Silence as naked truth
by Emir Suljagic
Following Momir Nikolić’s confession, no one asked Mladen Ivanić to comment on his [RS] government’s report according to which just 2,000 people were killed in Srebrenica. Dejan Miletić, who ordered and paid for the report, could not say why officers of the RS army were not approached during its compilation. The OSCE did not feel obliged to sack the official responsible for allowing Dragomir Vasić, the Zvornik police chief at the time of the Srebernica massacre, to become a deputy in the RS national assembly. Marinko Jurčević, the RS state prosecutor, did not initiate charges against generals Svetozar Andrić and Velimir Miletić for covering up the crime in Srebrenica...
I could never find a good word for Momir Nikolić. Yet whatever it takes for a man to face up to the fact that he was a mass murderer, and for whatever reason he decided to do so, it must have been a hard thing to do. In an unprecedented act he revealed, down to the tiniest details, the operation that in July 1995 led to the murder of nearly 10,000 people, and identified all the individual cogs of the death machine as well as those who carefully concealed the crime in the subsequent years. And he accepted responsibility for that.
No one can now any longer claim that the Serbs did not commit in Srebrenica an appalling crime that had been planned for weeks and months ahead, and whose implementation involved all parts of the state apparatus, a tacit approval of the majority and an evident involvement of a minority of the society. As Nikolić recalled in his confession, Srebrenica prisoners in Bratunac were guarded by ‘armed volunteers’; they were taken to the place of execution by buses from Bratunac’s ‘Vihor’ company and Srebrenica’s ‘Srebrenica-Express’, and by the trucks of Milić’s ‘Boksit’; the director of the depot in Kravica looked on while Serb soldiers were cutting down the prisoners...
Louder than Nikolić’s confession was, sadly, only the silence that followed it. That shows us up for what we really are better than anything else: how easily we can absorb such things and how contemptible our moral choices have been during the past eight years.
The fact is that during the past week no has bothered to ask Mladen Ivanić what he thinks of Srebrenica. His government, as you recall, has published a report stating that 2,000 people were killed in Srebrenica: 1,000 died in battle, a hundred or so fell victim to Bosnian Serb soldiers’ vengeance, and another hundred perished because ‘the RS soldiers were not acquainted with the provisions of international law’.
Dejan Miletić, as obscure as his Office of the RS government for relations with the Tribunal, who ordered and paid for this report crafted by as yet unnamed ‘experts’, was unable to say why during the research he did not consult any RS army officers.
The OSCE felt itself under no pressure to explain anything, let alone sack the official thanks to whom Dragomir Vasić, the Zvornik police chief in July 1995, was able to pass the candidate selection procedure to become a deputy in the RS national assembly. ‘At around 9.30 that morning a meeting took place in the headquarters of the Bratunac brigade. It was attended by General Mladić, Colonel Vasić, Lieutenant-Colonel Popović and General Krstić.’ This took place on 13 July 1995, two days after the fall of Srebrenica, when the killing was already in full swing.
Marinko Jurčević, the state prosecutor, failed to instigate charges against general Svetozar Andrić, commander of the RS army’s 5th Corps, and general Radivoje Miletić, for covering up the crime in Srebrenica. The district prosecutor in Zvornik did not initiate proceedings against Zlatko Celanović, the military police chief of the Bratunac brigade of the RS army, on the grounds of reasonable suspicion that he may be responsible for the murder of Rešid Sinanović in July 1995.
In other words, nothing happened. The reasons for this state of affairs are hazy, but the consequences are clear. Momir Nikolić’s confession reveals a great deal about us. About the killers in our midst, about those who have protected them all these years, about those who did not wish to know, those who after the war did business with the killers, those who approved such dealings and those who remained indifferent. All these people chose to remain silent, since in their different ways they all became collaborators during and after the war.
This article has been translated from Dani (Sarajevo), 16 May 2003