JULY 27TH - 13TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FALL OF ZEPA
COLONEL AVDO PALIC IS STILL MISSING, PLEASE JOIN THIS CAMPAIGN!
REMEMBERING ZEPA ENCLAVE: In 2006 opening statements, the U.N. Prosecutor McCloskey stated that “criminal orders in war are as a rule issued verbally”, and that a few exceptions existed to the rule. One of the most striking ones is a report sent on 21 July 1995 by General Zdravko Tolimir from Zepa to General Radomir Miletic, acting Chief of General Staff of the VRS. Tolimir is asking for help to crush some BH Army strongholds, expressing his view that "the best way to do it would be to use chemical weapons." In the same report, 'Chemical Tolimir' proposed striking refugee columns leaving Zepa, because that would "force the 'Muslim' (Bosniak) fighters to surrender quickly," in his opinion...
As Hatidza Mehmedovic remarked the arrest of Radovan Karadzic has opened up the prospect that justice can be achieved for the victims of Srebrenica, Sarajevo and so many other places where people paid the price for Karadzic's ambitions. What it doesn't do, at least yet, is challenge the status of Republika Srpska, Karadzic's creation and the concrete outcome of all the blood-shedding. RS is still to a large extent an ethnically cleansed safe haven for untried war criminals.
27 July is the thirteenth anniversary of the fall of an Eastern Bosnian safe area that rarely gets a mention in the media. Colonel Avdo Palic was the commander of Bosnian Government forces defending the United Nations-protected enclave of Zepa during the Bosnian war. In July 1995, following the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Zepa by Serb forces, an agreement was reached between the Serbs, the Bosnian government and the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR). UNPROFOR would organize medical evacuations and the transportation of civilians from Zepa to Kladanj in Bosnian government-held territory. The forced evacuation from Zepa resulted in 5,000 Bosniaks reaching safety in Kladanj. The success of this forced evacuation was due in part to Colonel Avdo Palic.
He succeeded in saving Zepa's civilian population, but paid a price. Colonel Palic was seized by armed Bosnian Serb Army soldiers from the UN compound in Zepa in front of eyewitnesses. General Mladic himself acknowledged that Palic was seized. Colonel Palic has never been seen again by representatives of the international community. He became part of another tragic statistic of this war, adding his name to the thousands of people missing. Now Colonel Palic's wife, Esma Palic, has to live not knowing the fate of her husband. We ask you to urge the authorities in Republika Srpska to provide all relevant information on the fate of Avdo Palic and the thousands of others who went missing during the war.
He is thought to have been held for some time as a prisoner of the Bosnian Serbs but it is now fairly certain that he is dead. His widow Esma Palic has been battling for years to find out from the authorities in Republika Srpska what actually happened to her husband and where his body is buried.
Phivan Wright, of the 23rd Houston Amnesty International Group in the US, who has been a committed supporter of Mrs Palic as well as a supporter of Hasan Nuhanovic's campaign to secure justice for his family, has sent me a letter about the next step in the Group's campaign on behalf of Mrs Palic. (Background and information about the campaign so far are at www.whereisavdopalic.com)
In an attempt to speed up the progress of enquiries and achieve a conclusion to the investigation Phivan is asking for letters / e-mails to be sent to Milorad Dodik, Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, to complete the invetsiagation into Avdo Palic's disappearnce so that those responsible can be brought to justice.
Please try and write as soon as possible and in any case in time for the anniversary of Avdo Palic's disappearance, 27 July. And please pass on to anyone you think would be interested. The Houston Amnesty Group's website about Avdo Palic (link below) will give you some of the background.
There's a statement by Amnesty International about Karadzic's arrest, and a link to an article that quotes Esma Palic commenting on the arrest at www.balkaninsight.com
Phivan's message follows:
After a year-long hiatus, we (my Amnesty International group in Houston) are resuming work on the case of Avdo Palic since there has been no significant progress in the investigation in the last twelve months. For those of you who want to refresh your memory, go to www.whereisavdopalic.com (Note: this is a new URL).
When you last heard, the Republika Srspka (RS) Prime Minister had promised Esma Palic, Avdo's wife, that he would speed up the work of the Commission appointed to investigate Avdo's "disappearance". Exhumations were carried out at Rasadnika, near Rogatica, and were witnessed by Mrs Palic. To date, six bodies have been exhumed, but none of those on which DNA analysis has been completed has been identified as that of Avdo's. For the others, the results of the analysis are still to be announced. Amnesty Internaternational issued a statement in August 2007 expressing concern at the lack of progress. This month marks the 13th anniversary of Avdo's "disappearance". The search for his body must be speeded up and the investigation concluded without any further delay.
Attached is a sample letter to the RS Prime Minister. You will also find the letter below in case you cannot open the attachment. If you want to use email instead of snail mail, Prime Minister Dodik's email address is email@example.com and Minister of Interior Cadjo's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please send a blind copy to me at email@example.com so I can keep track of the number of letters sent. I'd be grateful if you could do it asap, or before July 27th, the 13th anniversary of Avdo's "disappearance". To those of you who maintain mailing lists or are members of a group, thank you for forwarding to your lists/groups.
The sample letter was drafted with Amnesty International members and people with limited time in mind. If you are not an AI member and/or want to use your own wording, that's great. If you are writing in an Amnesty capacity, thank you for staying close to the spirit and tone of the sample letter.
I'm on vacation from this Thursday till the end of the month, and will only have intermittent access to email, but I will make every effort to get back to you promptly should you have any questions.
Thank you very much!
Phivan's sample letter to Dodik (firstname.lastname@example.org):
Vuka Karadzica 4
78000 Banja Luka
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Dear Prime Minister,
As a member of Amnesty International, I am concerned about the continuing impunity for "disappearances" and other violations of international human rights and humanitarian law committed during the war in BiH, and the continuing lack of justice and redress for the victims of these violations and their relatives.
I am writing about Avdo Palic who "disappeared" from the UNPROFOR base in Zepa in 1995. This month marks the 13th anniversary of his "disappearance". In 2001, the Human Rights Chamber instructed the RS government to carry out a full investigation into his fate, with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice, and to make all such information available to his wife, Esma Palic. It is high time that those reasonably suspected of participation in Avdo Palic's "disappearance" are brought to justice. The search for his body must be speeded up and successfully concluded without further delay.
According to Article 6 of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, "Any person alleged to have perpetrated an act of enforced disappearance in a particular state shall be brought before the competent civil authorities of that State for the purpose of prosecution" and "All States should take any lawful and appropriate action available to them to bring all persons presumed responsible for an act of enforced disappearance, found to be within their jurisdiction or under their control, to justice".
Furthermore, the Human Rights Chamber of BiH has ruled that the continued suffering of the "disappeared" amounts to a violation of their right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment according to Article 3 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR).
Thank you for keeping in mind the continued suffering of Avdo Palic's family, and for your attention to this urgent matter. I look forward to hearing from you about any progress in this investigation.
Minister of the Interior Stanislav Cadjo
Desanke Maksimovic 4
78000 Banja Luka
Bosnia and Herzegovina