by Milivoje Ivanišević | The dead Muslim fighters of Srebrenica have become completely innocent and this imposed cult about them still keeps watch over the conscience, and has become a metaphor for the unimaginable. This is an attempt to account for what happened there.
INTRODUCTION by Marija M. Zarić
In a recent judgment handed down by the International Court of Justice, the Army of the Republic Srpska was named as a possible perpetrator of genocide against Muslims in Srebrenica. Despite the fact that charges against Serbia for complicity in genocide, albeit a local one that did or did not take place in Srebrenica, have been dropped, prejudiced political proponents ascribe all manner of guilt to Serbia and have thus concluded that the Serbian Parliament must issue an official public declaration that is tantamount to an apology for Serbia, which, during the years of Slobodan Milosević’s rule did not prevent the crime that took place in Srebrenica, and did not either then or afterwards make an effort to satisfy all the demands of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague by arresting and remanding every individual indicted by The Hague Tribunal who is sought in Serbia.
Milivoje Ivanišević, a publicist and war-crimes investigator in former Bosnia-Herzegovina, in his essay “Searching for the Truth,” proves that there are at least two sides (he refers to them as two “Identification Cards” or “IDs”) for Srebrenica, which are tied to the events that took place in May 1995. The first Srebrenica ID, to which Bosnian Muslim leaders in Srebrenica subscribe, is that genocide took place for which the International Court of Justice did not set an example by punishing the guilty party. According to the other ID card, subscribed to by Milorad Dodik and the government of the Republika Srpska, a war crime took place, but not genocide. These two IDs for the same city prove that the Srebrenica controversy cannot and will not be easily resolved.
Mr. Ivanišević’s investigative essay pleads in favor of the wartime Srebrenica ID that refutes the genocide charges. The editors, who do not wish to enter into disputes or commentaries on Srebrenica’s ID cards, wish to extend readers the opportunity to read Mr. Ivanišević’s engaging essay closely as a contribution to possible debate about such a Declaration from the Serbian Parliament.
Mr. Ivanišević privately believes that the Serbian Parliament cannot and will not issue a Declaration that would characterize the Republika Srpska as a possible initiator of genocide. He supports his convictions with compelling evidence.
THE SUFFERING OF THE SERBIAN PEOPLE UP TO APRIL 1993
From the time the Serbs returned to Srebrenica on July 11, 1995 by force of arms, just as they had been expelled by force of arms, stories began to circulate about large number of Muslims who had been killed there, above all innocent Muslim civilians, including woman, children, and the elderly. Over the course of time, these numbers continually increased until they finally reached such dimensions today that not only The Hague Tribunal, but Muslim religious and civil authorities as well speak of genocide, which is logical and expected, but officials from other countries often do so, too.
In this case, a great many Sarajevo- and Belgrade-based non-government organizations (NGOs) keep public interest continually focused on this theme. The dead Muslim fighters of Srebrenica have now finally become completely innocent, and are present in various schemes developed by those who never knew them and who, today, still devoid of any sensible foundation, have adopted them and “defend” them. The imposed cult of Srebrenica is still keeping watch over our conscience, and has become a metaphor for the unimaginable, and in addition to of all this, it has even become a metaphor of the genocidal crime Serbs carried out against the innocent local residents of an inaccessible Bosnian town situated at the bottom of a ravine.
According to one of the documents captured from the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“B&H”), which we will in all likelihood refer to again, states verbatim: “At the end of January and at the beginning of February 1993, the Operations Group (OG) created a large, interconnected, free territory in Zone 8 of responsibility with Srebrenica at its center, which comprises 95% of the area of Srebrenica County, 90% of the area of Bratunac County, 60% of the area of Vlasenica County, and 50% percent of the area of Zvornik County. Likewise, direct physical contact was established with Žepa region in Srebrenica County.”
According to this same document, the Muslims at that time took control of over 850 square kilometers of the aforementioned counties. This uncontested, successful military undertaking resulted in the almost complete destruction of indigenous Serbian settlements and the death of their Serbian inhabitants. Of the 93 Serbian settlements in the counties of Srebrenica and Bratunac, 82 of them were destroyed (except for the villages of Crvica, Liješća, Petrica and Skelani in Srebrenica county, while in county of Bratunac, besides the eponymous town itself, the villages Dubravica, Jelah, Krasanovići, Pobrđe, Polom, Rekovac, Repovac and Slapašnica were spared).
About twenty Serbian villages and hamlets that were destroyed in the counties of Vlasenica and Zvornik must be added to that number. After this Muslim attack, only 860 of the 9,390 Serbs who lived in their own homes in the Srebrenica area remained, or 9%; while in Bratunac, only 5,391 of 11,500 Serbian inhabitants, or 47%, remained, and that thanks mostly to Serbs who resided in the county seat (3,201 people).
The illegal yet timely organization of armed paramilitary formations that were supplied with weapons from military reserve units and Territorial Defense [TO] storage depots largely contributed to the Muslims’ success. In addition to that, a large number of men, approximately 10,000 soldiers from B&H, were sent to the Educational Center of the Republic Croatia for training. Almost a thousand young men from the Srebrenica-Bratunac region traveled illegally to Croatia.
A letter to the executive board of the SDA [Strana Demokratske Akcije, i.e., the political party founded by Alija Izetbegović], gave instructions to send candidates to such training. The letter stated that everyone had to receive “a party orientation, etc.” This meant that a political party was creating a military formation. On February 4, 1992, Muslims hauled out a storage battery from the weapons depot of a Territorial Defense factory, and dragged a three-barreled 22mm anti-aircraft gun into one of their villages. The Muslims purchased one part of their infantry armament with money from Yugoslav government loans, which had been lavished on B&H in order to increase the number of available jobs for state companies. Indeed, this was done secretly and only in firms whose directors were Muslims.
From the date of the withdrawal of the JNA (the “Jugoslovenska Narodna Armija” or “Yugoslav People’s Army”) from B&H on May 19, 1992 to the formation of the Drina Corps in the Republika Srpska on November 1 of the same year, the defense of Serbian villages was left to the villagers themselves, who were not able to effectively defend themselves against incomparably larger Muslim forces. At that time, the Muslims established numerical superiority in comparison to Serbian armed formations, which remained constant throughout the war. Just as Muslims took possession of weapons from police storage depots and Territorial Defense storage facilities, the Serbs also took, sometimes by force, a significant part of the weaponry, vehicles, munitions, sanitary supplies, engineering equipment, and other technical resources and radio-stations from JNA units that were withdrawing throughout the former Yugoslavia.
Muslim campaigns against Serbian villages became something of a “national movement.” After soldiers captured a village, the soldiers’ cousins, neighbors, and friends arrived as a second and third echelon of women, children, and old men, so-called civilians, equipped with all manner of tools and instruments, who rushed into Serbian homes and stripped them of everything that could be carted away.
According to statistics kept by the livestock fund for individual villages, and the testimony of refugees, Muslims stole approximately 7,200 head of cattle, 16,200 sheep, and 38,000 fowl. Even though it is not known how much wheat and corn had been plundered, it is certain that there was enough not only for the winter, but also enough for seeding the following spring. After all, it was plain to see in spring 1993 by simply looking at the newly planted fields. Hunger could only threaten the plundered Serbian villages and dispossessed Serbian refugees.
Serbs who had been captured during these campaigns got the worst of it. They were mostly old and sick, mentally and physically handicapped, bedridden individuals, sometimes wounded people, but their fate, almost without exception, was always the same. They were beaten up by Muslim “civilians” who used all kinds of tools that they had brought with them for burglarizing houses: axes, bars, clubs. . . . Some victims were burned alive in the houses in which they had been captured.
Despite their great suffering, the Serbs at that time in Srebrenica were already being subjected to a high-pressure propaganda campaign [i.e., from the West], which concealed their suffering as well as Muslim crimes against them.
SREBRENICA’S MUSLIMS WITHDRAW
After the units and command structure of the Drina Corps had been established and consolidated, the first months of 1993 witnessed a Serbian counteroffensive, which turned the tables in the war and delivered successive battlefield defeats to the Muslims. In essence, the Serbs were compelled to act, and their goal was to liberate lost villages and to enable the return of refugees.
The success, despite the small number of soldiers at the corps’ disposal and almost all brigades, was due to an educated cadre of officers who made effective use of available armaments and deployed superb planning for military actions. In April 1993, the danger of collapse threatened to finally destroy the Muslim armed forces. It was a direct inducement to place Srebrenica under UN supervision under the guise of “protecting the civilian population.”
The Muslims and their defenders experienced a thoroughgoing defeat and expulsion from the greater part of the area they had conquered during the previous year. When the Serbs returned to their villages, they could better ascertain the scope of their destruction and suffering. During the period April 1992 to April 1993, more than a thousand local Serb residents had been killed, and of that number, more than a third had been killed by edged weapons, massacred, and their bodies then burned.
The Yugoslav government informed The General Assembly and the UN Security Council of this in a Special Memorandum delivered by Ambassador Dragomir Đokic on June 2, 1993. However, this Memorandum was concerned with only two municipalities (Bratunac and Srebrenica, and the village Skelani in the vicinity of Srebrenica) yet it reported that more than a thousand people had been killed and that 2,800–3,200 people had been wounded. On this occasion, the suffering of Serbs in the marginal regions of Vlasenica and Zvornik municipalities, on whose territories the same Muslim units were deployed, just as they had been in the town Srebrenica itself, was omitted.
Dramatic and disturbing discoveries were made during the excavation of mass graves on the Glodjane mountainside and other localities in Zvornik County. There, Muslims in an extremely brutal manner in the style of Islamic “holy warriors” undertaking Jihad, chiefly with edged weapons, ritually murdered about 250 civilians and prisoners from the surrounding Serbian villages, mostly from hamlets in Kamenica. For this battlefield exploit, commander Naser Orić, along with nine of his other prominent fellow fighters, was decorated with the “Golden Lily”, the most distinguished medal awarded by the Army of B&H, by the decree of the President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Alija Izetbegović.
The final list of Serbian victims in the Srebrenica region comes from Birač (which lies in Zone of Responsibility No. 8 of the Tactical Group of the Army of B&H, with headquarters in Srebrenica and under the command of Naser Orić) and was later publicly established (Knjiga mrtvih srba, Centar za istraživanje zločina nad srpskim narodom, 2006), and was published twice on the tenth anniversary of the liberation of Srebrenica, first in a special supplement in the Belgrade newspaper Vecernje novosti on June 13, 2005, and then in a later edition exclusively for B&H, in a print run of 400,000 copies. At the same time, the Centar za istraživanje zločina nad srpskim narodom (Belgrade branch), published a special booklet with the names of these same victims, which was delivered to more than one thousand foreign missions and international organizations in B&H and Serbia.
The aforementioned list contains the names of 3,262 Serbian victims. According to the latest evidence, approximately 27%, or about 880, of the people who were killed, were members of military and police organizations. The remaining 73% (2,382 victims) were civilians. Not one name on the list was disputed for a year and a half. Furthermore, the list is indisputable because the burials of these deceased persons, which included appropriate religious rites, often did not take place immediately after their death, so the priests who officiated at these burials listed their names in their own funeral records, which is hard evidence. Photographs of most Serbian victims in the Srebrenica region, namely Birač, are displayed in memorial rooms of municipal centers on the territory of the Republic Srpska. Some firms have erected monuments or memorial plaques with the names of local Serbian victims. Others have done so in most of the county seats in the Republika Srpska.
THE INVISIBLE PROTECTOR
When the Muslim conquests and concomitant crimes came to an end in the vicinity of Srebrenica and in part of the Srednje Podrinje region at the beginning of spring 1993, fear and panic seized Muslim civilians, and struck Muslim fighters to an even greater degree. Most of all, they feared being paid back in kind. Then a “mighty guardian” appeared and saved the Muslims from eventual defeat, absolved them from the responsibility of the crimes they had initiated and committed, and soon afterwards transformed them in the eyes of world public opinion into innocent, starving martyrs who had no roof over their heads or crust of bread in their hands.
Simon Mardela, a British doctor with the World Health Organization, launched it [the public relations campaign] with a false report, or, more precisely, a propaganda pamphlet he had written, which reported that twenty to thirty people were dying daily in Srebrenica. That would have meant that hundreds were dying each month, but the Muslims never suffered so many deaths (combined military and civilians casualties) from the beginning of the war until April 1993. Even Naser Orić’s book states that during that two-and-one-half year period, they had only 1,912 dead.
General Philippe Morillon, UNPROFOR commander, finally had to remove the aforementioned doctor from Srebrenica because of these false reports, which Dr. Mardela had kept broadcasting through ham radio stations. The Serbian side, aware of the deceit and of efforts to preserve the Muslim army—but not the population—agreed to cease its armed military actions. On April 16, 1993, the Security Council adopted Resolution 819, and proclaimed Srebrenica a “safe haven.”
Serbs and Muslims were tasked with the assignment to make Srebrenica safe and secure. On the same day, the president of the Republic Srpska, Dr. Radovan Karadžić, honoring the Security Council resolution, ordered the cessation of all further military actions by the Army of the Republic Srpska in and around Srebrenica, except those necessary for self-defense. Unfortunately, a corresponding order never came from either the President of B&H or from the General Staff of the Army of B&H. (This could be interpreted as an opening signal that the Muslims would not respect the resolution and would not agree to disarmament.) A Canadian UNPROFOR unit, a company of 143 soldiers, entered the town on the next day.
THE MLADIĆ–HALILOVIĆ AGREEMENT
Two days after the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 819 (April 18, 1993), Generals Ratko Mladić (from the Serbian side) and Sefer Halilović (from the Muslim side) reached an agreement after long and difficult negotiations, which had lasted almost fourteen hours without interruption, that the Muslims should not, after all, have to surrender their arms to units of the Army of the Republika Srpska, which was the original demand made by General Mladić, but to UNPROFOR, no later than seventy-two hours after the Canadians unit’s arrival in Srebrenica.
It was also agreed to exchange prisoners of war, and it was agreed that the Serbs should allow the Muslims to evacuate around 500 of their sick and wounded by helicopter. This gesture was yet another proof of Serbian tolerance, to which the Muslims never responded in kind. On the contrary, the very next day after the cease-fire was negotiated and the area was proclaimed “a safe haven,” the Muslims killed six Serbian fighters in ambushes in two different locations and wounded many more. Even after this act of treachery, General Mladić, nevertheless, stuck to his earlier order that Muslims from the Srebrenica area could conduct an unrestricted evacuation their sick and wounded fighters.
Generals Ratko Mladić and Sefer Halilović signed documents on May 8, 1993 that confirmed the borders of the demilitarized zone were to remain “at the present lines of confrontation” and it was, according to conditions on the ground, approximately about five and one half kilometers long and two and one half kilometers wide. Average-strength UNPROFOR units from a combined infantry-motorized battalion could control this territory and protect it efficiently. (The document provided for a smaller unit of “at least one company with headquarters and logistics.”) The same document stipulated that: “The surrender of arms [Muslim arms, of course, Author’s Note] would be supervised by the team of three officers from both sides together with an UNPROFOR officer, who would determine the place where the surrender was to be carried out.” The document also stipulated that: “No soldier [referring to both sides, Author’s Note] who has already entered or wishes to enter the DMZ, excepting members of UNPROFOR, may bear arms, explosives or ammunition.”
But the Muslims never did honor the May 8, 1993 agreement, and they have never agreed to form a commission that would supervise their disarmament, nor did they forbid their solders to carry weapons or use them in the demilitarized zone. UNPROFOR ignored it. Muslims refused to restrict their movement to the established borders. They held and even enlarged the territory under their control, which extended about 150 square kilometers and which, beside Srebrenica, included partial or entire villages: Babuljice, Bajramovići, Bostahovine, Brakovci, Bučinovići, Bučje, Donji and Gornji Potočari, Dimnići, Dobrak, Fojhar, Gladovići, Karačići, Krusev Do, Kutuzero, Likari, Lipovac, Luka, Ljeskovnik, Međe, Miholjevine, Milačevići, Močevići, Opetci, Osatica, Osmače, Pale, Palež, Pećišta, Podgaj, Postolje, Poznanovići, Psohići, Rađenovići, Skenderovići, Slatina, Sućeska, Staroglavice, Sulice, Šubin, Tokoljak, and Žedansko.
Besides the aforementioned exclusively or predominantly Muslim villages that they held under their control (or, more precisely, held under occupation) more Serbian or predominantly Serbian villages and hamlets: Čićevci, Gostilj, Mala Daljegošta, Međe, Močevići, Osredak, Obadi, Postolje, Podravanje, Pribidoli, Pusmulići, Radoševići, Ratkovići, Viogor, Radovčići, Sase. More villages from the Bratunac municipality were attached to that zone: Pirići, Jaglići, Blječeva, Zagoni, Zapolje… There were almost no Muslims who had resided in these Serbian villages, but they were, nevertheless, under the control of armed Muslim forces and it was impossible for Serbs to return. In other words, the Muslims did as they pleased and did what was suitable for them. They tried to remain a protected area for the entire time, but they were never disarmed.
A battalion was no longer enough to control and protect such a large territory; a considerably larger armed formation was needed, which UNPROFOR was either unable or unwilling to provide. It was absurd, after all, to protect such strong and numerous Muslim armed forces. UNPROFOR command probably came to the same conclusion. It was known that everything had been destroyed in these occupied Serbian villages, but it was not known why the Serbs had not been permitted the opportunity of returning.
The fact that the Muslims occupied and held Serbian villages did not provoke the anticipated reaction from either UNPROFOR command or the UN High Commissioner for Bosnia-Herzegovina. The occupation and retention of Serbian settlements in the protected area was inexplicable to the civilian and military authorities of the Republic Srpska and contrary to all the agreed-upon terms. It gave the impression that UNPROFOR was using the demilitarized zone to prevent Serbs from returning to their villages and homes.
MANIPULATION AT THE UN
In contrast to the supposed neutrality of international institutions and the UN, it was known that the member states of the NATO alliance, who presented themselves in public as the International Community, were supporting the secessionist movement all along. It was also a surprise to learn that the UN was not neutral and that it had supported the Muslim side, instead. It took a long time to discover that — almost ten years — while at the same time there were persistent doubts as to whether it was at all possible that this could be true. We will, without considering the motives and inducements for such behavior, dwell on only a few concrete incidents that are tied to the events that took place in Srebrenica.
KOFI ANNAN’S SECRET MESSAGE
Only five days after Srebrenica had been declared a UN safe haven, the UNPROFOR commander, Swedish General Walgren, announced in Zagreb on April 21, 1993, that demilitarization had been completed. “On the basis of reports I have received from my officers in Srebrenica, I can confirm that as of noon today the town has been demilitarized.” He disassociated himself professionally, as an honorable officer, from the report. The demilitarization was reported to have been completed by noon. If it were not true, then the officers who had misinformed him were to blame.
After having been encouraged by the U.S. and certain Western governments, the UN policies that Kofi Annan, the Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations at the time, consistently executed were not, in fact, intended to disarm the Muslims. Kofi Annan, while carrying out such policies, sent a confidential message to General Walgren only two days later (April 23) about an upcoming visit by the UN Security Council delegation, headed by Venezuela’s ambassador. He is quoted as having said in that message: “Given your public statements that Srebrenica has been fully demilitarized, I see no need for UNPROFOR to participate in house-to-house searches for weapons. You will undoubtedly be made aware by the visiting Security Council delegation of the strong feeling amongst several member states that UNPROFOR should not participate too actively in ‘disarming the victims.’”
Kofi Annan’s intervention was a way to foil the Security Council resolution and to protect Muslim armed forces and terrorist gangs. The same tactic was later used in Goražde, Bihać… A few years later, the real meaning of the U.S. and Annan’s intervention in favor of the Muslims could be seen. They became NATO’s foot soldiers.
This was only the beginning of prejudiced conduct in the Srebrenica case. An important Yugoslav document concerning the extermination of Serbs in Srebrenica was covered up by the UN Secretary’s office. Kofi Annan also concealed and suppressed this very same document in his report on Srebrenica that he submitted to the General Assembly on November 15, 1999. In that report, he quoted from a book by Naser Orić that discussed the sufferings of Muslims, but he omitted mentioning an earlier-published book about the sufferings of Serbs in Srebrenica that had been submitted to him by M. Ivanišević. At the beginning, in the second paragraph, he quoted an incredible lie told by Fouad Riad, a judge serving on The Hague Tribunal: “The evidence tendered by the prosecutor describes scenes of unimaginable savagery: thousands of men executed and buried in mass graves, hundreds of men buried alive, men and women mutilated and slaughtered, children killed before their mothers’ eyes, a grandfather forced to eat the liver of his own grandson. These are truly scenes from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.”
The Hague Tribunal’s prosecutor’s office has searched in vain for many years for witnesses to these “crimes” referred to by Annan. No one ever witnessed anything like it. Not even the Muslims of Srebrenica. The content of that report was an unscrupulous fraud perpetrated on world public opinion and the UN General Assembly. The grandfather who was forced to eat his grandson’s liver has never been found because he never existed; the mothers whose children were killed their before their very eyes have never been found; the crippled and slaughtered men and women have never been found: it was all fabricated, just as the burial of live Muslim men was a complete fabrication.
Kofi Annan’s report on the Serbs may be categorized as the vilest propaganda ever directed against a nation.
Dr. Nikola Moravčević, Professor of History and, for a time, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Illinois in Chicago, was a first-hand witness to what was taking place at the UN during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. He presented his first-hand observations in an interview he gave to Večernje novosti entitled “We’re Making the Same Mistakes.” He said: “I was lucky. When I was Vice-Chancellor of the University, I got to know Butros Butros Gali, who granted me access to the archives. Perhaps I am overstating it, but I found shocking information. I obtained documentation that pointed to a team in the Secretariat of the UN Security Council that added Serbian crimes from Bosnia and Kosovo to the reports and lessened or completely concealed crimes that had been committed by the opposing faction. I was astonished to find out that incoming information was by and large trustworthy, but the services in the Security Council used them in such a way as to “prove” the monstrousness of the Serbs. I corroborated the information and wrote it up in a book. It went so far, for example, that a report written by the first commander of UN forces in Bosnia, Satish Nambiar, about the crimes of Bosnian Muslims had been removed from the agenda of a UN Security Council session.”
This concerns a regular report which Nambiar, after having commanded UNPROFOR units for a year, submitted to the Security Council. Moreover, the report discussed the crimes committed by Bosnian Muslims and Croats against Serbian people. Nikola Moravčević also testifies that: “Madeleine Albright demanded that Butros Gali withdraw Nambiar’s evidence. The Račak Report suffered the same fate, and Serbia was bombed because of it.”
The recipe used during the war in B&H was quite simple. Reports about the suffering of the Serbs wound up in the archives, so the general public never found out anything about the contents of these reports, at least through the UN. By contrast, reports about the mistreatment, rape, persecution or murder of Muslims were usually secretly and falsely supplemented with forged numbers of victims before reaching the UN Security Council agenda. The consequences were always the same: the issuance of resolutions with new and tougher measures against the Serbs on both sides of the Drina River. Soon afterwards, bombers and cruise missiles struck Serbian settlements.
THE DISSATISFACTION OF SREBRENICA’S POPULATION
During the war, from May 1992, and especially from April 17, 1993 to the middle of July 1995 (while the town was under UN protection), there were many testimonies about life in Srebrenica that were given chiefly by local residents, but also by foreigners who arrived and lived in the town. In this case, we will largely be concerned with appraisals made by Srebrenica’s inhabitants. However, neither one nor the other had anything nice to say about living conditions and the regime that ruled this town.
Thus, according to some, local disagreements, quarrels, conflicts, and intolerance occurred because of manipulations in the distribution of food supplies and other daily necessities, especially humanitarian aid, which reached them through convoys and airdrops. Ordinary people rebelled largely because those who already had plenty of supplies, which they most often brought from conquered Serbian villages, took the most aid. These problems preoccupied local residents far more than armed conflicts for most of the duration of the war. It didn’t have to be this way. About 12,000 people left Srebrenica in spring 1993.
This reduced by a good measure the need for food aid. But, beside that, there were people who were going hungry, people who didn’t have fuel to heat their homes, people who didn’t have clothing or shoes. Meanwhile, the market stalls and streets were filled with all kinds of merchandise, especially items that came through humanitarian aid. This provoked the constant displeasure of local residents, and led to riots, rapes, robberies, thefts, and prostitution. . . . In many homes, the only source of income was money brought home by girls who consorted with UNPROFOR soldiers. One of two major rebellions ended in physical violence.
In the center of town a department store, which served as a warehouse for humanitarian aid, was demolished, robbed and burned. The same day, an energetic police investigation ensued, in which dozens of people who happened to be in the town center at that time, were interrogated. The Muslims later tried to pass off the damage to this department store as a result of Serbian mortar attacks, but this sleight-of-hand trick didn’t work. This burned-out building remained the laughing stock of the city for years to come.
This situation caused many residents to escape and desert the enclave in favor of other areas under Muslim control, mostly in the direction of Tuzla, but to Yugoslavia and Serbia as well. In Bratunac, at the beginning of April 1994, even two Muslim girls, Š.S. and V.D., in later stages of pregnancy escaped. They were both fifteen years old and were victims of rapes by Naser Orić’s soldiers. They gave official statements to the authorities of Internal Affairs in Bratunac April 4, 1994.
After the liberation of Srebrenica, soldiers found a girl from Italy who had been left bound and gagged in an abandoned house. The Italian Embassy in Belgrade was duly notified. Not long after the Italian military attaché visited her, the girl was placed in a psychiatric hospital in Sokolac. The question of how she ended up in Srebrenica and what happened to her there still remains unanswered. In any case, there are many eye-witness testimonies about conditions in the enclave, especially in the town during periods of rebellion, which have been preserved by responsible Republika Srpska authorities.
It ought to be enough to refer to the public statements of Ibran Mustafić (the former President of the Srebrenica County Assembly and the founder of the SDA in Srebrenica), which he gave to Junge Velt, and which were picked up by Belgrade’s Dnevni Telegraf : “a real mafia ran this place.” He also claimed that: “Not one dollar of the enormous amount of aid that was sent to Srebrenica reached the civilian population.”
According to other interpretations of these events, conflicts were caused by a struggle for prestige among the military and civil authorities and individuals who participated in the ruling regime. More weapons were used in these conflicts than in other instances. Ibran Mustafić’s aforementioned statements confirm this. He also stated that he did not have any rights, even though he was County President, and that the then-ruling mafia attempted to assassinate him twice.
He was badly wounded in one of those attempts. The mafia also killed his close personal friend, the Chief of the Srebrenica Police Force. The case of Nurif Rizvanović confirms that assassination was not a rare or isolated occurrence. He was without a doubt the highest-profile individual in Muslim armed formations in Srebrenica, Bratunac, Konjević Polje, Cerska… He was a man equipped with the highest military education, a retired major of the former JNA, who also posed a latent threat to Naser Orić. Unlike Naser Orić, however, he was never favored by Alia Izetbegović.
Rizvanović was killed in an ambush in his native village of Glogovo in February 1993, a little more than a month after having successfully launched a joint military action against the neighboring Serbian villages of Kravica, Ježestica, Šiljkoviće, which were executed on January 7 (Orthodox Christmas). The success of this military action was one of the reasons for his conflict with Naser Orić. After his murder, rumors spread that Rizvanović was working with KOS [Yugoslav Military Counter-Intelligence] and that he was a Serbian spy. Muslims accepted this as the truth.
CIVILIANS ARE NOT TARGETS
It is necessary to establish the causes that led to the military operation in Srebrenica in June 1995, which was planned by the Drina Corps of the VRS (Vojska Republike Srpske, i.e., the Army of Republika Srpska) and was known as operation “Krivaja 95.” The goal of this undertaking was the expulsion of the Muslim army—but certainly not civilians—from Srebrenica. Today, this is confirmed not only by the statements and testimonies made by the protagonists, but by all the available documents, especially orders from commanding officers of the brigades that participated in “Krivaja 95,” and finally the Drina Corps and Headquarters of the VRS. Orders to take Srebrenica do not exist anywhere.
This was also the conclusion reached by the Royal Dutch Institute for War Documentation (RIOD). Jean-René Ruez, the chief investigator for The Hague Tribunal for Srebrenica, shared the same opinion. In an interview he gave to Sarajevo’s weekly newspaper Dani (Days), in response to the question: “Do you have evidence that could confirm pre-existing plans to commit these massacres?” he answered: “No, there were no pre-existing plans. Taking over the enclaves was not at all planned. The plan for this offensive dates from July 5. The original plan was to reduce the enclave to the city of Srebrenica, and to turn it into a large, open air refugee camp, so that UN could start evacuating the zone.” This journalist pressed further: “Is that statement based on documents in your possession?” Ruez answered: “Yes, completely.”
French attorney Jacques Vergès issued an identical statement by quoting General P. Morillon: “I’m convinced that the population of Srebrenica was sacrificed for higher interests, but these higher interests can be found in Sarajevo and New York, but certainly not in Paris.” The goal of “Krivaja 95” was restricted to limiting the territory to the size that had been determined in April 1993, when Srebrenica was declared a safe haven. The reasons the Serbian side had to take action to restrict the territory that Muslims controlled were uncontroversial and convincing enough.
The principal reason was the frequent Muslim attacks on surrounding Serbian settlements and ambushes behind the Serbian lines of defense, which caused constant loss of life. The VRS had to engage significant military resources for years in order to defend their settlements and population from Muslim attacks launched from territory they had seized. Signs that read “DEMILITARIZED ZONE, all military operations are strictly forbidden, Paragraph 60, Protocol 1, Geneva Convention” had been put up to no avail in several places around the zone. This meant nothing to the Muslims. Fighting units from the Bratunac and Milice Brigades had to be deployed to the lines of defense that surrounded Serbian villages, and beside these, the reinforced Seklana Battalion and the Zvornik Brigade. Even the police had been assigned these responsibilities.
The military and civilian authorities of the RS tolerated this state of affairs and managed only with difficulty to pacify the villagers with the abiding hope that the Muslims would finally be disarmed. This lasted for more than two years. On several occasions in Bratunac, the [Muslim] civilian population and the refugees from the villages, who illogically and unjustly found themselves under Muslim control, almost rioted. During all that time, the Army of the Republic Srpska did not have any significant international, legal or political reason to refrain from armed actions against the 28th Division of the Army of B&H.
Those military formations in Srebrenica did not respect the aforementioned rules of the Geneva Convention, and from the very first day the safe haven was created, it was a legitimate target for armed Serbian military action. It was also a Serbian right — because the Muslims did not withdraw to the safe haven, they were not disarmed, and they continued attacking surrounding Serbian villages — and this right was still valid when the military action was accomplished in July 1995. But when units from the Drina Corps began to realize the “Krivaja 95” plan, they upset all the UN structures, especially those in B&H.
THE MUSLIM WITHDRAWAL
The commanding officers of this operation, which was carried out by a small number of soldiers, were surprised that the Muslims not only refused to defend the village areas of the safe haven, but also refused to defend Srebrenica itself. Muslim forces withdrew to Tuzla according to orders and plans drawn up by its high command. Of all of the various outcomes anticipated by “Krivaja 95,” not one predicted that the Muslims would abandon Srebrenica, just as it was unforeseen that Serbian units would actually enter the town. Furthermore, the Serbs in this situation did exactly what any army would have done: they entered Srebrenica, which was undefended and abandoned.
In July 1995, just as in Spring 1993, concern was expressed solely for the fate of the Muslim Army. Once again it came down to rescuing the 28th Division of the Army of B&H from certain loss of human life and possibly a serious defeat if it had been allowed to defend the safe haven or Srebrenica itself. These fighters planned to participate in “Balkan oluja” (Balkan Storm) in two weeks, whose battlefield extended over hundreds of kilometers from Trebinje on the south through Sarajevo and Srebrenica to Bosanska Kostajnica and the Una River north of the Republika Srpska.
Soon afterward, a parade was held in Tuzla, and the Commander of the 28th Division, Brigadier Naser Orić, and the President of B&H and Commander-in-Chief of the of Army of B&H, Alia Izetbegović, stood side by side on a ceremonial platform beside many invited guests. This parade proves that the Muslim Army in Srebrenica came to Tuzla under orders and did not abandon their positions on their own.
Many indications point out that the combined Croat-Muslim command, according to the plans and requirements set forth by supposed foreign factors, intended to undertake during these days an action that had been in preparation since the fall of 1992. What suggests this conclusion?
Above all, it is the surprisingly detailed American plan which — even then, according to claims made by the very well informed and high-ranked military analysts, George Kenny of the Carnegie Foundation, and Michael Dagan, retired Chief of Staff of the USAF — foresaw military — possibly NATO — interventions in a final settling of accounts with “Serbian aggression in the Balkans.” Operation “Krivaja 95” certainly disrupted this plan and its disposition of forces.
Soon after Srebrenica, an offensive against the Republika Srpska began, with lines of battle opening in Ozren, Vozući, Sarajevo, Herzegovina, and Bosanska Krajina. This was the first part of the aforementioned American plan, “Balkan Storm.” The second plan against Serbia, also developed by the U.S., came a few years later.
RADOVAN KARADŽIĆ’S ORDERS
In the process of liberating Srebrenica, ARS [Army of the Republika Srpska] units passed through 42 Muslim and mostly Muslim villages, 16 largely Serbian villages that had been occupied by Muslims from Srebrenica County, and 5 mostly Muslim villages in Bratunac County. They searched all houses, ministerial buildings, and hiding places. After the searches were completed, there was not one single Muslim casualty. It makes no sense to assume that a wounded, old or sick man or a women or a child could escape from soldiers, especially if the solder wanted to kill them. The residents of Serbian villages, who perished from gunshot wounds as well as from the Muslims’ use of edged weapons, knives, axes and mallets, were convinced of it. The Muslim Army left behind hundreds of individual as well as mass graves after they passed through Serbian villages.
Contrary to such Muslim practices, the Serbian army successfully secured the evacuation of Muslim civilians. The Serbs provided food, water, medical care and transportation. They helped the children, mothers, sisters, and wives of their adversaries go to their nearest kin — fighters of the 28th Division — and arrive there safe and sound. This was necessitated by an order from President of the Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadžić. It is a rare occurrence in warfare that an army passes through so much enemy territory without leaving any civilian casualties in its wake.
The statement made on July 27, 1995 by Hubert Wieland, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, was quickly but not accidentally forgotten or neglected. Mr. Wieland interviewed 20,000 refugees in Tuzla’s airport with a team of experts for five days. London’s Daily Telegraph quoted him as saying: “But we have not found anyone who saw with their own eyes an atrocity taking place.” “Objective” or “independent” interpreters of events that took place in Srebrenica in July 1995 do not take this report into consideration. It appears, although we are not certain, that the aforementioned RIOD also downplayed its own report. According to available information, the final number of people who left Srebrenica is 35,632, and these people were registered by the World Health Organization and the Bosnian Government during the first week of August.
As we can see, there were people who cared about the Muslim Army and tried to save it from defeat. It was up to the Serbs to care for Muslim civilians and save their lives. The President of the Republic Srpska, Dr. Radovan Karadžić, ordered Serbs to do so in paragraphs 3 and 4 of “Decisions Regarding the Naming of a Civilian Commissioner for the County of Serbian Srebrenica” (Odluke o imenovnju civilnog komesara za opštinu srpska Srebrenica).
THE MEMORIAL CENTER AND MEZARJE*
It should come as no surprise that Potočari was chosen to be the cult location and holy place not only for Muslims from Bosnia-Herzegovina and the former Yugoslavia but also for Muslims from all of Europe. This is the birthplace of Naser Orić, the wartime ringleader and, according to local beliefs, the Memorial Center-mezarje was erected in his honor. Muslims believe that Potočari must become a symbol of the genocide that was committed against them. Furthermore, they claim that Potočari must become for Muslims what Auschwitz became for Jews or Jasenovac for Serbs. Muslim extremists believe that persecution of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina has been going on since the Turks were expelled from these parts. They are convinced that they have been treated unjustly because they did not have their own state, while the Serbs have Serbia, and the Croats have Croatia. The Serbs believe that Christians, Serbs and Croats who died defending Christendom from Islam and Muslims, are the original inhabitants of B&H.
UN High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, and his successor Paddy Ashdown, rendered three legal documents in order to erect the aforementioned mezarje and memorial monument in Srebrenica-Potočari. Those were decisions that, in addition to everything else, the High Representative invoked on the basis of the authority with which he had been invested at the time, which gave him the absolute power to interpret the civilian implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement (1995).
It would obviously have been more logical to select for the Memorial Center of some site where executions had taken place: Kozluk, Branjevo, Pilica, Petkovci… Or the location of some larger, primary mass grave: Glogova, Kozluk, Branjevo, Orahovac, Cerska. . . . Kozluk and Branjevo are particularly noteworthy, because according to some testimonies, these are places where executions were performed and primary mass graves were exhumed, as well.
In order for the purpose of the Memorial Center-mezarje in Potočari to be accomplished, it is necessary that the number of people buried there be as large as possible. Of course, the worldwide prestige of the Memorial Center among Muslims rests chiefly on this. It is indisputable that Muslim soldiers suffered significant loses during the war. In this case, the question of how many perished while breaking through Serbian lines of defense, how many died in internecine conflicts, and how many were executed, is debatable. The question of how many perished in July 1995, as well as how many perished in earlier years and battles, is also debatable.
The most controversial fact is that the Tribunal never initiated an investigation against the persons who committed executions. Who engaged these soldiers? under what conditions? and who sheltered them? even in the U.S.A. Whoever did this had an influence on the Tribunal. The arrest of these individuals and their testimony before the Tribunal would have revealed who ordered the undertaking. The organizer of the executions shields himself by shielding the perpetrators. This is self-evident proof that the person or persons who ordered these executions are not from the Republika Srpska.
There are some indications that soldiers who were engaged in this action were misled, as if they did not trust the administration of justice that was supposed to mete out punishment to Muslim soldiers who had been captured. Nevertheless, it is impossible to believe the assumption that they acted on their own initiative. In that case, only they would be guilty and responsible, and the Tribunal would have no reason not to charge them. But no measures were even taken against Dražen Erdemović, also one of the direct perpetrators, until he ended up in The Hague Tribunal. He is the best evidence that they all enjoyed some kind of protection.
When the Yugoslav authorities became aware of Erdemović’s crimes, they intended to put him on trial. However, Erdemović, fearing the trial and certain punishment, took refuge in The Hague Tribunal. And it was no accident. Diplomats from Western (NATO) countries deliberately joined him in his demands. They demanded that his human rights and expression of his free will be respected. He not only found refuge in the Tribunal from severe punishment, but he also became the Tribunal’s principal material witness in all the cases connected to Srebrenica. After the passage of more than ten years, the Serbian side still cannot solve the mystery of who is hiding behind those who initiated and ordered the killings.
It seemed that the search for great crimes committed by Serbs, which would reverberate through international public opinion and set NATO into motion, lasted a long time. The Americans made an attempt with Srebrenica in April 1993, but it failed. According to an official statement made by Alija Izetbegović, one of the participants in those discussions would not accept Clinton’s proposal to let the Serbs enter Srebrenica and sacrifice 5,000 of the city’s inhabitants. Then, several attempts were made with Sarajevo, but those did not produce the desired results, either. Cerska, Goražde, Žepa, and Bihać were even less promising. . . . But the idea that the Serbs committed a great crime against the Muslims in B&H had to be realized. In the end, they got another chance, and Srebrenica was finally chosen. The location was found, those responsible for the crime were determined in advance, the number of victims was known, and all they needed was the evidence.
THE FIX IS ON
This evidence, according to the plans and expectations of those who were obliged to secure it, had to be the events that took place in the Potočari camp, where Muslim civilians had been taken just in time, and whom no one could defend and protect after the arrival of the Serbs. There, on July 12, it was reasonably supposed that the Serbs should commit the anticipated killings and slaughters after a requiem service in the Bratunac cemetery. The motive was well known. On that day, Muslims attacked many Serbian villages, put them to the torch, and killed 68 inhabitants. The mothers, sisters, and children of these Muslim criminals were in Potočari.
After the requiem, however, people returned to their homes. After a treacherous plan with planted Muslim civilians failed, probably to the great astonishment of its organizers, they were compelled to find some new, coercive solution. During the next two days, a dozen soldiers from 10th Sabotage Detachment, who were on leave, were gathered, and they committed what is today qualified as a genocide. The shooting to death of captured Muslims is not the subject of this discussion. The number of those shot to death is debatable, but it is indisputable that only soldiers were executed, but not civilians.
How many Muslim soldiers were executed? and how many of them were killed when they tried to break through [Serbian lines of defense] to [reach] Tuzla? and how many were killed in a number of internecine conflicts? In answer to this question, Jean René Roués, the investigator for many years in The Hague Tribunal in the Srebrenica case, says: “The war has been waged with figures from day one.” To this very day, it is not possible to answer the question of how many Muslim prisoners were executed. For that reason, this presentation will set forth only indisputable facts. These facts do not come from Serbian sources, but from the institutions of states that went to war against the Serbs, and, when these facts concern the mezarje, they are drawn from Muslim sources. In such a case, it was not only impossible for the Serbs to influence any of these facts, but they were also unable to inspect the documents that provided the source for this data.
The first figures for the possible number of victims can be found in the lists of missing persons compiled by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which have been published a number of times since 1995, in each case indicating a varying number of missing, but the figure was finally set at 7,000–8,000 persons. Those lists, however, were called into question on several occasions. Persons who voted in elections the following year were found in these lists (we found 3,016 persons from the list of missing in a list of voters for Srebrenica in the 1996 elections), who are still living there, as well as people of other nationalities.
That is why these lists cannot today have the same importance that they had in earlier years. Nevertheless, most of those who want to place even greater blame on the Serbian side invoke this list, and declare, without any proof at all, that it is a list of massacred Muslim civilians. A review of one of these lists uncovered only 36 women among 8,000 missing. These lists are not lists of the dead, much less are they lists of massacred civilians.
Incomparably more credible information can be found in the documentation concerning the bodies exhumed from several mass graves. Primary mass graves that Dean Manning investigated on behalf of The Hague Tribunal are the most important. According to him, these are: Cerska (150 bodies); Nova Kasaba (4 graves with 33 bodies in 1996); Orahovac: Lažeta 1 (130 bodies) and Lažeta 2 (243 bodies); Branjevo (132 bodies); Nova Kasaba (57 bodies in 1999); Glogova 1 (191 bodies) and Glogova 2 (139 bodies); Kozluk (340 bodies); Konjević Polje 1 (9 bodies) and Konjević Polje 2 (3 bodies); Brana near Petkovci (234 bodies); Liplje 2 (158 bodies).
According to these facts, the remains of 1,824 bodies were found in the aforementioned grave sites. According to his report, Dean Manning exhumed 1,883 bodies. The investigation confirmed that there were 1,656 male bodies and only one female among those that were exhumed. It was impossible to determine the gender of the rest. The same report established that mass killings took place in Cerska, Kravica, Orahovac, Brana near Petkovci, the military property in the area of Branjevo, Pilica and Kozluk.
These figures differ significantly in the Tribunal’s indictments, where they are much larger. Thus, according to the Tribunal’s prosecutors, between 4,900 and 6,700 Muslims were killed in these locations (1,000–1,500 persons were allegedly killed in Kravica; 1,200–1,500 in Branjevo; 1,000 in Orahovac (both Lažeta 1 and 2); Brana near Petkovci, 1,000; etc.). According to statements given by the Tribunal’s Muslim witnesses, who allege that they saw and survived such executions, the number of victims rises. According to them, there were 2,500 more people killed than the highest figure accepted by the Tribunal. That would have meant that about 9,200 had been killed, which even the Chief Prosecutor of the Tribunal found unacceptable.
We will see how these disproportionate figures look in the following three cases. The killings at the military property in Branjevo took place on Sunday, July 16, between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. One surviving Muslim witness estimated the number of victims to be 1,000–1,500, while the Prosecutor’s Office accepts Dražen Erdemović’s estimate, who himself took part in the execution of these prisoners of war, and cited 1,200 victims; however, the remains of only 132 people were found in the primary grave site.
It is supposed that some of those victims can be found in a secondary grave, Čančarski put 12 (there are 12 graves with a total of 174 bodies). But, a significant difference once again remains. The next case is Orahovac, where several Muslim witnesses claimed that 2,000–2,500 people were killed. The Tribunal prosecutors opted for the figure of 1,000; however, 373 bodies were exhumed from primary graves (both in Lažetas). The third case is Brana near Petkovci, where Muslims cite a figure of 1,500–2,000 killed; the Tribunal prosecutors settled on 1,000, but only 234 bodies were exhumed.
In all these aforementioned mass graves, which are not limited to the three examples that have just been provided, lay the bodies of soldiers who died trying to break through Serbian territory as well as those who died in internecine Muslim conflicts. These corpses that had been collected from a radius of several kilometers were buried in standard (one may say military) mass graves during the sanitization of the terrain, which was performed during summer heat waves when corpses decompose most quickly. Finally, it is difficult to judge how many of the victims died in battle as opposed to how many were executed. The prisoners from the Zadružna warehouse in Kravica should be excepted. There was a rebellion of Muslim prisoners, which no one ever mentions, in the course of which a Serbian policeman Krsto (Bogoljub) Dragičević from Skelani (born 1965) was killed, and Rade Čuturović (nicknamed “Officer”, now deceased) were wounded.
About 30 guards defended themselves with all the weapons that were at their disposal, even hand grenades. The Tribunal prosecution has not acknowledged this rebellion and leads one to believe that the number of executed prisoners amounts to 1,000–1,500. The bodies of 330 persons who took a part in rebellion were found in two primary graves sites in the adjoining village of Glogova. However, apart from the overall number of Muslim prisoners who were executed, one is hard pressed to put forth a figure of less than 407 people. That is how many were found with their hands bound, and there were 270 who were blindfolded. (One person could have both his hands tied and eyes blindfolded). But, by this accounting, the question must be posed: where are the hundred or so Serbian prisoners who had earlier been captured in Srebrenica?
It is a fact that Muslim soldiers did not escort captured Serbs with their hands unbound. Perhaps they were killed earlier and thus were not to be found in these Muslim columns. It is not known how many of the mortal remains found in these graves belong to persons of Serbian nationality. The remains of Gojko Todorović, Biljana Matić and Vojislav Milošević were found in a primary mass grave in Orahovac (Lažeta 2). The body of Stanko Danilović was found in a secondary mass grave Čančarski put 3 (in connection with the Kozluk primary mass grave).
A very small number of bodies that were exhumed were identified (Cerska: 9 out of 159; Branjevo: 3 out of 132; Orahovac: 21 out of 373, etc.), which amounted to less than 5% of the total number of bodies exhumed. We will learn more about the remains that were identified on the basis of lists of persons whose bodies were buried at the Potočari Memorial Center-Mezarje.
The first burials in this Muslim Memorial began on March 31, 2003. Since then, 2,442 bodies have been buried there. That is 559 bodies more than have been exhumed from mass graves. Meanwhile, it is possible to suppose that there were more individual or smaller group burials, and that the declared number is somewhat larger. Together, there were six group burials with appropriate religious rites.
In the first group burial on March 31, we have the remains of 600 persons who had been identified. There were 282 persons in the second group buried on July 11, 2003. There were 107 persons in the third group burial on September 20. There were 338 persons in the fourth group burial on July 11, 2004. There were 610 persons in the fifth group burial on July 11, 2005. There were 505 persons in the sixth group burial on July 11, 2006.
DR. MUSTAFA CERIĆ’S HOSTILE MESSAGES
From the inception of the Mezarje, public opinion has been led to believe the supposition that these were burials of the innocent civilian victims of the Serbian genocide against Muslims. This thesis was launched in equal measure by Muslims and those foreign and domestic factors who saw in it some self-interest. Not only during the war, but for years after, and even today, many NGOs from Sarajevo and Belgrade, state institutions, media from the Muslim-Croat Federation, Muslim religious institutions, and even individuals are constantly manipulating [public opinion] with [tales of] great numbers of Muslim who were killed. The message announced by the Islamic dignitary Dr. Mustafa Cerić, and which is carved in a large block of stone, causes confusion. In addition to pleasant and beautiful holy pronouncements, there is an enigmatic behest or demand:
Let revenge be Justice
In the name of Merciful God,
We pray to you God,
Let sadness become
Let revenge be
Let a mother’s tear
Be a prayer:
That Srebrenica never befalls
Anyone ever again!
This is the text of a message placed in of the Memorial Center, and local residents still wonder whether or not this was the Muslim cleric’s call for revenge? One must not disturb the dead. They should be left to rest in peace among the rows of burial plots, no matter what the reasons may have been for their not being with their families today. But it seems as if this cannot be done. We accept this with a heavy heart, but it does not mean that we can easily make peace with something to which we can only reconcile ourselves with difficulty. The problem of Srebrenica and its Muslim victims is more than ten years old, and today it still seems as if it had just taken place. The Serbs are blamed for the fate these people suffered. The problem of Serbian victims and their long years of suffering in this area was never a driving force [for dialogue]. No one is responsible for what happened to them.
Who are the people whose remains are today buried at the Memorial Center-Mezarje in Potočari? In this case, it concerns men (only two women are buried there). All the burials were performed ceremonially and in presence of the highest state officials, Islamic religious leaders, diplomats and foreign statesmen. Serbian President Boris Tadić attended the interments of July 11, 2005, memorializing the tenth anniversary of the events that took place in Srebrenica. Each of these events was turned into media spectacles, with numerous propaganda messages and accusations of genocide committed by the Serbs. In the name of truth, we are obliged to say something about what we know of the individuals who have been interred in mezarje. We will try to present some of the most vivid and controversial cases from the voluminous available material.
ABUSING THE DEAD
1. The list of the victims from July 1995 who were interred includes a large number of individuals who registered as voters in Srebrenica County for the 1996 elections. We have their names at our disposal, but in this case we will only provide a statistical overview. From the list of names provided for the first interment of reputed victims, there were 271 names that were on the voting lists for 1996; 85 names from the second interment; 31 from the third; 140 from the fourth; 252 from the fifth; and 135 from the sixth. These 914 persons represent a little more than 37% of the total number of those who were interred. It is reasonable to suppose that these are people who died from natural causes during the period July 1995 – July 2006, when the last interment was performed, but they are not the victims who perished after the Serbs had returned to Srebrenica. The fact that the OSCE organized these elections dispels any doubts, because it had more than a year to delete these names from the list of registered voters. That was not done. There are indications that the situation is identical in Bratunac, Vlasenica and Zvornik.
2. The second controversial matter is related to individuals whose deaths from natural causes have been confirmed by court rulings.
Unfortunately, we have not been able to perform even a superficial inspection of the death registers in Srebrenica, Bratunac, and other counties where soldiers from the Eight Operative Group of the B&H Army were recruited. In that case, such a list would be many times larger and more complex. However, even without it, it is an undisputable fact that it was an attempt to increase as much as possible the number of Muslim victims who “died” in the “massacre” when the Serbs returned to Srebrenica in July 1995, and who were later buried at Memorial Center-Mezarje in Potočari. Here are just a few examples from a list of about 100: Fetahija (Nazif) Hasanović, born 1955 — died December 15, 1996 in Srebrenica; Šukrija (Amil) Smajlović, born 1946 — died May 2, 1995 in Zalužje; Maho (Suljo) Rizvanović, born 1953 — died January 3, 1993 in Glogova; Mefail (Meho) Demirović, born 1970 — died May 10 in Krasanovići; Redžić (Ahmet) Asim, born 1949 — died April 22, 1992 in Bratunac.
3. The Muslim side, whose goal is to create a false picture of great numbers of innocent Muslim civilian victims, transported the remains of soldiers as well as civilians from various other locations and reburied them in the mezarje at Potočari with full Muslim rites. This public fraud encompasses several hundreds individuals. Here are ten or so concrete examples. During the first interment ceremony held on March 31, 2003, the body of Hamed (Hamid) Halilović (1940–1982) was moved from a local Srebrenica mezarje in Kazani and reburied in Potočari. As it is plain to see, this concerns a person who died twenty years before the outbreak of the war. During the fourth interment ceremony held on July 11, 2004, the bodies of one soldier who died in war and of one elderly civilian who died before the war were also moved from Kazani to Potočari. They are Osman (Ibro) Halilović (1912–1989) and Nurija (Smajo) Memišević (1966–1993). During the fifth interment ceremony held on July 11, 2005, four persons were reburied: Salih (Šaban) Alić (1969–1992); Mujo (Hašim) Hadžić (1954–1993); Ferid (Ramo) Mustafić (1975–1993); Hajrudin (Ismet) Cvrk (1974–1992).
4. For one group of soldiers from the B&H Army who were buried in Potočari, it is not known where or when they died, nor where they had been buried before, but it is certain that they are not victims of “Srebrenica massacre” of July 1995. They died before November 11, 1993, when documents concerning the social and housing benefits due to their respective families were dated. The group of soldiers from the B&H Army included:
Čerimović (Mustafa) Mujo – (b. April 12, 1938) Sebjočina-Vlasenica
Hasanović (Mujo) Hamed – (b. July 9, 1966)
Malić (Ibrahim) Ramiz – (b. 1970) Here-Vlasenica
Omerović (Alija) Hamed – (b. 1939) Glogova-Bratunac
Omerović (Mehmed) Adem – (b. 1976) Vršinje-Vlasenica
Omerović (Nurko) Nurija – (b. 1953) Urković-Bratunac
Hasim (Ćamil) Selimović (b. 1950)
Ramiz (Suljo) Alić (b. 1942)
Jusuf (Safet ) Osmanović (b. 1947)
Ramiz (Hakija) Alić (b. 1979)
Munib (Mujo) Alić (b. 1962)
Jusuf (Juso) Omerović (b. 1962)
Meho (Mehmed) Osmanović (b. 1942)
Sead (Osman) Salkić (b. 1960)
Safet (Šaban) Korkutović (b. 1960)
Omerović (Habib) Aziz – (b. May 1, 1965) Sikirić-Bratunac.
5. The names of several hundred soldiers who died before March 7, 1994 were found in a document chronicling the history of the B&H Army that was mentioned earlier. And in this case, these persons were not victims of some execution or soldiers who died in battle for Srebrenica in July 1995. In this case, too, we provide for illustrative purposes a few dozen names, some from the brigades of the 8th Operative Group, and others from the 28th Division of the B&H Army. They are:
Mujić (Rizvan) Ibro – 1952, Sućeska – Srebrenica
Mehmed (Meho) Hodžić – 1960
Hafizović (Ibrahim) Hajrulah – 1973, Opetci – Srebrenica
Ismet (Šahmin) Huseinović, 1947
Mujo (Avdo) Ahmetović – 1970, Potočari
Mehmed (Meho) Hodžić – 1960, Potočari
Šaćir (Omer) Malić – 1945, Potočari
Amir (Omer) Omerović – 1974
Kadrija (Esed) Osmanović – 1956, Potočari
Jusuf (Juso) Jusić – 1941, Potočari
(members of the 280th East Bosnian Light Brigade of the Army of B&H).
Mehmed (Omer) Avdić – 1966
Adil (Redžo) Hasanović
Meho (Mehmed) Ahmetović
Adil (Šećan) Hasanović
Husein (Ibro) Mehmetović
Omer (Šahin) Ahmetović-Bibo – 1946
Mujo (Avdo) Klempić – 1959, Srebrenica
Abid (Mehmed) Zuhrić – 1961
Meho (Ahmo) Duraković – 1967
Safet (Himzo) Hodžić
Mandžić (Daut) Jusuf – 1938, Skelani – Srebrenica
(members of the 281st East Bosnian Light Brigade of the Army of B&H).
Nedžad (Munib) Osmanović
Ramo (Omer) Avdić
Enver (Hamed) Ibrahimović
Izet (Idriz) Salkić
Dževad (K) Suljić
Hasan (Mujo) Beganović
Redžo (Avdo) Suljić
Omer (Osman) Smajlović
(members of the “July 5th” unit Tokoljak).
Bajro (Hasan) Selimović from the Kazani unit
Kadrija (Ibrahim) Avdić, 1965
(members of the 282nd East Bosnian Light Brigade).
Avdić (Husein) Mehmed – 1943, Paljevine-Srebrenica
Avdić (Šemso) Mehmed – 1954, Pirići-Bratunac
Begić (Šaćir) Mirsad – 1955, Luka-Srebrenica
Salihović (Hasan) Hasib – 1945, Sućeska-Srebrenica
Suljo (Sinan) Omerović – 1922, Srebrenica
Mehmedalija (Sulejman) Hasanović – 1955, Srebrenica
(members of 283rd East Bosnian Light Brigade)
Munib (Mujo) Mustafić (b. 1960) missing in action March 13, 1993
Salko (Muhamed) Hodžić (b. 1959)
(soldiers who served in the 284th East Bosnian Light Brigade).
COMMANDERS AND SOLDIERS WHO PARTICIPATED IN INFAMOUS EVENTS
6. Here follow the names of Muslim commanders and soldiers for whom no exact data about the place or manner of death exist. For that reason, it is possible that they are victims of executions, but it is also possible that they were killed while attempting to break through Serbian lines of defense. It is indisputable that they were members of the B&H Army, and that they died in July 1995. However, nearly all of them or a majority of them took part in numerous armed actions against local residents of Serbian nationality before their death or execution. They are responsible for committing crimes against civilians, destroying villages, expelling civilians, and pillaging.
The list includes the names of meritorious soldiers who were members of different military units and who had been recommended for a variety of military awards and decorations. Their names were found in criminal complaints that had been filed with relevant judicial institutions for crimes committed in Srebrenica and in the surrounding area. We take this opportunity to provide the names of some of those involved in a limited number of such incidents.
Here we find members of the Headquarters of the 8th Operative Group of the B&H Army:
Sadik (Ramo) Sulejmanović, village Luka, Srebrenica County
Bego (Jusuf) Tihić, born 1960 in Srebrenica
Ševket (Seid) Đozić, 1951, Srebrenica
Nedžib (Abid) Habibović, Srebrenica
Osman (Šerif) Osmanović
Hamed (Hamid) Alić
Amir (Maho) Rizvanović
Senahid (Abdulah) Tabaković
Zulfo (Munib) Halilović, and
Ahmo (Mujo) Tihić, Srebrenica.
These soldiers had various command responsibilities. Soldiers from the same formation who were honored include:
Hamdija (Ahmet) Hasanović
Nedžib (Abid) Habibović
Hajrudin (Salih) Malagić
Mustafa (Zulfo) Stočević, and
Mehmed (Suljo) Malić.
Together, they participated in armed actions against the Serbian villages Gniona, Blječeva, Osredak, Viogor, Bibići, Orahovica and other settlements in the area immediately surrounding Srebrenica in May 1992 (13 Serbian residents of the aforementioned villages were killed). The following month they conducted armed actions against the villages: Oparci (6 dead), Obadi and Špat (9 dead), Ratkovići (17 dead), Brežane on June 30 (19 dead). In July, they attacked Zalažje, Sase and the surrounding area (47 Serbian deaths); in August, Ježestica (in Bratunac County, 9 dead); in September, they attacked Podravanje (32 dead); in October, Fakovići (Bratunac County, 17 dead); in November, Kamenica (Zvornik County, 53 dead); in December, the following villages in Bratunac County: Loznica, Bjelovac, Sikirić (60 dead); in January 1993, the villages Ježestica, Kravica and Šiljkovići (46 dead), Skelani (61 dead). A total number of 389 Serbs were killed in armed actions that they led.
Criminals Proclaimed as Victims
Hajrudin (Šefko) Avdić, Commander of Sućeska Territorial Defense and Assistant to the Commander of Security of the 281st East Bosnian Light Brigade, was buried in a grave plot in the mezarje. He planned, personally led, and participated in attacking, pillaging, and destroying the Serbian villages of Osredak, Viogor, Orahovica, Zalazje, and Sase in Srebrenica County. He planned, personally led, and participated in attacking, pillaging, and destroying the Serbian villages of Jeremići, Manovići, and Rupino Brdo in Vlasenica County, and in Hranča, in Bratunac County. Hajrudin Avdić participated in the killings of 74 Serbs during the three-month tenure of his command.
Noteworthy members of the 280th East Bosnian Light Brigade, which was based in Potočari, are also buried in the mezarja:
Nursed (Salko) Salihović
Senad (Jusuf) Jusić
Salčin (Sejfo) Hodžić
Aljo (Ibrahim) Huseinović
Hajrudin (Nazif) Osmanović, and
Hajrudin (Hasan) Suljić.
They were responsible for the destruction of the Serbian villages of Gniona, Jeremići, Manovići, Brežane, Zagoni, Zalazje, Sase, and others on July 12, 1992 (47 Serbian deaths); on August 8, Ježestica, Bratunac County (9 dead); on September 24 in Podravanje, Srebrenica County (32 dead); on October 5, Fakovići, Bratunac (17 dead); November 6, Kamenica, Zvornik County (53 dead); on December 14, 1992, the villages of Loznica, Bjelovac, and Sikirić in Bratunac County (60 dead); on January 7, 1993 in Kravica, Bratunac County (15 dead); and on January 16, 1993 in Skelani, Srebrenica County (61 dead). Their expeditions resulted in the deaths of 332 persons of Serbian nationality. And these aforementioned soldiers were honored with various military awards and distinctions for their criminal deeds by their own headquarters and commanders.
Avdulah (Avdo) Ahmetović (b. 1960) Sućeska, was assistant to the commander; and Hajrudin (Hamid) Avdić, was a member of the headquarters of the 281st East Bosnian Light Brigade. Their first attacks targeted the villages Osredak, Viogor, Orahovica, Žutica, Rupovo Brdo, Brežane, Hranča, and Ježestica in Bratunac County; Podravanje, in Srebrenica County; Loznica, Bjelovac, Sikirić, and Kravica in Bratunac County; and Skelani in Srebrenica County. From the same unit, the following men have been identified and registered as having directly committed crimes:
Adem (Ahmet) Ramić (b. 1937, Srebrenica)
Hajrudin (Omer) Alić (b. 1968, Srebrenica)
Mujo (Muharem) Alić
Zulfo (Munib) Halilović
Hasan (Mujo) Beganović
Mensur (Šefko) Mustafić
Hasan (Enez) Hasanović
Hasan (Hasib) Salihović (b. 1968)
Fikret (Huso) Mehmedović
Bešir (Sinan) Ajšić (b. 1971) and
Hasan (Mehan) Hasanović.
The above-mentioned officers and soldiers drove out the Serbian population and took part in the killings of 228 individuals of Serbian nationality.
Ibro (Husein) Dudić (b. 1969 in Srebrenica), Major and Commander of the 282nd East Bosnian Light Brigade, personally led attacks on the villages of Ratkovići, Krnjići, Zalazje, Sase, Milanova vodenica on the road between the villages of Peć and Skelane, Podravanje, Boljevići, Loznica, Bjelovac, Sikirić, Kravica, and the Skelane area. These actions resulted in the deaths of 328 Serbs whose property was pillaged and transferred to Muslim villages.
Officers Mehmed (Salih) Salihodžić, Avdulah (Mustafa) Bećirović and Safet (Hamed) Ahmić held important command and operational responsibilities during the entire war in the Headquarters of the 283rd East Bosnian Light Brigade. They organized an attack on the Serbian hamlet of Vitez, and then the villages of Oparci, Loznička Rijeka, Krnjići, Fakovići and Boljevići, Loznica, Bjelovac, Sikirić and Skelani (the hamlets of Kušići, Ćosići, Žabokvica, Kostolomci, Bujakovina, and others). Also participating in these actions in which 189 Serbs were killed were:
Sejdalija (Alija) Mehić
Azem (Hirkija) Alić, from Liplje, Zvornik County
Mirzet (Alija) Rizvanović
Dževad (Kemal) Salihović
Ahmo (M) Hasanović
Hajrudin (I) Cvrk
Bajro (Fadil) Salihović, and
Hasib (Rifet) Ahmić.
MURDERERS AMONG THE BURIED
Ibran (Ibro) Muratović (b. 1949) from Bratunac, was buried in the mezarje. He participated in the attack on the village of Blječeva on May 6, 1992, and took part in the murder of 3 individuals of Serbian nationality. Senad (Hakija) Hasanović (b. 1968) and Ismet (Omer) Mustafić (b. 1942), both from the village of Rovaši, were members of special, probably local, Muslim armed formations. As members of Rovaši’s intervention squad, they participated in an attack on the Serbian village Metaljka, and in an ambush on the Zvornik-Vlasenica highway, in the village of Konjević Polje. During that attack, a caravan of trucks belonging to the factory “Boksit” in Milici was waylaid on May 27, 1992. All the trucks were burned, and 5 truck drivers of Serbian nationality were killed.
Kadmir (Ibrahim) Alić from Tegari (Bratunac County) and Huso (Ramo) Halilović from Srebrenica participated in the June 30, 1992 attack on the Serbian village of Brežane (Srebrenica County) and took part in killing of 19 individuals of Serbian nationality.
Hamdija (Hamed) Alispahić (b. 1947) from Jaglić, participated in an attack on the Serbian village of Ježeštica (Bratunac County) and took part in the murder of nine Serbs on August 8, 1992. Mirsad (Ćamil) Mehmedović, from the village of Sućeska; Mehmed (Edhem) Hajdarević, from the village of Soloćuša and Sejdin (Sejdalija) Alić, from the village of Međe (Srebrenica County) participated in attacks on the villages Osredak, Viogor, Orahovica, and others in the Srebrenica County area and took part in the killings of 8 Serbs on May 15, 1992.
Edhem (Salko) Husić from the village of Zapolje (Bratunac County); Hajrudin (Hajro) Halilović, Srebrenica; Ramo (Ahmet) Salihović, from Moćevići (Srebrenica County) and Hajrudin (Murat) Salihović (b. 1940) from Brezovice (Srebrenica County); and Huso (Zaim) Salihović (b. 1964) participated on July 1, 1992 in an attack on the Serbian village of Oparci (Srebrenica County) and took part in the killing of six individuals of Serbian nationality.
Šaćir (Nurija) Memišević, (b. 1953) from Srebrenica participated in the July 5, 1992 attack on villages in Bratunac County; he participated in the attack on the village of Blječeva in May 5, 1992 (Ðurđevdan), and took part in killing three individuals of Serbian nationality; and he participated in an attack on the Serbian part of the village of Zagoni and took part the killing of 14 local residents of Serbian nationality.
Alija (Šaban) Memišević from Bratunac participated in July 7, 1992 attack on the Serbian part of the village of Zagoni (Bratunac County) and took part in the killing of 14 Serbian local residents. Azem (Alija) Begić, (b. 1962) from the village of Luka (Srebrenica County) participated in July 12, 1992 attack on the Serbian village of Zalazje (Srebrenica County) and took part in the killing of 47 local residents of Serbian nationality. Dževad (Ramo) Babajić from Glogova (Bratunac County) participated in July 25, 1992 attack on the Serbian village of Hranča and the killings of 8 individuals of Serbian nationality.
Nedžad (Munib) Osmanović (b. 1969) from Magašići (Bratunac County) participated in July 20, 1992 attack on the Serbian part of the village of Magašići and took part in the killing of 8 individuals of Serbian nationality. Meho (Mehmed) Suljagić (b. 1948) from Kamenica Gornja (Zvornik County) conducted attacks on Serbian settlements in Kamenica Gornja on August 24, 1992, when four Serbian local residents were killed.
INSTEAD OF A CONCLUSION
The wartime pasts or biographies of commanders and soldiers of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina are filled with attacks on Serbian villages and the killings of individuals of Serbian nationality. They showed no mercy to Serbian villages and their residents. The evidence is overwhelming. These facts contradict the constantly proffered thesis that Srebrenica was about the victims of genocide or Muslim civilian victims. It is certain that some of them were executed after having been captured, but many more of them died in battles while attempting to break through [Serbian lines of defense] to Tuzla. They also suffered losses from internal conflicts and infighting.
Milivoje Ivanišević is the Director of the Research Center for Crimes against Serbs, Maršala Birjuzova 14a, 11000 Belgrade, Serbia. www.serb-victims.org. He is the author of various reports, investigative studies, and analyses in the area of cultural politics. He has published, as author or co-author several dozen books.
This text first appeared in the March 12 and 20, 2007 issues of Glas Javnosti and has been translated from Serbian by Milo Yelesiyevich.