“By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica… “ – Judge Theodor Meron [Polish-American Jew]
In 2004, Presiding U.N. Judge Theodor Meron – who is Polish-American of Jewish descent – delivered a historic speech at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial located in Potocari (near Srebrenica). His speech was both moving and inspiring, but also educational. We hope you read it carefully and learn from it.
ADDRESS BY PRESIDING JUDGE THEODOR MERON
It is with honour and humility that I stand today at the Potocari Memorial Cemetery. This place is a daily reminder of the horrors that visited the town of Srebrenica during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The crimes committed there have been well documented and have been recognized – and roundly and appropriately condemned – by the United Nations, the international community in general, and by the people of the region of former Yugoslavia. These crimes have also been described in detail and consigned to infamy in the decisions rendered by the court over which I preside, the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia.
I have had a special wish to visit the Potocari Memorial Cemetery because earlier this year I had the privilege of sitting as the Presiding Judge in the appeal which, for the first time, judicially recognized the crimes committed against the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 as genocide. In that case, named Prosecutor versus Radislav Krstic, the Appeals Chamber of our Tribunal convicted one of the leaders of the Bosnian Serb assault on Srebrenica, General Radislav Krstic, for aiding and abetting genocide. The Appeals Chamber also found that some members of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army harboured genocidal intent against the Bosnian Muslim people who sought safety in the enclave of Srebrenica, and that these officials acted upon that intent to carry out a deliberate and massive massacre of the Muslims in Srebrenica.
The judgment which the Appeals Chamber has pronounced will be of importance not only in acknowledging the crime committed in Srebrenica for what it is, but also in developing and enhancing the international criminal law’s understanding of genocide. By discussing and elaborating the legal requirement of genocide, and by explaining how they applied it in the circumstances of Srebrenica, the Appeals Chamber has facilitated the recognition – and, I hope, the prevention – of this horrible crime.
Many victims of this crime lie here, in this cemetery. In honour of their memory, I would like to read a brief passage from the judgment in Krstic, the passage which discusses the gravity and the horrific nature of the crime of genocide, and states unhesitantly that its perpetrators will unfailingly face justice.
“Among the grievous crimes this Tribunal has the duty to punish, the crime of genocide is singled out for special condemnation and opprobrium. The crime is horrific in its scope; its perpetrators identify entire human groups for extinction. Those who devise and implement genocide seek to deprive humanity of the manifold richness its nationalities, races, ethnicities and religions provide. This is a crime against all of humankind, its harm being felt not only by the group targeted for destruction, but by all of humanity.
The gravity of genocide is reflected in the stringent requirements which must be satisfied before this conviction is imposed. These requirements – the demanding proof of specific intent and the showing that the group was targeted for destruction in its entirety or in substantial part – guard against a danger that convictions for this crime will be imposed lightly. Where these requirements are satisfied, however, the law must not shy away from referring to the crime committed by its proper name. By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity. The Bosnian Serb forces were aware, when they embarked on this genocidal venture, that the harm they caused would continue to plague the Bosnian Muslims. The Appeals Chamber states unequivocally that the law condemns, in appropriate terms, the deep and lasting injury inflicted, and calls the massacre at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide. Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act.”
Those who drafted, on the heels of the Second World War and the Holocaust, the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of genocide, were animated by the desire to ensure that the horror of a state-organized deliberate and massive murder of a group of people purely because of their identity will never recur in the history of humankind. The authors of the Convention hoped that by encapsulating the crime of genocide, by declaring unambiguously that it will not go unpunished, and by requiring the international community to do the utmost to prevent it, they will forestall forever attempts to annihilate any national, ethnic or religious group in the world. As the graves in this cemetery testify, the struggle to make the world free of genocide is not easy and is not one of uninterrupted victories. But I would like to think that by recognizing the crimes committed here as genocide, and by condemning them with the utmost force at our command, we have helped to make the hope of those who drafted the Genocide Convention into an expectation and perhaps even a reality. As I stand here today, I can do little better than to repeat the solemn warning sounded by the Appeals Chamber of our Tribunal that those who commit this inhumane crime will not escape justice before the courts of law and the court of history.
Finally, I take this opportunity to call, once again, for the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet their obligations under international law to cooperate fully with the ICTY. It is simply unacceptable that the authorities in the Republika Srpska have yet to arrest and transfer any individual on their territory who has been indicted by the Tribunal. This situation cannot be allowed to continue and I would like to see a dramatic change in the Republika Srpska’s level of compliance with its legal obligations. It is hightime that the RS break with its tradition of non-cooperation and obstruction of the Rule of Law.
In this regard, I take note of the findings in the Republika Srpska Srebrenica Commission’s preliminary report, which I see as a step in the right direction. It indicates a new readiness to come to terms with painful events of the past and to constrain revisionist tendencies. However, the process is far from complete.
SOURCE: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague, Netherlands http://www.icty.org/sid/8409.
“There was a body nailed to the block. Its throat had been cut. The head was still attached. They had not quite cut through. He was nailed alive… On the second night the Chetniks got among the people at the UNPROFOR camp… They kicked, stamped, dragged out girls to rape them, killed the men… While one of the Chetniks held them, another would thrust his knife into their necks, from the side. The one who was holding them would then cut across their throat and throw down the body. I screamed when I saw my son among them: ‘My son!’ He saw me. He opened his arms towards me. A Chetnik grabbed him, stuck his knife into his neck, the other cut his throat. The blood spurted out…”
In July 1995, after the fall of Srebrenica, I left besieged Sarajevo for Tuzla, where a tent camp had been set up for the surviving people of Srebrenica. I left the city with a tunnel pass signed by the then security officer of the 1st Corps of the Bosnian Army, Sead Čudić, and wearing an army uniform to facilitate travel. After several transfers and a journey that lasted nearly two days, I finally arrived at Dubrava. The airport was under UNPROFOR control and it was they who decided who could come in. Looking ironically at my uniform and the proffered press card, they told me curtly: ‘Local journalists are not allowed in.’
As I waited hoping that the soldiers might change their mind, a group of foreign journalists turned up and were welcomed in by the UNPROFOR men with a smile and no questions asked. I found myself afterwards in many even more delicate situations, but don’t recall ever feeling quite so humiliated. I retreated, my head bowed and with tears in my eyes. Revolted by what they saw, my friends from Tuzla, who had brought me to the airport, told me they would find a way for me to enter the airport. We circled around by car until we saw a hole in the fence. I squeezed through. I will never forget the picture I saw next: though it was daylight, all the searchlights at the airport were lit up. UNPROFOR soldiers and officers were marching up and down the concrete paths in spick-and-span uniforms and shining boots. I was reminded for a moment of SS troops in American movies. Only a few steps away from them, stuck in deep mud, were white tents made out of synthetic fibre, full of mothers, sisters, wives… They told me about their missing relatives, about the killings, about the hell through which they had passed. I watched them with my eyes full of tears as I listened to their talk of the horrible deaths they had witnessed.
Losing three sons
A mother with two small children sat in a flooded tent that I found hard to reach even with my army boots, wading through the deep mud.
“We were in Potočari. On the second day, around ten in the morning, I was sitting with the children, having laid out some food. Five of them turned up. They pointed to my son and asked him to go with them for questioning. I told them he was not yet fifteen. He was still at school. They took him away. I followed them. One of the soldiers looked back and asked me if I would like them to take my son to Kladanj. Of course, I said, I’d give my eye for it. He told me that everything was fine, and I went back. Soon after a woman came up and said that ‘they are butchering people further along, in the wheat field’. Five or six of them rushed off to see if one of their relatives was involved. There was a block laid out among the wheat, a metre or two wide. A dozen heads that had been cut off were laid out on it. Around it were bodies in their last throes. Blood. Blood everywhere. A Chetnik [member of the Army of Republika Srpska, VRS] ordered it to be washed down. The others took cans and began to pour water. The blood spilt across the ripening wheat. There was a body nailed to the block. Its throat had been cut. The head was still attached. They had not quite cut through. He was nailed alive. They had slaughtered my son. I was screaming. They tried to shoo me away. But I could not leave. Nothing mattered to me any longer, they could kill me too.”
That evening her second son was taken away. He was twenty.
“I entered the house as they were taking him away. The Chetniks were pushing me away. I wouldn’t leave. There were seven or eight of our people there. They lined them up for the slaughter. While one of the Chetniks held them, another would thrust his knife into their necks, from the side. The one who was holding them would then cut across their throat and throw down the body. I screamed when I saw my son among them: ‘My son!’ He saw me. He opened his arms towards me. A Chetnik grabbed him, stuck his knife into his neck, the other cut his throat. The blood spurted out.”
She was crying as she spoke. She was unable to continue. She sighed and talked to herself. At some point I realised she was talking to her dead son. Her eyes were open but she did not see me. She started to sob, which appeared to soothe her a little. She next looked at me and said: “I drank more of his blood than of water at Potočari.”
This unhappy mother lost yet another son, her third. She had no idea where he was. Nor her husband who was kept back at Potočari. They took him away, crowding them into the buses. The youngest son, who was then three years old, was in his father’s arms. He was crying, not wishing to leave his father. A Chetnik seized him and threw him on the asphalt. Another kicked him with his foot. This unhappy woman wouldn’t tell me her name, out of fear, she said, that it might harm the son and husband for whom she was waiting. They never came.
I have no one left
The entry of Serb tanks and soldiers dressed in UN uniforms on 10 July 1995 from the direction of Zeleni Jadro into the Srebrenica hamlet of Petrič broke the agreement of 8 May 1993 according to which the UN had promised the Bosnian government to protect this enclave on the Drina. Within 48 hours all of the Bosniak population was driven out of the area. Around 30,000 people from Srebrenica were driven out of their homes. Some places disappeared, as have the people. Some families were totally destroyed. Around 8,000 people went missing. What happened to them is testified to by the Potočari Memorial Centre and the thousands of graves in a cemetery where the discovered remains of the victims of this horrific crime have kept being buried each year. There were 534 funerals this year alone.
I make my way to Srebrenica for the first time, on 10 July 2009. We enter Potočari. I gaze at the former factories: Cinkara, Akumulatorka, Ekspres Transport. Thousands of people were imprisoned in them in 1995. Most of them were murdered. The sun shines in Potočari, but I feel chilled, remembering what the Srebrenica survivors told me:
“On the second night the Chetniks got among the people at the UNPROFOR camp. Panic ensued. People were fleeing, leaping over each other, children were crying, women screaming for help. As if the devil himself had turned up among us. They kicked, stamped, dragged out girls to rape them, killed the men.”
Ratko Mladić came to Srebrenica and said that everything would be fine. Mensura Osmović said she heard him herself. He brought chocolate. As the children extended their hands, he would give it to them. On the following they he brought television, distributed chocolate again. Mensura spent that night under a burnt-out bus watching people being led away. They were driven off in the direction of Bratunac. I heard a young man call out: “Help me, mother! The Chetniks are butchering me.”
At around seven o’clock in the evening on 10 July 2009, 543 coffins are brought from the Memorial Centre basement and taken to the cemetery where they will be buried the next day. The coffins passed from one man to the next, for over an hour. A four-year-old girl stands by a coffin saying Al-Fâtiha. When she finishes she asks her mother as she points to the next coffin: “Mother, shall I say it also for this uncle?” Her mother answers her in tears: “Do, my child, they are all our dead.” The girl’s mother is called Dževada Mašić. She whispers to me as she sobs: “They murdered the whole of my family. I have no one left.” I look at her and cry. I recall my own dead, who were killed a little further along the Drina, in Goražde and Foča, and think about what she tells me in her firm voice: “May they be damned! Let them have no peace in this world or the next.” As a small girl, she was holding her father by the hand as the Chetniks wrenched him away. For ever. “They took him away at this very place. They killed my grandfather and his five sons. My father’s bones have not been found, so I can’t bury him. I have buried only one uncle. Tomorrow I will bury my grandfather.”
An old man wearing a French beret is sitting by a coffin. I ask him quietly: “Grandpa, whom are you burying?” “My son”, he whispers. He was born in 1961. I have no wish to question him further, and sit next to him in silence. The old man, Behadil Čardaković, tells me: ‘”hey found him in Zvornik. His wife has re-married and has gone to America. I haven’t seen either son or grandson since 1993. I have asked my grandson to come back …”
Five years for shooting one thousand
A woman, her head covered, sits a little further away. They tell me she is burying her third son. She says nothing, only wipes her weeping eyes with a handkerchief. I crouch next to her and squeeze her hand, saying nothing. What can one ask a mother who has lost three sons? She looks at me and says: “My child, there is nothing I can tell you. I know how I feel…”
The women sitting next to her count their dead: one lost her husband and two brothers, another her mother-in-law and brothers-in-law, a third brothers and nephews, a fourth a son and a husband, a fifth uncles, a child… One of them says: “Let Allah punish them for this!”
Dražen Erdemović, soldier of the 10th commando unit of the Bosnian Serb Army was sentenced by the Hague tribunal to five years in prison, after confessing that he had taken part in the murder of 1,200 men and himself killed seventy. This was the first Hague verdict on the crimes committed in Srebrenica. Erdemović pathetically declared in the courthouse: “I feel sorry for all the victims, not only those who were killed on the farm.” Because of his confession and his readiness to cooperate, Erdemović’s sentence was scandalously low. Should the victims be happy with this justice? After serving his sentence in Norway, Erdemović was released in 2000.
Erdemović testified at the trial of Momčilo Perišić, chief of staff of the Army of Yugoslavia at the time of the Srebrenica massacre, who was charged with aiding and abetting the crime. Erdemović told the court: “On 16 July, five days after the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) had taken Srebrenica, at the farm of Branjevo near Zvornik we shot the Bosniaks who had been brought in, on the orders of officer Brane Gojković. The unit’s commander was lance-corporal Milorad Pelemiš, who took orders from Petar Salapura, intelligence chief of the main staff of the VRS. Some of the soldiers of the 10th commando platoon had been trained in late 1994 at the [Serbian] Army of Yugoslavia’s barracks in Pančevo. The victims were men between 15 and 60 years of age and were all wearing civilian clothes. They were taken under military police guard in groups of 10 from 15 or 20 buses and shot in the back on a field outside the farm, only one of them offering resistance. My unit was firing from 10.00 until 14.00 or 15.00, when the killing was continued by another unit from Bratunac.”
Erdemović testified also at the trial of General Radislav Krstić, former commander of the Drina Corps. The Hague tribunal sentenced Krstić to 35 years in prison. Krstić was the highest ranking officer found guilty for taking part in genocide. The intelligence chief of the VRS, Zdravko Tolimir, was also charged. The tribunal in The Hague has found guilty also four VRS commanders for the crime in Srebrenica: Momir Nikolić, Dragan Obrenović, Vidoje Blagojević and Dragan Jokić who were sentenced respectively to 20, 17, 15 and 9 years in prison. The latest indictment against Radovan Karadžić accuses him of committing the gravest of crimes, including genocide, deportations, killings and other acts against humanicty committed during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 27 municipalities including that of Srebrenica.
Questions that remain unanswered
Ten years after Srebrenica, the Court of Bosnia-Herzegovina confirmed its first charge for genocide. The indictment charged Miloš Stupar, Milenko Trifunović, Petar Mitrović, Aleksandar Radovanović, Miladin Stevanović, Brano Džinić, Slobodan Jakovljević, Branislav Medan, Dragoša Živanović, Velibor Maksimović and Milovan Matić with crimes committed in the Peasant Association building in Kravice. They were sentenced to 284 years in prison, but four of them were found not guilty. Last year the Bosnia-Herzegovina Court issued another verdict for the crimes in Srebrenica: Mladen Blagojević was sentenced to seven years in prison, while Zdravko Božić, Željko Zarić and Zoran Živanović were set free. The charge was that as members of the military police of the Bratunac VRS light infantry brigade they took part in deportations, killings, and guarding the premises in which Bosniaks from Srebrenica were kept after 11 July 1995. As for those set free, the court argued that “the Bosnia-Herzegovina prosecution did not prove their presence” at the place where the victims were imprisoned, and the court did not “quite believe” its witnesses.
Last year the Bosnia-Herzegovina Court confirmed the indictment charging Zoran Tomić, a former member of the second battalion of the Š eković special police, with participation in the Srebrenica genocide. It charged Tomić also that on 13 July 1995 he took part in an attack on a column of Bosniaks, forcing them to surrender, and with capturing several thousand of the men from Srebrenica, of whom around one thousand were taken away and shot in the Peasant Association depot at Kravice. The Bosnia-Herzegovina Court filed a charge of genocide committed in Srebrenica against Željko Ivanović, called Arkan, a former member of the second battalion of the Republika Srpska special police, for participating on 13 July 1995 in the arrest and killing of more than one thousand of the men and boys from Srebrenica at the Peasant Association premises in Kravice.
The mothers of Srebrenica have initiated proceedings against the UN troops for the genocide that took place in Srebrenica, stating among other things: ‘Around 10,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically killed in only a few days by the army of the Bosnian Serbs commanded by Slobodan Milošević, Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić. At this time the indicted UN representatives and officials refused deliberately and treacherously to take any measure to prevent the genocide in the Srebrenica “safe area”.’
Are the people of Srebrenica happy with the verdicts handed down and the current legal initiatives? Naturally they are not, for, as they say: “Thousands of people were killed and this could not be committed by the few dozen who have been imprisoned. What about the others? Will they ever be called to account, or will it all end with the shameless sentencing of the immediate executors? What about their superiors? When will it be finally acknowledged that Serbia was involved in it all?” There is no sign that the victims’ questions will be answered any time soon.
Where are my children?
On 11 July 2009 Fatima Halilović buried her second brother. Two places were left next to them for the two that have not yet been found. Two of those who were found lay close to the surface in the area of Cerska. On 11 July 1995 Fatima set off with her daughters to seek the protection of UNPROFOR. She stopped one of them: “He was black – I don’t know if he was Dutch. Not knowing English, I told the older girl to ask where we should go. The soldier said: “Where the big chief directs.” I don’t know who the big chief was. It might have been Milošević or Mladić. They drove us at this time to Potočari, many people having died on the way to the place. We walked over dead bodies. Shells were exploding, troop carriers were passing. We were next bussed to liberated territory, but the men had been separated and killed.”
The Serb forces moved the dead around several times over. The body of one of the dead at the funeral was made up of parts found at eleven different locations. In 1992 Suada Mujić left Srebrenica with two of her children and two of her brothers-in-law. But she was caught in Serbia, after which she was sent to the Palić camp at Subotica, which she left, she says, thanks to Fadil Banjović. She left behind in Srebrenica her husband, three brothers-in-law, three sisters-in-law, and her mother-in-law. One of her brothers-in-law, Mevludin Mujić, was killed in 1994, while another, Muharem, fled and ended up in the United States. Her husband and the third, Smajo, disappeared. Her father’s remains were found in Kamenica. “It is one graveyard after another. One searches through the bones and material in the hope of recognising something. I turned everything over last year and found my father. I recognised him from his clothes. His skull had been crushed. In his pocket I found a watch, a metal tobacco box, a lighter and his glasses with one of the lenses missing – we found it later in his pocket. I found my husband in Čančare near Zvornik. That was just a bit of his legs. The rest was found in Kamenica, albeit not the neck and the head. Last Friday, on the 11th, they found in Kamenica also his head. There was no sign of a bullet, but his right teeth had been smashed.”
Suada’s mother-in-law died on 29 May of this year. She did not witness the discovery of her son’s remains. Suada says: ‘During the old [World War II] war, her immediate family was killed in Višegrad. She fled as an orphan to Srebrenica, where she was adopted by some people who did not have children of their own. She got married there and lived to see a war during which her whole family perished again. Many members of our family perished in Višegrad too. Mijesira Memišević, my mother-in-law’s cousin, lost both of her children, 17-year-old Meliha and 12-year-old Edin. She testified at the court in The Hague, and faced the criminal who had murdered her children. She told him: ‘I will not proclaim you guilty, but only tell me where my children are so that I can bury them.’ Eleven members of the immediate family of Suada’s mother-in-law and sister-in-law died in Srebrenica.
Why was it necessary for so many people to die on 11 July 1995? Many of the people of Srebrenica are asking this question. One of our interlocutors says that it would have been better if Srebrenica had fallen in 1992 to Arkan’s men. “Two or three thousand of us would perhaps have perished then, but the rest would have survived.” Could more have been done from the military point of view? Not wishing to speak about what he did after 1995, some refer to the departure of Naser Orić, the commander who was an unchallenged authority in Srebrenica and who also dared to undertake forays at the head of his soldiers. His departure on the eve of Srebrenica’s fall many consider catastrophic – they are sure that everything would have been different had he been there. The fact is, however, that Srebrenica had many brave fighters.
Ejub Golić was a battalion commander in Srebrenica. He led the convoy of soldiers and civilians who moved towards Tuzla after the fall of Srebrenica. The column was over two kilometres long. It marched at night. The people held onto each other’s sleeves in order not to get lost. Shells fell all round them. The dead were left by the road, and the wounded carried on. On the entry to Koljević Polje, someone from the column moved a desiccated old trunk leaning against another. There was much noise: those on whom the trees fell began to scream. A shell fell at this moment in the nearest vicinity. Chaos and panic ensued. The people fled in all directions. This was the first break-down of the column. One of the few who tried to organise and collect the people, say the survivors, was Commander Golić. At Konjević Polje he managed to put the column back together. He said then that no wounded would be left behind. And they weren’t. He would go back for the people. Entreated them to endure, not to surrender. The people trusted him. They followed behind him. He got killed in the last ambush. When his soldiers heard of his death, several of them threw themselves at the tanks. And they succeeded. They broke through the Serb line. The path was open for several thousand people from Srebrenica, but not for Commander Golić. His fighters and compatriots say, however, that they remember him. They insist: “He will always be our hero.” And not only theirs.
Those who went with the army through the forest came to the base in Potočari. Hasan Nuhanovićspoke later about the role of the Dutch battalion in the Srebrenica massacre: “The UNPROFOR base was enormous and could receive the whole of the population that sought protection. They let in five or six thousand, while the rest was left to the mercy of the Serb forces which arrived at Potočari. Years later various excuses are being cited for this decision. One of them is that the base could not accommodate 25,000 people. I have filed a charge against Holland because of this decision, for it was possible to save the people. It is complicity in crime, in my view. They drove people out of the base into the murderous arms of the Serbs. They were taken to the stadium in Bratunac, where most of them were killed. As they left they were frisked by Dutch soldiers in full battle dress, who insisted they should leave behind anything that could be considered as potential weapons. The women too surrendered nail scissors, pencils…’ Nuhanović said in conclusion: ‘This is the only genocide in history that occurred under the UN flag.”
Not even half of those missing have been buried at Potočari. They are still being sought. [Editorial update: DNA results of the International Commission on Missing Persons support an estimate of 8,100 Srebrenica genocide victims. So far, the identities of 6,186 genocide victims have been revealed by the DNA analysis. For more information and a source link, read here]
On my return from Potočari, I walked through a police line. A Serb police line. Wearing Serb uniforms. Carrying Serb insignia. I recall the words of Zijad Bećirović, one of the participants at the conference “Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina – Consequences of the International Court of Justice Verdict” held in Srebrenica, who in his paper “Are we cohabiting with war criminals?” asked: “How many of those who are policing this meeting took part in the Srebrenica genocide?”
Translated by the Bosnian Institute in the United Kingdom from the independent weekly Dani. (Sarajevo), 17 July 2009 .
PHOTO: Takis Michas, author of the book “Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milošević’s Serbia.”
The Congress of North American Bosniaks, umbrella organization representing approximately 350,000 American and Canadian Bosniaks, strongly condemns a lawsuit against a respectful Greek journalist, Takis Michas for his writing about the presence of Greek paramilitaries in Bosnia supporting the Serbian aggression.
PHOTO: Esma Palic holds a photograph of
her late husband Colonel Avdo Palic.
Thee days after the fall of the Žepa UN Safe Area, the commander of the Bosnian Government forces, Colonel Avdo Palić, went to the UN Protection Forces compound in Zepa to negotiate the evacuation of the remaining inhabitants of the enclave. After arriving at the compound and meeting with Ratko Mladic, he was taken by Bosnian Serb forces and was never seen again.
“At this time our thoughts and prayers are with Esma Palic and her family. Mrs. Palic has never stopped seeking the truth, no matter how painful it may be”, said PDHR Gregorian. “We are relieved to know that the Palic family can finally provide Colonel Palic a dignified burial”.
The identification of the location of the mortal remains of Avdo Palic is welcome news indeed. His murderers also have yet to be brought to justice, and the OHR will continue to press the responsible authorities to that end.
“Thanks to the ICMP’s (International Commission for Missing Persons) continual efforts to develop and employ innovative techniques and quality assurance measures, the mortal remains of Avdo Palic have finally been located and will be exhumed in accordance with legal procedure”, said Principal Deputy High Representative Raffi Gregorian today.
“That the ICMP had not given up on this, or any other case, is a testament to its staff’s dedication and commitment to push forward the application of the latest DNA technology to ensure that families can have closure by having restored to them and burying the remains of their missing loved ones.”
Source: Office of the High Representative and EU Special Representative.
HON. RUSS CARNAHAN
in the House of Representatives
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Mr. CARNAHAN. Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize the anniversary of the fall of Zepa during the war in Bosnia in 1995. Just a few weeks ago, I attended the Srebrenica genocide remembrance ceremony in Bosnia and Herzegovina to commemorate the thousands of innocent lives lost during the war. It is important to remember these innocent people who lost their lives as Bosnians move forward.
This siege on Srebrenica, however, was not an isolated event. On July 25, 1995, Zepa, another U.N.-declared safe haven, also fell to the same forces that took Srebrenica just weeks earlier. The thousands of inhabitants and refugees in Zepa were forced to suffer, and die through a constant downpour of shellfire.
In addition to the vast numbers who perished due to the barrage of fire and starvation, an unknown number were taken away never to be seen again, including the Colonel of the Bosnia and Herzegovina army, Avdo Palic, who negotiated the evacuation of approximately 5,000 civilians.
Today, a little more than 14 years after the fall of Zepa, I urge us all to remember not only the fall of Zepa, but also the destruction of the other towns of Srebrenica, Zepa, Sarajevo, Gorazde, Bihac, Tuzla, Prijedor, Bjeljina, Visegrad, Foca, and Kozarac, and many others, all of which experienced significant loss. We must remind ourselves of the innocent lives that were lost, and honor their memory.
Madam Speaker, while we cannot erase the pain of these losses, let us support the efforts of the families of the missing to learn the fate of their loved ones, and let us support the justice that is necessary for the building of a stable, prosperous, and unified Bosnia and Herzegovina.
[Congressional Record: July 27, 2009 (Extensions)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH
of New Jersey
in the House of Representatives
But, Madam Speaker, the men, women, and children seeking refuge in Zepa were not shielded. The forces of Republika Srpska, who had laid siege to Zepa in the summer of 1992, were not impressed by UN safe havens, and neither the UN nor anyone else was committed to defending the safe havens. On July 25, 1995, the forces of Republika Srpska overpowered Zepa’s defenders and began to occupy the town.
In July Avdo Palic, colonel of the Bosnian government force defending Zepa, performed a hero’s work in evacuating as many civilians as he could, despite operating under constant shelling and the threat of starvation from the forces of Republika Srpska. Palic participated in negotiations which resulted in the safe evacuation of approximately 5,000 Bosnian civilians. On July 27 Palic traveled to the UN Protection Force Compound, in order to secure the evacuation of Zepa’s remaining inhabitants: he has not been seen since and his fate is still unknown.
Madam Speaker, looking back on the tragedy of Zepa, we remember the loss of countless innocent lives. Our government cannot give back to the survivors the precious lives of the family members and friends of
the people of Zepa, Srebrenica, Sarajevo, Bihac, Gorazde, and Tuzla, but it can support their pursuit of justice. Our government must do everything it can to discover the fate of Avdo
Palic and the other men and women who went missing in the genocide committed against the Bosnian people. To be sure, we must continue to look for Ratko Mladic and other criminals and genocideurs, but we must not forget their victims and their need for closure.
______ HON. ANDRE CARSON
in the House of Representatives
Bosnians by the United Nations Security Council. Over this period, innocent Zepa residents lived under constant threat, both of the near constant artillery fire and from the rampant starvation and disease that arose from squalid living conditions.
Thousands lost their lives and countless others were injured during the three year siege until finally, on July 25, 1995, the town fell to paramilitary forces and the remaining residents were killed or forcefully expelled from their homes.
On this heartbreaking anniversary, it is clear that atrocities and genocide should never be permitted to continue unfettered. In remembering the innocent victims of Zepa, I believe that the United States, together with the United Nations and our allies around the world, must reaffirm its commitment to ceaselessly pursue the perpetrators of these terrible war crimes. The international community must come together to not only remember the innocent victims of this massacre, but to also redouble its pursuit of lasting peace and security in some of the world’s most volatile regions.
[Congressional Record: July 29, 2009 (Extensions)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]