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Public Statements

13th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


13TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE SREBRENICA MASSACRE -- (Senate - July 11, 2008)

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I have sought recognition to mark the 13th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.

Between July 12 and July 16, 1995, an estimated 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys were slaughtered in the region of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was the largest mass murder in Europe since the Second World War. The killings were committed by the Army of the Republika Srpska, under the direct command of Ratko Mladic, and with the approval of Republika Srpska President Radovan Karadzic.

The atrocities in Srebrenica were documented in the November 1995 indictment of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, ICTY:

``Safe Area'' of Srebrenica

1. After war erupted in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bosnian Serb military forces occupied Bosnian Muslim villages in the eastern part of the country, resulting in an exodus of Bosnian Muslims to enclaves in Gorazde, Zepa, Tuzla, and Srebrenica. All of the events referred to in this indictment took place in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

2. On 16 April 1993, the Security Council of the United Nations, acting pursuant to Chapter VII of its Charter, adopted resolution 819, in which it demanded that all parties to the conflict in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina treat Srebrenica and its surroundings as a safe area which should be free from any armed attack or any other hostile act. Resolution 819 was reaffirmed by Resolution 824 on 6 May 1993 and by Resolution 836 on 4 June 1993.

3. Before the attack by Bosnian Serb forces, as described in this indictment, the estimated Bosnian Muslim population in the safe area of Srebrenica was approximately 60,000.

Attack on the Safe Area of Srebrenica

4. On or about 6 July 1995, the Bosnian Serb army shelled Srebrenica and attacked United Nations observation posts that were manned by Dutch soldiers and located in the safe area. The attack on the Srebrenica safe area by the Bosnian Serb army continued through 11 July 1995, when the first units of the attacking Bosnian Serb forces entered Srebrenica.

5. The Bosnian Muslim men, women and children who remained in Srebrenica after the beginning of the Bosnian Serb attack took two courses of action. Several thousand women, children and some mostly elderly men fled to the UN compound in Potocari, located within the safe area of Srebrenica, where they sought the protection of the Dutch battalion responsible for the compound. They remained at the compound from 11 July 1995 until 13 July 1995, when they were all evacuated by buses and trucks under the control of and operated by Bosnian Serb military personnel.

6. A second group of approximately 15,000 Bosnian Muslim men, with some women and children, gathered at Susnjari during the evening hours of 11 July 1995 and fled, in a huge column, through the woods towards Tuzla. Approximately one-third of this group consisted of armed Bosnian military personnel and armed civilians. The rest were unarmed civilians.

EVENTS IN POTOCARI

7. On 11 July 1995 and 12 July 1995, Ratko Mladic and members of his staff met in Bratunac with Dutch military officers and representatives of the Muslim refugees from Potocari. At these meetings, Ratko Mladic informed them, among other things, that Bosnian Muslim soldiers who surrendered their weapons would be treated as prisoners of war according to the Geneva Conventions and that refugees evacuated from Potocari would not be hurt.

8. On or about 12 July 1995, Bosnian Serb military forces burned and looted Bosnian Muslim houses in and around Potocari.

9. On or about 12 July 1995, in the morning hours, Bosnian Serb military forces arrived at the UN military compound in Potocari and its environs.

10. On or about 12 July 1995, Ratko Mladic arrived in Potocari, accompanied by his military aides and a television crew. He falsely and repeatedly told Bosnian Muslims in and around Potocari that they would not be harmed and that they would be safely transported out of Srebrenica.

11. On or about 12 July 1995, at the direction and in the presence of Ratko Mladic, approximately 50-60 buses and trucks arrived near the UN military compound in Potocari. Shortly after the arrival of these vehicles, the evacuation process of Bosnian Muslim refugees started. As Muslim women, children and men started to board the buses and trucks, Bosnian Serb military personnel separated the men from the women and children. This selection and separation of Muslim men took place in the presence of and at the direction of Ratko Mladic.

12. The Bosnian Muslim men who had been separated from other refugees were taken to diverse locations in and around Potocari. On or about 12 July 1995, Ratko Mladic and Bosnian Serb military personnel under his command, informed some of these Muslim men that they would be evacuated and exchanged for Bosnian Serbs being held in Tuzla.

13. Most of the Muslim men who had been separated from the other refugees in Potocari were transported to Bratunac and then to the area of Karakaj, where they were massacred by Bosnian Serb military personnel.

14. Between 12 July 1995 and 13 July 1995, Bosnian Serb military personnel summarily executed Bosnian Muslim men and women at diverse locations around the UN compound where they had taken refuge. The bodies of those summarily executed were left in fields and buildings in the immediate vicinity of the compound. These arbitrary killings instilled such terror and panic amongst the Muslims remaining there that some of them committed suicide and all the others agreed to leave the enclave.

15. The evacuation of all able-bodied Muslim refugees concluded on 13 July 1995. As a result of the Bosnian Serb attack on the safe area and other actions, the Muslim population of the enclave of Srebrenica was virtually eliminated by Bosnian Serb military personnel.

SURRENDER AND EXECUTIONS

16. Between the evening of 11 July 1995 and the morning of 12 July 1995, the huge column of Muslims which had gathered in Susnjari fled Srebrenica through the woods towards Tuzla.

17. Bosnian Serb military personnel, supported by armored personnel carriers, tanks, anti-aircraft guns and artillery, positioned themselves along the Bratunac-Milici road in an effort to interdict the column of Bosnian Muslims fleeing towards Tuzla.

18. As soon as the column reached Bosnian Serb held territory in the vicinity of Buljim, Bosnian Serb military forces attacked it. As a result of this and other attacks by Bosnian Serb military forces, many Muslims were killed and wounded and the column divided into several smaller parts which continued towards Tuzla. Approximately one-third of the column, mostly composed of military personnel, crossed the Bratunac-Milici road near Nova Kasaba and reached safety in Tuzla. The remaining Muslims were trapped behind the Bosnian Serb lines.

19. Thousands of Muslims were captured by or surrendered to Bosnian Serb military forces under the command and control of Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic. Many of the Muslims who surrendered did so because they were assured that they would be safe if they surrendered. In many instances, assurances of safety were provided to the Muslims by Bosnian Serb military personnel who were with other Bosnian Serb soldiers wearing stolen UN uniforms, and by Muslims who had been captured and ordered to summon their fellow Muslims from the woods.

20. Many of the Bosnian Muslims who were captured by or surrendered to Bosnian Serb military personnel were summarily executed by Bosnian Serb military personnel at the locations of their surrender or capture, or at other locations shortly thereafter. Incidents of such summary executions include, but are not limited to:

20.1 On or about 13 July 1995, near Nezuk in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a group of 10 Bosnian Muslim men were captured. Bosnian Serb soldiers summarily executed some of these men, including Mirsad Alispahic and Hajrudin Mesanovic.

20.2 On or about 13 July 1995, on the banks of the Jadar River between Konjevic Polje and Drinjaca, Bosnian Serb soldiers summarily executed 15 Bosnian Muslim men who had surrendered or been captured. Amongst those killed were Hamed Omerovic, Azem Mujic and Ismet Ahmetovic.

20.3 On or about 13 July 1995, in the vicinity of Konjevic Polje, Bosnian Serb soldiers summarily executed hundreds of Muslims, including women and children.

20.4 On or about 17 July 1995 or 18 July 1995, in the vicinity of Konjevic Polje, Bosnian Serb soldiers captured about 150-200 Bosnian Muslims and summarily executed about one-half of them.

20.5 On or about 18 July 1995 or 19 July 1995, in the vicinity of Nezuk, about 20 groups, each containing between 5-10 Bosnian Muslim men, surrendered to Bosnian Serb military forces. After the men surrendered, Bosnian Serb soldiers ordered them to line up and summarily executed them.

20.6 On or about 20 July 1995 or 21 July 1995, near the village of Meces, Bosnian Serb military personnel, using megaphones, urged Bosnian Muslim men who had fled Srebrenica to surrender and assured them that they would be safe. Approximately 350 Bosnian Muslim men responded to these entreaties and surrendered. Bosnian Serb soldiers then took approximately 150 of them, instructed them to dig their own graves and then summarily executed them.

20.7 On or about 21 July 1995 or 22 July 1995, near the village of Meces, an excavator dug a large pit and Bosnian Serb soldiers ordered approximately 260 Bosnian Muslim men who had been captured to stand around the hole. The Muslim men were then surrounded by armed Bosnian Serb soldiers and ordered not to move or they would be shot. Some of the men moved and were shot. The remaining men were pushed into the hole and buried alive.

21. Many of the Muslims who surrendered to Bosnian Serb military personnel were not killed at the locations of their surrender, but instead were transported to central assembly points where Bosnian Serb soldiers held them under armed guard. These assembly points included, among others, a hangar in Bratunac; soccer fields in Kasaba, Konjevic Polje, Kravica, and Vlasenica; a meadow behind the bus station in Sandici and other fields and meadows along the Bratunac-Milici road.

22. Between 12 July 1995 and 14 July 1995, at various of these assembly points, including the hangar in Bratunac and the soccer stadium in Kasaba, Ratko Mladic addressed the Bosnian Muslim detainees. He falsely and repeatedly assured them that they would be safe and that they would be exchanged for Bosnian Serb prisoners held by Bosnian government forces.

23. Between 12 July 1995 and 14 July 1995, Bosnian Serb military personnel arbitrarily selected Bosnian Muslim detainees and summarily executed them.

MASS EXECUTIONS NEAR KARAKAJ

24. On or about 14 July 1995, Bosnian Serb military personnel transported thousands of Muslim detainees from Bratunac, Kravica and other locations to an assembly point in a school complex near Karakaj. At this assembly point, Bosnian Serb military personnel ordered the Muslim detainees to take off their jackets, coats and other garments and place them in front of the sports hall. They were then crowded into the school building and adjacent sports hall and held under armed guard.

25. On or about 14 July 1995, at this school complex near Karakaj, Ratko Mladic conferred with his military subordinates and addressed some of the Muslims detained there.

26. At various times during 14 July 1995, Bosnian Serb military personnel killed Bosnian Muslim detainees at this school complex.

27. Throughout 14 July 1995, Bosnian Serb military personnel removed all the Muslim detainees, in small groups, from the school building and sports hall and loaded them onto trucks guarded and driven by Bosnian Serb soldiers. Before boarding the trucks, many of the detainees had their hands tied behind their backs or were blindfolded. They were then driven to at least two locations in the vicinity of Karakaj.

28. Once the trucks arrived at these locations, Bosnian Serb military personnel ordered the bound or blindfolded Muslim detainees off the trucks and summarily executed them. The summary executions took place from approximately noon to midnight on 14 July 1995.

29. Bosnian Serb military personnel buried the executed Bosnian Muslim men in mass graves near the execution sites.

30. On or about 14 July 1995, Ratko Mladic was present at one of the mass execution sites when Bosnian Serb military personnel summarily executed Bosnian Muslim men.

31. The summary executions of Bosnian Muslim males, which occurred on 14 July 1995 in the vicinity of Karakaj, resulted in the loss of thousands of lives.

Since the end of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the ICTY has made considerable progress. Charges have been filed against 161 individuals. Of those, the trials of 114 have concluded, resulting in 55 convictions; 47 cases are ongoing. Among the Tribunal's greatest successes was the August 2001 conviction of Radislav Krstic on the count of genocide. I was recently pleased to learn of the June 11, 2008, arrest of longtime fugitive Stojan Zupljanin by Serbian authorities, as this was the first capture of a major war crimes suspect in about a year. However, three individuals, including Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, remain at large.

It is vital that the remaining three be brought to face the court. It is imperative that the rule of law be brought into the international arena, both for the 8,000 who were killed in Srebrenica in July 1995, and for the many others who continue to suffer around the world today under oppressive regimes. I agree with former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who said during his 1997 visit to the ICTY, ``impunity cannot be tolerated, and will not be. In an interdependent world, the rule of law must prevail.''


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