Srebrenica Historical Project – SREBRENICA DISSECTED…

Srebrenica Historical Project
Postbus 90471
Den Haag, The Netherlands
+31 64 878 09078 (The Netherlands)
+381 64 403 3612 (Serbia)
Internet site:

From its inception nearly three years ago our NGO was committed to forming a comprehensive and contextual archive of wartime events in and around Srebrenica between 1992 and 1995. We have every reason to be satisfied with the progress of our work. It is focused strictly on the facts and the evidence, it is clinically dispassionate, and it is respectful of everyone involved.
Of course, it is not our mission to simplify our opponents’ life, but neither is it our goal to complicate it. We are always happy to enter into dialogue with anyone, whatever their views, as long as they are prepared to observe minimum standards of intellectual discourse. It is regrettable that our standing offer to try and sort out all Srebrenica issues in a calm and reasonable discussion has met with no response from those whose views and methodology differ from ours. Their constant invocation of the finality of ICTY judgments does not compensate for their systematic avoidance of factual issues and rational analysis. If a court judgment is above scrutiny and automatically settles everything, are we also expected to believe that the Reichstag fire was not politically orchestrated by Hermann Goering but was set as charged by the clueless Van den Lube? After all, there is an unambiguous judgment by a German court that says so. When you control an ad hoc judicial mechanism it is easy to obtain the judgment that you wish. That applies to the German court in 1933 and it applies in equal measure to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.
We have a moral and intellectual duty to seek out the facts and to apply to them all of the resources of our minds. The argument from authority is the weakest and shabbiest form of rhetoric, usually employed by those who lack the self-confidence to face their opponents in open debate. Unfortunately, the partisans of the official narrative on Srebrenica fall massively into that category. Appeals to dubious authorities and ad hominem diversions seem to be the intellectual ground where they feel the most secure. That is surprising considering the impressive academic talent that the partisans of the official Srebrenica narrative claim to have at their disposal. While no Nobel prize winners are yet known to be in their camp, they have a Prof. Dr. Smail Čekić of the “Institute for the research of crimes against humanitz and international law” in Sarajevo and the “Institute for the research of genocide” in Canada, to mention some. The England-based all purpose Srebrenica expert, Marco Attila Hoare, is another notable example.
There are four significant dimensions of the Srebrenica issue that we suggest those worthies should ponder.
[1] The true extent of Bosnian Moslem losses. Other than the legal characterization of the crime, whether genocide or something else, the central issue in the Srebrenica controversy involves the ascertainable number of persons from the enclave who were summarily executed in the immediate aftermath of July 11, 1995, as prisoners of war in violation of their status as protected persons under international law. Though a distinct issue conceptually, the numbers are quite relevant to the crime’s legal description, particularly if we have an interest in sustaining the thesis of genocide. The Genocide convention does not postulate a minimum number of victims, that is true, but there is clearly a psychological threshold of victims that must be satisfied for the charge of genocide to be regarded seriously from a common sense standpoint. In a population of about two million to equate the loss of 8,000 to genocide is stretching it considerably. That is undoubtedly why in the Krstić and Popović cases ICTY chambers referenced their conclusion that what occurred was genocide not to the total Moslem population of Bosnia but to the estimated population of about 40,000 within the Srebrenica enclave, in relation to which the alleged execution of 8,000 residents is much more striking in its psychological impact.
So the number of victims is the first and fundamental issue. We have looked into it thoroughly and we did something that ICTY chambers have inexplicably failed to do: we actually reviewed and meticulously tabulated all of the prosecution forensic evidence. The outcome of that review is shocking. If the official narrative were true, the expectation would be that in terms of the pattern of injury nearly all of the 3,568 Office of the Prosecutor autopsy reports (or cases) would present a uniform picture pointing to execution. But upon close examination several facts which were incompatible with those court decisions and the generally accepted assumptions emerged from the evidence itself. First, there were not even close to 3,568 bodies, one “case” could consist of but a few forensically insignificant bones. Second, based on the internal evidence of the prosecution’s own autopsy reports there was a total of about 1,920 individuals buried in all of the Srebrenica execution related mass graves, far fewer than the 8,000 that premature media reports and politically inspired pronouncements generally claimed that there would be. Third, to the extent that patterns of injury were detectable, even within this drastically reduced population of actually buried persons significant subgroups of several hundred each exhibited injuries consistent with execution and combat death, respectively. There was a separate category totaling 442 which had blindfolds and ligatures, thus removing any doubt that these were, indeed, execution victims. While not negating that a crime had been committed, this complex factual situation cast grave doubt on the alleged number of 8,000 victims.
As the use of classical forensic methodology became less attractive because of its signal failure to generate the requisite number of bodies, during the Popović trial the switch was made to DNA matching as the principal evidentiary tool for establishing the elusive proposition that 8,000 Srebrenica residents had been summarily executed. The task of furnishing this kind of evidence was entrusted to the impenetrable laboratories of the International commission for missing persons, or ICMP for short. ICMP dutifully submitted for the Popović trial the claim that it had “identified” 5,336 Srebrenica victims, which if it had the significance that was attributed to it for the Prosecution was certainly an improvement over previously available statistics.
There are, however, several problems with this claim. First is its relevance. In a criminal proceeding of this nature the key facts that need to be established concern the manner and time of death, not primarily the identity of the deceased. DNA analysis cannot differentiate between a person who was probably executed and a person who was killed in combat. The classical forensic approach, which includes a detailed autopsy report, does have the capacity to do that. Second, even so the list of supposedly “identified” persons was never published either by the court, which cited the numerical data in its judgment, or by ICMP; all we have is a bare number uncorroborated by any other information. Third, whatever it is that ICMP does in its laboratories in Tuzla and elsewhere, it is completely beyond anyone’s capacity to verify. Its main facility in Tuzla does not have international DNA laboratory accreditation, which means that it was not inspected by anyone and does not have to offer proof of its ability to professionally perform its tasks to anybody. Whatever it says must be taken on faith.
The Hague tribunal has done so in the Popović judgment and is no doubt prepared to do that again in the Karadžić and Mladić cases. As for the public at large, they are simply expected to fall in line and not ask any superfluous questions.
So much for the 8,000 Srebrenica victims and the evidence for it.
[2] Serbian victims. The next important dimension of Srebrenica are the victims that are never talked about, the Serbian victims. The trick of excluding them is performed quite efficiently simply by narrowing down the relevant chronology to three days in July of 1995 and completely ignoring the events of the three preceding years.
During that three-year period which preceded the massacre of Moslems in 1995 several dozen Serbian villages surrounding Srebrenica town were attacked and devastated by Moslem army forces from the enclave. According to the Dutch Institute for war documentation (NIOD), these attacks “…followed a certain pattern. Initially, Serbs were driven out of ethnically mixed towns. Then Serbian hamlets surrounded by Muslim towns were attacked and finally the remaining Serbian settlements were overrun. The residents were murdered, their homes were plundered and burnt down or blown up.” As a consequence, “it is estimated that between 1,000 and 1,200 Serbs died in these attacks, while about 3,000 of them were wounded. Ultimately, of the 9,390 Serbian inhabitants of the Srebrenica district, only 860 remained…”
These quite substantial figures are rarely given even fleeting attention in discussions about Srebrenica, but their relevance to what occurred in July of 1995 is indisputable. First of all, because this is precisely what generated the “accumulated hatred” which the UNPROFOR commander, General Philippe Morillon, clearly sensed and said was the consequence of these “terrible massacres.” Second, because these pogroms created a motive for taking revenge on the perceived malefactors when that became possible in July of 1995. The latter point clearly upsets the gratuitous genocide applecart and posits a compelling alternative explanation.
The urgency of keeping the slaughter of the Serbian population of Srebrenica and the surroundings off both the public and the judicial radar screen is reflected in the virulent denunciation of any attempt to bring it up. It is angrily dismissed as “relativization of genocide” and similar unintelligible nonsense. But in fact it is those who are attempting to shove another community’s victims under the rug who are engaged in a process of blatant relativization. To recognize absolutely the equal value and dignity of all human lives and not just of those who belong to our group, especially in a conflict as senseless as the recent one in Bosnia, is the only fair and decent thing to do.
But it seems that we will not soon witness a demonstration of those qualities on the part of those who promote the official Srebrenica line. Two examples should suffice. As we discovered to our great amazement, USAID and other international air and reconstruction agencies which have been active in Srebrenica and the surroundings had (and may still have) the practice of conditioning their assistance on its being distributed to Moslem recipients only and Serbs being specifically excluded, on the premise that the former are the officially designated victims while the latter are the aggressors and therefore not entitled to any benefits. How the “aggressor” profile fits the average Serbian peasant from a village 5 kilometers from Srebrenica whose house was destroyed and family members murdered by armed Moslem neighbors during the conflict is difficult to discern. The second example is the “Bosnian atlas of war crimes” prepared by the Center for research and documentation in Sarajevo. This monumental and, by comparison to other similar efforts, on the whole refreshingly honest statistical presentation of the conflict, fails where Srebrenica is concerned.
The Atlas explicitly violates its own proclaimed methodology by adhering unyieldingly to the 7,000-plus figure of Srebrenica execution victims even though it presents no personalized data for each individual casualty as required by its standard procedure and generally observed in less politically “sensitive” areas. Furthermore, a visit to the “Incidents” section of its site reveals the amazing fact that, except for Kravica, not a single Serbian village in the proximity of Srebrenica that during the war was subjected to devastating raids by forces from within the enclave is depicted. Kravica was inserted grudgingly at the beginning of this year following our insistence to Mr. Mirsad Tokača, the Center’s director to stop ignoring the suffering of the Serbian community in Srebrenica and to include their razed villages (of which we furnished him an extensive list) in his Atlas as well. Alas, nothing of the sort has happened so far, sending a clear message that in the view of Srebrenica genocide advocates the successful affirmation of crimes against Moslems depends critically on the denial of crimes committed against the Serbs.
[3] Legitimate losses of the mixed military-civilian column in July of 1995. The next very important dimension that our potential interlocutors will have to study very carefully, and which cannot but have a grave impact on their case, are the legitimate losses sustained by the 12,000 to 15,000 men strong 28th Division column. After the fall of the enclave on July 11, 1995, it conducted a breakout toward Moslem-held territory in Tuzla over rugged terrain, through minefields, and while engaging in constant combat with Serbian army forces. Most persons have never heard of this important episode or they have very little specific knowledge of it, and there is a compelling reason for that. In relation to the official narrative this issue is quite explosive. Here is why.
Our NGO, “Srebrenica Historical Project,” has published data from 33 statements made by surviving participants in the 28th Division breakout in which 19 locations along the column’s path where combat with Serbian forces took place are named and where, according to these eyewitnesses, the column from Srebrenica sustained extremely heavy casualties. The fact that “a significant number of Moslems died in combat” was affirmed by the chief investigator of the Office of the Prosecutor of the Hague Tribunal, Jean-Rene Ruez. Ruez went on to say that “as far as those who died in the woods are concerned, we must consider that they were killed in battle.” That means that for their deaths under international law there is no criminal liability. The Tribunal’s military expert, Richard Butler, stated under cross-examination in the Popović trial that in his professional opinion up to 2,000 Srebrenica Moslems in the column probably perished in combat during this breakout. There are other estimates as well, such as Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina chief of staff Enver Hadžihasanović’s of 2,628 combat casualties and peace negotiator Carl Bildt’s of “more than four thousand.”
The precise number of those combat casualties may never be determined but the combined evidence of eyewitness testimony and assessments by those who were in an expert or official capacity and thus were in a position to know is that they were enormous.
That poses some very acute questions. Are we being misled to believe that what are actually the remains of people killed in combat belong to execution victims? What mechanism, if any, is in place to differentiate these legally very distinct categories? If these combat casualties are criminal acts, why hasn’t anybody at ICTY or before the war crimes court in Sarajevo ever been indicted for shooting at the column and killing its members? If they are not, how can we be reasonably certain in individual cases, with the exception of those involving blindfolds and ligatures, that death was inflicted unlawfully instead of occurring in the course of legitimate combat? The burden of proof, let us recall, is always on the prosecution.
This puts the third serious challenge to Srebrenica genocide advocates in bold relief. Legitimate combat was the other significant cause of death and source of abundant human remains in and around Srebrenica, besides execution. A reasonable explanation must be furnished of how it fits in within the general scheme of Srebrenica events or what purports to be respectable judicial opinion or scholarly analysis will simply collapse to the level of crude propaganda.
If there is a necessity to “borrow” body parts from other theaters, such as combat, in order to quantitatively boost the genocide exhibit, the official Srebrenica mantra, as ritualistically repeated over the last decade and a half, will need to be reexamined, and very critically.
[4] The prehistory of Srebrenica. The expression “prehistory of Srebrenica” to our knowledge was first used by the Norwegian film director Ola Flyum in his brilliant documentary, “Srebrenica: A town betrayed.” It is very apt in the way he uses it and we are happy to adopt it. It does not refer to events which took place in the Neolithic but to the machinations and sordid political deals on many levels which beginning in late 1993 set the stage for the tragedy which ultimately befell the Moslem people of Srebrenica. That is another largely hidden dimension of this vastly complex narrative.
In essence, it begins in September of 1993 in Sarajevo, at a time when the military situation looked particularly ominous for Alija Izetbegović and his government. A meeting of the ruling party, SDA, was convoked, including a delegation from the UN protected enclave of Srebrenica. According to one of the participants and eyewitnesses, Hakija Meholjić, Srebrenica chief of police at that time, during a pause in the proceedings Izetbegović summoned the delegates from Srebrenica in order to convey to them a startling proposition: based on an alleged conversation Izetbegović had had with President Clinton, the latter suggested that if the Serbs could be enticed to capture Srebrenica, which by then had already become a potent international symbol, and “slaughter” 5,000 Moslems there, skeptical public opinion in the United States would be so outraged that it would acquiesce to a military intervention on the side of Izetbegović’s Moslem-dominated government in Sarajevo. To sweeten the deal, the men from Srebrenica were told that arrangements had already been made that in the ultimate territorial swap the Serbian suburb of Vogošća would be ceded to the remaining inhabitants of Srebrenica as compensation for their losses. The authenticity and the implications of this shocking scheme are extensively explored by Ola Flyum in his documentary.
Before dismissing Meholjić’s testimony it is worthwhile to consider some corroborative “coincidences.” It emerges from the “Debriefing” of the Dutch battalion that not only was demilitarization, as stipulated in the April 1993 agreement setting up the UN protected zone, never carried out but throughout the period of the Dutch presence (February 1994 – July 1995) the enclave was used with impunity by the Moslem army within it as a springboard for attacks on the surrounding Serbian areas. One might almost be excused for wondering if these attacks were designed to provoke just the sort of violent response that might plausibly serve as a catalyst for the desired intervention. As the war was obviously approaching its final phases and in anticipation of the final settlement it became necessary to arrange territorial loose ends. In April 1995 the Moslem commander in Srebrenica, Naser Orić, and his top military assistants were recalled to Sarajevo, allegedly for “additional training,” leaving the enclave without effective leadership. In late June of 1995, forces from the enclave staged a raid on the Serbian village of Višnjica, which finally exhausted the patience of the Serbian side, and plans for a military operation against the enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa were dusted off. But the relationship of forces was most curious. Serbian attackers had assembled about 400 men and four tanks, who were facing on the other side the Moslem army’s 28th Division comprising about 5,500 soldiers. In the opinion of UN military observer Carlos Martins Branco, the present refusal of the previously combative Srebrenica Moslem contingent to fight was the more inexplicable as both their numerical advantage and the rough terrain ideal for defensive action clearly favored them. But instead, the military-age men collected in the village of Šušnjari and from there undertook their 60 kilometer trek through minefields and Serbian ambushes to Tuzla. Naturally, had they stood their ground and fought there would have been distinct political drawbacks. For example, they would have revealed the fact that they were well armed and they would have risked losing their victim status. As for the women, children, and elderly, they were left behind and deposited at the UN compound in Potočari. Quite possibly that was done as a convenient bait to the Serbs to perpetrate the anticipated massacre, but whatever may have been the hidden rationale behind such conduct on the whole nothing sinister occurred. The 20,000 or so enclave residents dumped in Potočari were put by the Serbs on buses and evacuated safely to Moslem territory.
Even this brief and incomplete synopsis of the antecedents of Srebrenica suggests strikingly that deep additional research is necessary into the many factors that are of vital significance but which lie outside the scope of the simplistic “three genocidal days in July of 1995” Srebrenica propaganda scenario, if we are ever to attain to a reasonably satisfactory understanding of these events.
None of the enumerated dimensions of the problem at hand, actually key Srebrenica research topics, is ever dealt with in a sustained and scholarly (let alone honest) fashion by the advocates of the institutionalized narrative. The holes in the official account of events and unresolved issues that we have set forth make it imperative not to be intimidated by the agenda driven Srebrenica lobby. Peace and good neighborliness in the Balkans can never be reached while bypassing the truth. There is no shortcut.

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