Bosnian Serbs finally admit truth of Srebrenica deaths

By Vesna Peric Zimonjic in Belgrade

05 November 2003

The Bosnian Serb government has admitted for the first

time that Bosnian Serb forces were responsible for the

mass slaughter of Muslims in Srebrenica in July, 1995,

Europe's worst atrocity since the end of the Second

World War.

The details about the massacre of 7,500 men and boys

by Bosnian Serbs in the UN-protected Muslim enclave of

Srebrenica were revealed on Monday night by a local

television station in the Bosnian Serb capital, Banja


The station obtained a copy of a secret government

report on Srebrenica, compiled under pressure from

Paddy Ashdown, the top international official for


Analysts believe the government's admission could

prepare the population for the possible arrest of the

Bosnian Serb war hero, General Ratko Mladic. He has

been indicted for genocide for the Srebrenica massacre

by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague and is

thought to be in hiding in Serbia.

For many Serbs in Bosnia this might mean finally

coming to terms with their past on the road to

reconciliation after the 1992-95 war that took the

lives of more than 200,000 people, the majority of

them Muslims.

Official propaganda has always denied that any war

crimes were committed in Srebrenica, and for many

Bosnian Serbs the television report was the first time

they had heard that "in the period between 14 and 17

July, a large number of Bosniaks [Bosnian Muslims],

captured in Srebrenica, were taken to different

locations of Zvornik municipality, where they were


The report did not mention the exact number of

detainees, and did not specify who gave orders for the

massacre or how many men were executed. However, it

revealed that the code name for the Srebrenica

operation was "Krivaja 95". Krivaja is a small town

and a river in central Bosnia.

The report named five detention centres where men were

held - the farming centre of Vranjevo, schools in

Orahovac, Teskovci and Rodjevici, and a cultural

centre in Pilici.

A large number of Bosnian Muslims were executed

nearby, the report said, and their bodies buried in

the villages of Petkovici, close to the Drina river

dam, Kozluk, Branjevo and Orahovac.

"There is evidence that the mass graves were dug up

and relocated," the report said, confirming what is

already well known outside the country.

The television station reported that more than 30

civilians, soldiers and policemen testified about the

war crimes in Srebrenica. The investigation was

undertaken by the military, police and intelligence

service of Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity

of Bosnia-Herzegovina. The report quotes witnesses who

were ordered to remove bodies from makeshift graves to

other locations, long after the massacre.

The orders for relocation came from Colonel Ljubomir

Beara, a prominent Bosnian Serb army officer, and aide

to Mladic. Like Mladic, Beara is currently in hiding.

But many others have faced justice before the war

crimes tribunal. The officer who is accused of leading

the cover-up operation, Momir Nikolic, pleaded guilty

as charged last week. Dragan Obrenovic, the deputy

commander of the operation, has said he is sorry for

his crime and has offered an apology to the families

of victims before the tribunal.

"I'm guilty for what I did and did not do," Colonel

Obrenovic told the court last week. "Thousands of

innocent people were killed, only the graves remain

... Part of that is to be blamed on me".

Obrenovic reached a plea bargain with prosecutors in

May and testified against his co-defendants last

month. One of the commanders of the Srebrenica

operation, General Radislav Krstic, has already been

sentenced by the tribunal to 45 years in jail for

genocide for his role in massacre.

But most of the public in Republika Srpska have been

living in denial of the incident. The surrender of

their war heroes to the tribunal and the sentences

pronounced against them have been viewed as a

conspiracy against Serbs, while memorial services for

victims have been seen as a provocation by Muslims.

Earlier Bosnian Serb reports on the Srebrenica events

stated: "Muslims who were considered to be missing

after the fall of the enclave have made their way

through enemy lines to Bosnian government territory." 


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