The Afterwar: Prosecution of War Criminals in Bosnia
[Sorry, the video for this story has expired, but you can still read the transcript below. ]
JIM LEHRER: Still to come on the NewsHour tonight, some news from on the ground in Bosnia, the Chernobyl anniversary, and the auction. Charlayne Hunter-Gault has the Bosnia story.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: On the surface, some things appear to be returning to normal in Bosnia, nearly four months after American and other troops arrived to keep the peace. So far, the 60,000 international soldiers have prevented new fighting among Muslims, Serbs, and Croats and the process of disarmament and reducing the local armies is underway. But as the NATO commander told the NewsHour last month, the civilian agenda of reconstruction and reconciliation is massive.
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN, Supreme Allied Commander, Europe: (March 27, 1996) There’s a whole reconstruction effort, the World Bank that is going to take part in it. There are about 120 non-governmental organizations that are involved. All of that has taken time to put together and to synchronize.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Perhaps the biggest problem is returning back to the original towns and lands nearly a million people made homeless in the three and a half years of war. But the initial stages of implementing the Dayton Accord have brought more, not fewer, refugees. Rather than live under Muslim rule, thousands of Serbs left the Sarajevo suburbs ceded by the Dayton Accord to the Bosnian government. Some even dug up coffins of their relatives in their flight. The top civilian for the Bosnia reconstruction program acknowledged a fear many refugees have of returning home.
CARL BILDT, European Union Representative, Bosnia: (April 2, 1996) I think a lot of them would like to do that, but they are asking themselves, do we dare to do it, is there a climate of security? Do I dare to go back to my home if that has been in an area that is now ethnically cleansed by the one community or the other?
SPOKESMAN: The International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia–
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: A major political problem facing the international community is the apprehension and prosecution of war criminals. Two Bosnian Serb leaders, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, have been indicted by the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague, but so far have been roaming in relative freedom. NATO forces have not arrested any alleged war criminals, saying that is the job of the newly-created international and local police forces. Even protecting evidence of war crimes, especially of last summer’s massacre of Bosnian Muslims by Serb forces in Srebrenica is a controversial issue. NATO commanders now say that areas of the massacres are being kept under surveillance to prevent tampering with evidence. Ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, said the guilty must be brought to justice.
MADELEINE ALBRIGHT, U.S. Ambassador to the UN: (March 22, 1996) Mladic and Karadzic need to know that their days of roaming around are numbered and that the area available to them for running and hiding is, is closing down.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And the families of the missing are making sure their fate is not forgotten. Demonstrations by family members at various international agency headquarters have become a regular occurrence.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: We get two perspectives now from journalists who just returned from Bosnia. David Rohde, Balkans correspondent for the “Christian Science Monitor,” recently won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting on the massacres in Bosnia. And Jurate Kazickas, a contributing editor for “Good Housekeeping” Magazine, and a former Associated Press reporter, traveled to Bosnia last week with the delegation from the Women’s Commission for Refugee Women and Children. And starting with you, Ms. Kazickas, first, tell me what stuck out the most in your mind as you on your first trip to the area arrived there.
JURATE KAZICKAS, Journalist: (New York) Well, I was totally unprepared for the devastation in that country. Sarajevo, itself, I mean, we’ve seen the pictures on television of a building here, a building there. When you drive in from the airport and see, you know, 20-story buildings burned, windows broken, it was just dreadful. And driving through the countryside, village after village, ghost towns, homes empty, deserted. It was, uh, very, very striking to me.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: I’m going to get some more from you in just a moment, but, David, let me welcome you back to the NewsHour and congratulate you on your Pulitzer and other awards for your reporting from Bosnia.
DAVID ROHDE, Journalist: (New York) Thank you.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You’ve been to Bosnia many times. Since we last spoke, you’ve been concentrating on the mass graves there. What did you find on your trip back this time?
MR. ROHDE: It was clear that one of the most important graves had been tampered with by the Bosnian Serbs. NATO has tried to use only aerial surveillance. They have not placed any soldiers at the graves to guard the graves, but it has not worked. Umm, the war crimes issue is growing in importance over there. There are very, very high expectations among Muslims that war criminals are going to be arrested, and most Bosnian Serbs remain convinced that the–that there were no war crimes carried out by their leaders, so they’re continuing to support their leaders.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Now, you say the most important grave. Tell me a little bit about it and what you actually saw there that gave you evidence that it was–has been tampered with.
MR. ROHDE: This is the one grave around Srebrenica–there are about a half dozen of them–where there are three eyewitnesses who survived the execution, who all saw the Bosnian Serb commander, Gen. Ratko Mladic. He was just shown in the piece we saw skiing. He was there. He assured all the prisoners they would not be harmed. Twenty minutes after he left, men were taken out in groups of about 25, blindfolded, and executed. Uh, if there are not a large number of bodies in the grave now, if those bodies have been removed, that hurts the Tribunal’s case because the eyewitnesses, there’s no corroboration for what they’re saying.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What did you see with your own eyes? I mean, you, you had taken pictures, right, before, which the Serbs confiscated?
MR. ROHDE: It was very clear it had been dug up. There was fresh grass that had been growing there, and you could see that pieces of turf had been turned over. It was basically–everyone who was there, including some of the War Crimes Tribunal investigators, agreed it had been dug up within a matter of weeks probably. There were fresh, heavy vehicle tracks across it, and everything that I took pictures of was gone. It was very clear–
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Like?
MR. ROHDE: –that the Serbs–there were berets that old men wear. There was a pile of canes that I found, again that old men would use. They were all gone. Everything I took pictures of, the Serbs developed the film and clearly went and took them away.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: You mean, they took your pictures?
MR. ROHDE: Yes. I was arrested after visiting the site, and then the Serb police took the film and it was clear from what I saw there that they developed the film, went back to the site, and every item I took a picture of was gone. It was–there were civilian clothes, umm, a pile of them in the woods. There were ID’s I found that belonged to Muslims from Srebrenica in the civilian clothes. That pile was gone. Umm, so it’s–a large amount of evidence may have disappeared, but the Tribunal was able to find other evidence in there in a school which is nearby where the prisoners were held that corroborates the story.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: But let me ask you this. How did it happen that these graves were tampered with if, if they were, in fact, in this way so substantially when there was, we’ve been told on this program by officials of NATO and U.S. officials, that there was aerial surveillance and that if anything moved down there, the US and NATO forces would be able to see it, although they didn’t have enough manpower to place troops on the ground?
MR. ROHDE: Umm, officials based in the U.S. have told me that the aerial surveillance doesn’t work if there’s heavy cloud cover, so it’s very possible that a vehicle was able to get in there, dig up the site, and get out when there was heavy cloud cover, and it was between these intermittent ground patrols that the U.S. troops were using.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: So that if, if, if what you suspect is the case, what’s going to happen to these cases? Is there any other evidence that could be gathered to pursue the, uh, suspected war criminals and the indicted ones?
MR. ROHDE: Yes. There are many other graves, and the Tribunal still has an extremely strong case against the Bosnian Serb leadership. What’s interesting is that as all this new evidence is uncovered, umm, Muslim expectations are growing higher and higher for arrests, but they are disappointed that the graves have been tampered with. And what’s interesting is that the Tribunal spent two weeks there collecting large amounts of evidence, but it wasn’t covered at all by Serb television. So the average Bosnian Serb who is–it’s very important to convince that this happened so they’ll turn on their own extremist leadership, doesn’t believe that any of this happened.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Ms. Kazickas, your mission was to look specifically at the refugee women and children. What kinds of things did you find with, with them?
MS. KAZICKAS: Well, I’d like to follow up on David’s point. We spoke to widows of Srebrenica, and they had been very, very active in this issue. They told us the graves were being tampered and they are starting on their own, because nobody is helping them, a form to pass around, collecting witnesses. They’re getting testimony from people on their own. No one is doing it for them. The women know that to make their case heard, uh, they have got to do it themselves, and that was, you know, very, very moving toward–for us.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Excuse me. About how–because there are what, about how many, the estimates of the missing men are–
MS. KAZICKAS: I think 8,000, if I’m correct.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: David, do you have a different–is that about right, as far as you know?vMR. ROHDE: It is about right. It’s anywhere from three thousand to eight thousand.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: And so these widows are starting on their own, as you said, to–
MR. ROHDE: They are. The Tribunal is investigating and the Tribunal is doing a very good job, but they’re handicapped. They need someone to arrest the people who did this. Gen. Mladic was seen at three execution sites. It’s very clear who did this. It’s just a question of whether or not they’re going to be arrested.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Ms. Kazickas–
MS. KAZICKAS: I’d–
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Go ahead. Sorry.
MS. KAZICKAS: –like to say, David, we were in Tuzla at a collection center, and there were two male men, residents of Srebrenica, who had escaped and hid in the forest, and, uh, they were there at this collection center, and they had witnessed some of the murders, and they said, nobody had interviewed them, nobody had come to them.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What is the collection center?
MS. KAZICKAS: Well, that’s where the refugees go, the ones who have no place to live, and mostly, of course, it’s women and children in these centers, but every now and then, you do find a family that has fled, and it was very, very troubling to us that no one was going out there and getting all the information possible.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mm-hmm.
MS. KAZICKAS: And the women are ready. I mean, as far as rape and the crimes committed there, one woman said to me she would make her mother testify. They feel so strongly that these, these war criminals must be prosecuted, uh, for the healing to begin, but they are very, they are moving forward, and of all the terrible things I saw, I cannot tell you how impressed we were with the women of Bosnia. They need so much help and nobody is giving it to them.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What kind of help, aside from pursuing these atrocities and finding out where the missing people are, the men, what other kinds of problems do they have that they need help with?
MS. KAZICKAS: Well, it’s staggering. First of all, no one has any numbers on how many widows exist from this confrontation. No one has any statistics on how many women are single heads of households. We know that a quarter of a million men died in this war, and many of them had families. There are no local aid programs geared specifically to women. The few that exist now are in danger of losing their funding, and–
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Their funding from–
MS. KAZICKAS: From the government, Youth Aid, and, and other organizations, you know–they said, well, these are war time programs, and now we’ve kind of made the transition to peace, but there has been movement on that ever since we’ve come back and talked with people in Washington, I’m glad to say, but, umm–
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: What is the greatest need now?
MS. KAZICKAS: Well, of course, economic, economic aid. These women have got to learn skills on how to cope and get into the 21st century. Uh, these women, many of them, are highly trained. They’re lawyers; they’re doctors; and they said, we want to be a part of the reconstruction process. We need training; we need video cassettes; we need computers; we need faxes. You know, one said, we don’t need any more little dry biscuits or old clothes, we are an educated society, and we’re ready to move forward. And, uh, while we are focusing on the victims of war, I think we have to look at the survivors, the women and children who endured so much and held that country together, held their families together during four terrible years, and, uh, and, you know, now they want to do what they can and the loan programs are just not taking the women into account.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Mmm-hmm. You said a few moments ago that you didn’t think that they could move forward without finding these–doing something about the crimes that have been committed. Is your sense that there is a spirit there, though, to move forward and rebuild?
MS. KAZICKAS: Oh, very much so. Just to give you one example–
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Very briefly, sorry.
MS. KAZICKAS: Yes. In Banja Luka, the women’s organization, primarily Serbian women, have already met with the Muslim women from Tuzla. They’re holding a conference in June, all the women, Croats, Serbs, and Muslims, getting together saying that we must work together, no more war.
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well, Jurate Kazickas and David Rohde, thank you.