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Bosnia & Herzegovina: Anniversaries of Massacres

(An audio version of this post read by Vera Serkovic is also available. Please scroll down to the bottom of the page to access the audio player)

Sixteen years have passed since the massacre in Bratunac and thirteen years since the massacre in Srebrenica. In these cities, more than 10,000 people, mainly civilians, were killed. Many of the victims are still not identified. Some people, accused directly or indirectly of participating in war crimes, are still not arrested. Some of them have been acquitted.

Every year, bloggers and journalists remind their readers of the tragic events that took place in Bratunac in 1992 and in Srebrenica in 1995. The truth is painful, but nobody should be silent about war crimes.

Here is a roundup of several opinions and experiences related to the massacres in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina during the 90's.

Queeria posts a text titled “What is the weather in Srebrenica” – about the early morning of July 11, 2008, in the small town of Srebrenica. The text was previously published on the website www.pescanick.net, which covers politics and human rights in the former Yugoslavia, with a special focus on Serbia.

If you ask me, it was very sunny and sad on July 11. […]

[…] This year, 308 body remains of the newly-identified Srebrenica victims were exhumed. As many graves were dug. In front of them, under the strong sun, members of the victims’ families, mainly mothers, sisters and children, were standing and waiting for the COFFINS with the remains of THEIR DEAREST ONES. […]

Bojan Toncic, in his text that was also published on www.pescanik.net, reminded readers of the massacre in Srebrenica on July 11, 1995:

[…] In July 1995, […] (Muslim) men, who allegedly were able to be soldiers (and among them were 15-year-old boys) were separated from the women and older people. Pictures of their suffering went around the world. Key creators and executors of the crime, Radovan Karadzic, former president of Republika Srpska, and Ratko Mladic, genaral of the army of Republika Srpska, are still not arrested. […]

[…] The massacre in Srebrenica is the worst individual horrible thing in former Yugoslavia during the civil war and the worst crime in Europe after the Second World War. […]

[…] Ratko Mladic's units killed between 7,500 and 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica. There exists exact data about the number of victims, their names and surnames, and about the verdicts.

Bojan Toncic afterwards quotes Semir Ibrahimovic's moving words, which he said after the showing of a film about the killing of six young Muslim men in Trnovo during the Srebrenica offensive by a paramilitary unit “Skorpioni”:

In the video, I saw how they fired three shots in my father's head. He went with the other men on July 10 when Srebrenica fell. Our parting was sad. We felt that we might never see each other again. He went toward Tuzla in the “march of death”. Fire was coming from all directions. We didn't know whether we’d survive it. He was running over the bridge, waving to us. He had a skin jacket and blue shirt. […]

The extremely graphic video is available at YouTube, here; it has been viewed 175,627 times.

Foreign Policy Association's War Crimes blog provides a description of the video in a post dedicated to the 13th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre:

[…] During the trial of Slobodan Medic, the Scorpions unit commander, video tape of various incidents surfaced. These videos are part of much larger video diary of the Bosnian war. In one incident, 6 men are shown being taken from the back of a military vehicle and led to a field. The men are then forced to march single file to meet machine gun fire – one man at a time – by the Scorpions. In the video, the soldiers are making comments to the camera – “Did you get that? Did you film me shooting that mother fucker?” Only 4 of the captured men were initially murdered and the remaining two were forced to drag the bodies to another area. According to testimony, the soldiers were mocking the scene to make it appear the prisoners were killed in combat. The two remaining men are then killed in an outbuilding. During the video, a soldier is shown emptying his entire magazine into the head of one of the prisoners, protesting “I have a few more shells left!” […]

Drazen Erdemovic, an ethnic Croat and member of the Serbian military forces, confirmed that he participated in the execution of Bosnia's Muslims from Srebrenica. Slavenka Drakulic, a Croatian novelist and essayist, wrote this in her book titled “One day in the life of Drazen Erdemovic”:

[…] Prisoners could not see what would be done to them. They had kerchieves over the eyes. Drazen was glad because of that. He thought that was an act of mercy. But soon buses full of people without kerchieves started to arrive. Even their hands were not tied. It seemed they were rounded up very quickly. Why was there such a hurry? Drazen didn't understand that. These prisoners (without kerchieves) could see their fate. They saw corpses and soldiers with rifles waiting for them. They came out from buses and obediently went to the line of riflemen. Maybe they were not feeling anything. And then Drazen saw something that shocked him. As he was aiming at the head of a man, he saw a treasonable smudge on the rear of the man's trousers. A wet smudge was expanding more and more. He heard a command and fired a shot. When the man fell he saw that he was still alive. He was still urinating. At that moment it was unpleasant for Drazen, as if it was happening to him. “It could happen to me,” he thought, but drove away this unpleasant thought very quickly. […]

Blogger Dijaspora has a totally different opinion:

In over 90 percent of the cases, the actual victims in Srebrenica were soldiers of [Naser Oric]'s unit. Before the fall of the city, they burned over 140 villages in the region around the Drina River and killed 3,228 Serbian civilians. As of now, 2,000 Muslim soldiers from Srebrenica and surroundings have been exhumed. There is no objective and human reason for Muslim victims from Srebrenica to be treated differently from the Serbian victims from around Drina and Sarajevo, especially because Muslim victims mainly were soldiers and Serbian victims mainly were civilians.

Bojan Toncic also mentions war crimes against Bosnia's Serbs:

Shortly before the 13th anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica, the Tribunal in the Hague issued one more verdict […]

[…] Naser Oric is not guilty. The Tribunal acquitted him, revoking the initial 2-year sentence. Anyway, it is word about a war criminal whose units devastated a lot of Serbian villages and, according to independent assessments, killed more than 2,000 civils in 1992. […]

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