Tag Archive: Islamic Land of Bosnia


October 09, 2017

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnia’s war crimes court on Monday acquitted the wartime commander of Srebrenica, who was accused of committing atrocities against Serbs during the 1992-95 Balkan conflict.

The acquittal of Naser Oric immediately prompted anger from Serbian leaders, with Serbian Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin saying the court ruling “threatens security, trust and reconciliation in the whole of the Balkans.”

Oric was accused of war crimes against three Serb prisoners of war who were slain in villages around the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in the early days of the conflict. A panel of judges presiding over the trial ruled Monday the prosecution did not present evidence proving the case against Oric.

Oric had previously been tried by a U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, where he was also acquitted in 2008. Oric is seen as a hero by many Muslim Bosnians for his role in defending Srebrenica, where Serb forces massacred some 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995. The Srebrenica massacre, the worst single atrocity in Europe since World War II, is the only episode of Bosnia’s war to be defined as genocide by two U.N. courts.

Serbs continue to claim the 1995 Srebrenica slaughter was an act of revenge by uncontrolled troops because they say that soldiers under Oric’s command killed thousands of Serbs in the villages surrounding the eastern town.

“It is clear that we will have to fight for justice ourselves,” said Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic. Still, he urged Serbs not to “utter a hard word against Bosniak Muslim) neighbors so that we can build friendship with them and build a future together with them.”

Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik said Oric’s acquittal showed there was no justice for Serbs. He called on Serb judges and prosecutors to abandon their posts in Bosnia’s top court and prosecution office and urged all Bosnian Serb political representatives “to gather around the cause of declaring the (two institutions) illegitimate.”

The Bosnian war pitted the country’s three main ethnic factions — Serbs, Croats and Bosnian Muslims — against each other after Bosnia split from what was then Yugoslavia. More than 100,000 people were killed in the conflict before a peace deal was brokered in 1995.

AP Writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.

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August 10, 2017

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnia is marking the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s visit, her last overseas tour before she died in a car crash in Paris. Her crusade against land mines led to her three-day visit to Bosnia from Aug. 9, 1997, during which she met victims who sustained injuries from devices planted during the country’s savage civil war in the 1990s.

Three weeks after her visit, which coincided with news of her romance with millionaire Dodi al Fayed, the pair died in a car crash in Paris when their driver lost control of his car as they were pursued by photographers.

British Ambassador Edward Ferguson said Thursday during a memorial conference in Sarajevo that Diana would be saddened by the fact that mines still kill people in Bosnia. “What I think 20 years ago Princess Diana did is that she shone a light on this problem with mines, and she really brought it into public attention in an enormous way, in a way, perhaps, that only she could have done,” Ferguson said.

“By walking through a mine field in Angola, by visiting Bosnia-Hercegovina just a few days before she sadly died. She really got the public attention and therefore political attention as well.” He said undetected land mines still represent a danger in Bosnia despite some recent progress. A half-million people, or about 15 percent of the population, live with this fear of mines, Ferguson added.

The princess’ trip to Bosnia was organized by The Land Mines Survivors’ Network, a group founded in 1995 by two American victims of land mines, Ken Rutherford and Jerry White. As part of the visit, Diana made a surprise visit to the Suljkanovic family in their modest home in the small village of Dobrnja near Tuzla.

Several weeks earlier, the father of the family, Muhamed Suljkanovic, had lost both his feet after stepping on a land mine in the forest outside his house, a remnant of Bosnia’s three-year war. Diana took him some cake on Aug. 9, his birthday, his wife Suada remembered.

“Diana and her friend Ken (Rutherford), the American, they brought the birthday cake, and they sang happy birthday to him, and we were in shock. How did they know?” But the Suljkanovic family’s joy turned to shock and disbelief when, just a few weeks after Diana’s visit, they heard on the radio that the princess had died.

“What? I said to myself. How? Where? I could not believe it. Immediately after that I named my newborn daughter Diana, after the princess. They say we have to somehow remember good people, and we remember her like that,” Muhamed Suljkanovic said.

During her visit, Princess Diana promised financial support for Muhamed for a new prosthesis. Just a couple of months after she died, the family say they received a donation from the royal family, the exact amount promised by Diana.

Another land mine victim, Malic Bradaric, was only 13 in 1996 when he stepped on one while playing in his village of Klokotnica. The incident left him without most of his right leg. When Diana came to visit, he said this week that he expected a royal in a shiny dress wearing a crown. Instead, she arrived on his doorstep wearing jeans and a white shirt.

Bradaric and his friends, who had a chance to meet Diana, said she was “a light at the end of the tunnel” for them. He now remembers the shock when he heard that the princess was killed. “That light that we saw at the end of the tunnel just turned off,” Bradaric said.

Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic from Belgrade, Serbia, contributed to this report.

August 01, 2017

MOSTAR, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Thousands of people converged on the southern Bosnian city of Mostar over the weekend for an annual diving competition from a historic bridge that has drawn crowds for more than four centuries.

Over 10,000 spectators cheered and let off smoke bombs as they watched 41 daring men take the plunge from the Old Bridge during Mostar’s 451st annual diving competition. The competitors dove from a bridge 27 meters (89 feet) high into the cold, fast-flowing Neretva River below in front of a panel of judges studying the quality of the dive.

The fall from the top of the bridge to the 4.5-meter (15-foot) deep river underneath lasts nearly three seconds, with divers picking up a speed of around 80 kph (50 mph). At the end of a beautiful Sunday afternoon of diving, 38-year-old Mostar native Lorens Listo claimed his 11th competition victory.

“Every time I compete it is more difficult and every victory is thus sweeter,” Listo said. Diving or jumping from the bridge, originally built by the Ottomans in 1566, has been a rite of passage for generations of Mostar youngsters.

The Old Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage site, was destroyed during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, but was painstakingly rebuilt after the conflict. “I compete elsewhere as well, but I love diving from the Old Bridge more than anything else,” Listo said.

The event climaxed with participants jumping from the bridge after nightfall with flares in their outstretched hands.

July 11, 2017

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Tens of thousands of people converged on Srebrenica Tuesday for a funeral for dozens of newly identified victims of the 1995 massacre in the Bosnian town. Remains of 71 Muslim Bosniak victims, including seven juvenile boys and a woman, were buried at the memorial cemetery on the 22nd anniversary of the crime. They were laid to rest next to over 6,000 other Srebrenica victims found previously in mass graves. The youngest victim buried this year was 15, the oldest was 72.

Adela Efendic came to Srebrenica to bury the remains of her father, Senaid. “I was 20-day-old baby when he was killed. I have no words to explain how it feels to bury the father you have never met,” Efendic said. “You imagine what kind of a person he might have been, but that is all you have.”

More than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys perished in 10 days of slaughter after Srebrenica was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces on July 11, 1995. It is the only episode of Bosnia’s fratricidal 1992-95 war to be defined as genocide by two U.N. courts.

Serbs hastily disposed of the victims’ bodies in several large pits, then dug them up again and scattered the remains over the nearly 100 smaller mass graves and hidden burial sites around the town. Every year forensic experts identify newly found remains through DNA analysis before reburial.

Most coffins are lowered into their graves by strangers, because all male members of the victims’ families had often been killed. “I was looking for him for 20 years…they found him in a garbage dump last December,” Emina Salkic said through tears, hugging the coffin of her brother Munib. He was 16 when he was killed.

Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces for years before it fell. It was declared a U.N. “safe haven” for civilians in 1993, but a Security Council mission that visited shortly afterward described the town as “an open jail” where a “slow-motion process of genocide” was in effect.

When Serb forces led by Gen. Ratko Mladic broke through two years later, Srebrenica’s terrified Muslim Bosniak population rushed to the U.N. compound hoping that Dutch U.N. peacekeepers would protect them. But the outgunned peacekeepers watched helplessly as Mladic’s troops separated out men and boys for execution and sent the women and girls to Bosnian government-held territory.

An appeals court in The Hague ruled this month that the Dutch government was partially liable in the deaths of more than 300 people who were turned away from the compound. Mladic is now on trial before a U.N. war crimes tribunal, but many Bosnian Serbs, including political leaders, continue to deny that the slaughter constituted genocide.

“We are again calling on Serbs and their political and intellectual elites to find courage to face the truth and stop denying genocide,” Bakir Izetbegovic, Bosniak member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, said in his address to the mourners.

Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, the head of the EU delegation to Bosnia, said that remembering what happened in Srebrenica was “the common duty of us as Europeans,” especially as we live “in a world where facts and truth are being manipulated.”

In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the international community, “and in particular the United Nations,” have accepted their share of responsibility, and that all parties must acknowledge “that these crimes occurred and our roles in allowing them to occur.”

“The difficult task of building trust to allow for full reconciliation in Bosnia and Herzegovina lies with the people of the country’s various communities,” Guterres said in a statement. “To build a better and common future, the tragedies of the past must be recognized by those communities.”

Amel Emric in Srebrenica and Edie Lederer in New York contributed

February 3, 2017

A Bosnia-based international school said today it would offer scholarships to refugees and students from seven nations affected by the immigration ban issued last week by US President’s Donald Trump.

United World College (UWC) Mostar, one of 17 UWC schools worldwide that aim to bring together students from conflict zones, opened in 2005 with the goal of healing ethnic divisions after the Bosnian war of the 1990s.

“We offer scholarships to US students, as well as to refugees and students from majority Muslim countries banned by the US Executive order to send a signal for peace,” said Valentina Mindoljevic, head of the UWC Mostar.

Trump’s order bars the admission of people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen and places an indefinite hold on Syrian refugees.

The school in 2011 extended a scholarship to Kim Han-sol, the grandson of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, after Hong Kong refused him a visa to study there.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170203-college-in-bosnia-offers-scholarships-to-people-banned-by-trump/.

January 09, 2017

BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Bosnian Serbs celebrated a controversial holiday Monday in defiance of the country’s other ethnic groups, its constitutional court and the international community.

The Jan. 9 holiday commemorates the date in 1992 when Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of their own state in Bosnia, igniting the country’s devastating four-year war. Police officers, firefighters and folklore groups paraded through the streets of Banja Luka, the de-facto capital of the Serb-run part of the country, Republika Srpska.

Members of a Bosnian Army regiment who come from the Serb chunk of the country were also in attendance despite warnings by the defense ministry and NATO that their participation would be considered illegal.

The soldiers did not take part in the parade, but were present on the orders of the Serb member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, Mladen Ivanic, who insisted he had the right to request a military honor guard.

The separate post-war militaries of Bosnia’s three ethnic groups merged into a common army in 2005 in what was considered the country’s most successful postwar reform. Monday’s events were the first time that the army’s unity and shared command — requiring unanimous decisions by the presidency’s Bosniak, Croat and Serb members — had been challenged.

Bosnia’s defense ministry said Monday it had issued a clear order vetoing participation of the Bosnian Army soldiers in the celebration. The ministry added in a statement that it will investigate how and why its order was disregarded.

Reacting to the celebration, the U.S. embassy in Bosnia said it was taking “any threat to the security and stability … very seriously,” adding that those responsible for the rule of law violations “must be held accountable”

Although Serb leaders insisted that Monday’s celebrations would be a secular holiday, they participated in Serb Christian Orthodox ceremonies in the city’s main church. That was broadcast live on local television, along with interviews with Bosnian Serb wartime military and political leaders who had been sentenced for crimes against humanity by a U.N war crimes court.

During the war that killed 100,000 people and turned half of the country’s population into refugees, Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats were persecuted and almost completely expelled from Republika Srpska territory.

After the war, Republika Srpska became an autonomous region of Bosnia. Bosniaks and Croats who returned there view the holiday as a celebration of their expulsion. The holiday was banned last year by Bosnia’s top court. It ruled that the date, which falls on a Serb Christian Orthodox religious holiday, discriminates against the country’s other ethnic groups.

The continued celebration was repeatedly condemned by the top European Union and the U.S diplomats in Bosnia who urged Bosnian Serbs to stop defying the country’s top court.

June 27, 2017

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A Dutch appeals court ruled Tuesday that the government was partially liable in the deaths of more than 300 Muslim men killed by Bosnian Serb forces in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

The ruling formally struck down a civil court’s landmark 2014 judgment that said the state was liable in the deaths of the Bosnian Muslim men and boys who were turned over by Dutch U.N. peacekeepers to Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995 and subsequently killed.

But the appeals panel largely upheld the earlier case’s findings while significantly cutting the amount of damages relatives of the dead could receive by assessing the victims’ chances of survival had they remained in the care of the Dutch troops.

The court estimated the chances of Muslim males’ survival if they had stayed in the Dutch compound at around 30 percent. “The state is therefore liable for 30 percent of the losses suffered by the relatives,” the court said in a statement. The 2014 judgment didn’t include that qualification.

In a written reaction, the Dutch Defense Ministry said the government would carefully study the latest ruling. “The starting point is that the Bosnian Serbs were responsible,” the statement said. Rights group Amnesty International welcomed the ruling as drawing a line in the sand for peacekeepers.

“More than two decades after the Srebrenica massacre, this decision establishes that peacekeepers can be held responsible for a failure to protect civilians and that their governments can and will be held to account for their conduct,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.

The appeals judgment is the latest in a string of legal cases in the Netherlands concerning the country’s role in the Srebrenica massacre and whether the country’s soldiers could or should have done more to prevent the mass killings.

The ruling came the morning after a lawyer told a late-night television show that he was filing a claim for 206 veterans of the Dutch Srebrenica mission seeking compensation and recognition for the suffering they have endured since the fall of the enclave.

Lawyer Michael Ruperti told talk show host Eva Jinek he is claiming 22,000 euros ($25,000) per veteran, a symbolic amount of 1,000 euros per year since the fall of Srebrenica. Defense Ministry spokesman Klaas Meijer said the ministry already handles claims filed by veterans with “demonstrable” physical or psychological complaints as a result of their deployment.

“If people have demonstrable suffering they can come to our veterans department and file a claim,” Meijer said. “It is important that we can handle the claims individually and carefully,” he added. Hague Appeals Court presiding judge Gepke Dulek said the Muslim men in Srebrenica were killed after being removed by Dutch U.N. peacekeepers from their compound during a mass evacuation. Bosnian Serb forces led by Gen. Ratko Mladic had overrun the U.N.-declared safe haven in eastern Bosnia.

“By having the men leave the compound unreservedly, they were deprived of a chance of survival,” presiding judge Gepke Dulek said. The men were among around 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb forces in Europe’s worst massacre since World War II.

The ruling angered a group of female relatives of victims of the massacre who were in court for the ruling. Munira Subasic, who leads an organization called the Mothers of Srebrenica that brought the case, stood up and waved her finger at the judge after the ruling, saying “this is a huge injustice.”

Lawyers for the victims can now begin discussions with government lawyers about compensation. Lawyer Marco Gerritsen, who represented the relatives, said he understood the relatives’ anger. “But from a legal point of view it is not that bad. Of course we would have hoped for more and I think we had a good case,” he said.

Gerritsen called the court’s assessment of the men’s survival chances “very arbitrary.” He said he will study the judgment to see if it is possible to appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court. On July 13, 1995, Dutch peacekeepers bowed to pressure from Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Mladic and forced thousands of Muslims out of their fenced-off compound, where they had sought refuge.

The Bosnian Serb forces sorted the Muslims by gender, then trucked the males away and began killing them in what would become the bloody climax to the 1992-95 Bosnian war, a slaughter that international courts have ruled was genocide. The war claimed 100,000 lives in all.

The Srebrenica bodies were plowed into hastily made mass graves, which were later bulldozed and scattered among other burial sites in an attempt to hide the evidence. Mladic is on trial for genocide and other offenses at a U.N. tribunal in The Hague for his alleged role in the Srebrenica massacre and other crimes during the war.

December 14, 2016

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) — Up to a thousand people gathered Wednesday in Sarajevo — the Bosnian city that survived a brutal 44-month siege during the Balkan wars of the 1990s — to rally against the carnage in Syria.

Representatives of Bosnia’s Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Jewish communities said they felt a moral responsibility to voice outrage at the international failure to stop crimes against civilians in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria.

“Here in Sarajevo, we must do everything in our power to show to (Syrian) people that we understand them and to call on humanity to wake up and raise their voices against war,” Eli Tauber, the leader of Bosnia’s small Jewish community, said.

Participants recalled their own suffering and the sense of having been abandoned by the rest of the world during the 1992-95 interethnic war that left 100,000 people dead and another 2 million homeless.

“I was born during the war in Sarajevo in a hospital that was under mortar fire,” said Smirna Kulenovic, 22, a Bosnian Muslim student. “I am here today to raise my voice against all war crimes, equally those that were committed here 20 years ago and those that are now being committed in Syria.”

November 08, 2016

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Several newly-elected mayors on Tuesday boycotted the swearing-in of a convicted war criminal as new mayor of the western Bosnian town of Velika Kladusa. Fikret Abdic was released in 2012 after serving his 15-year sentence in Croatia.

The 76-year-old Abdic was called up first during a ceremony in Sarajevo at which the mayors chosen during Oct. 2 local elections were certified. Mayors of towns around Velika Kladusa walked in to receive their certificates only after Abdic received his.

During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, Abdic formed the province of Western Bosnia which fought against fellow Muslim Bosniaks loyal to Sarajevo. For war crimes committed back then, he was tried and served in neighboring Croatia.

Asked after the ceremony how he thinks he will be cooperating with mayors of neighboring towns who chose to ignore him, Abdic told reporters that all his life he was successful in every job he did. “Now I can promise that I can be even better,” he said.

Among others sworn in is Mladen Grujicic, the mayor of Srebrenica and the first ethnic Serb elected in this Bosnian town whose name is synonymous with a slaughter carried out by Serbs. His election is a source of anxiety and anger to the town’s Muslim Bosniaks, because Grujicic doesn’t acknowledge that what happened in Srebrenica was “genocide,” as international courts have defined it.

Grujicic said he will work for the benefit of all citizens of Srebrenica and form a multiethnic team in his municipality. “By forming such a team, we intend to improve the life of all in Srebrenica,” he said. “I think this is the essence of the work in Srebrenica, that both Bosniaks and Serbs unite together,” Grujicic said.

November 02, 2016

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — Hundreds of Bosnians protested Wednesday in Sarajevo, demanding a rerun of the municipal election in the southern town of Stolac that was halted by claims of irregularities and violent disruptions.

Members within Bosnia’s Central Elections Commission disagree over whether to sanction those who allegedly manipulated the voting process on Oct. 2 or those who tried to prevent them. But the commission says sanctions must come before a repeat election.

The mainly Muslim Bosniak protesters say a month has been enough to decide and claim the Bosnian Croat nationalist party that has run the town for two decades has gained power by rigging every election.

Violence erupted when the opposition tried to stop Bosnian Croats suspected using false names and other irregularities. Voting was canceled shortly after noon and no ballots were counted. Opposition representatives have filed complaints to the Central Election Commission, saying they were immediately fired by the head of the local election commission, a Croat, as soon as they reported irregularities. They said those included people voting with foreign passports, fishing licenses and in the name of dead people.

The local election commission chief, Ivan Peric, has denied the accusations. Bosnian Croat units expelled the majority Muslim Bosniak population as well as other non-Croats from Stolac during the bloody 1992-95 Bosnian war. After the war, many non-Croats returned to the area but say rigged elections mean they have no say in its local government. They say if the town does not produce a fair election, they will consider civil disobedience.

The incident turned international when two days after the election, a government delegation from Croatia visited Stolac to express support for the party ruling there, the Croat Democratic Union. The incident was also discussed during Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s visit last week to Sarajevo.