Flying into Bosnia, a country still haunted by memories of civil war, FRONTLINE/World reporter Jennifer Glasse and producer Joe Rubin arrive in Sarajevo. Once a cosmopolitan city that hosted the 1984 Winter Olympics, Sarajevo suffered a three-year siege in the early 1990s by Bosnian Serb forces who attacked the civilian, largely Muslim, population. Glasse recalls the conflict as she walks through downtown streets demolished by artillery fire.
The men responsible for the destruction of the city were Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic and his top general, Ratko Mladic. They were the architects of a policy known as “ethnic cleansing” that left 200,000 dead in Bosnia.
Their most horrific crime was the mass killing around the city of Srebrenica, a resort town in the hills of eastern Bosnia. In July 1995, under orders from President Karadzic, General Mladic and his troops captured Srebrenica, rounded up some 8,000 Muslim men and boys, and executed them, dumping their bodies in mass graves. It is the only legally recognized genocide on European soil since the “Final Solution” of the Nazis in World War II.
The men responsible for the destruction of the city were Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic and his top general, Ratko Mladic. They were the architects of a policy known as “ethnic cleansing” that left 200,000 dead in Bosnia.
The crime was so incomprehensible that many Serbs refused to believe what their troops had done. But in 2005, a video emerged that provided indisputable evidence of the beginning of this mass slaughter. Filmed by a Serb solider, the extraordinary video shows a unit of red-bereted Serb troops, known as the Scorpions, marching six Muslim men down a country road. The soldiers lead the men into a clearing and then shoot them in the back in cold blood.
In Sarajevo, Glasse meets Hasan Nuhanovic, a witness to the genocide in Bosnia. He takes her to a center for women whose husbands and sons were murdered at Srebrenica. “I lost my entire family,” says one woman, who is outraged that those responsible for the mass killing, Karadzic and Mladic, have never been brought to justice. Hasan tells the story of his own family. Like many other Bosnian Muslims, they had been driven from their home by Bosnian Serb forces and took refuge in a U.N. camp run by Dutch soldiers. It was supposed to be a sanctuary. But Mladic’s army surrounded the camp and ordered the Muslims out. The outmanned Dutch soldiers capitulated.
Hasan’s father, Ibro, a respected businessman, was selected by his fellow refugees to negotiate their safe passage with Mladic. In a chilling meeting recorded on videotape by the United Nations, Mladic warns Ibro, “Not even Allah can help you now, but Mladic can.”
Nuhanovic himself experienced an excruciating “Sophie’s Choice” kind of decision. His parents and younger brother were among the last to leave the camp. As a translator working for the United Nations, Nuhanovic had the right to stay. “I am coming with you,” Nuhanovic says he told his family. “But my brother turned around -- he was six years younger than me -- he turned around and started screaming right in my face, and he said, ‘You are not coming with me; you are going to stay inside, because you can stay.’ And that’s the last time I saw my family.”
More than 10 years later, bodies are still being exhumed from the mass graves. Indicted for war crimes by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Mladic and his commander-in-chief, Radovan Karadzic, remain fugitives. Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte is committed to putting them on trial. “Srebrenica is a factual and legally recognized genocide,” says the prosecutor. Last December, she reminded the U.N. Security Council that the men responsible had been allowed to get away with mass murder. “The international community has been playing cat and mouse with Karadzic and Mladic,” she declared. The time had come to act.
More than 10 years later, bodies are still being exhumed from the mass graves. Indicted for war crimes by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague, Mladic and his commander-in-chief, Radovan Karadzic, remain fugitives.
In Bosnia, Glasse sets out for Pale, the ski town that was the wartime command center for Mladic and Karadzic. At a local pizzeria, she meets a former policeman who says Karadzic was a public figure in the town for several years after the war and that no one would dare arrest him, even though he was an indicted war criminal.
NATO intervened to stop the war in Bosnia in 1995 and still maintains a small force at a base near Sarajevo. The commanding general, Bill Weber, tells Glasse, “My greatest hope is that I become a footnote in history that says, on my watch, Karadzic and Mladic were apprehended or killed or arrested or transported to the moon.” But when Glasse asks why it has taken so long to capture the fugitives, the NATO general says, “It takes one guy to hide a guy. Look, we’ve had the whole U.S. intelligence community and military looking for Al Qaeda for how many years? Since 9/11, OK, and where’s the Al Qaeda leadership today? I don’t know. Where’s bin Laden?”
Glasse crosses the border from Bosnia to Serbia, following rumors that Mladic has been hiding in the capital, Belgrade, and that his arrest may, at last, be imminent. She meets Goran Petrovic, the former head of the state police, who served during a brief period when the democratic opposition was in power. Petrovic organized the dramatic raid in 2001 that captured Serbia’s deposed president, Slobodan Milosevic, who was then transported to The Hague to face war crimes charges. Petrovic says he planned to go after Mladic next but was blocked by the Serb army and by the then-president, Vojislav Kostunica.
Still in power, Kostunica is now Serbia’s prime minister, a conservative nationalist who has defied The Hague’s tribunal in the past. But he is under intense pressure from European leaders and from prosecutor Carla Del Ponte to end Serbia’s isolation by cooperating fully with the war crimes tribunal. “He knows for the future of Serbia he must deliver Mladic, and he told me that,” insists Del Ponte.
The death of Slobodan Milosevic on March 11, 2006, in his jail cell at The Hague has forced Serbia to revisit its recent dark history. In Belgrade, 50,000 Serbians mourned his passing and denounced the international court. They vowed that they will never let their government turn over Mladic or Karadzic. But across town, another group of Serbs, mostly young, celebrated the death of the man known as “the butcher of the Balkans” and declared it was time to capture and try the remaining indicted war criminals, and let Serbia leave its past behind.
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This is the best site ever. Thank you
Wrexham, Wales UK
I appreciate the willingness to tackle this subject. I myself was clueless about the war until meeting a refugee from Brcko. As if to open my eyes to reality, I would meet another refugee and still another. Each of their stories is heartbreaking and personal and forced me to seek out knowledge of what happened and why.
In my quest for knowledge, I learned of Srebenica. The mind immediately wants to think that it is fabricated. Surely this did not happen less than 20 years ago on the same planet I reside on! But yes, one soon comes to discover that indeed it did happen, it happened not long ago, and it happened while the eyes of the world looked on. There is no innocent government official of any UN member country. There is no excuse for the slaughter.
To those that proclaim that all sides in this conflict committed similiar crimes, I always ask where the location of all the mass graves of Serbs are. I would lay flowers at them just as the Bosnian Muslims. To date, no one has offered me a location for which to do this.
Srebenica is the shame of the world, and not just the shame of Serbia. Never Again turned out to be a punchline.
Thank you for publishing this story. This is brave and a big step for justice. It helps people to understand what happened in Srebrenica.
P.S. On the map Potočari is placed wrong. It should be near Srebrenica.
Des Moines, IA
I met a man tonight who is from Bosnia. He was very surprised when he learned that I knew a lot about the war and his country. He shook my hand and then gave me a hug. He had tears in his eyes when he told me about his brother who was murdered by the Serbs. His brother was only 20 years old. He told me that America is a good country. How quickly we have forgotten all that happened in the former Yugoslavia. These people will never forget. The reminders are everywhere. After Nazi Germany, we said "Never again". "Never again" never came true and right now as I write this, people are dying. Why? Because they are perceived as being "different" by people who do not have the right to decide who's "different". Everyone should be able to live their lives free from fear and death. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Mass graves are still being excavated, family members are still missing, many never to be found. The Serb death camps were likened to the camps of the Nazis. Why was this allowed to go on? I was glad tonight to let a Bosnian man know that I knew, that I hadn't forgotten. That he was important, even to an anonymous American like me. I hope I made a difference to him. I hope he knows that there are more people out there like me. That there are people who will not give up until the men that perpetrated this unholy war are brought to justice one way or another.
I don't understand when you Serbs will admit your responsabilities and move on. Don't you understand that thousands of people died just because of your territorial ambitions.? You can't own people....My advice is watch your own province of Serbia and leave other people alone to live their own lives in freedom. Bosnia is getting way better eonomicaly since when you "owned " it. Stop hating people because of their religion and mind your own business.
i have read your stories, and it disturbs me to no end ,to think Dutch soldiers let this happen. I too was a Dutch soldier back in 1984. And I would like to offer my apoligies to the soldiers there were gutless wonders. Not real soldiers at all. They were there to protect these people, light weapons or not. Also the commanding officer should have gone to prison.
Probably unlike the majority of your audience, I protested against Milosevic and his government in March of 1991 in Belgrade, then in Yugoslavia. For days, thousands demanded multiparty elections, free media, and many other things that the present US administration claims to want to spread to other parts of the world. George Bush Sr. was in charge then. But, in 1991, before the Bosnian war even started, no one aided the opposition.
Again in 1996, there were months of protests in Serbia against Milosevic who stole elections for the nth time. And again, no one aided the opposition in any serious way. It wasn't even a major news story at the time in US.
In 2000, yes Milosevic was caught and that set of protests was successful, but that was nine years after the first protest began. Many Western countries supported preparation for the protest in 2000 for a year. Money was given for computers, leaflets, ads, and training was provided in organizing a grassroots movement.
But, why wasn't this done earlier? That is the true question.
Also, I would appreciate it if it is consistently made clear that certain criminal acts are made by military formations and not by "Bosnian Serbs". I noticed the reporter say that this was the first genocide on the European soil since one committed by Nazis. She did not say by Germans, so let's use that sophistication in this conflict too. A reporter needs to be careful of their use of names of whole nations when describing who committed genocide or other crimes. A whole nation is not a victim. Also, a whole nation is not a villain. You only have individuals, sometimes organized, but still individuals acting according to their own will or someone's orders. This is extremely important to keep in mind or otherwise we will forever have Serbs blaming Bosnian Muslims, Bosnian Muslims blaming Croats, and so on ad infinitum.
Thank you for your report.
I'd like to thank these great people for their hard work! Showing the real picture of what really happened in Bosnia means a lot to Bosnians. It means a lot to millions of people around the globe who have clear minds; minds that have not been infected by some well known viruses called "Adolf Hitler, Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic, Osama Bin Laden" and a few others. Based on some feedbacks from Luka, Attila, and Biljana I can definitely say that these viruses are still active.
Nazis killed millions of Jews because they were Jews. Can we say that they were killing each other and that Jews also had camps where they did mass killings of Germans? The answer is NO. Milosevic's Serbs killed thousand of Bosnian Muslims and Croats because they were Muslims and Croats and because they were not welcomed on so called "Serb Soil", therefore they were subject to "ethnic cleansing". They held concentration camps Omarska, Keraterm etc. where they did mass killings of Bosnian Muslims and Croats. Bosnian Muslims and Croats did not do ethnic cleansings and mass killings of Bosnian Serbs! Bosnian Muslims and Croats defended their families and their land. Let's not forget that thousands of Bosnian Serbs, who were not infected by one of the viruses mentioned above, were serving in Bosnian Army and fighting the infected Karadzic's Serbs.
Jennifer Glasse, Joe Rubin and others are not part of some "misleading media". They are people who have hearts and feelings. They are "Scientists" who are making us aware of these viruses I mentioned. They are "Scientists" who are helping us understand what these viruses did to human beings. It is up to all of us to fight these viruses, because we cannot afford another Srebrenica, Rwanda etc.
Grand Rapids, MI
I lived in Bosnia during the war. I witnessed ethnic cleansing by Serbians and Bosnian Serbs first-hand. The Serbian Army in Bosnia committed numerous atrocities. While Serbs on this web site deny any Serbian wrongdoing in Bosnia, rape of Muslim women, killing of 200,000 Bosnian civilians in Bosnia did occur. This documentary is extremely well done. Thank you for not letting the world forget what happened in Bosnia. History cannot be rewritten by revisionists and those supporting Serbian atrocities in Bosnia.
Your map isn't very good. It doesn't even show where Kosovo is. I wonder if the U.S. presence in the region is much more interested in Muslim activity in the region (i.e. Al Qaeda, etc.) than in the war criminals. It might be easier to talk to the local Muslims if the U.S. put more effort into finding the war criminals. It might be brownie points for Muslims in the region.
I would like to say that this short film was very educating as to what was going on in Bosnia during the civil war.
Having recently traveled in Israel and seen the security barrier, I think the report was slanted toward Hamas. The reporter permitted all of the interviewees in Gaza to repeat their intention to destroy Israel and never questioned this -- she seemed to buy into their posture as victim of the oppressors and occupiers. Why is Hamas not trying to rebuild the greenhouses purchased from the Israeli settlers by Diaspora Jews and destroyed by the Gazans immediately after the Israeli troops withdrew. No one mentions that the Six-Day War was not initiated by Israel, that Israel did not set out to conquer the West Bank and Gaza, that after 1973, East Jerusalem was accessible freely to all religions but that Jews had been barred from it before. There was not enough balance in the reporter's questions; her whole appearance was rather fawning. When she went to Ramallah, the only point she made was that Fatah had stolen millions and she showed a Mercedes (presumably with her interviewee in it) so we would assume that it had been purchased with looted funds. There is no doubt that Fatah was corrupt and that Arafat was not genuine in his peacemaking nor is there doubt that many Israeli choices and decisions were unfortunate. Nonetheless, I do not think you accurately portrayed Hamas or its mission of destruction of Israel, subjugation of women (your reporter felt the need to wear a head covering--even a complete one at some point) and anti-westernism. I think the Israelis want the two-state solution and I think they will be willing to cede enough contiguous land to make this possible. The real question is whether this will ever be acceptable to Hamas and the answer is clearly no -- they are not builders, they are destroyers.
I found the piece that was written above to be a relatively accurate portrayal of the disaccord that exists among the Palestinian on the current Hamas government and their views on its ability/inability to at the very least hold things together and at most, bring about positive change for the Palestinian people. I am very anxious to view your program once it becomes available online on May 16th so as to see further, what this report has to shed light on. As an American student working towards my Masters degree in Middle East Studies in Tel Aviv, I believe that there exists a serious void in the American media when it comes to portraying the complexity and nuances of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. There are no simple solutions and there are hundreds of opinions on both sides as the appropriate course of action in order to better the position of its respective peoples. While the media is responsible to report on the "big picture" in the region and what decision makers are saying and doing, it is important to shed light on the people who live here and how variant their experiences are of the state of things.
Crystal Lake, IL
"Inside Hamas" was an excellent and fascinating piece. Kate Seelye and her crew were gutsy following around various media-shy Hamas leaders trying to get interviews. For me, one of the most interesting exchanges was between Seelye and Mahmoud Zahar, the new foreign minister. Thinking back over his quotes, he appeared to have been cut from the same cloth as some of our Administration's officials when he said in effect that if Hamas succeeds, they'll take all the credit, but if they fail, it was the U.S. and Israel's fault. I didn't know that political sociopaths crossed so many cultural, national, and religious lines. Their standard line is, "I won't take responsibility for my actions."
Also, my heart went out at the end of the piece to the sad, hapless men hoping to trek over to Israel for a day to work. One man had a diabetic daughter. Here many of the Gaza citizens voted for a better life for themselves and to end the corruption of Fatah, only to be now ruled by men who are weak, stubborn, arrogant, and unrealistic. Why is the plight of the common man always so? They want to raise a family, have a decent standard of living, and mostly be left alone by the government (except when they justifiably need help), but instead they get leadership that does the opposite.
Your report on Hamas, though excellent as usual, ignored two seminal facts in the conflict. Namely, UN Resolution 242, which called for Israel to return to its 1967 borders, and the International World Court's decision that the wall under construction in along Israel's border is illegal. Without including these crucial facts in your report, you weakened your own effort to explore the Hamas movement.
New York, NY
As an African American - who was pro Israel - thank you Frontline. By bringing this informative program - I am beginning to understand the Palestinian point of view. Being starved, being cordoned by walls, being bombarded daily, being humiliated, being pressured, thus the outcome is obvious; how long can Hamas hold out? Before they strike back?
New York, New York
I was disappointed in this special on Gaza. What is never sufficiently covered in these reports is how Israel was created at the EXPENSE of an existing population, and how Israel continually ignores international law by building settlements and walls in the occupied territories, to name the most obvious illegal activity. It is remarkable how many Americans do not have any idea how Israel was created, or what are the bases of the conflict. Their education of the situation is through the constant, unbalanced "reporting," like this one, designed to function as propaganda by the media in the West, which we all know is largely controlled by people who support the existence of the State of Israel. And, unfortunately, this offering was more of the same.
I cannot believe the Serbian people for the most part still believe that Mladic and Karadzic are heroes. I will rejoice in their capture when the former army general and president are brought to justice in the Hague. My wife and her family were from a small town outside of Sarajevo and they were all lucky to escape with their lives. Her father and brother were nearly shot and killed in front of her at the age of 12. They watched hundreds of their neighbors get executed. The pain and tragedy is still unbearable for her to talk about more than a decade later. They were definitely the lucky ones. More than 200,000 people dead; we owe them justice. This kind of history cannot be expressed in words. I am upset and saddened that the two individuals most responsible for this genocide were given one day, let alone 10 years, to enjoy as free men. Mladic and Karadzic don't deserve to breathe the same air as rats, and they will burn in hell for their evils. Let's hope with heavy hearts that the captures and convictions will come sooner than later, so we can all finally move on, gain closure, and give the souls of those who died much too soon peace.
A simple question: Why? Having recently watched the show, and remembering what had happened, I do not know why 'ethnic cleansing' occurred. That is, what brought on the Serbs actions in the firt place? Some of the aforementioned comments make reference to the Muslims carrying out their own war. If at all possible, could you email me a response as to why this happened, please and thankyou.
FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
This is a complicated story and we recommend that you read through our links and resources for additional information. But the short answer is that after the Cold War ended, the nation of Yugoslavia broke up as different ethnic and religious groups sought to establish or re-establish separate countries. The largest group, the Serbs, sought to unify the Serb population throughout the former Yugoslavia into a "Greater Serbia." To accomplish that in Bosnia, for example, the Serbs began a policy of "ethnic cleansing" to drive out Muslims and Croats in an effort to create Serb enclaves that could become part of "Greater Serbia." This is not to say that the other groups did not share some responsibility for the ethnic strife that engulfed the region in the 1990s.
Far too often the Serbs are portrayed as the bad guys in the Balkan war. One must remember that all sides - Croat, Serb, and Muslim - committed atrocities.
Hasan, Bosnia is not forgotten. I'm an American SFOR veteran, previously stationed in Eagle Base Tuzla. Almost every day I think about Bosnia-Herzegovina, the country and its people, all its people, Bosnians, Serbs and Croats. May you live in Peace.
Thank you for sharing this story and opening my eyes in social injustice around the world. I did not understand why America was involved in this war because I was young; now I understand. I hope the Muslims find justice by finding the men responsible.
Los Angeles, CA
We are getting accustomed to one sided reporting. Srebrenica is depicted as a safe zone for refugees when 3-4,000 Muslim troops were stationed there and have used Srebrenica as a launching pad for burning Serbian villages and killing Serbians (the New York Times reporter Mr. David Binder wrote numerous articles about it); 50,000 participating in a demonstration in connection with the death of Mr. Milosevic (Belgrade alone is a one million or so town) indicating a return to "Serbian nationalism" are just a few typical examples of misinformation about Serbia. Ms. Del Ponte spent years without proving Mr. Milosevic's guilt. Now that he died she needs another actor in her "dog and pony show." Even if Mr. Mladic is captured, the trial will be so long that observing grass grow would be a spectacle compared to it. As to the credibility, please buy or borrow book by Peter Brock, Media Cleansing: Dirty Reporting and lots of this stuff will become clearer.
Your program on Mladic and Karadzic saddened me. It held nothing back, showing Mladic promising safety followed by innocent people murdered at his and Karadzic's command. Your program also enraged me. These two villains remain at large, perhaps protected by the same officials who should be bringing them to the tribunal of international justice. With each day these two murderers remain free, the blood of the innocent cries out. Where are the vast intelligence gathering machines of the US and the EU?
Jennifer Glasse is one brave woman for going into Bosnia. I was born there, and watching the filming of her in Bosnia was very emotional for my family. I think people need to realize what they have done to 200.000 people and their families. And I just want to thank Jennifer Glasse for being so strong and caring and letting people know what really happened. Thank you.
It never ceases to amaze me to see how only one side is always portrayed in media as victims. In this case it is always Bosnian Muslims. I would not like you to get a wrong connotation from my response like enraged Serb writing back. My parents, mom (Bosnian Catholic) and dad (Bosnian Serb) brought me up without hate and prejudice against other religions and races. It was immensely disturbing to see how Bosnian Muslim lobbyists in the U.S have a lot of influence on the media. War is not fair. I would like to think that at least journalists are the ones who strive toward the justice and truth. Well why not then bring other sides of the stories. Believe me, I am the survivor but unfortunately my best friend, a Serb, and many other peers are not here to write you a response. They were killed during the war by Bosnian Muslims. I don't like to take up a tone of a victim but you are accusing and prosecuting only one side of the story. How about you show fairness and bring justice, as journalists, with the stories told by Bosnian Catholics, Serbs and Muslims. Thank you for letting me write a response to this.
I am encouraged to see the PBS coverage of this situation by bringing it to the public's attention. The stability is still tenuous in the Balkans. I was in Hungary/Bosnia (IFOR) in 1996, Germany-for Kosovo (KFOR) war support in 1999, and again Bosnia (SFOR) in 2003 with the US Army/Army National Guard. Our soldiers were still discovering and securing large mass graves when I left in October, 2003. Will never forget that horrific and tragic sight.
Thank you for not letting us forget about the Srebrenica Massacre. These victims are fortunate that this massacre has the attention, albeit tepid, of the world. Srebrenica's massacre is a repeat of the massacre at Kocevje, Slovenia, in June 1945. Tens of thousands of anti-communist Slovenians had fled from Tito's partisans in Slovenia to Austria in May,1945. They surrendered to the British Army and sought its protection. A political deal between the British and Tito involved the forced repatriation of 12,000 Slovenian Homefront Defenders who were then massacred by Tito's partisans.
The British used deceit to hand over the Slovenians. This was not an isolated incident. This matter was shoved under the rug by the British, and the iron fist of Tito's communists insured silence in Yugoslavia. The matter came to light concurrently with the break away of Slovenia from Yugoslavia. Even though 15 years have passed since independence, no one has been brought to justice on these matters. For 60 years the British have ignored the issue and continue to do so, and the world community does not even know it happened.
Thank you for your efforts in helping to keep the tragedy of Bosnia alive in the all-to-fleeting memories of Americans--and the Western world. The U.S., Western Europe, and the U.N. were sinfully silent in the early years of the atrocities, and even argued that Bosnia and Croatia should remain part of Milosevic's Yugoslavia (read Greater Serbia).
I recommend to viewers Slaveca Drakulic's novel, S: A Novel About the Balkans, which details the horrific experiences of Bosnian Muslim women who were raped by Serbian soldiers, and Rezak Hukanovic's memoir of life in the death camps of Bosnia, entitled The Tenth Circle of Hell (Dante described nine).
How about a program about Arkan (leader of the infamous ethnic-cleansing Tigers), and Ceca (Serbia's turbo-folk singing "Madonna," and a suspect in Djinic's assassination )--two of the most infamous Serbians of all time, who to this day are revered by many (not all) Serbs as mythic heroes of Serbian nationalism.
As a young man living in this new century, with hope of a better future, the past still continues to haunt us. Myself being from Albania, I find it difficult to see crimes as those committed and the "criminals" not found liable. These two people that single-handedly committed some horrible crimes are allowed to roam free. People being killed for no reason but being of a different ethnicity and seeking basic rights. The current political elites in Serbia are not much of a help either. Refusing to deny the crimes and the policies that they follow in Kosovo and other regions in the area shows a government that does not hold up to its side of the deal. Innocent people were killed, and these two "generals" roam Europe free and enjoying most of the rights of honest citizens.
The EU has not done much either to push the importance of this issue. What message does it send to our children, is this what we want to tell the future generations? You can kill innocent beings for no reason, and go free. The EU, Russia (greatest ally to Serbia) etc., have not done much to demand that the Serbian people step up to the plate and take responsibility and stop hiding these criminals. What would really be ironic is if these people were hiding somewhere in Europe or even Russia. Russia has been seen as a backstabbing partner; in Iraq they were giving intelligence about the US Army to a dictator.