Serbs press-gang refugees into front line

Robert Block in Belgrade reports that forced conscription is so ruthless, some `troops' wear only pyjamas

A group of 30 women dressed in black, the representatives of Serbia's tiny peace movement, gathered yesterday at the Square of the Republic in central Belgrade as they have done every Wednesday for the last three and half years, to protest against the war in Bosnia and Croatia.

Yesterday, however, the focus of the demonstration was not against the fighting itself, but against a practice the women deemed equally barbaric: the forced conscription of their sons, brothers and husbands to fight Muslims and Croats. "Mobilisation is a crime against humanity," read one of the placards held up by the group.

In recent weeks, the Serbian authorities have rounded up an estimated 4,000 Bosnian and Croatian Serbs, most of them refugees, and sent them to the front lines against their will. "This act is an infringement of all human rights granted to refugees and all international conventions on refugee rights," said a pamphlet signed by the anti-war group Women in Black, which organised the protest.

One of the protesters, a Montenegrin woman named Andja, recounted how her 52-year-old Bosnian-born husband, an architect who designed some venues for the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics, was dragged by police from his car in central Belgrade two weeks ago and taken to a Serbian army garrison.

"He telephoned me and begged me to do something. I said, `Just show them that you are a citizen of Montenegro by marriage'. He told me: `They don't want to listen. I was born in Bosnia and that's enough for them. Help me'." Andja rushed to the garrison, but could only watch as they put her husband on a bus bound for Serb-held areas of Sarajevo.

Press reports and information from relief workers in Serb-held parts of Bosnia paint a grim picture of life on the front lines for the conscripts. Belgrade's English-language newsletter VIP reported yesterday that some conscripts have been sent to the trenches dressed only in the pyjamas or boxer shorts they were wearing when arrested. "They promised to issue us clothing and to give us some sort of training, but nothing came of either promise," one was quoted as saying.

The report added that at least two conscripts killed themselves with the rifles they were given to fight Muslims. It said another was involved in an accident with a hand grenade in a trench, injuring two Bosnian Serb army veterans.

"After that incident, the regular troops refused to fight alongside the newcomers, so that the army formed special units made up exclusively of repatriated refugees," VIP said.

There have also been reports of Bosnian Serb police beating "deserters" - the term used to describe forcibly repatriated conscripts - upon their return to Bosnia. According to one reliable independent source, at least two men near the border town of Bijeljina died as a result of the beatings.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has protested to the rump Yugoslav government over the round-up, which it said violated international law. The authorities claimed police were only arresting criminals and foreigners whose papers were not in order.

n New York (Reuter) - The UN Security Council yesterday renewed for another 75 days the easing of some of the sanctions it imposed on rump Yugoslavia in 1992, following its support for Bosnian Serbs fighting the Muslim-led Sarajevo government.

By a vote of 14-0, with only Russia abstaining, the Security Council extended until 18 September a relaxation of curbs on travel and on cultural and sporting ties.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Foundation and KS1 Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Foundation and Key Stage 1...

Geography Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Temporary Teacher of GEOGRAPHY ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments