Feb 28, 2012

Bosnian War and Genocide

During the Bosnian War (1992-1995), the fighting was fierce among the region's three main ethnic groups: Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs (in pact with Serbia-Montenegro army). At the start of the war, the Bosnian Serb army and Serbia-Montengero army (JNA) set about ransacking and burning the homes of Bosniaks. Then army rounded up Bosniaks civilians, who were beaten, killed, or detained in camps. By the war's end, as many as twenty-six thousand Bosniak civilians had been systematically murdered.

.„Ethnic cleansing“ became a common term used to describe the mass killing occurring in Bosnia and other areas on the Balkan Peninsula. The phrase remined people of the Holocaust, which was perpetrated by Adolf Hitler's Nazis during World War II. During that genocide, the Nazis used intimidation and force in their attempt to „cleanse“ Germany.

„Killing centers“ were places where the victims were brought for immediate or nearly immediate execution. Thus the famous Drina River bridge in the eastern Bosnian town of Višegrad was used for nightly executions and „sport atrocities“ against Bosniaks by Serb militiamen; the victim would be tortured and then throw off the bridge and shot as they fell down into the Drina River. Similar centers were found in Zvornik, Foča and most other centers of Bosniaks population occupied by the Serb army.

Massacres, one-time acts of mass killing at discreet locales, occurred in every area occupied by the Serb army. There were various basic forms of massacre; those that took place as Serb militias entered a village or town; those that took place against unarmed civilians behind Serb lines during the time an area was already occupied and fully under the control of Serb forces; those committed against Bosnian villagers in deportation transit; and those committed against Bosnian prisoners in war. Even when captives thought they were being released, they were often disabused of their hope. In the Vlašić mountain massacre, busloads of Bosnians who had been released from the Trnopolje camp were stopped by Serb soldiers and killed.

In late 1992, after the Serb army had consolidated the 70 percent of Bosnian territory it controlled, the mass killings changed into steady, individualized killings and rapes. In the fall of 1994, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) made an extraordinary apeal to world leaders to stop the atrocities. The appeal was ignored.

The following testimony was offered by a survivor of the Sušica camp in eastern Bosnia, whose commandant, Dragan Nikolić, has been charged by the Internationl Criminal Tribunal with crimes against humanity. The witness was testifying about several young women who had been „selected“ from other refuges: „They started  selecting young women. The first was only 14, the second could have been 16 or 17.... I knew them all, they were from Vlasenica.....Then they started yelling: „We want the Bosniaks to see what our seed is“ Then women were never seen again...We know that Dragan Nikolić knows about it very well. That's what he did...He told us himself: „I'm the commander of the camp. I'm your God and you have no other God but me“. 

In one sense, the rapes in Bosnia are a manifestation of the toleration for and condoning of rape throughout history. Rape is also a feature of warfare, and some have argued that it is a rationale for war – that a purpose of war is the free rein it gives to rape. But the use of rape against Bosniak women in Bosnia has been overwhelming even by the bleak standards of war. In one town, Foča, a rape center was set up in the former Partizan Sports Hall in May 1992. Bosniak girls and women were held there, underwent continual rape and other physical violence, and also were sent out to apartments where they were held to several days and then returned to the Partizan Hall. The organized rape of Bosniak women took place throughout the portions of Bosnia occupied by the Serb military, as well as in areas controlled by Croat nationalist forces. Militiamen boasted about their gang rapes of Bosniak women.