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)

International criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia: Radovan Karadzic acquitted mid-trial of one charge of genocide – the shock that shudders the very backbone of humanity

Serb concentration camp Keraterm near Prijedor 1992

ICTY, Hague, 28 June, acquitted – mid-trial! – former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic of one charge of genocide but upheld 10 other war crimes counts related to atrocities in Bosnia’s bloody war. Although Karadzic sought by way of motion to court to be acquitted of all 11 charges of war crimes, he succeeded in only one and Srebrenica (1995/ more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys murdered) genocide was retained under count of genocide to be tried.

The angering acquittal occurred “mid-trial” – i.e. after the prosecution completed presenting its case and evidence the Trial Chamber ruled that there was not enough evidence to show that killings and expulsions of Croatians and Bosniacs (Muslims) carried out by Bosnian Serb forces in several municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina between March and December 1992 were committed with genocidal intent.

This decision has shocked and angered survivors in Bosnia and Herzegovina; it shocks and angers the whole just world.

The charge dismissed covered mass killings, expulsions and persecution by Serb forces. Presiding Judge Oh-Gon Kwon said prosecutors did not provide enough evidence to “be capable of supporting a conviction of genocide in the (Bosnian) municipalities.”

The judges said there was enough evidence to uphold charges including murder and persecution in the early stages of the war, but the killings did not rise to the level of genocide, which requires prosecutors to prove intent to wipe out a specific group in whole or part.

It’s expected that the ICTY prosecution will appeal this decision and if they do not it’ll be clearer than now that such “shonky” work by the Prosecutor in preparing for the war crimes charges against Karadzic was done on purpose – to place Karadzic at an advantage in the eyes of the world; to dilute the perception of the depth of his evil deeds against humanity.

The odd thing to me, also, is the fact that the judges did not direct the prosecution to change the charge from genocide to mass murder once they acquitted Karadzic of that specific genocide charge. Under the rules of the UN tribunal, defendants can seek acquittal after prosecutors finish presenting their case. Hence, given that Karadzic has not yet presented his defence for any of the charges there is time for the Prosecutor to change the charge in case an appeal of the acquittal of genocide charge would not be upheld. Karadzic is expected to start arguing his case on October 16.

Commenting on the above acquittal Ejup Ganic (President of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina 1997-1999 and 2000 – 2001) said on Friday 29 June:

Is it genocide when in Visegrad they gather citizens from surrounding villages and suburbs, loot them, rape some, then force them into a house and set fire to all. Set fire to all, from two-year-old children to the elderly of 80. What’s missing there for it to be genocide?”  

“Politics were crucial. So why is genocide not the verdict? For two reasons:

Firstly, because it would indirectly involve Serbia.

Secondly, the international community would be involved more directly.

Because it lasted. It wasn’t slaughter that lasted three or four days, like in Srebrenica. Genocide was committed under the supervision of Radovan Karadzic. But, Yugoslav Peoples Army participated under the leadership of Slobodan Milosevic. It was orderd from Belgrade… Again, I repeat, the genocide in the seven municipalities (Bratunac, Foča, Ključ, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Vlasenica and Zvornik) was acquitted because otherwise it would touch Serbia more directly than Srebrenica does. Karadzic managed the committing of the crimes but Serbia ensured all needed infrastructure for the crimes to occur,” said Ganic.

The months of Serb terror, murderous sprees that to my mind had genocidal intents – once one exterminates children and sets out to exterminate children of an ethnic group, then genocide is the only word that can, humanly and legally, define such mass murders. That is what Serbs did in those seven municipalities of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992.

There is no doubt in my mind about that. I recall those days of 1992 very vividly, with overwhelming distress to this day. Both Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina were under systematic genocidal plunder by the Serbs. I was head of a community radio program in the Croatian language in Sydney, Australia at the time – I worked that radio program on a voluntary basis but there was nothing voluntary about the news reports and bulletins I received via faxes daily from the war zones. The toll paid by the Croatians and Bosniacs at the hands of Serbian aggressor was a horror worst than a single word, “genocide” could ever describe.

It is as clear as day: this shameful exercise by the ICTY in acquitting this count of genocide has nothing to do with justice but everything to do with politically saving Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia and the involved international community.

Not only that – it would also shake up the very foundations of the Serbian Republic created with the blood of Croatians and Bosniacs. All of the seven municipalities (except Kljuc and Sanski Most) had become parts of the Serbian Republic in Bosnia – the entity created on genocide and ethnic cleansing for the benefit of a Greater Serbia.

To me, everything points to a reality where ICTY is set on minimizing the horrendous and genocidal, planned, aggression against Croatians and Bosniacs so that the need for these people to defend their very existence at the time could also be reduced in the eyes of the world. What a horrible way to deal with justice in 21st Century. Should the ICTY or the Prosecutor fail in substituting the charge of genocide (since it has acquitted it for lack of standard evidence) for systematic mass murder then this too will confirm that in delivering justice, justice takes a second place to political maneuvering. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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