News 13 Jul 17

Serbia Delivered Srebrenica Refugees to Mladic: Report

The Humanitarian Law Centre NGO said it will file criminal complaints against Serbian officials involved in handing over Bosniak refugees from Srebrenica who fled to Serbia to Ratko Mladic’s forces.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade

A Bosniak woman at a funeral ceremony at the Srebrenica memorial on July 11. Photo: Beta/AP/Amel Emric.

The Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre said in a report launched on Thursday that it has identified 30 Bosniak refugees who crossed the border seeking shelter in Yugoslavia after the July 1995 genocide in Srebrenica, but were handed over to Bosnian Serb forces, who killed at least 15 of them.

Nine of the Bosniaks are still listed as missing and six survived.

At the launch of the Humanitarian Law Centre report in Belgrade, one of the survivors, Muhamed Avdic, recalled how he lost his father, Azem, who remains listed as a missing person.

“My mother, sister and I parted with father on March 30, 1993, when [Bosnian Serb commander Ratko] Mladic’s forces were around Srebrenica,” said Avdic, who was a teenager at the time.

His father stayed behind while the rest of the family took a UN refugee agency humanitarian aid truck to the nearby town of Tuzla. Their only communication with Azem was through letters sent via the Red Cross.

“When Srebrenica was declared a safe zone, we were happy and waiting for father to return. In August 1995 we received information that he had been captured,” Avdic said.

The HLC had found official records showing that Azem was caught on July 31, 1995, 20 days after the fall of Srebrenica, by police in the Serbian town of Bajina Basta.

They handed him over to the border police, who in turn gave him to the Bratunac Brigade of the Bosnian Serb Army; he was never seen since.

After Srebrenica was captured on July 11, 1995, Serb forces killed some 8,000 Bosniaks, which the international courts have qualified as an act of genocide.

After the mass murders, the Bosnian Serb Army pursued the Bosniaks who had escaped. The pursuit, capture, and murders continued for weeks after the fall of Srebrenica, according to the Humanitarian Law Centre.

“Every man who was caught on Serbian territory was handed over to the Bosnian Serb Army, including those who, according to police records, resorted to self-harm to prevent [themselves] from being returned,” said Milica Kostic from the Humanitarian Law Centre.

According to the report, no domestic or international court has ever prosecuted Serbian officials for the crimes.

One of the few survivors, Abdurahman Malkic, said he left Srebrenica as the town was being captured in July 1995.

“I took the road to salvation, towards [Bosniak-controlled territory in] Tuzla, there were 15,000 of us in a ten-kilometre column,” Malkic said.

After constant attacks on the refugee column, he and his brother swam over the river Drina and crossed into Serbia.

According to records obtained by the HLC, they were captured together with other men on July 23.

After being sent back to Bosnia, six of them, including Malkic, were transfered to the Batkovic prisoner camp near Bijeljina. They were the only ones who survived the deportations.

“It was a routine operation. Men were captured by the Serbian police, then turned over to the border police in Bajina Basta or Ljubovija. There they were interrogated, tortured, and turned over to the border police of [Bosnian Serb entity] Republika Srpska, which in turn handed them over to the Bosnian Serb Army,” Kostic said.

She added that Serbia knew that the men were refugees from Srebrenica, and that they were in danger from the Bosnian Serb police and military.

“Most importantly, everybody knew that the men from Srebrenica were systematically murdered by the thousands,” she said.

At the presentation of the report, Muhamed Avdic showed a picture of his father, a school teacher, surrounded by the Bosniak and Serb children that he taught.

“Since we are facing denial of genocide and claims that the numbers [of Srebrenica victims] are made up, here is the proof my father lived,” Avdic said.

“I hope that the state authorities who wish to defend Serbia’s honour will do something and punish the culprits,” he added.

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Background

Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.

Ratko Mladic: The Force Behind the Srebrenica Killings

The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.

The Indictment Against Ratko Mladic

Indictments in 1995 and 2000, further amended in 2002 and 2010, charge the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army with genocide and other crimes.

Ratko Mladic: From Promising Officer to Bloodstained Warlord

When Mladic ordered his army to bomb the people of Sarajevo until they ‘go insane’, he revealed the murderous intentions that would culminate in the Srebrenica massacre.

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