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. 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]
COLONEL AVDO PALIC IS STILL MISSING, PLEASE JOIN THIS CAMPAIGN!
REMEMBERING ZEPA ENCLAVE: In 2006 opening statements, the U.N. Prosecutor McCloskey stated that “criminal orders in war are as a rule issued verbally”, and that a few exceptions existed to the rule. One of the most striking ones is a report sent on 21 July 1995 by General Zdravko Tolimir from Zepa to General Radomir Miletic, acting Chief of General Staff of the VRS. Tolimir is asking for help to crush some BH Army strongholds, expressing his view that “the best way to do it would be to use chemical weapons.” In the same report, ‘Chemical Tolimir’ proposed striking refugee columns leaving Zepa, because that would “force the ‘Muslim’ (Bosniak) fighters to surrender quickly,” in his opinion…
He succeeded in saving Zepa’s civilian population, but paid a price. Colonel Palic was seized by armed Bosnian Serb Army soldiers from the UN compound in Zepa in front of eyewitnesses. General Mladic himself acknowledged that Palic was seized. Colonel Palic has never been seen again by representatives of the international community. He became part of another tragic statistic of this war, adding his name to the thousands of people missing. Now Colonel Palic’s wife, Esma Palic, has to live not knowing the fate of her husband. We ask you to urge the authorities in Republika Srpska to provide all relevant information on the fate of Avdo Palic and the thousands of others who went missing during the war.
He is thought to have been held for some time as a prisoner of the Bosnian Serbs but it is now fairly certain that he is dead. His widow Esma Palic has been battling for years to find out from the authorities in Republika Srpska what actually happened to her husband and where his body is buried.
Phivan Wright, of the 23rd Houston Amnesty International Group in the US, who has been a committed supporter of Mrs Palic as well as a supporter of Hasan Nuhanovic’s campaign to secure justice for his family, has sent me a letter about the next step in the Group’s campaign on behalf of Mrs Palic. (Background and information about the campaign so far are at www.whereisavdopalic.com)
In an attempt to speed up the progress of enquiries and achieve a conclusion to the investigation Phivan is asking for letters / e-mails to be sent to Milorad Dodik, Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, to complete the invetsiagation into Avdo Palic’s disappearnce so that those responsible can be brought to justice.
Please try and write as soon as possible and in any case in time for the anniversary of Avdo Palic’s disappearance, 27 July. And please pass on to anyone you think would be interested. The Houston Amnesty Group’s website about Avdo Palic (link below) will give you some of the background.
There’s a statement by Amnesty International about Karadzic’s arrest, and a link to an article that quotes Esma Palic commenting on the arrest at www.balkaninsight.com
Phivan’s message follows:
After a year-long hiatus, we (my Amnesty International group in Houston) are resuming work on the case of Avdo Palic since there has been no significant progress in the investigation in the last twelve months. For those of you who want to refresh your memory, go to www.whereisavdopalic.com (Note: this is a new URL).
When you last heard, the Republika Srspka (RS) Prime Minister had promised Esma Palic, Avdo’s wife, that he would speed up the work of the Commission appointed to investigate Avdo’s “disappearance”. Exhumations were carried out at Rasadnika, near Rogatica, and were witnessed by Mrs Palic. To date, six bodies have been exhumed, but none of those on which DNA analysis has been completed has been identified as that of Avdo’s. For the others, the results of the analysis are still to be announced. Amnesty Internaternational issued a statement in August 2007 expressing concern at the lack of progress. This month marks the 13th anniversary of Avdo’s “disappearance”. The search for his body must be speeded up and the investigation concluded without any further delay.
Attached is a sample letter to the RS Prime Minister. You will also find the letter below in case you cannot open the attachment. If you want to use email instead of snail mail, Prime Minister Dodik’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and Minister of Interior Cadjo’s email address is email@example.com.
Please send a blind copy to me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can keep track of the number of letters sent. I’d be grateful if you could do it asap, or before July 27th, the 13th anniversary of Avdo’s “disappearance”. To those of you who maintain mailing lists or are members of a group, thank you for forwarding to your lists/groups.
The sample letter was drafted with Amnesty International members and people with limited time in mind. If you are not an AI member and/or want to use your own wording, that’s great. If you are writing in an Amnesty capacity, thank you for staying close to the spirit and tone of the sample letter.
I’m on vacation from this Thursday till the end of the month, and will only have intermittent access to email, but I will make every effort to get back to you promptly should you have any questions.
Thank you very much!
Phivan’s sample letter to Dodik (email@example.com):
Vuka Karadzica 4
78000 Banja Luka
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dear Prime Minister,
As a member of Amnesty International, I am concerned about the continuing impunity for “disappearances” and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed during the war in BiH, and the continuing lack of justice and redress for the victims of these violations and their relatives.
I am writing about Avdo Palic who “disappeared” from the UNPROFOR base in Zepa in 1995. This month marks the 13th anniversary of his “disappearance”. In 2001, the Human Rights Chamber instructed the RS government to carry out a full investigation into his fate, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice, and to make all such information available to his wife, Esma Palic. It is high time that those reasonably suspected of participation in Avdo Palic’s “disappearance” are brought to justice. The search for his body must be speeded up and successfully concluded without further delay.
According to Article 6 of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, “Any person alleged to have perpetrated an act of enforced disappearance in a particular state shall be brought before the competent civil authorities of that State for the purpose of prosecution” and “All States should take any lawful and appropriate action available to them to bring all persons presumed responsible for an act of enforced disappearance, found to be within their jurisdiction or under their control, to justice”.
Furthermore, the Human Rights Chamber of BiH has ruled that the continued suffering of the “disappeared” amounts to a violation of their right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment according to Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).
Thank you for keeping in mind the continued suffering of Avdo Palic’s family, and for your attention to this urgent matter. I look forward to hearing from you about any progress in this investigation.
Minister of the Interior Stanislav Cadjo
Desanke Maksimovic 4
78000 Banja Luka
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Survivors testified that some people then began to hallucinate and act irrationally, killing themselves or their friends. Human Rights Watch believed the chemical used was B-Z, a non-lethal agent that incapacitates people.B-Z is a chemical the army of the former Yugoslavia possessed. (Source: Federation of American Scientists) At that time, the evidence remained “inconclusive” due to inability of Human Rights Watch to properly test the samples.
The total Yugoslav chemical weapons arsenal contained sarin, mustard gas, BZ, and the tear gases CN and CS (all in large quantities), together with quite traditional products such as phosgene, chlorine picric acid, cyanogen chloride, adamsite, lewisite, and other materials, often only in laboratory quantities. (Source: Federation of American Scientists)
Photo #1: One of Srebrenica’s child victims, underage boy’s bones. Many children were slaughtered during Srebrenica genocide in which over 8,000 people perished. (Photo courtesy of the Advocacy Project)
Photo #2: Among the body bags: Zlatan Sabanovic from the ICMP. (Photo courtesy of the Advocacy Project)
Serbs continue to deny Srebrenica Genocide; Plan to build “Genocide Institute” in Srebrenica which purpose would be to deny Srebrenica Genocide and International Judgments. In 2004, a Serb commission’s final report on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre acknowledged that the mass murder of Bosniak men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces was planned and that it constituted genocide. However, Bosnian Serb government under Milorad Dodik continues to publicly deny genocide.
Serb Republic Prime Minister Milorad Dodik announced that the Serb Republic would initiate the founding of an institute for the research of genocide that would have its headquarters in Srebrenica and he sent an appeal to all sides in Bosnia and Herzegovina for them to do this together.
Dodik, who has publicly denied Srebrenica Genocide numerous times (last time as a reaction to the International Court’s judgment confirming Genocide in Srebrenica), will attempt to deny it one more time with a creation of so called “Genocide Institute” in Srebrenica whose primary goal would be to find evidence to support his Srebrenica Genocide denial conclusions.
“We will invite other institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina to join us in this initiative so that we can found an institute which will, with a sufficient dose of responsibility and objectivity, provide a scientific assessment of all the events that took place earlier, with the aim to prepare the younger generations for everything that took place in this area.” – said Dodik at today’s press conference.
Yet again, we see that Srebrenica Genocide deniers refuse to accept numerous international courts’ judgments confirming Genocide in Srebrenica (Prosecutor vs Krstic at ICTY, Krstic Appeal at ICTY, Prosecutor vs Blagojevic at ICTY, Bosnia vs Serbia at ICJ, etc).
Srebrenica genocide survivors announce mass exodus
Partly as a result of continued Srebrenica Genocide denial by Bosnian Serb Government officials, the Bosniaks who had returned to Srebrenica have announced collective emigration from the town because staying there is no longer possible.
This warning comes from the initiative committee for collective emigration. They set March 14 as their final deadline.
After the International Criminal Tribunal’s ruling, those who had returned do not want to stay in an entity that had committed genocide. They therefore ask that their demands be met, among them, assigning a special status to Srebrenica, which Haris Silajdzic, member of the multi-ethnic Government of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has also supported.
Serb Republic Prime Minister Milorad Dodik has invited the people to stay. He alleges the Government is doing everything they can to improve the economy and all other life conditions for Srebrenica citizens, including those who had returned. “We will invest significant means into Srebrenica, several tens of millions of marks” – Dodik said.
“Considering that the Tribunal decided that the Serb Republic government had committed genocide in Srebrenica, we must start the process of granting special status to this former UN protected zone as well as to other municipalities in eastern Bosnia where the genocide victims come from, and we must actively persevere and work on the gradual establishment of a constitutional organization which will fully annul the results of the genocide.” – wrote Silajdzic in his statement.Srebrenica Returnees Receive Threats In the proclamation, the Committee states that Srebrenica has been left out of all Serb Republic’s development plans and that this still continues to be the case now that Milorad Dodik holds the office of Prime Minister.
On the wings of his nationalist rhetoric, extremist groups are becoming more prominent, with their criminal symbols and exclamations.
The refugees who returned to Srebrenica are receiving threats over the phone, urging them to move out and announcing a repetition of the events that took place in May 1999, when returnees were attacked and killed.
Srebrenica citizens are thinking of the possible Srebrenica Genocide Memorial centre move. But, Munira Subasic of the “Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves Movement” association says life is hard in Srebrenica, but the dead cannot be touched or transferred.
“The Potocari Memorial centre marks a crime scene, while Srebrenica cannot have the same status as up to now after the Hague verdict, because crime must be punished, and not rewarded.” – Subasic said.
Srebrenica humanitarian money being mismanaged
“Before the war, 37,000 people of all nationalities were living in Srebrenica. Today, there are 3,700 of them and one cannot live there any more.” – said Hakija Meholjic, Social Democratic Party (SDP) Chief Committee member and returnee, who calls Srebrenica “money laundrette”.
“For Srebrenica needs, around 700 million convertible marks entered BH specialised, while only around 50 million cm were implemented in Srebrenica.” – said Meholjic.
“I know 220 million cm came from Saudi Arabia alone, and it was said from the Tuzla Party of Democratic Action (SDA) Canton committee that the authorities on a higher level will decide on the matter because there is no smart enough of a person in Srebrenica to decide on this amount of money.” – claims Meholjic.
He believes that “Srebrenica is the biggest money laundrette in BH” because “the largest part of the money for Srebrenica ended up in Sarajevo or Swiss banks.”
COLONEL AVDO PALIC – DEFENDER OF FORGOTTEN ENCLAVE OF ZEPA – IS STILL MISSING
July 27th 2006 marks the tenth anniversary of the disappearance of Col. Avdo Palic, the commander of Bosnian Government forces defending the United Nations-protected enclave of Zepa during the Bosnian War.
Colonel Palic was seized in front of eye witnesses by Bosnian Serb Army soldiers in Zepa, in July 1995, where he had gone to negotiate with the Bosnian Serb Army, the evacuation of the remaining Bosniak inhabitants from Zepa.
Earlier that month, another UN “safe area”, Srebrenica, had been overrun by Serb forces and over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys had been slaughtered in the worst massacre Europe had seen since the Second World War. (background)
General Radislav Krstic, deputy commander of the Drina Corps, who has since been sentenced to 35 years imprisonment by the Hague tribunal for genocide, gave the order to attack Zepa on July 13.
“I have decided to immediately begin an attack and break the enemy in the enclave of Zepa with the aim of liberating and cleansing Serb Podrinje of Muslim forces and liquidating the enclave,” Krstic wrote in his order to the troops, a copy of which has been seen by the Balkans Crisis Report.
“After breaking the enemy in Srebrenica enclave, our forces will continue action on a mission to break the enemy in Zepa enclave and create conditions for actions towards Gorazde,” the order continued.
Colonel Avdo Palic is assumed to have been killed and the place of burial has been disclosed to the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia who have asked the authorities in Republika Srpska to perform an exhumation so that the body can be retuned to his widow.
In line perhaps with their general intransigence and possibly because criminal investigations are under way the RS authorities seem unlikely to act.
To take advantage of the opportunity of the 11th anniversary of Avdo Palic’s “disappearance” (Thursday, July 27th) the Houston Amnesty Group want to send as many letters as possible to put pressure on the RS authorities to carry out the exhumation and provide Mrs Palic with a final end to the uncertainty she has endured for the last eleven years.
In January 2006, the Republika Srspka (RS) authorities established a commission to gather information about the fate and whereabouts of Colonel Palic. They only did so when ordered by the Office of the High Representative (OHR) and after repeated failures to comply with the 2001 instructions of the Human Rights Chamber of Bosnia and Herzegovina to conduct a full investigation.
The commission submitted its findings to the OHR in April 2006. In a press release on 21 April, the OHR reported that “The report details the fate of Avdo Palic and claims to reveal the location of his mortal remains” but added that it could neither reveal nor comment the findings because “criminal investigations are currently under way”.
We do not know for certain that any remains found in the location allegedly reported in the Palic Commission’s report will in fact be those of Avdo Palic. However, there is evidence that the RS may be close to finding Avdo Palic’s mortal remains and it should be urged to do so urgently.
Its consistent failure to undertake an exhumation in the location allegedly mentioned in the Palic Commission’s report is a matter of great concern. We want as many letters as possible to arrive on July 27 or as near that date as possible.
Please email the RS Prime Minister (firstname.lastname@example.org) A.S.A.P. using the sample below, with copy to the RS Minister of Interior (email@example.com). Please send a blind copy to Phivan of Houston based Amnesty International firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adding your own comments is optional, but appreciated. Here is a sample letter that you can use:
Dear Prime Minister
I’m writing in connection with the “disappearance” of Avdo Palic in July 1995. The Commission that was set up in January 2006 to investigate the fate of Avdo Palic was an important step in ending the ongoing suffering of his family and impunity for his “disappearance”. I welcome the fact that the Commission submitted its report to the Office of the High Representative on time, and that it reportedly gives details of the location of Avdo Palic’s mortal remains.
Bearing in mind official RS statements that the exhumation would be carried out soon, I am concerned about the delay in undertaking the exhumation and the additional suffering this is causing Avdo Palic’s family.
I urge you to take urgent measures to:
- Positively identify the exact location of Avdo Palic’s mortal remains;
- Undertake an exhumation at that location and identify any mortal remains found there;
- Ensure that the relevant forensic procedures are carried out during the exhumation and identification so that those who are responsible for the “disappearance” of Avdo Palic are brought to justice;
- Keep Esma Palic, Avdo Palic’s wife, fully informed of all developments in the exhumation, and if the remains are those of her husband, make them available to her promptly so she can arrange a dignified burial.
Thank you for keeping in mind the continued suffering of Avdo Palic’s family, and for your attention to this urgent matter.
Minister of Interior
478000 Banja Luka
Bosnia and Herzegovina