The Srebrenica Massacre Bosnia 1995

The Srebrenica Massacre Bosnia July 1995



The Srebrenica Massacre in Bosnia in July 1995 is thought to be the worst single massacre or genocide in Europe since the end of WW2. During the massacre at least 7,414 Muslim men and boys over the age of 12 were slaughtered by Serbian soldiers who purported to be Christians. The long standing hatred between the Bosnian Muslims and Serbian Christians boiled over when the former Yugoslav Republic disintegrated with the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe.

Background To The Balkan Wars Before The Srebrenica Massacre

The State Of Yugoslavia was originally formed in 1929 as The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes . The boundaries for these areas were drawn up by the Allies in the 1919 Treaty Of Versailles following the collapse of the Austrian Hungarian Empire during WW2. At it’s inception the new Yugoslavia was governed by a monarch King Alexander 1 who’s government was dominated by Serbs. The government was viewed as being ‘authoritarian’ particularly by the country ethnic minorities including the Bosnians and the Croats.. When Hitler invaded Yugoslavia during WW2 the Bosnians and the Croats were given because of there political sympathies with Hitler a degree of autonomy..

During the war some Serbians led by a socialist Croat Josip Broz Tito fought against the Hitler’s army a process which increased the divide between the Serbs and the ideologically aligned Bosnians and Croats. In September 1944 the Nazis stranglehold on Yugoslavia began to crumble as the Soviet Red Army and Tito’s soldier began their advance on and eventual liberation of Belgrade.. In the final months of the war all other Nazis troops in the region retreated or were expelled. The Red Army moved on leaving ally Marshall Josip Tito in power. He then renamed the The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes as the Socialist Republic of. Yugoslavia..

The new regime under Marshall Tito addressed the differing nationalist aspirations of the country by dividing it into six federated states Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Within Serbia the two areas of Kosovo and Vojvodina were also given an autonomous status. Tito’s was a committed communist but at the same his pragmatic instinct ensured that Yugoslavia benefited economically by maintaining good relations with the west. After Tito died in 1980 the country’s political stability began to wane and as economic pressures increased. the federated regions became more vocal about. become independent countries.

The nationalist aspirations of the regions increased and in 1992 the Yugoslav Federation fell apart. Slovenia declared its independence. Croatia and Bosnia followed suit and both these countries became embroiled in a war with the Serbia.. Thousands of Serbians became refugees in these countries – some fled to Serbia. whilst many Bosnian serbs were intent on Bosnia becoming part of a new Greater Serbia.. The Serbian authorities in Belgrade actively supported the Bosnian Serbs often by supplying them with arms and militarily assistance that was used to drive indigenous Muslims from parts of Bosnia. This process became known as’ ethnic cleansing’ would then enable large areas of Bosnia territory to be incorporated in the the proposed Greater Serbia. By 1993 Bosnian Serbs were in control of around two thirds of Bosnia and the Bosnian Capital Sarajevo was under .siege. Much of the remaining Bosnian territory was a battle ground between Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats who wanted to become part of a new Greater Croatia.

In an attempt to stem the ethnic cleansing in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina the United Nations in 1992 sent in the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFO in . The force comprised of approximately 40,000 troops with a mandate to protect the indigenous populations and refugees of certain areas from attack. These areas were defined as ‘safe havens’ .

Srebrenica – A Pre-Meditated Massacre

In April 1993 the largely Muslim town of Srebenica in Eastern Bosnia in an area known as the Republika of Srpska) had been under siege for eleven months. It was declared by the United Nations as a safe haven where Bosnian Muslims refugees could safely shelter from Bosnian Serb attacks. Dutch and French troops on behalf of the United Nations were assigned to protect the town.

in 1995 the two most powerful Serb politicians from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Radovan Karadžić and Momčilo Krajišnik were committed to a policy the ethnic cleansing which in part would expel the indigenous Muslims from the region. Their military commander General Ratko Mladić said that their plans could not be realised without committing genocide. Mladić said: ”People are not little stones, or keys in someone’s pocket, that can be moved from one place to another just like that… Therefore, we cannot precisely arrange for only Serbs to stay in one part of the country while removing others painlessly. I do not know how Mr. Krajišnik and Mr. Karadžić will explain that to the world. That is genocide.”

The Slaughter At Srebrenica

In July 1995 Serb troops and other paramilitaries under the command of General Ratko Mladic besieged the area and started shelling it. For several days these forces encircled the badly damaged town and basic supplies of food and water began to run out. The small army of Dutch soldiers who were delegated ny the United Nations to protect the town were over-whelmed and 12 of them were taken hostage. Repeated requests by the Dutch forces to the French Allies for military assistance -to protect the town- in the form of air strikes on the Serbian forces were not realised.

Early on July 11th the Serbian bombing of the Srebrenica increased and curing the day six thousand Muslims sought refuge in the Dutch military base. and by the evening – another 20,000 had queued up outside. On the 12th July Serbian troops under the command of General Mladic surrounded the Dutch Base. General Mladic announced that the Muslims in the base and outside it would after being screened to check there were no war criminals amongst them be escorted out of Serbian territory. He was also filmed felling some Muslim women that would well.

Shortly afterwards Serbian soldiers driving buses and trucks arrived outside the base and began to separate the men and teenage boys from the women and children before being driven away separately. When the people outside the base had been sent away the Dutch Troops told those inside the base to leave in groups of 5 or ten.Once outside the base the Serbian soldiers then similarly separated these groups by age and gender. Outside the base. The separation and deportation rook four days.

The Fate Of The Men & Teenage Boys


It is thought that up to 7,500 men, and boys over 13 were driven away to be killed. Around 3,000 were killed trying to escape and some where as they ran away – others who were caught were beheaded. Other were taken to hills and fields outside the town and forced to dig their own graves, and made to stand by them until it was their turn to be shot. Some were forced cover the bodies of those just shot with the earth from the graves before suffering a simi liar fate themselves. In some places the victims were collectively forced to dig large mass graves before being gunned down in them. Bulldozers then covered the dead and injured bodies with soil they just dug out.

Some were blindfolded and had their hands behind their back and were shot and left in ditches along roadsides, whilst others were lined up and shot in school playgrounds and on farmland. In one incident around 1500 were locked in a warehouse, sprayed with gun fire and had grenades thrown at them.

The Fate Of The Women & Children

Testimonies by the women and girls who survived the slaughter show that many of them were abused tortured and publicly raped many in full view of their family. One women who could not stop her baby crying had it snatched from her and then its throat cut. Another young boy was killed because he was not capable of raping his nine year old sister. Some of the testimonies at the International War Crimes Tribunal investigating what happened at Sebrenica are barely readable:

Testimony of Ramiza Gurdić:

“I saw how a young boy of about ten was killed by Serbs in Dutch uniform. This happened in front of my own eyes. The mother sat on the ground and her young son sat beside her. The young boy was placed on his mother’s lap. The young boy was killed. His head was cut off. The body remained on the lap of the mother. The Serbian soldier placed the head of the young boy on his knife and showed it to everyone… I saw how a pregnant woman was slaughtered. There were Serbs who stabbed her in the stomach, cut her open and took two small children out of her stomach and then beat them to death on the ground. I saw this with my own eyes.”

Testimony of Kada Hotić:

“There was a young woman with a baby on the way to the bus. The baby cried and a Serbian soldier told her that she had to make sure that the baby was quiet. Then the soldier took the child from the mother and cut its throat. I do not know whether Dutchbat soldiers saw that… There was a sort of fence on the left-hand side of the road to Potocari. I heard then a young woman screaming very close by (4 or 5 meters away). I then heard another woman beg: “Leave her, she is only nine years old.” The screaming suddenly stopped. I was so in shock that I could scarcely move… The rumour later quickly circulated that a nine year old girl had been raped.’”

“[W]e saw two Serb soldiers, one of them was standing guard and the other one was lying on the girl, with his pants off. And we saw a girl lying on the ground, on some kind of mattress. There was blood on the mattress, even she was covered with blood. She had bruises on her legs. There was even blood coming down her legs. She was in total shock. She went totally crazy.”

Bosnian Muslim refugees nearby could see the rape, but could do nothing about it because of Serb soldiers standing nearby. Other people heard women screaming, or saw women being dragged away. Several individuals were so terrified that they committed suicide by hanging themselves. Throughout the night and early the next morning, stories about the rapes and killings spread through the crowd and the terror in the camp escalated.

Screams, gunshots and other frightening noises were audible throughout the night and no one could sleep. Soldiers were picking people out of the crowd and taking them away: some returned; others did not. Witness T recounted how three brothers – one merely a child and the others in their teens – were taken out in the night. When the boys’ mother went looking for them, she found them with their throats slit.

The Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery


image courtsey of Wiki

The memorial was opened in September 2003 by former US President Bill Clinton who told the relatives,and friends of the massacre

” Bad people who lusted for power killed these good people simply because of who they were. But Srebrenica was the beginning of the end of genocide in Europe. […] We remember this terrible crime because we dare not forget, because we must pay tribute to the innocent lives, many of them children, snuffed out in what must be called genocidal madness. […] I hope the very mention of the name “Srebrenica” will remind every child in the world that pride in our own religious and ethnic heritage does not require or permit us to dehumanize or kill those who are different. I hope and pray that Srebrenica will be for all the world a sober reminder of our common humanity. […] May God bless the men and boys of Srebrenica and this sacred land their remains grace.

Srebrenica Potcari Memorial Website.

Epilogue To The Srebrenica Massacre

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) is a United Nations court of law established in 1993 to try individuals, regardless of their political or military status, who are suspected to have committed crimes against humanity during the Balkan Wars The Court based in The Hague (Den Haag) in the Netherlands provides surviving victims of these war crimes with an opportunity to describe the horrors they experienced or witnessed. The Court is empowered to issue International Arrest Warrants for anyone suspected of bearing a great greatest responsibility for an atrocity.

Evidence given by witnesses the Tribunal identified that the Serbian politicians from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Radovan Karadžić and Momčilo Krajišnik were committed to a policy the ethnic cleansing. Their military commander was General Ratko Mladić who made it quite clear before the Srebrenica Massacre that as people were not stones what they expected could only be achieved by genocide. Officers and soldiers under his command subsequently carried out that genocide. As a result warrants for the arrest of Karadžićm Krajišnik and Mladic for war crimes were issued by the Court.

Momčilo Krajišnik was arrested in April 2000. In 2006 he was found guilty of committing crimes against of humanity but acquitted of committing genocide inspite of his association with Karadžić and General Mladic. He was sentenced at the age of 63 to 20 years imprisonment.

Radovan Karadžić was arrested in Belgrade in July 2008 and transferred to The Hague. His trial for war crimes is ongoing.. Ratko Mladic was arrested in May 2011 in the Serbian Vojvodina region and transferred at the end of the month to the Hague. where he is awaiting trial.

Serbian Parliament Apology For The Massacre

In March 2010 the Serbian Parliament apologized for the massacre, but the declaration which was approved by two thirds of it’s members did not tefer to the the crime as “genocide” whicjh relatatives and survivors had demanded.. The resolution text stated “The text of the resolution says, “The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian-Muslim population of Srebrenica in July, 1995.”

Editorial Comment

Sadly anyone found guilty of sanctioning the genocide rapes and murders at Srebrenica and other places is not going to receive a sentence that would come even close to penalizing him for his sins or the sin of others he has sanctioned. Abuse torture rape and murder of anyone because of their ethnicity colour or religion is without question a crime against humanity. That said it is important to distinguish the perpetrators of such atrocities from the race or religion of which they are part. These criminals may abuse their power but it would be wrong to tarnish all their subjects for their actions. We should not Germans because of Hitler, Russians because of Stalin or Islam because of Bin Laden.

Serbia is trying to recover from the troubles of the 1990s and like post World War 11 Germany it should be helped to rebuild it’s country and make its peace with its neighbours. That is the only rational way to ensure that other people with similarly wicked agendas do


not rise to power.. The Balkans might then become a safer place than it has been.



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