Haunted Village: The Hunt for War Criminals in Yugoslavia
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JIM LEHRER: Today is the sixth anniversary of the massacre of Srebrenica. More than 7,000 Muslim men from the Bosnian village were rounded up and shot by Serbian forces loyal to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He has been arrested by the UN War Crimes Tribunal for Serbian atrocities in Kosovo, but the search continues for the killers of Srebrenica. Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News reports.
LINDSEY HILSUM: It was in this field opposite the metal factory that the women of Srebrenica saw their men for the last time. The question now is: Will the prosecution in the Hague be able to link Mr. Milosevic directly with what’s happened in Srebrenica, the worst single atrocity in of the Bosnian war? More likely, they’ll try to pin Srebrenica on General Ratko Mladic, seen here at the time. He commanded the Bosnian Serb army which seized the enclave from the Muslims. He’s indicted for war crimes, along with the Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic, but they’re both still on the run. Srebrenica today is a miserable, haunted town. Many people here are Serb refugees, forced to flee from Muslim areas. They’re poor and resentful. “What massacre,” they say? “Muslims killed Serb as well, but nobody cares about that.”
SPOKESMAN (Translated): There are so many war criminals. In the newspapers I read about those that haven’t gone yet to the Hague. Here are four and on the next page are four more. But no one from the other nations, Croats or Muslims, indicted.
REPORTER: If you knew where Karadzic or Mladic were, would you keep it a secret, what would you say?
MAN (Translated): We don’t know where they are and, even if we did, we wouldn’t say.
LINDSEY HILSUM: British troops in Banja Luka, northwest of Srebrenica, where the current Bosnian Serb leadership is based. Until now, the international force seems to have avoided arresting Karadzic and Mladic, for fear of upsetting the delicate peace. Now the UN authorities are pressurizing the moderate leader they’ve imposed on Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb entity. But what can he do?
MLADEN KVANIC: The police… The number of the police… It have 8,000, and if you compare that with the fact that we have close to 20,000 soldiers of the NATO, more better equipped, even the better secret service than we, than he would say it’s more a matter of the effort than of the local police.
LINDSEY HILSUM: The fugitives are said to be somewhere in the mountains of eastern Bosnia. But the prime minister can’t force the police to search because most of them are still loyal to Karadzic and Mladic.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Where is General Mladic? And where is Mr. Karadzic?
MLADEN KVANIC: Believe me, I really don’t know that, and I really don’t have information about that. Although I think that Republika Srpska has to start to cooperate. And I think that no one can protect anyone which did a crime.
LINDSEY HILSUM: During the war, Radovan Karadzic had his headquarters in the village of Parlee. His wife and daughter are still here, but he’s long gone. Just the other week, international troops are reported to have tried to ambush Mr. Karadzic in one of these disused railway tunnels near Sarajevo. The report is unconfirmed, says the sighting of Mr. Karadzic is a monastery in Srebrenica, or in the town of Forcha. It is said that General Mladic is in an underground bunker, also in eastern Bosnia. Whatever the political pressure on the Bosnian Serb authorities, in the end it is down to the foreign forces here to find and arrest the two most wanted men from the war in Bosnia. But for the survivors, the world famous names are only a small part of the story.
HASAN NUHANOVIC: If I return to my home town, where I come from originally, I would probably never meet Karadzic or Mladic, or Milosevic in the street. Who I would meet is exactly those people who killed my family, and they are still there. My question is, who is going to make it possible for me to go back to my hometown and not see these people there? They should be removed. They should be arrested and punished.
LINDSEY HILSUM: Some Muslims have nonetheless started to return not to the town, but to nearby villages. The people here said 36 of their men are missing, believed killed in the massacre at Srebrenica. Justice is a word they hear on the radio. The Hague is a place far away, as they struggle through poverty and grief to build some kind of new life.