New Evidence Links Serbia to Srebrenica Massacre

Serb police and military documents suggest Belgrade might have had a hand in the eastern Bosnia atrocity.

New Evidence Links Serbia to Srebrenica Massacre

Serb police and military documents suggest Belgrade might have had a hand in the eastern Bosnia atrocity.

Wednesday, 9 November, 2005

The Serbian authorities rounded up and turned over to their Bosnian Serb counterparts dozens of Srebrenica Muslims who fled into Serbia, newly uncovered Serbian and Bosnian Serb documents reveal.


The evidence may boost tribunal prosecutors’ efforts to try to implicate Belgrade in the Srebrenica massacre - as the bodies of three of the deported Muslims were found in a mass grave close to the eastern Bosnian enclave and the fate of many of the others is unknown.


Most of the Srebrenica executions took place between July 12-16, but killings continued some time after. The Muslims rounded up in Serbia were turned over to the Bosnian Serbs in the second half of July.


The Serbian police and Bosnian Serb police/military documents - which were obtained by IWPR from an international agency involved in investigating what happened after the fall of Srebrenica - show that at least 37 Muslims who had fled the area were arrested in Serbia and deported to Republika Srpska.


The documents could play a crucial role in the tribunal prosecution’s case against Slobodan Milosevic and the genocide action the Bosnian government is pursuing against Serbia and Montenegro before the International Court of Justice.


Throughout the prosecution’s case against him, Milosevic maintained that neither he nor his regime had anything to do with the Srebrenica massacre, in which around 7,000 Muslim men and boys were summarily executed.


However, last year, prosecutors presented the tribunal with a Bosnian Serb police document showing that a unit of Serbian police - Milosevic’s self-styled Praetorian guard, who answered directly to him - had been ordered to the town on July 10, 1995.


That revelation, along with the latest documents, may aid the prosecution in proving genocide, or complicity in genocide, charges.


The prosecution case has been bolstered by the April 19 landmark ruling by the tribunal appeals chamber establishing that the Srebrenica executions did indeed constitute genocide.


The documents IWPR has seen show that after the Serbian police arrested the Muslim escapees, they were handed over to the Bosnian Serb authorities at the Ljubovija and Bajina Basta border crossings, both of which are close to Srebrenica.


At the time, Serbian police meticulously recorded the names of those detained, how much money they were carrying, as well as whether they were armed.


The earliest document, dated July 20, 1995, shows that Serbian policeman Zoran Sevic handed over Ahmet Tepic and Edin Dzanic, both from Srebrenica, to Vidoje Radovic, a Bosnian Serb police officer.


The same day, the men were delivered to the Bratunac brigade of Bosnian Serb army. Momir Nikolic, the brigade’s security officer, took them into custody. Neither of the detainees were ever seen again.


On July 21, Serbian police handed four Muslim men to their Bosnian Serb counterparts at the Bajina Basta crossing.


The four, Smajil Mehmedovic, Ramiz Muminovic, Bekir Kandzetovic and Ibrahim Kandzetovic, all from Srebrenica, were picked up by Pero Milic, a Bosnian Serb police officer from Bratunac. Eventually, they were handed over to the Republika Srpska military police at Skelani.


According to the documents, Muminovic had 2,260 German marks and 100 Swiss francs in his possession, Kandzetovic 650 marks and 220 Serbian dinars and Mehmedovic 40 marks. The four were never seen again.


Over the next week, Serbian police arrested several more groups of Muslim escapees.


The first group was detained on July 23 and consisted of five men. Three are said to have had handguns and some money, while the remaining two were unarmed and penniless.


They were held for five months in prison, and eventually exchanged on December 24, 1995 in Gracanica, just north of Tuzla.


The second group comprised six Muslims who were handed over to the Bosnian Serbs at Bajina Basta. The remains of three, Rahmic Mefail, Halilovic Ferid and Rahmic Nedzib, were later exhumed from a mass grave in Glogova, a village just outside Bratunac. The whereabouts of the others is unknown.


The third group was arrested on July 26 and consisted of three men, Isakovic Sadik from Bratunac and Durakovic Naser and Durakovic Emir from Potocari. The documents show they were sent from Ljubovija to Bratunac and that they had a knife, a handgun, three bullets and about 2,000 marks between them. None were seen again.


And finally between July 29 and August 1, 1995, the Bratunac brigade received six more deported Muslims - Becic Hajrudin, Avdic Azem, Efendic Sefik, Ahmetovic Hajro and Krlic Ibro from Srebrenica and Muhidin Sirucic from Bratunac. They were never seen again.


"The documents clearly show that Serbia was involved in the operation in Srebrenica,” claimed Sadik Salimovic, an official of the Bosnian Commission for the Missing Persons, told IWPR. “The question now is, what happened to all those [Bosnian Muslims] who [fled] to Serbia but had not been sent back to Bosnia?”


Salimovic, who is a Srebrenica survivor and lost his three brothers in the massacre, said the documents are likely to be a source of yet more grief for surviving family members.


But he said he hoped Serbian officials would be held to account at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, “We should persist in the suit against Serbia and Montenegro and prove that they took part in genocide."


Emir Suljagic is a IWPR contributor based in Sarajevo.


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