Taking sides in deadly game of blame

Missing in Bosnia: Emma Daly continues her examination of the legacy of war and mass killings

Kravica - Spattered blood and brain still stain the walls of a warehouse in Kravica, where it is alleged that hundreds of Muslims were executed after the fall of Srebrenica last July. The place is riddled with bullet-holes and a wall has been torn down, allegedly so that a bulldozer could drive in and haul out the bodies for burial in two mass graves a few miles up the road at Glogova.

Outside, a few men sit around beside a truck. The building is being used once again, the labels placed by war crimes investigators trampled into the earthen floor. Were the men here during the executions, we asked, knowing that Kravica first came to prominence in 1993 as the site of an alleged massacre of more than 100 Serbs by Srebrenica Muslims

The question reaped the expected response. "They killed my brother!" one man cried, asking why Westerners always focused on Muslims and never on Serb victims. "I'm still in mourning for my brother," he added.

There is no longer doubt that thousands of Muslims, perhaps as many as 8,000, were executed and buried in an act of vengeance organised by General Ratko Mladic, the Serbs' military commander indicted by the tribunal for genocide.

The physical evidence is all too apparent; the human bones emerging from the mud of Glogova, for example. Yet Serbs in the area, who must have known what was taking place, respond to questions by raising an earlier grievance to justify the latest atrocity.

A Serb official now installed in Srebrenica said first that the massacres never happened; then, that as he was not involved in the killings, they did not interest him; lastly, that the fate of 2,000 or 3,000 Muslims paled beside the fate of Serbs killed in Croatia.

But if the people of Bosnia, including its Serbs, are to have a future, the questions of truth and justice must be addressed. Madeleine Albright, the US ambassador to the United Nations and a hate figure to the Serbs, said it best. "Reconciliation can only come when collective guilt is expunged and individual guilt is assigned," she said. "I do not believe that whole nations are responsible for horrible acts."

Nor that horrible acts are committed only by one side; although in the case of Bosnia, it is fair to say that the sins of the government side, which include the killing of civilians and prisoners of war, are outstripped by the evil of the Serb leadership's quite openly stated policy of expulsion and extermination of non-Serbs.

But, although murder is murder, whether one is killed, or 100 or 100,000, it is clear that it would be impossible to prosecute everyone who committed a war crime. Investigators for the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague are said to have collected 40,000 testimonies of death from survivors and witnesses of the many atrocities committed during the wars in Bosnia.

So the tribunal, which is not altogether popular with Western governments who would prefer to sweep morality aside in favour of political expedience, has instead focused on the worst examples and those that can be tied explicitly to political and military leaders.

Indictments have been handed down for the concentration camps in northern and eastern Bosnia housing thousands of non-Serbs expelled from their homes; the alleged killing by Serbs of up to 8,000 Muslims fleeing the fallen enclave of Srebrenica; the massacres of Muslim villagers by Croats in the war in central Bosnia and the murders of Serb prisoners at a Muslim camp. More charges are expected, and the balance so far, 47 Serbs indicted, eight Croats and three Muslims, may swing.

It is an article of faith among Serbs that the tribunal is "biased", and is part of a conspiracy against the Serbs. But international observers attended the recent exhumation of a grave containing the bodies of 188 Serbs allegedly massacred by Croats in Mrkonjic Grad, an event reported by the Independent and other Western media.

As the process of mapping war crimes and searching for those missing in the war unfolds, the local authorities will have to start to co-operate, because almost by definition, most of the mass graves are situated on territory which is held by "the enemy".

Without an accounting of some sort, there will never be peace. In the town of Foca, in eastern Bosnia, dozens of charred and gutted buildings stand in mute testimony to the vicious expulsion of the Muslims who until recently formed the majority population.

The atmosphere is uncomfortable and eerie, and the Serbs who have remained in the town rarely discuss the fate of their former neighbours.

"It makes me so angry," a Bosnian Serb official said privately in Foca. "Everyone behaves as if it's a big secret. We all know what happened here and we will never have a real country until we stand up and say, 'Yes, we did this, it was war'."

But that has never happened. Instead, Foca has been re- christened Srbinje - the Serbs' place. Perhaps the Serbs of Srebrenica will follow suit. What is certain is that without some resolution, the word "Srebrenica" will be cited in 100 years to justify some future blood- bath.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower