DID YOU KNOW?  -- Three years before the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide, Serbs torched Bosniak villages and killed at least 3,166 Bosniaks around Srebrenica. In 1993, the UN described the besieged situation in Srebrenica as a "slow-motion process of genocide." In July 1995, Serbs forcibly expelled 25,000 Bosniaks, brutally raped many women and girls, and systematically killed 8,000+ men and boys (DNA confirmed).

21 March, 2010


A Word of Caution: In a genocide research, always triple-check your sources for credibility.

On 10 April 2002, the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD) presented the government of the Netherlands with its long-awaited report on Srebrenica detailing the "events prior to, during and after the fall of Srebrenica."

The key researcher behind this project was a Serbian woman Nevena Bajalica. She "provided support throughout the entire project with regard to all source material in Serbo-Croat." Not even one Bosniak researcher was employed to assist in this project.

According to Karen Meirik of IWPR, "Critics [of the NIOD Report on Srebrenica] allege that the massive tome is full of inaccuracies and amounts to a whitewash designed to clear the Dutch of any wrongdoing. They claim that the government-financed report now provides a 'one-stop shop' of information for all sides if the conflict, because it was watered down too much for it to take a real position on anything."

Nevena Bajalica's research was based, in part, on discredited Serbian ultranationalist sources. During her research, she was in the constant touch with Dr. Zoran Stankovic - by profession Serbian pathologist, former defence minister and genocide denier. Dutch researchers treated all sources with the same confidence and respect. You will find the likes of Milivoje Ivanisevic used as references in this Dutch report without any caution. Imagine using holocaust denier David Irving as a respectable source for the study of the Holocaust? Propaganda material published by the Serbian nationalist newspapers was given the same favorable treatment.

According to Nevena Bajalica's
resume, she describes her responsibilities in more detail:

{Quote Start}
Researcher, Regional Expert and Writer:
This report was commissioned by the Dutch government to reconstruct and describe events before, during and after the fall of UN enclave Srebrenica in the former-Yugoslavia.

→ Research (initiate and complete projects within budget and timetable).
→ Obtain, analyze and summarize open-source/classified documents in various private, NGO, governmental, military, NATO, UN, and ICTY archives.
→ Coordinate, implement and summarize interviews with (>300) individuals from all involved parties in the region: victims, perpetrators, high-ranking government officials and refugees.
→ Initiate and coordinate the teams projects, research activities and fieldwork in the region.
→ Establish and maintain a network of NIOD with various institutions/individuals throughout the former Yugoslavia, involved in the aftermath of the event.
→ Initialized the analysis and summarizing of academic literature and journalism from the regional press in the 1990s: managed/trained a group of translators, journalists, and military/academic researchers.
→ Writing parts of report Srebrenica - A ‘Safe’ Area
→ Promotion in the media of the publication after its completion.
{Quote End}

It is, however, not uncommon for reputable institutions to use disreputable sources in their research. In June 2009, the Congress of North American Bosniaks (CNAB) sent a letter to the University of Minnesota's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies informing them that Serbian propagandist Carl Savich is unreliable source for the Holocaust research:

{Quote Start} "What Carl Savich and Bosnia genocide deniers all have in common is a desire to re-frame Serbian war crimes as heroic acts while demonizing the Muslim inhabitants of the Balkans, 'thereby countering the perceived brainwashing of the human race by imperialist propaganda' as Savich likes to call US media.... Please do no allow the name and the history of the Bosnian people to become victimized by Serbian propaganda via so called 'Holocaust education.' The denial of the genocide against Bosniaks puts the credibility of the entire University of Minnesota at stake and we as the representatives of Bosnian Diaspora in North America must protect Bosniak honor from bigotry." {Quote End}

The Dutch NIOD report is extremely biased in some parts, depending on the sources or references used. For example, Part II - Chapter 2 talks about "The history preceding the conflict in Eastern Bosnia up until the establishment of the Safe Area". By reading this chapter alone, one can easily get a false impression that Bosniaks constantly attacked the neighbouring Serb villages, which is a grotesque and inaccurate suggestion. Earlier and highly authoritative U.N. Report 53/35 concluded:

{Quote Start} "Even though this accusation is often repeated by international sources, there is no credible evidence to support it. Dutchbat personnel on the ground at the time assessed that the few “raids” the Bosniaks mounted out of Srebrenica were of little or no military significance. These raids were often organized in order to gather food, as the Serbs had refused access for humanitarian convoys into the enclave. Even Serb sources approached in the context of this report acknowledged that the Bosniak forces in Srebrenica posed no significant military threat to them. (source: read copy of UN Report 53/35) {Quote End}

The judgment in Naser Oric case clearly shows that surrounding Serb villages were used as bases to attack Srebrenica on a daily basis from day one:

{Quote Start} "Between April 1992 and March 1993, Srebrenica town and the villages in the area held by Bosnian Muslims were constantly subjected to Serb military assaults, including artillery attacks, sniper fire, as well as occasional bombing from aircrafts. Each onslaught followed a similar pattern. Serb soldiers and paramilitaries surrounded a Bosnian Muslim village or hamlet, called upon the population to surrender their weapons, and then began with indiscriminate shelling and shooting. In most cases, they then entered the village or hamlet, expelled or killed the population, who offered no significant resistance, and destroyed their homes. During this period, Srebrenica was subjected to indiscriminate shelling from all directions on a daily basis. Potocari in particular was a daily target for Serb artillery and infantry because it was a sensitive point in the defence line around Srebrenica. Other Bosnian Muslim settlements were routinely attacked as well. All this resulted in a great number of refugees and casualties. (source: Naser Oric Judgement, pdf format page 43-51) {Quote End}

Serb forces continued to attack Srebrenica even after Srebrenica became a "Safe Haven":

{Quote Start} "Later, a Dutch battalion replaced the Canadian troops. The weapons of Bosnian Muslims were, at least to some extent, turned in or confiscated. Larger military operations by both Bosnian Muslims and Serbs were effectively brought to a halt. However, incidents of Serb military action continued to occur, causing casualties among the Srebrenica population." (Naser Oric Judgement, pdf format, page 52-53) {Quote End}

Many of these so called 'Serb' villages were pre-war Muslim villages, from which Muslims were ethnically cleansed - for example, the village of Skelani. Serbs from surrounding villages blocked humanitarian convoys and bombarded Srebrenica civilians. Furthermore, Serbs around Srebrenica never demilitarized. Instead, Serb military and paramilitary troops continued using surrounding Serb villages as a base for attacks on (and brutal siege of) Srebrenica. The genocide justifiers have consistently ignored the strong VRS (Serb) military presence in Bosnian Serb villages around Srebrenica. For example, the village of Fakovici was used as a military outpost through which Bosnian Serb forces launched massive attacks on Srebrenica civilians.

Bosniak attacks on Serb-held villages around Srebrenica were simply counter-responses to the Bosnian Serb siege of Srebrenica, blockade of humanitarian convoys, constant attacks on Srebrenica. For example, regarding Kravica incident on Serb Orthodox Christmas in 1993, the judgement in Naser Oric case makes it clear that the Serb village of Kravica was a military base from which Serbs launched cowardly attacks on neighbouring Bosniak villages and the town of Srebrenica itself. The attacks on Bosnian Muslim settlements resulted in a great number of Bosniak victims. Bosniak counter-attack on Kravica was a legitimate defensive measure that followed on the 7 January 1993 as a result of Serb blockade of humanitarian aid and constant attacks on nearby Bosnian Muslim villages. According to the Oric Judgment:

{Quote Start} "The fighting intensified in December 1992 and the beginning of January 1993, when Bosnian Muslims were attacked by Bosnian Serbs primarily from the direction of Kravica and Ježestica. In the early morning of the 7 January 1993, Orthodox Christmas day, Bosnian Muslims attacked Kravica, Ježestica and Šiljkovići. Convincing evidence suggests that the village guards were backed by the VRS [Bosnian Serb Army], and following the fighting in the summer of 1992, they received military support, including weapons and training. A considerable amount of weapons and ammunition was kept in Kravica and Šiljkovići. Moreover, there is evidence that besides the village guards, there was Serb and Bosnian Serb military presence in the area. The Trial Chamber is not satisfied that it can be attributed solely to Bosnian Muslims. The evidence is unclear as to the number of houses destroyed by Bosnian Muslims as opposed to those destroyed by Bosnian Serbs. In light of this uncertainty, the Trial Chamber concludes that the destruction of property in Kravica between 7 and 8 December 1992 does not fulfil the elements of wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages not justified by military necessity." {Quote End}

Here is another example. Serbs frequently cite Bosniak attack on Visnjica on 27 June 1995 as a pretext for Serb attack on Srebrenica. However, according to the Trial Chamber Judgment in Radislav Krstic case:

{Quote Start} "On the basis of Directive No. 7, the VRS Main Staff issued on 31 March 1995 Directive No. 7.1., signed by General Ratko Mladić. It directed the Drina Corps to, among other things, conduct “active combat operations … around the enclaves” (including the other nearby safe-areas of Žepa and Goražde). As a consequence, Bosnian Serb forces captured an UNPROFOR observation post in the southeast corner of the Srebrenica enclave. In response to this aggression, a raiding party of Bosnian Muslims attacked the nearby Serb village of Višnjica, in the early morning of 26 June 1995. During this attack, some houses were burned and several people were killed." {Quote End}

Human Right Watch in Serbia agrees:

{Quote Start} "In fact, the Oric judgment confirms that there were Bosnian Serb military forces present in the village at the time of attack. In 1998, the wartime New York Times correspondent Chuck Sudetic wrote in his book on Srebrenica that, of forty-five Serbs who died in the Kravica attack, thirty-five were soldiers. Original Bosnian Serb army documents, according to the ICTY prosecutor and the Sarajevo-based Center for Research and Documentation of War Crimes, also indicate that thirty-five soldiers died." (source: Human Rights Watch in Serbia) {Quote End}

The NIOD report cites too many biased Serb sources and even suggests that over 1,000 Serbs died around Srebrenica, which was discredited by both the internationally sponsored Research and Documentation Center and the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia. Manipulating the number of victims is a form of propaganda that in practice is very difficult to deal with. IWPR's piece, titled Controversial Srebrenica Report Back on Table, exposes flaws of NIOD Report:

{Quote Start} "According to Jan Willem Honig, senior lecturer in war studies at London’s Kings College and co-author of the highly-praised 'Srebrenica, Record of a War Crime', the truth lies somewhere in between. Although he says the report 'has an aura of independent academic research,' Honig is critical of its length, saying the sheer abundance of information makes it possible for anyone to pluck from it whatever they need to make their point. This, he says, is a liability because the report is not always consistent. 'It's possible to draw different conclusions from the different parts in the book. Therefore one can imagine it is useful to both defence and prosecution,' he said. Honig said he found numerous errors in the report as well. For example, he said an explanatory map inserted as a graphic aid to explaining the Bosnian Serb battle plan does not correspond with the plan as described in the text. And neither the written description nor the map accurately describe the actual plan. Worse than the inaccuracies, according to Honig, is the fact that the report has no clear objective. 'They [the researchers] should have considered better what they wanted to establish with the report. That might have saved thousands of pages. With its leisurely narrative approach they shot themselves in the foot. The project escaped their control; it became too big,' he said.

Honig is not alone in criticising the report. Many readers have complained that the index is poorly organised and full of errors, particularly regarding peoples’ names. Even those who worked on the NIOD report have been critical of it. One of the nine NIOD-researchers, anthropologist Ger Duijzings recently told the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, 'Information from sources that I found unreliable, I found back in Part 1 [of the report] – used by [fellow-researcher] Bob de Graaf, if he thought it fitted in his argumentation.'"
{Quote End}

According to ambassador Diego Arria, who initiated the visit of the UN Security Council delegation to Srebrenica in April 1993, and was at its head, described the situation in the enclave as "genocide in slow motion". (source: SENSE Tribunal) Shocking images of poverty, destruction, starvation and squalor were hidden from the public. As the Venezuelan ambassador testified, this was done with the collusion of the UNPROFOR troops deployed in the enclave declared a "protected area" a little while ago.

Arria took the first photographs of the destruction of Srebrenica and its starving inhabitants. Those were the only photographs in existence at the time. He refused to hand over his camera to UN members.

Ambassador Arria testified at the International Tribunal that the international community "did not move its little finger" to protect the Muslims in the enclave and "did not make it possible for them to defend themselves". He openly accusing the then UN Secretary General Boutros Ghali and his staff of withholding the reports about the real situation in Srebrenica and misinforming the Security Council.

The report on the "humanitarian disaster in Srebrenica", Arria claims, appeared before the Security Council 12 days after the dramatic appeal by the then UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata. There was a tendency in the Security Council, he said, to "morally equate the victims and the aggressor", thus avoiding the need to take action to prevent the humanitarian disaster.

The Venezuelan diplomat claims that the blue helmets in the enclave did nothing to prevent the "gradual genocide". Quite the contrary, during the visit of the Security Council delegation to Srebrenica, the then UNPROFOR commander, Brigadier Hayes did all he could to prevent them from seeing the real situation and the truth about the area which had already been officially declared as "protected".

As he said, the international community had been hoping, before the declaration of the safe haven, that the Serbs would overrun the enclave quickly, thereby "solving the problem". The defenders of Srebrenica, Arria contends, were a problem for the international community. It turned out that the UN-protected enclave was in fact a "scene set for genocide", Arria said, adding that today he was "sorry [he] proposed the establishment of the protected area together with the other representatives of the non-aligned countries in the Security Council".

NOTE: In the next post, we will make a small exception and publish a lengthy critique of the NIOD Report authored by Besim Ibisevic in Bosnian language. Mr. Ibisevic is a historian from Srebrenica and author of the must-read book: "Srebrenica: 1987-1992."