and Serbia – calls for Hartmann’s proceedings to be open to the public and demands from Serbia to supply the uncensored minutes of the Supreme Defence Council (VSO).
As our readers may recall, Serbia’s darkest pages were hidden from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). As a result, the ICJ cleared Serbia from direct responsibility for the Srebrenica genocide. At the same time, the Court found Serbia guilty of violating its obligation under the Genocide Convention to prevent Srebrenica genocide, and guilty of violating its obligations under the Convention by having failed fully to co-operate with the ICTY.
In that period, human rights organizations in the entire region of the former Yugoslavia were openly discussing why the Hague Tribunal had not given the minutes of the Supreme Council of Defence of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to the International Court of Justice and why the International Court of Justice had not demanded these documents from Serbia in the process of adjudicating the case of BiH versus Serbia. Human rights organizations extensively criticized the decision made by the Hague Tribunal to accept the request submitted by Serbia to conceal parts of the Supreme Council of Defence’s minutes as well as the decision of the International Court of Justice not to demand the aforementioned minutes from Serbia, explaining that they possessed enough documents to make a decision. Human rights organizations from Serbia demanded that the Government of Serbia reveal the minutes of the Supreme Council of Defence and remove existing doubts that it had concealed evidence concerning the state’s responsibility for the genocide committed in BiH. There is a serious suspicion that the Hague Tribunal, by its decision on protective measures applied to the minutes of the Supreme Council of Defence, as well as the International Court of Justice, by its indifference concerning the gathering of important evidence, protected Serbia from possible responsibility for participating in the genocide committed in Srebrenica.
Human rights organizations from the region of the former Yugoslavia call on Serbia to waive these protective measures and remove any doubt that the concealed parts of the Supreme Council of Defence’s minutes hide facts about the responsibility of Serbia in the commission of the genocide in Srebrenica. Human rights organizations also call on the Hague Tribunal to clarify its decision to accept the request of Serbia [to conceal the text] and remove doubts that such decisions of the Hague Tribunal are confidential solely to hide from the public the fact that it protected Serbia from responsibility for genocide committed in Srebrenica. In relation to this, the trial of Florence Hartmann should be public and accessible for monitoring by human rights organizations.
+ Action for Human Rights, Podgorica, Montenegro
+ Aleksandar Zeković, independent researcher on human-rights violations in Montenegro
+ Anima, Kotor, Montenegro
+ Association of Lawyers of Montenegro, Montenegro
+ Association for Women’s Human Rights – KODI, Pecs, Kosovo
+ Association for Peace and Reconciliation, Đakovica, Kosovo
+ Association of Women for Women, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina
+ B.a.B.e. – Group for Women’s Rights, Zagreb, Croatia
+ Bureau for Human Rights, Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina
+ Centre for Peace, Non-Violence and Human Rights, Osijek, Croatia
+ Centre for Education on Representation and Resources, Prishtina, Kosovo
+ Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture, Prishtina, Kosovo
+ Censorship – League for the Advancement of Media Freedoms, Split, Croatia
+ Citizens’ Action, Pančevo, Serbia
+ Citizens’ Committee for Human Rights, Zagreb, Croatia
+ Committee for Human Rights, Leskovac, Serbia
+ Documenta, Zagreb, Croatia
+ Eye of Vision, Pecs, Kosovo
+ Foundation for Humanitarian Law, Belgrade, Serbia
+ Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in RS, Bijeljina, Bosnia-Herzegovina
+ Helsinki Committe for Human Rights in Serbia, Belgrade, Serbia
+ Helsinki Citizens’ Committee, Banja Luka, Bosnia-Herzegovina
+ Integra, Prishtina, Kosovo
+ Kosova Partners. Prishtina, Kosovo
+ Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, Belgrade, Serbia
+ Montenegrin Women’s Lobby, Podgorica, Montenegro
+ Sandžak Committee for Defence of Human Rights and Freedoms, Novi Pazar, Serbia
+ Secure Women’s House, Podgorica, Montenegro
+ Women in Black, Belgrade, Serbia
+ Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Serbia
+ Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Montenegro
+ Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Kosovo
+ Youth Initiative for Human Rights, Bosnia-Herzegovina
More from Srebrenica Genocide Blog:
Serbia’s Darkest Pages Hidden from Genocide Court, read here.
Florence Hartmann Acted in the Interest of Justice and History, read here.
ICJ Finds Serbia Guilty of Not Preventing Srebrenica Genocide, read here.
ICJ Ruling Shows Governments Can Avoid Liability For Genocide, read here.
Prof. Martin Shaw Calls ICJ Ruling Perverse Judgment, read here.
Milosevic’s Death Saved Serbia from Genocide Responsibility, read here.
Politics and Justice Don’t Mix, ICJ’s Ruling in Bosnia vs Serbia Case, read here.
UN Chief Prosecutor Slams ICJ’s Srebrenica Genocide Ruling Response, read here.
Bosnian Serbs Were Under Control of Belgrade (Serbia, Yugoslavia), read here.
Open Letter by 54 Academics and Intellectuals Re ICJ Ruling, read here.
Serbia’s Censorship of Evidence and Serb Veto to Arrest Criminals, read here.
Dr. Marko Attila Hoare, a renowned historian and one of the most respected scholars on the subject of Balkan history, recently voiced his displeasure with Ms Hartmann’s prosecution:
“I am myself a former official of the Tribunal, and my biggest criticism of it has been its failure to indict most of the principal Serbian and Montenegrin war-criminals, a failure that, on the basis of my eyewitness experience, I attribute in large part to the poor strategy of del Ponte as Chief Prosecutor. But a perhaps even more shameful failing on the Tribunal’s part was the one about which Florence writes: the decision of the judges in the Milosevic case to allow Serbia, when submitting to the Tribunal the minutes of the ‘Supreme Defence Council’ of the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to censor parts of it in the version that was made public. As Florence argues, it was thanks to the Tribunal’s collusion with Serbia in the suppression of this crucial piece of evidence, that Bosnia was not able to draw upon the latter in its case against Serbia for genocide at the International Court of Justice, leading to Serbia’s unjustified acquittal.”
“Taking action against Ms. Hartmann means that all those who, legitimately, in the interest of the public and of history, wish to bear witness to their actions in the service of international penal justice will be muzzled,” he said.