Carnage in Brisevo – Lest We Forget

Brisevo, like many places in Bosnia and Herzegovina, is in today’s Republika Srpska (Serbian Republic) political entity. It came to be so after Serb forces caused carnage, massacred, raped, ethnically cleansed non-Serb population – young and old.

73 Croatian civilians were massacred in Brisevo during 24th and 25th July 1992.

The carnage continued almost incessantly across several municipalities between March and December 1992 and yet, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) decided,  28 June 2012, mid-trial, to acquit Radovan Karadzic of the genocide charge that covered “Brisevo-style” massacre in those municipalities (including Prijedor to which Brisevo belongs).

ICTY’s reasoning for such a profound miscarriage of justice:  “Having reviewed the totality of the evidence with respect to the killing of, serious bodily or mental harm to, the forcible displacement of, and conditions of life inflicted on Bosnian Muslims and/or Bosnian Croats in the Municipalities, the Chamber found that the evidence even if taken at its highest, does not reach the level from which a reasonable trier of fact could infer that genocide occurred in the Municipalities”.

U.K. based Marko Attila Hoare  notes on his blog: “This represents a 180-degree U-turn from the Trial Chamber’s decision eight years ago over Slobodan Milosevic. On 16 June 2004, in ‘Prosecutor v. Slobodan Milosevic: Decision on Motion for Judgement of Acquittal’, the Trial Chamber refused to acquit Milosevic on the same grounds, and ruled:

246. On the basis of the inference that may be drawn from this evidence, a Trial Chamber could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there existed a joint criminal enterprise, which included members of the Bosnian Serb leadership, whose aim and intention was to destroy a part of the Bosnian Muslim population, and that genocide was in fact committed in Brcko, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Srebrenica, Bijeljina, Kljuc and Bosanski Novi. The genocidal intent of the Bosnian Serb leadership can be inferred from all the evidence, including the evidence set out in paragraphs 238 -245. The scale and pattern of the attacks, their intensity, the substantial number of Muslims killed in the seven municipalities, the detention of Muslims, their brutal treatment in detention centres and elsewhere, and the targeting of persons essential to the survival of the Muslims as a group are all factors that point to genocide”

11 july 2012 the ICTY prosecution has filed a formal notice of appeal against the judgment acquitting former Republika Srpska president Radovan Karadzic of genocide (28 June 2012). The genocide is alleged to have happened in seven BH municipalities in 1992. In four grounds of appeal, the prosecution has asked the Appeals Chamber to reverse the judgment and reinstate Count 1 in the indictment. The Trial Chamber’s errors in law and fact, taken individually or cumulatively, ‘invalidate the judgment’ and represent ‘a miscarriage of justice’.

While the ICTY Trial Chamber plays black and white checkers with the concept of genocide, definition depending in which courtroom is/was which Bosnian Serb and which prosecution team submitted which evidence on facts known to all, we remember the war crimes in those municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina for what they were – genocide.

According to Brisevo 1991 census its population consisted of: 370 Croatians, 16 Yugoslavs, 7 Serbs, 1 Bosniac (Muslim) and 11 Other.

What happened in that village belongs among the most monstrous carnage of Croatian population and among the worst examples of Serbian barbarism.

On 24th July 1992, about 9.00 a.m., members of the 5th Kozara brigade from Prijedor and members of the 6th Krajina brigade from Sanski Most, helped by the local Serb forces from nearby villages, shelled the village and then proceeded attacking it on foot. Brisevo became a site of torture and hell for the Croatian population. The two-day Serb brutality resulted in yet unseen terror: over 70 Croatians of various ages and both genders were brutally murdered – from children to the elderly. About 65 family homes were set on fire and so was the Catholic church. The killings occurred during daylight, whenever they encountered someone and, hence, there are relatively a large number of mass graves, some of which the victims were forced to dig themselves. Often, people were buried with animals”.

Those who were not massacred in July 1992 were expelled from Brisevo.

The same horror – by genocide to extinction – occurred across the several municipalities for which the ICTY Trial Chamber says the horrors don’t fit into the definition of genocide (as in above Karadzic case). If massacring young and old of a particular ethnic group (and cleansing the areas from those that survived) does not fit into the definition of genocide, it’s hard to think what does. The dictionary leads us to the definition that genocide is “a policy of killing a nationality or ethnic group”. That is exactly what occurred in those municipalities between March and December 1992 in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Today, Brisevo is a desolate place, destitute of inhabitants, filled with ruins and ghosts of the bloody past.  As such it’s threatened to oblivion, to fade away from memory as a place where once lived people of Croatian and other non-Serb ethnicity.

I pay tribute today to the Croatians and non-Serbs massacred or banished from Brisevo twenty years ago today and tomorrow, with the following video (Brisevo 24 25 7) accompanied by Croatian singer Miroslav Skoro’s song “Don’t forget me”.

Also, on 24 July 1992, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serb prison guards at the former ceramics factory of Keraterm (Serb concentration camp) fired machine guns through metal doors of “Room 3” where over 200 prisoners were trapped. The carnage continued for hours. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. Marica B. says:

    Such a touching tribute to Brisevo victims of genocide. The video you included brought tears to my eyes and just had to translate the lyrics “Don’t Forget Me” by Miroslav Skoro into English:
    Goodbye like a silent prayer,
    a tear for the end and for parting,
    a white flower on a dry branch,
    don’t forget me

    This is a heart of pain,
    and from our parting,
    a white flower on a dry branch,
    don’t forget me

    Wild bramble, dusty,
    has hidden the paths behind us,
    a white flower on a dry branch,
    don’t forget me

    And when everyone forgets me,
    you don’t, you wait for me

  2. Ina, excellent article.

    The sad truth for those not in the know is that Brisevo is not the only place in Croatia, Bosnia or Herzegovina that was conquered, pillaged and burned to the ground. We have seen this pattern of destruction repeated in the so-called Krajina, and places where non-Serbs resided in Bosnia and Herzegovina from Ravno and Stjepan Krst in Eastern Herzegovina to Bosanska Posavina, Podrinje, and of course in western Bosnia. The onus is on us to document and publish these atrocities. But why stop there? We should take our cases to court and demand justice for the loss of property, and anguish caused upon the victims and demand that the West dismantle the so-called Republika Srpska! Otherwise the criminals will have won and we would have done nothing to prevent it.

    • Indeed Marko – it was genocide through and through. I picked Brisevo on this post because of the anniversary date but totally every place must be remembered, the horrible truth under Serb aggression told over and over again so the World does not forget – victims deserve at least that. As for bringing the matters to court for damages of all kinds I hope that Croatia will not withdraw its case against Serbia in the ICJ. I’m following that closely because the lawsuit against Serbia for genocide must be maintained and heard, and many others filed. Sometimes I cannot even understand why the world (including Croatia) even talks to and negotiates with Republika Srpska – Republika Srpska is an entity that arose from genocide, rape, destruction, ethnic cleansing … and it does not deserve acknowledgment of its existence despite the Dayton agreement

  3. One has to compare the keeness of the ICTY to drop charges against Karadzic with their current efforts to convict Gotovina and Markac on any grounds they can think of – the current verdict now falling apart.

    • Yes, it’s just as well Croatians are relatively strong people, otherwise the blatantly obvious “favouritism” or bias from political reasons could bring one down…

  4. Thank you Brian for bring that comparison between Karadzic and Gotovina/Markac…could it get anymore blatant. Marko I agree with you…no relations with RS and every effort should be made to pursue the aggressors legally…we should be relentless and the Government of Croatia should fund and lead the charge…Croatia should be guided by it’s values and principles and not some corrupt policy of wanting ‘good neighbourly relations’ for the sake of relations…relationships that are based on values and principles are the best


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