The Srebrenica Massacre, also known as Srebrenica Genocide, was the July 1995 killing of an estimated 8,000 Bosniak men and boys in the region of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina by units of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) under the command of General Ratko Mladić during the Bosnian War. In addition to the VRS, a paramilitary unit from Serbia known as the Scorpions participated in the massacre. Prior to the genocide, the United Nations had declared Srebrenica a UN protected "safe area", but that did not prevent the massacre, even though 400 armed Dutch peacekeepers were present at the time. After reviewing a comprehensive report, the Dutch government resigned over this matter in 2002.
The Srebrenica massacre is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. In 2004, in a unanimous ruling on the "Prosecutor v. Krstić" case, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) located in The Hague ruled that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide, the Presiding Judge Theodor Meron stating:
In February 2007 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concurred with the ICTY judgement that the acts committed at Srebrenica consisted a genocide, stating:
It also ruled that Serbia failed to take "all measures within its power" to prevent the genocide, and that Serbia was to cooperate fully with the ICTY and that it must transfer to the Hague individuals accused of genocide or any other acts for trial by the ICTY, and several fugitives from the ICTY remain at large and are suspected of hiding in the Bosnian Republic of Srpska or in Serbia.
Although those killed were almost entirely men and teenage boys, the massacre also included instances where boys under 15, men over the age of 65, and reportedly also a baby were killed. The Preliminary List of People Missing or Killed in Srebrenica compiled by the Bosnian Federal Commission of Missing Persons contains 8,373 names, of whom at least 500 were under 18 and includes several dozen women and some girls. As of 2008, more than 5,600 victims have been identified through DNA analysis and 3215 victims have been buried at the Memorial Center of Potocari.
After declaring independence from Yugoslavia on October 15, 1991, the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was formally recognized by the European Community on April 6, 1992, and by the United States the following day. A fierce struggle for territorial control then ensued among the three major groups in Bosnia: Bosniak (commonly known as 'Bosnian Muslims'), Serb and Croat. In the eastern part of Bosnia, close to Serbia, conflict was particularly fierce between Serbs and Bosniaks.
The predominantly Bosniak area of Central Podrinje (the region around Srebrenica) had a primary strategic importance to Serbs, as without it there would be no territorial integrity within their new political entity of Republika Srpska. They thus proceeded with the ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks from Bosniak ethnic territories in Eastern Bosnia and Central Podrinje. In the words of the ICTY judgement:
In neighbouring Bratunac, Bosniaks were either killed or forced to flee to Srebrenica, resulting in 1,156 deaths, according to Bosnian government data. Thousands of Bosniaks were also killed in Foča, Zvornik, Cerska and Snagovo.
Over the remainder of 1992, offensives by Bosnian government forces from Srebrenica increased the area under their control, and by January 1993 they had linked up with Bosniak-held Žepa to the south and Cerska to the west. At this time the Srebrenica enclave reached its peak size of 900 square kilometres (350 sqmi), although it was never linked to the main area of Bosnian-government controlled land in the west and remained, in the words of the ICTY, "a vulnerable island amid Serb-controlled territory".
Over the next few months, the Serb military captured the villages of Konjević Polje and Cerska, severing the link between Srebrenica and Žepa and reducing the size of the Srebrenica enclave to 150 square kilometres. Bosniak residents of the outlying areas converged on Srebrenica town and its population swelled to between 50,000 and 60,000 people.
General Philippe Morillon of France, Commander of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), visited Srebrenica in March 1993. By then the town was overcrowded and siege conditions prevailed. There was almost no running water as the advancing Serb forces had destroyed the town’s water supplies; people relied on makeshift generators for electricity, and food, medicine and other essentials were extremely scarce. Before leaving, General Morillon told the panicked residents of Srebrenica at a public gathering that the town was under the protection of the UN and that he would never abandon them.
Between March and April 1993 several thousand Bosniaks were evacuated from Srebrenica under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The evacuations were opposed by the Bosnian government in Sarajevo as contributing to the ethnic cleansing of predominantly Bosniak territory.
The Serb authorities remained intent on capturing the enclave. On April 13, 1993, the Serbs told the UNHCR representatives that they would attack the town within two days unless the Bosniaks surrendered and agreed to be evacuated. The Bosniaks refused to surrender.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 soldiers from three of the Serb army's Drina Corps Brigades were deployed around the enclave, equipped with tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and mortars. The 28th Mountain Division of the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH) remaining in the enclave was neither well organised nor equipped: a firm command structure and communications system was lacking and some soldiers carried old hunting rifles or no weapons at all. Few had proper uniforms.
From the outset, both parties to the conflict violated the “safe area” agreement. Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Karremans (the Dutchbat Commander) testified to the ICTY that his personnel were prevented from returning to the enclave by Serb forces and that equipment and ammunition were also prevented from getting in. Bosniaks in Srebrenica complained of attacks by Serb soldiers, while to the Serbs it appeared that Bosnian government forces in Srebrenica were using the “safe area” as a convenient base from which to launch counter-offensives against the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) and that UNPROFOR was failing to take any action to prevent it. General Halilović admitted that ARBiH helicopters had flown in violation of the no-fly zone and that he had personally dispatched eight helicopters with ammunition for the 28th Division.
In March 1995, Radovan Karadžić, President of Republika Srpska (RS), in spite of pressure from the international community to end the war and ongoing efforts to negotiate a peace agreement, issued a directive to the VRS concerning the long-term strategy of the VRS forces in the enclave. The directive, known as “Directive 7”, specified that the VRS was to:
By mid 1995, the humanitarian situation of the Bosniak civilians and military personnel in the enclave was catastrophic. In May, following orders, Naser Orić and his staff left the enclave by helicopter to Tuzla, leaving ranking officers in command of the 28th Division. In late June and early July, the 28th Division issued a series of reports including urgent pleas for the humanitarian corridor to the enclave to be reopened. When this failed, Bosniak civilians began dying from starvation. On Friday, July 7, the mayor of Srebrenica reported 8 residents had died of starvation.
On July 8, a Dutch YPR-765 armored vehicle took fire from the Serbs and withdrew. A group of Bosniaks demanded that the armored vehicle stay to defend them. When the Dutch refused, one Bosniak threw a hand grenade on the vehicle, killing soldier Raviv van Renssen.
Serb forces entered the UN Safe Area in July 1995. Late on 9 July 1995, emboldened by early successes and little resistance from largely demilitarized Bosniaks, as well as the absence of any significant reaction from the international community, President Karadžić issued a new order authorising the VRS Drina Corps to capture the town of Srebrenica.
On the morning of July 10, 1995, the situation in Srebrenica was tense. Residents crowded the streets. The Dutch UNPROFOR troops fired warning shots over the attacking Serbs’ heads and their mortars fired flares but they never fired directly on any Serb units. Lieutenant-Colonel Karremans sent urgent requests for NATO air support to defend the town, but no assistance was forthcoming until around 2:30PM on July 11, 1995, when NATO bombed VRS tanks advancing towards the town. NATO planes also attempted to bomb VRS artillery positions overlooking the town, but had to abort the operation due to poor visibility. NATO plans to continue the air strikes were abandoned following the Serb Army's threats to kill Dutch troops being held in the custody of the VRS as well as shell the UN Potočari compound on the outside of the town, and surrounding areas where 20,000 to 30,000 civilians had fled.
The Dutch soldiers operating under the auspices of the UN have been criticized for their part in failing to protect the Bosniak refugees in the safe haven. Lieutenant-Colonel Karremans was filmed drinking a toast with genocide suspect and Serb general Ratko Mladić during the bungled negotiations on the fate of civilian population grouped in Potočari. On the other hand, the UN soldiers felt abandoned by their command in Sarajevo and were already virtual or even actual hostages of the Serb troops. In addition, the area of 10 square kilometers was impossible to defend with 400 troops with small arms.
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, said Mladić.
Conditions in Potočari were deplorable. There was very little food or water available and the July heat was stifling. One of the Dutchbat officers described the scene as follows:
That night, a Dutchbat medical orderly witnessed two Serb soldiers raping a young woman.
One survivor described the murder of a baby and the rape of women occurring in the close vicinity of Dutch U.N. peacekeepers who did nothing to prevent it. According to the survivor, a Serb told a mother to make her child stop crying, and when it continued to cry he took it and slit its throat, after which he laughed. Stories about rapes and killings spread through the crowd and the terror in the camp escalated. Several individuals were so terrified that they committed suicide by hanging themselves.
On 13 July 1995, Dutchbat troops witnessed definite signs that the Serb soldiers were murdering some of the Bosniak men who had been separated. For example, Corporal Vaasen saw two soldiers take a man behind the "White House", heard a shot and saw the two soldiers reappear alone. Another Dutchbat officer saw Serb soldiers murder an unarmed man with a single gunshot to the head and heard gunshots 20–40 times an hour throughout the afternoon. When the Dutchbat soldiers told Colonel Joseph Kingori, a United Nations Military Observer (UNMO) in the Srebrenica area, that men were being taken behind the "White House" and not coming back, Colonel Kingori went to investigate. He heard gunshots as he approached, but was stopped by Serb soldiers before he could find out what was going on.
Some of the executions were carried out at night under arc lights, and industrial bulldozers then pushed the bodies into mass graves. According to evidence collected from Bosniaks by French policeman Jean-René Ruez, some were buried alive; he also heard testimony describing Serb forces killing and torturing refugees at will, streets littered with corpses, people committing suicide to avoid having their noses, lips and ears chopped off, and adults being forced to watch the soldiers kill their children.
Some buses apparently never reached safety. According to a witness account given by Kadir Habibović, who hid himself on one of the first buses from the base in Potočari to Kladanj, he saw at least one vehicle full of Bosniak women being driven away from Bosnian government-held territory.
At around 10 p.m., the division command, together with the Bosniak municipal authorities of Srebrenica, made the decision to form the column. The men believed they stood a better chance of surviving by trying to escape through the woods to Tuzla than let themselves fall into Serb hands. The column gathered near the villages of Jaglici and Šušnjari and began the trek north. Witnesses estimate there were between 10,000 and 15,000 men in the retreating column; around 5,000 were military personnel from the 28th Division, although not all of them were armed. Others in the column included the political leaders of the enclave, medical staff of the local hospital and the families of prominent persons in Srebrenica. A small number of women, children and elderly travelled with the column in the woods.
At around midnight on July 11, 1995, the column started moving along the axis between Konjević Polje and Bratunac. On July 12, 1995, Serb forces launched an artillery attack against the column that was crossing an asphalt road between the area of Konjević Polje and Nova Kasaba en route to Tuzla. Only about one third of the men successfully made it across the asphalt road and the column was split in two parts. Heavy shooting and shelling continued against the remainder of the column throughout the day and during the night. Men from the rear of the column who survived this ordeal described it as a manhunt.
An advance reconnaissance party of four guides went ahead of the column and maintained a lead of approximately five kilometres. Next there was a group comprising 50 to 100 of the best soldiers from each brigade, each carrying the best available equipment; next in line was the 281st Brigade. The rest of the column followed at some distance. At the rear was the weakest and least heavily armed brigade, the 282nd. The best troops were therefore all at the front of the column; here too were the elite of the enclave, including the mother and sister of Naser Orić. Each brigade took a group of refugees under its wing. Many civilians joined the military units spontaneously as the journey got underway.
The men's breakout from the enclave and their attempts to reach Tuzla came as a surprise to the VRS and caused considerable confusion, as the VRS had expected the men to go to Potočari. Serb general Milan Gvero in a briefing described the column as "hardened and violent criminals who will stop at nothing to prevent being taken prisoner and to enable their escape into Bosnian territory." The Drina Corps and the various brigades were ordered to devote all available manpower to the task of finding and taking prisoner the men of the column.
Many people remained in the Kamenica Hill area for a number of days, unable to move on with the escape route blocked by Serb forces. Thousands of Bosniaks surrendered or were captured. In many instances, false assurances of safety were provided to the refugees by Serb military personnel wearing stolen UN uniforms and by Bosniaks who had been captured and ordered to summon their friends and family members from the woods. There are also reports that Serb forces used megaphones to call on the marchers to surrender, telling them that they would be exchanged for Serb soldiers held captive by Bosniak forces. Furthermore, there were rumours that VRS personnel in civilian dress had infiltrated the column at Kamenica.
The Bratunac Brigade discovered four children aged between 8 and 14 among the Bosniaks; they were taken to the barracks in Bratunac. When one of them described seeing a large number of ARBiH soldiers committing suicide and shooting at each other, Brigade Commander Blagojević suggested that the Drina Corps' press unit should record this testimony on video. The fate of the boys remains uncertain. The VRS also sent one of the civilians who wished to surrender back towards the column: one of his eyes had been gouged out, his ears had been cut off and a cross carved into his forehead. A small number of women, children and elderly people who had been part of the column were allowed to join the buses evacuating the women and children out of Potočari. Among them was Alma Delimustafić, a woman soldier of the 28th Brigade; at this time, Delimustafić was in civilian clothes and was released.
According to Lieutenant Džemail Bećirović, the column managed to break through the ambush and, in so doing, capture a VRS officer, Major Zoran Janković—providing the Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a significant bargaining counter. This prompted an attempt at negotiating a cessation in the fighting, but negotiations with local Serb forces failed. Nevertheless, the act of repulsing the ambush had a positive effect on morale of the marchers, who also captured an amount of weapons and supplies.
The column reached Krizevici later that day, and remained there while an attempt was made to negotiate with local Serb forces for safe passage through the Serb lines into Bosnian government controlled territory. The members of the column were advised to stay where they were, and to allow the Serb forces time to arrange for safe passage. It soon became apparent, though, that the small Serb force deployed in the area was only trying to gain time to organize a further attack on the marchers. In the area of Marcici-Crni the RS armed forces deployed 500 soldiers and policemen in order to stop the split part of column (about 2,500 people), which was moving from Glodi towards Marcici.
At this point, the column’s leaders decided to form several small groups of between 100 and 200 persons and send these to reconnoiter the way ahead. Early in the afternoon, the 2nd Corps and the 28th Division of the ARBiH met each other in the village of Potocani. The presidium of Srebrenica were the first to reach Bosnian terrain.
On the evening of July 15, a heavy hailstorm caused the Serb forces to take cover. The column’s advance group took advantage of this to attack the Serb rear lines at Baljkovica. During the fighting, the main body of what remained of the column began to move from Krizevici. It reached the area of fighting at about 3 a.m. on Sunday, July 16, just as the forward groups managed to breach the line of the Zvornik Brigade's 4th Infantry Battalion. Unable to move several captured heavy arms including two Praga self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, they used them to fire into the Serb front line. Thus the column finally succeeded in breaking through to Bosnian government controlled territory and linked up with BiH units which had assaulted the 4th Battalion's front in order to meet the column at between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. on July 16.
The survivors felt a certain bitterness towards the UN because it had not been able to protect the "Safe Area." That bitterness and resentment was also directed towards the 2nd Corps of the ARBiH and the column's arrival on territory controlled by ARBiH was marked by a number of incidents. In one, a member of the 28th Division opened fire at the Corps Commander, Sead Delić, who had resisted all calls from his officers for a military push to link up with fleeing soldiers and civilians; a military police bodyguard was killed, while another returned fire and killed the sniper. The tensions were so great following the crossing of the line of engagement that staff officers of 2nd Corps removed their insignia so that they could not be recognized as staff officers at all. According to the Deputy Corps Commander, the division had "turned against the 2nd Corps." In fact, the lack of confidence in the 2nd Corps was nothing new, as the 28th Division had felt abandoned already in Srebrenica.
As the march progressed, many people fell behind, lost the way or decided to turn back into more familiar territory in the Srebrenica region and to attempt to reach Žepa from there. Others tried to push onwards in the wake of the vanguard of the column, following the signs that people had passed here, which included corpses—as the fighting between the VRS and ARBiH, ambushes, fighting among factions within the column, suicide, exhaustion and the rigours of the journey would have claimed an unknown number of lives and the bodies of these people remained unburied in the woods. The groups who managed to complete the journey to Tuzla took widely varying times to do so; in a few extreme cases, people reached Bosnian territory only after several months.
Once the armed portion of the column had passed through, Serb forces closed the corridor and recommenced hunting down parts of the column which were still in areas under their control. On 16 July 1995, there were around 2,000 refugees hiding in the woods in the area of Pobudje, with many more scattered elsewhere.
Although Bosnian Serb forces had long been blamed for the massacre, it was not until June 2004—following the Srebrenica commission's preliminary report—that Serb officials acknowledged that their security forces planned and carried out the mass killing. A Serb commission's final report on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre acknowledged that the mass murder of the men and boys was planned. The commission found that more than 7,800 were killed after it compiled thirty-four lists of victims.
The question of why the executions took place at all is not easy to answer. During Radislav Krstić's trial before the ICTY, the prosecution's military advisor, Richard Butler, pointed out in taking this course of action, the Bosnian Serb Army deprived themselves of an extremely valuable bargaining counter. Butler suggested that they would have had far more to gain had they taken the men in Potočari as prisoners of war, under the supervision of the International Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN troops still in the area. It might then have been possible to enter into some sort of exchange deal or they might have been able to force political concessions. Based on this reasoning, the ensuing mass murder defied military explanation.
Although a small number of children (under 15) and older men (over 65) were killed, the main focus of the VRS was on able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60. The buses which transported the women and children were systematically searched for men. Although very few, some exceptions were made; they included the casualties in Bratunac hospital who had previously been treated in the Dutchbat compound at Potočari. Thus, a concerted effort was made to capture and kill almost all Bosniak men of military age. All of them were targeted regardless of whether they chose to flee to Potočari or to join the Bosniak column.
The Army of Republika Srpska took the largest number of prisoners on 13 July, along the Bratunac-Konjević Polje road. It remains impossible to cite a precise figure, but witness statements describe the assembly points such as the field at Sandići, the agricultural warehouses in Kravica, the school in Konjević Polje, the football field in Nova Kasaba, the village of Lolići and the village school of Luke. Several thousands of people were herded together in the field near Sandići and on the Nova Kasaba football pitch, where they were searched and put into smaller groups. In a video tape made by journalist Zoran Petrović, a Serb soldier states that at least 3,000 to 4,000 men had given themselves up on the road. By the late afternoon of 13 July, the total had risen to some 6,000, according to the intercepted radio communication; the following day, Major Franken of Dutchbat was given the same figure by Colonel Radislav Janković of the Serb army. Many of the prisoners had been seen in the locations described by passing convoys taking the women and children to Kladanj by bus, while various aerial photographs have since provided evidence to confirm this version of events.
One hour after the evacuation of the women from Potočari was completed, the Drina Corps staff diverted the buses to the areas in which the men were being held. Colonel Krsmanović, who on 12 July had arranged the buses for the evacuation, ordered the 700 men in Sandići to be collected, and the soldiers guarding them made them throw their possessions on a large heap and hand over anything of value. During the afternoon, the group in Sandići was visited by Mladić who told them that they would come to no harm, that they would be treated as prisoners of war, that they would be exchanged for other prisoners and that their families had been escorted to Tuzla in safety. Some of these men were placed on the transport to Bratunac and other locations, while some were marched on foot to the warehouses in Kravica. The men gathered on the football ground at Nova Kasaba were forced to hand over their personal belongings. They too received a personal visit from Mladić during the afternoon of 13 July; on this occasion, he announced that the Bosnian authorities in Tuzla did not want the men and that they were therefore to be taken to other locations. The men in Nova Kasaba were loaded onto buses and trucks and were taken to Bratunac or the other locations.
The Bosniak men who had been separated from the women, children and elderly in Potočari numbering approximately 1,000, were transported to Bratunac and subsequently joined by Bosniak men captured from the column. Almost to a man, the thousands of Bosniak prisoners captured, following the take-over of Srebrenica, were executed. Some were killed individually or in small groups by the soldiers who captured them and some were killed in the places where they were temporarily detained. Most, however, were killed in carefully orchestrated mass executions, commencing on 13 July 1995, in the region just north of Srebrenica.
The mass executions followed a well-established pattern. The men were first taken to empty schools or warehouses. After being detained there for some hours, they were loaded onto buses or trucks and taken to another site for execution. Usually, the execution fields were in isolated locations. The prisoners were unarmed and, in many cases, steps had been taken to minimize resistance, such as blindfolding them, binding their wrists behind their backs with ligatures or removing their shoes. Once at the killing fields, the men were taken off the trucks in small groups, lined up and shot. Those who survived the initial round of gunfire were individually shot with an extra round, though sometimes only after they had been left to suffer for a time.
Aerial photos and excavations later confirmed the presence of a mass grave near this location. Ammunition cartridges found at the scene reveal that the victims were lined up on one side of the road, whereupon their executioners opened fire from the other. The bodies—150 in number—were covered with earth where they lay. It could later be established that they had been killed by rifle fire. All were males, between the ages of 14 and 50. All but three of the 150 were wearing civilian clothes. Many had their hands tied behind their backs. Nine could later be identified and were indeed on the list of missing persons from Srebrenica.
At around 18.00 hours, when the men were all being held in the warehouse, VRS soldiers threw in hand grenades and opened fire with various weapons, including rocket propelled grenades. In the local area it is said that the mass murder in Kravica was unplanned and started quite spontaneously when one of the warehouse doors suddenly swung open.
Supposedly, there was more killing in and around Kravica and Sandići. Even before the murders in the warehouse, some 200 or 300 men were formed up in ranks near Sandići and then mown down with machine guns. At Kravica, it seems that the local population had a hand in the killings. Some victims were mutilated and killed with knives. The bodies were taken to Bratunac or simply dumped in the river that runs alongside the road. One witness states that this all took place on the 14 July. There were three survivors of the mass murder in the farm sheds at Kravica.
Armed guards shot at the men who tried to climb out the windows to escape the massacre. When the shooting stopped, the shed was full of bodies. Another survivor, who was only slightly wounded, reports:
When this witness climbed out of a window, he was seen by a guard who shot at him. He then pretended to be dead and managed to escape the following morning. The other witness quoted above spent the night under a heap of bodies; the next morning, he watched as the soldiers examined the corpses for signs of life. The few survivors were forced to sing Serbian songs, and were then shot. Once the final victim had been killed, an excavator was driven in to shunt the bodies out of the shed; the asphalt outside was then hosed down with water. In September 1996, however, it was still possible to find the evidence.
Analyses of hair, blood and explosives residue collected at the Kravica Warehouse provide strong evidence of the killings. Experts determined the presence of bullet strikes, explosives residue, bullets and shell cases, as well as human blood, bones and tissue adhering to the walls and floors of the building. Forensic evidence presented by the ICTY Prosecutor established a link between the executions in Kravica and the 'primary' mass grave known as Glogova 2, in which the remains of 139 people were found. In the 'secondary' grave known as Zeleni Jadar 5 there were 145 bodies, a number of which were charred. Pieces of brick and window frame which were found in the Glogova 1 grave that was opened later also established a link with Kravica. Here, the remains of 191 victims were found.
From the checkpoint, an officer directed the soldier escorting the witness towards a nearby school where many other prisoners were being held. At the school, a soldier on a field telephone appeared to be transmitting and receiving orders. Sometime around midnight, the witness was loaded onto a truck with 22 other men with their hands tied behind their backs. At one point the truck stopped and a soldier on the scene said: "Not here. Take them up there, where they took people before." The truck reached another stopping point where the soldiers came around to the back of the truck and started shooting the prisoners. The survivor escaped by running away from the truck and hiding in a forest.
After being held in the gym for several hours, the men were led out in small groups to the execution fields that afternoon. Each prisoner was blindfolded and given a drink of water as he left the gym. The prisoners were then taken in trucks to the execution fields less than one kilometre away. The men were lined up and shot in the back; those who survived the initial gunfire were killed with an extra shot. Two adjacent meadows were used; once one was full of bodies, the executioners moved to the other. While the executions were in progress, the survivors said, earth-moving equipment was digging the graves. A witness who survived the shootings by pretending to be dead, reported that General Mladić drove up in a red car and watched some of the executions.
The forensic evidence supports crucial aspects of the survivors’ testimony. Both, aerial and satellite photos show that the ground in Orahovac was disturbed between 5 July and 27 July 1995 and again between 7 September and 27 September 1995. Two primary mass graves were uncovered in the area, and were named Lazete 1 and Lazete 2 by investigators.
The Lazete 1 gravesite was exhumed by the ICTY Prosecution between 13 July and 3 August 2000. All of the 130 individuals uncovered, for whom sex could be determined, were male; 138 blindfolds were uncovered in the grave. Identification material for 23 persons, listed as missing following the fall of Srebrenica, was located during the exhumations at this site. The gravesite Lazete 2 was partly exhumed by a joint team from the Office of the Prosecutor and Physicians for Human Rights between August and September 1996 and completed in 2000. All of the 243 victims associated with Lazete 2 were male and the experts determined that the vast majority died of gunshot injuries. In addition, 147 blindfolds were located.
Forensic analysis of soil/pollen samples, blindfolds, ligatures, shell cases and aerial images of creation/disturbance dates, further revealed that bodies from the Lazete 1 and 2 graves were removed and reburied at secondary graves named Hodžići Road 3, 4 and 5. Aerial images show that these secondary gravesites were created between 7 September and 2 October 1995, and all of them were exhumed in 1998.
The men were called outside in small groups. They were ordered to strip to the waist and to remove their shoes, whereupon their hands were tied behind their backs. During the night of 14th of July, the men were taken by truck to the dam at Petkovići. Those who arrived later could see immediately what was happening there. A large number of bodies were strewn on the ground, their hands tied behind their backs. Small groups of five to ten men were taken out of the trucks, lined up and shot. Some begged for water but their pleas were ignored. A survivor described his feelings of fear combined with thirst thus:
After the soldiers had left, two survivors helped each other to untie their hands, and then crawled over the heap of bodies towards the woods, where they intended to hide. As dawn arrived, they could see the execution site where bulldozers were collecting the bodies. On the way to the execution site, one of the survivors had peeked out from under his blindfold and had seen that Mladić was also on his way to the scene.
Aerial photos confirmed that the earth near the Petkovići dam had been disturbed, and that it was disturbed yet again some time between 7 September and 27 September 1995. When the grave here was opened in April 1998, many bodies appeared to have disappeared. Their removal had been accomplished with mechanical apparatus, causing considerable disturbance to the grave and its contents. At this time, the grave contained the remains of no more than 43 persons. Other bodies had been removed to a secondary grave, Liplje 2, prior to 2 October 1995. Here, the remains of at least 191 individuals were discovered.
Dražen Erdemović—who confessed killing at least 70 Bosniaks—was a member of the VRS 10th Sabotage Detachment (a Main Staff subordinate unit) and participated in the mass execution. Erdemović appeared as a prosecution witness and testified: "The men in front of us were ordered to turn their backs. When those men turned their backs to us, we shot at them. We were given orders to shoot."
On this point, one of the survivors recalls:
Erdemović said that all but one of the victims wore civilian clothes and that, except for one person who tried to escape, they offered no resistance before being shot. Sometimes the executioners were particularly cruel. When some of the soldiers recognised acquaintances from Srebrenica, they beat and humiliated them before killing them. Erdemovic had to persuade his fellow soldiers to stop using a machine gun for the killings; while it mortally wounded the prisoners it did not cause death immediately and prolonged their suffering.
Between 1,000 and 1,200 men were killed in the course of that day at this execution site.
Aerial photographs, taken on 17 July 1995, of an area around the Branjevo Military Farm, show a large number of bodies lying in the field near the farm, as well as traces of the excavator that collected the bodies from the field.
Erdemović testified that, at around 15:00 hours on 16 July 1995, after he and his fellow soldiers from the 10th Sabotage Detachment had finished executing the prisoners at the Branjevo Military Farm, they were told that there was a group of 500 Bosniak prisoners from Srebrenica trying to break out of a nearby Dom Kulture club. Erdemović and the other members of his unit refused to carry out any more killings. They were then told to attend a meeting with a Lieutenant Colonel at a café in Pilica. Erdemović and his fellow-soldiers travelled to the café as requested and, as they waited, they could hear shots and grenades being detonated. The sounds lasted for approximately 15–20 minutes after which a soldier from Bratunac entered the café to inform those present that "everything was over".
It is noteworthy that two of the three survivors of the executions at the Branjevo Military Farm were arrested by local Bosnian Serb police on 25 July and sent to the prisoner of war compound at Batkovici. One had been a member of the group separated from the women in Potočari on 13 July. The prisoners who were taken to Batkovici survived the ordeal and were later able to testify before the Tribunal.
There were no survivors to explain exactly what had happened in the Dom Kultura. However, it is remarkable that this was no execution at some remote spot, but one in the centre of town on the main road from Zvornik to Bijeljina. Over a year later, it was still possible to find physical evidence of this atrocity. As in Kravica, many traces of blood, hair and body tissue were found in the building, with cartridges and shells littered throughout the two storeys. It could also be established that explosives and machine guns had been used. Human remains and personal possessions were found under the stage, where blood had dripped down through the floorboards.
Among Bosnian refugees in Germany, there were rumours of executions in Kozluk, during which the five hundred or so prisoners were forced to sing Serbian songs as they were being transported to the executions site. Although no survivors have since come forward, investigations in 1999 led to the discovery of a mass grave near Kozluk. This proved to be the actual location of an execution as well, and lay alongside the Drina accessible only by driving through the barracks occupied by the Drina Wolves, a regular police unit of Republika Srpska. The grave was not dug specifically for the purpose: it had previously been a quarry and a landfill site. Investigators found many shards of green glass which the nearby 'Vitinka' bottling plant had dumped there. This facilitated the process of establishing links with the secondary graves along Čančari Road.
The grave at Kozluk had been partly cleared some time prior to 27 September 1995, but no fewer than 340 bodies were found there nonetheless. In 292 cases, it was clear that they had died as the result of rifle fire: 83 by a single shot to the head, 76 by one shot through the torso region, 72 by multiple gunfire wounds, five by wounds to the legs and one person by gunfire wounds to the arm. The ages of the victims were between 14 and 85 years old. Some had been physically disabled, occasionally as the result of amputation. Many had clearly been tied and bound using strips of clothing or nylon thread.
Along the Čančari Road are twelve known mass graves, of which only two—Čančari Road 3 and 12—have been investigated in detail by 2001. Čančari Road 3 is known to have been a secondary grave linked to Kozluk, as shown by the glass fragments and labels from the Vitinka factory. The remains of 158 victims were found here, of which 35 bodies were still more or less intact and indicated that most had been killed by gunfire. Čančari Road 12 was the site of the re-interment of at least 174 bodies, moved here from the mass grave at the Branjevo Military Farm. Only 43 were complete sets of remains, most of which established that death had taken place as there result of rifle fire. Of the 313 various body parts found, 145 displayed gunshot wounds of a severity likely to prove fatal.
The men who were found attempting to escape by the Bratunac-Konjević Polje road were told that the Geneva Convention would be observed if they gave themselves up. In Bratunac, men were told that there were Serbian personnel standing by to escort them to Zagreb for an exchange of prisoners. The visible presence of UN uniforms and UN vehicles, stolen from Dutchbat, were intended to contribute to the feeling of reassurance. On 17 July 1995 to 18 July 1995, Serb soldiers captured about 150–200 Bosniaks and summarily executed about one-half of them.
On 19 July, for example, a group of approximately 11 men were killed at Nezuk itself by units of the 16th Krajina Brigade, then operating under the direct command of the Zvornik Brigade. Reports reveal that a further 13 men, all ARBiH soldiers, were killed at Nezuk on 19 July. The report of the march to Tuzla includes the account of an ARBiH soldier who witnessed several executions carried out by police that day. He survived because 30 ARBiH soldiers were needed for an exchange of prisoners following the ARBiH's capture of an VRS officer at Baljkovica. The soldier was himself exchanged late 1995; at that time, there were still 229 men from Srebrenica in the Batkovici prisoner of war camp, including two men who had been taken prisoner in 1994.
At the same time, there were around 200 ARBiH soldiers armed with automatic and hunting rifles hiding close to the old road near Snagovo. On morning, about 50 Bosniaks attacked the Zvornik Brigade line in the area of Pandurica in order to break through to the Bosnian-government territory. The Zvornik Public Security Centre issued orders to surround and destroy on the following day both mentioned groups with all available forces.
A number of Bosniaks managed to get across to Serbia in Ljubovija and Bajina Bašta. From where 38 of them were returned to RS. Some of them were taken to the Batkovići camp, where they were exchanged. The fate of the majority of those returned has not been established.
After 19 July 1995, small Bosniak groups were hiding in the woods for days and months, trying to reach Tuzla. Numerous refugees found themselves cut off for some time in the area around Mount Udrc. They did not know what to do next or where to go; they managed to stay alive by eating snails, leaves and mushrooms. The atmosphere was one of tension, hunger and desperation. On or about 23 July, the Bosnian Serbs swept through this area too, and according to one survivor they killed many people as they did so.
Meanwhile, the VRS had commenced the process of clearing the bodies from around Srebrenica, Žepa, Kamenica and Snagovo. Work parties and municipal services were deployed to help. In Srebrenica, the refuse that had littered the streets since the departure of the people was collected and burnt, the town disinfected and deloused.
Some of the Bosniak men decided to retrace their steps towards the Srebrenica region, since this was familiar territory and they knew where to find food. From here, they would once again set out towards Žepa or attempt to reach Tuzla. Some arrived in Tuzla after many months, having been wandering around the area between Srebrenica and Udrc with absolutely no sense of direction. A few hundred managed to reach Žepa just before the Serb military, paramilitary and police forces occupied the enclave on 25 July 1995. Once Žepa had succumbed to the Serb pressure, they had to move on once more, either trying to reach Tuzla or crossing the River Drina into Serbia.
To feed themselves, the men took potatoes and other vegetables from the fields around the Serbian villages at night. The local Serb population therefore began to mount patrols around their villages. The Bosniaks would generally sleep by day and wait for the cover of darkness before moving on. This continued for a long time. For example, the people of Milici, a village on the route to Tuzla, discovered the disappearance of livestock in November 1995 and formed an armed group in search of stragglers from the column.
There are many stories recalling the experiences of those who lost contact with the column, their wanderings and the horrors they saw. One involves three young men aged 17, 18 and 19, who on several occasions attempted to cross the main Konjević Polje to Nova Kasaba road but were unsuccessful in doing so each time. They eventually managed to reach Žepa only after the enclave had fallen as well. The group had set up camp in a couple of deserted Bosniak villages where they managed to hide out for several months without attracting attention. Sometimes the teenagers would escort groups of other refugees as far as the next obstacle, before eventually returning to their base. Finally, on 26 April 1996, a full six months after the signing of the Dayton Accord, they crossed the Drina into Serbia.
The most famous group of seven men wandered about in occupied territory for the entire winter. On 10 May 1996, after nine months on the run and over half year after the end of the war, they were discovered in a quarry by American IFOR soldiers. They immediately turned over to the patrol; they were searched and their weapons (two pistols and three hand grenades) were confiscated. The men said that they had been in hiding in the immediate vicinity of Srebrenica since the fall of the enclave. They did not look like soldiers and the Americans decided that this was a matter for the police. The operations officer of this American unit ordered that a Serb patrol should be escorted into the quarry whereupon the men would be handed over to the Serbs.
The prisoners said they were initially tortured after the transfer, but later were treated relatively well. In April 1997 the local court in Republika Srpska convicted the group, known as the Zvornik 7, for illegal possession of firearms and three of them for the murder of four Serbian woodsmen. When announcing the verdict the presenter of the TV of Republika Srpska described them as the group of Christian terrorists (also known as Crusaders) from Srebrenica who last year massacred Serb civilians. The trial was widely condemned by the international community as "a flagrant miscarriage of justice, and the conviction was later quashed for 'procedural reasons' following pressure from the international community. In 1999 the three remaining defendants in the Zvornik 7 case had been swapped for three Serbs serving 15 years each in the Bosnian prison.
From approximately August 1st 1995 to November 1st 1995, there was an organized effort to remove the bodies from primary mass gravesites and transport them to secondary and tertiary gravesites. In the ICTY court case "Prosecutor v. Blagojevic and Jokic", the trial chamber found that this reburial effort was an attempt to conceal evidence of the mass murders.The trial chamber found that the cover up operation was ordered by the VRS Main Staff and subsequently carried out by members of the Bratunac and Zvornik Brigades.
The cover-up operation has had a direct impact on the recovery and identification of the remains. The removal and reburial of the bodies have caused them to become dismembered and co-mingled, making it difficult for forensic investigators to positively identify the remains. For example, in one specific case, the remains of one person were found in two different locations, 30 km apart. In addition to the ligatures and blindfolds found at the mass graves, the effort to hide the bodies has been seen as evidence of the organized nature of the massacres and the non-combatant status of the victims, since had the victims died in normal combat operations, there would be no need to hide their remains.
The whole issue was forgotten for years until the Greek deputy Andreas Andrianopoulos broached the subject in 2005 and the Minister of Justice Anastasios Papaligouras committed an investigation, which is still underway.
After the Markale massacre on 28 August, NATO launched a a bombing campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina lasting from 30 August until 20 September. The Dayton Peace agreement of November 1995 effectively ended the war.
The Srebrenica massacre led to long-running discussions in the Netherlands. In 1996, the Dutch government asked the Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie (NIOD, translation: Dutch Institute for War Documentation) to conduct research into the events before, during and after the fall of Srebrenica. The resulting report was published in 2002. It concluded that the Dutchbat mission was not well considered and well-nigh impossible. The NIOD report is cited often, but it has not escaped criticism, leading the Institute for War and Peace Reporting to label the report controversial.
As a result the Dutch government accepted partial responsibility and the second cabinet of Wim Kok resigned in 2002.
Republika Srpska negationist report
In 2002 the government of Republika Srpska issued a report claiming that the Srebrenica Massacre of around 8000 people never happened. According to the report, endorsed by Srpska top politicians like the president Mirko Šarović and by most of the Bosnian Serb mass media, claimed that only 2000 had died, and all of them were soldiers from Sarajevo’s Bosnian Army — and many of them would have died of “exhaustion”. The International Crisis Group and the United Nations condemned the manipulation of their statements in this report.
Srebrenica genocide memorial and the terrorist plot
On September 30, 2003, former US President Bill Clinton officially opened the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial to honour the victims of the genocide. The total cost of the project was around $6 million, of which the United States government provided $1 million. We remember this terrible crime because we dare not forget, because we must pay tribute to the innocent lives, many of them children who were snuffed out in what must be called genocidal madness, Clinton said.
On July 6, 2005, Bosnian Serb police found two powerful bombs at the memorial site just days ahead of a ceremony to mark the massacre's 10th anniversary, when 580 identified victims were to be buried during the ceremony and more than 50,000 people, including international politicians and diplomats, were expected to attend. The bombs would have caused widespread loss of life and injury had they exploded.
Republika Srpska's report and official apology
In 2004, the international community's High Representative Paddy Ashdown had the Government of Republika Srpska form a committee to investigate the events. The committee released a report in October 2004 with 8,731 confirmed names of missing and dead persons from Srebrenica: 7,793 between 10 July and 19 July 1995 and further 938 people afterwards.
The findings of the committee remain generally disputed by Serb nationalists, who claim it was heavily pressured by the High Representative, given that an earlier RS government report which exonerated the Serbs was dismissed. Nevertheless, Dragan Čavić, the president of Republika Srpska, acknowledged in a televised address that Serb forces killed several thousand civilians in violation of the international law, and asserted that Srebrenica was a dark chapter in Serb history.
On November 10, 2004, the government of Republika Srpska issued an official apology. The statement came after a government review of the Srebrenica committee's report. "The report makes it clear that enormous crimes were committed in the area of Srebrenica in July 1995. The Bosnian Serb Government shares the pain of the families of the Srebrenica victims, is truly sorry and apologizes for the tragedy." the Bosnian Serb government said.
Release of massacre video
The video footage starts about 2hr 35 min. into the proceedings. The footage shows an orthodox priest blessing several soldiers. Later these soldiers are shown with tied up captives, dressed in civilian clothing and visibly physically abused; they were later identified as four minors as young as 16 and two men in their early twenties. The footage then shows the execution of four of the civilians and shows them lying dead in the field. At this point the cameraman expresses disappointment that the camera's battery is almost out. The soldiers then ordered the two remaining captives to take the four dead bodies into a nearby barn, where they were also killed upon completing this task.
The video caused public outrage in Serbia. In the days following its showing, the Serbian government quickly arrested some of the former soldiers identified on the video. The event has most extensively been covered by the newspaper Danas and radio and television station B92. As was reported by Bosnian media, at least one mother of a filmed captive saw the execution of her son on television. She said that she was already aware of her son's death and said she had been told that his body was burned following the execution; his remains were among those buried in Potočari in 2003.
U.S. Congress resolution
On June 27, 2005, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution (H. Res. 199 sponsored by Congressman Christopher Smith and Congressman Benjamin Cardin) commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. The resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority of 370 to 1, the only one to vote no being Ron Paul, with 62 absent. The resolution states that:
On October 4, 2005, the Special Bosnian Serb Government Working Group said that 25,083 people were involved in the massacre, including 19,473 members of various Bosnian Serb armed forces that actively gave orders or directly took part in the massacre. They have identified 17,074 by name. It has also been reported that some 892 of those suspects still hold positions at or are employed by the government of Republika Srpska. The names are still held secret.
Discoveries of further mass graves
By 2006, 42 mass graves have been uncovered around Srebrenica and the specialists believe there are 22 more mass graves. The victims identified number 2,070 while body parts in more than 7,000 bags still await identification. On August 11, 2006 over 1,000 body parts were exhumed from one of Srebrenica mass graves located in Kamenica.
Secret Serb report
On August 24 2006, The Oslobodjenje Daily started releasing secret list of over 800 Bosnian Serbs who participated in the Srebrenica massacre and are still believed to be in a position of power. The list was compiled by the Bosnian Serb government.
Srebrenica medal controversy
In December 2006 the Dutch government awarded the Dutch UN peacekeepers that served in Srebrenica an insignia because they believe they "deserved recognition for their behaviour in difficult circumstances", also noting the limited mandate and the ill-equipped nature of the mission. However, survivors and relatives of the victims condemned the move calling it a "humiliating decision" and responded with protest rallies in The Hague, Assen (where the ceremony took place) and Bosnia's capital Sarajevo.
Arrest of Zdravko Tolimir
On 31 May 2007 former Bosnian Serb general Zdravko Tolimir was arrested by police from Serbia and the Bosnian Serb republic and transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague. Tolimir faces charges of genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, extermination, persecution and forcible transfer. The indictment accuses Tolimir of participating in the “joint criminal enterprise to remove the Muslim population” from Srebrenica as well as the enclave of Zepa.
Arrest of Radovan Karadžić
Slobodan Milosevic was accused of genocide or complicity in genocide in territories within Bosnia and Herzegovina, including Srebrenica, but he died on 11 March 2006 during his ICTY trial and so no verdict was returned.
At the ICTY, the trial of seven senior Serb military and police officers facing charges ranging from genocide to murder and deportation for the crimes committed in Srebrenica began 14 July, 2006. Their names are: Vujadin Popovic, Ljubisa Beara, Drago Nikolic, Ljubomir Borovcanin, Vinko Pandurevic, Radivoje Miletic and Milan Gvero.
On 31 May 2007, Zdravko Tolimir (aka: 'Chemical Tolimir'), long time fugitive and a former officer in the Army of Republika Srpska who had been indicted by the Prosecutor of the ICTY on genocide charges in the 1992–95 Bosnia war was arrested by Serbian and Bosnian police. Tolimir is infamous for issuing request to use chemical weapons during genocide to gas civilians so Bosnian troops could surrender. Tolimir is thought to be one of the main organisers of the network helping top war crimes indictee Ratko Mladic elude justice.
Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic have been indicted by the ICTY for genocide and complicity in genocide in several municipalities within Bosnia and Herzegovina, including Srebrenica. Radovan Karadzic was captured in Serbia on 21 July 2008 but to date Ratko Mladic remains at large.
On 11 June 2007, the ICTY transferred Milorad Trbic (former Chief of Security of the Zvornik Brigade of the Army of Republika Srpska) to Sarajevo to stand trial for genocide for his actions in and around Srebrenica before the War Crimes Chamber (Section I for War Crimes of the Criminal Division of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina; henceforth: the Court). Milorad Trbic – "[Is]charged with Genocide pursuant to Article 171 of the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CC BiH). ... The trial commenced on 8 November 2007, and the Prosecutor is currently presenting his evidence.
The "Mitrović and others case ("Kravice")" was an important trial before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The accused "according to the indictment, in the period from 10 to 19 July 1995, as knowing participants in a joint criminal enterprise, the accused committed the criminal offence of genocide. This crime was allegedly committed as part of widespread and systematic attack against the Bosniak population inside the UN protected area of Srebrenica carried out by the Republika Srpska Army (RSA) and the RS Ministry of Interior, with a common plan to annihilate in part a group of Bosniak people." On 29 July 2008, after a two-year trial, the Court found seven men guilty of genocide for their role in the Srebrenica massacre including the deaths of 1000 Bosniak men in a single day. The court found that Bosniak men trying to escape from Srebrenica had been told they would be kept safe if they surrendered. Instead, they were transported to an agricultural co-operative in the village of Kravica, and latter executed en masse.Found guilty of genocide (29 July 2008)
One case is headed by a team of 14 attorneys of Dutch law firm Van Diepen Van der Kroef, which is representing 11 plaintiffs including the foundation \\"Mothers of the Enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa\\" (which represents 6,000 relatives of the victims), who asked the court, among other things, to grant a judicial declaration that the UN and the State of the Netherlands breached their obligation to prevent genocide, as laid down in Genocide Convention and to hold them jointly liable to pay compensation for the loss and injury suffered by plaintiffs as well as damages yet to be determained by the court, and to settle these according to law. On the 10 July 2008, the court ruled that it had no jurisdiction against the UN, however the court is set to rule against the State of the Netherlands (UN immunity can only be appealed after the court rules on the alleged responsibility of Dutch state).
The second case concerns a former UN interpreter, Hasan Nuhanović, and the family of Rizo Mustafić, an electrician who worked for the UN Battalion at Srebrenica. Nuhanović filed a suit against the State of the Netherlands in front of the District Court in The Hague claiming that Dutch troops within the UN peacekeeping contingent that were responsible for security in the then Srebrenica protected zone, allowed VRS troops to kill his family (brother, father and mother), while the family of Mustafić filed the suite because he was killed in similar circumstances. The liability of the state of the Netherlands was based on the opinion that the Dutch Government (Minister of Defence) had the de facto operational commander of the battalion, as established by the Dutch Constitution (Article 97(2)), which grants the government superior command (\\"oppergezag\\") over Dutch military forces. On 10 September 2008, the Hague District Court ruled against the plaintiffs, noting that the state of the Netherlands cannot be held liable for the actions of UN battalion in Srebrenica. Plaintiffs stated that they would appeal the judgement.
Titled \\"Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 53/35—The Fall of Srebrenica\\", delivered on November 15, 1999, it states:
The accuracy of these numbers is challenged: the OTP noted that although Ivanisevic's book estimated that around 1200 Serbs were killed, personal details were only available for 624 victims. The validity of labeling some of the casualties as "victims" is also contested: studies have found a significant majority of military casualties compared to civilian casualties. This is in line with the nature of the conflict—Serb casualties died in raids by Bosniak forces on outlying villages used as military outposts for attacks on Srebrenica (many of which had been ethnically cleansed of their Bosniak majority population in 1992). For example the village of Kravica was attacked by Bosniak forces on Orthodox Christmas Day, 7 January 1993. Some Serb sources such as Ivanisevic allege that the village's 353 inhabitants were "virtually completely destroyed". In fact, the VRS' own internal records state that 46 Serbs died in the Kravica attack: 35 soldiers and 11 civilians. while the ICTY Prosecutor's Office's investigation of casualties on 7 and 8 January in Kravica and the surrounding villages found that 43 people were killed, of whom 13 were obviously civilians. Nevertheless the event continues to be cited by Serb sources as the key example of heinous crimes committed by Bosniak forces around Srebrenica. As for the destruction and casualties in the villages of Kravica, Siljkovići, Bjelovac, Fakovići and Sikirić, the judgment states that the prosecution failed to present convincing evidence that the Bosnian forces were responsible for them, because the Serb forces used artillery in the fighting in those villages. In the case of the village of Bjelovac, Serbs even used the warplanes.
The most up-to-date analysis of Serb casualties in the region comes from the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center, a non-partisan institution with a multiethnic staff, whose data have been collected, processed, checked, compared and evaluated by international team of experts. The RDC's extensive review of casualty data found that Serb casualties in the Bratunac municipality amounted to 119 civilians and 424 soldiers. It also established that although the 383 Serb victims buried in the Bratunac military cemetery are presented as casualties of ARBiH units from Srebrenica, 139 (more than one third of the total) had fought and died elsewhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Serb sources maintain that casualties and losses during the period prior to the creation of the safe area gave rise to Serb demands for revenge against the Bosniaks based in Srebrenica. The ARBiH raids are presented as a key motivating factor for the July 1995 genocide. This view is echoed by international sources including the 2002 report commissioned by the Dutch government on events leading to the fall of Srebrenica (the NIOD report). However these sources also cite misleading figures for the number of Serb casualties in the region. The NIOD report, for instance, repeats the erroneous claim that the raid on Kravica resulted in the total annihilation of its population. Many consider these efforts to explain the motivation behind the Srebrenica massacre are merely revisionist attempts to justify the genocide. To quote the report to the UN Secretary-General on the Fall of Srebrenica:
Even though this accusation is often repeated by international sources, there is no credible evidence to support it… The Serbs repeatedly exaggerated the extent of the raids out of Srebrenica as a pretext for the prosecution of a central war aim: to create a geographically contiguous and ethnically pure territory along the Drina, while freeing their troops to fight in other parts of the country. The extent to which this pretext was accepted at face value by international actors and observers reflected the prism of 'moral equivalency' through which the conflict in Bosnia was viewed by too many for too long.
Many Serbs distrusted the Western explanation of the events due to the long delays in proving that there were mass graves in the area and that the people in them were indeed Bosniaks (it took almost a decade for a notable percentage of bodies to be identified). Serbian state media also played a role in fomenting Serbian scepticism (or indeed lack of awareness).