In an interview with Euronews Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic claims that the statement he made in the Serbian parliament on July 20, 1995, that “one hundred Muslims would be killed for every dead Serb,” was misinterpreted. He adds that he has made a lot of “stupid” statements in his political carrier, but he has not taken a stand on this one, rather explaining that the statement was “absolutely” taken out of context.
Vucic’s threatening statement to the international community and NATO, which were at the time preparing (with a long delay) to weaken the army of the Republika Srpska with more decisive air strikes, reads as follows: “Come and bomb us – kill one Serb and we will kill 100 Muslims. And then we will see whether the international community dares to attack Serb positions and treat the Serb people this way.”
The prime minister is right; most people are not familiar with the context of his fascist statement. However, it is also true that one should be held responsible for such a statement, regardless of the context. Ever since the Holocaust, only a few proponents of German National Socialism, many of whom were among the Serbian political elite, have used the equation “one dead on our side – a hundred on theirs”. Aleksandar Vucic should not use the context in which he gave the statement as an excuse, because the context cannot possibly justify his statement. On the contrary, it is the very context that unmasks him again as a warmonger and an advocate of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
Since he insists so much that his statement was maliciously misinterpreted, explaining the circumstances in which it was made, we should put this statement back into the context out of which it was taken. On that 20th of July, 1995 the Serbs were bringing the Srebrenica genocide to an end. In that sense, Vucic’s statement cannot be interpreted as an empty threat or a part of his warmongering rhetoric. The statement is, to say the least, a description of what had already happened and what was a consequence of his political deeds as well. In order not to make the prime minister angry, we will not go deeper into the context that would lead us to Sarajevo and other places of Bosnian Muslims’ suffering, but rather stick to the part of the context immediately prior to Vucic’s statement.
The planned, mass executions perpetrated by Bosnian Serbs from mid-July 1995 to the moment when Aleksandar Vucic made this statement, during which over 8000 people were killed, had already taken place. The last group of Muslims in the Srebrenica genocide was killed a day before Aleksandar Vucic made the statement.
Only ten days prior to Vucic’s statement (July 10, 1995), the Bosnian Serbs’ offensive on Srebrenica was launched. The armed forces of the Republika Srpska suppressed UNPROFOR to the inside of the city and surrounded it. Srebrenica fell a day later, on the 11th of July, when the Serbs marched into the city. Ratko Mladic triumphantly walked through the empty streets of Srebrenica accompanied by numerous Serbian TV crews. Entering Srebrenica, Mladic said to the journalists: “Here we are, on the 11th of July in the Serbian Srebrenica. On the eve of an important Serbian holiday, we give this city to the Serbian people as a gift. The moment has finally come to make the Turks on this territory get what they deserve.”
That afternoon, about 20,000 Muslims from Srebrenica, mostly women, children and elderly people, tried to get into a UN base in Potocari. The UN soldiers allowed about 5,000 people to enter the base and then blocked the entrance. The rest of the refugees were left outside of the base.
At the same time, a 15 kilometer long line comprised of 10,000 unarmed men, wounded and civilians, together with about 4,000 armed soldiers, was moving towards Tuzla, a Bosnian town. Armed forces of the Republika Srpska intercepted and surrounded the line of people the following day, 12th of July, and imprisoned everyone they found. “Come on guys, you are alive, just hold your hands up!” shouted the Serbs, convincing people from the line to surrender and that nothing bad will happen to them. That evening all the people from the back of the line were taken prisoner. At the same time, about 50 Serbian vehicles, trucks and buses entered Potocare followed by Mladic and Serbian TV crews. At that time Serbs had already started randomly separating and killing Muslim men and raping women which caused panic among the starved and terrified prisoners. At the same time, the women and children were separated from the men and were taken to Potocare by buses. At least 42 busses and 7 commercial trucks were used in the deportation. Thus, the effective expulsion of “feeble” Muslims from Srebrenica was conducted. By the end of the day, about 5,000 people were deported. They were robbed, mistreated, beaten and humiliated by the Serbs. Personal documents were taken from all the prisoners and were later burnt, and the army of the Republika Srpska stole a few vehicles and weapons from the UN soldiers, and from some, even the clothes they were wearing. The men that were initially allowed to get into the buses for propaganda reasons were separated at the check-points to be executed later on.
A week before Vucic’s statement at the National Assembly of Serbia, when the wheels of genocide had long been spinning in Srebrenica, the RS army, not content with the torture and forced displacement of the populace, began with the mass executions. On that day, 13th of July 1995, the line of Muslims that were moving along the Koljevic Polje-Bratunac road was broken apart when the RS soldiers blocked and surrounded about 8,000 people. Some of them were killed instantly while the other prisoners were sent to various locations: the plain by Sandic, the football field in Nova Kasaba, Kravica, Bratunac and other places nearby.
The mass killings of unarmed men and boys began the same day, in carefully orchestrated executions that began on the 13th of July when the first group of prisoners was taken by 3 buses to Cerska were they were all shot. The buses driving the victims to the execution were followed by mining machinery, mostly tractors and excavators used for either burying the bodies or carrying them to some other location nearby. The executions were conducted simultaneously in abandoned schools, warehouses and hangars were the Muslims were held prisoners. These killing patterns were repeated incessantly during the days prior to Vucic’s statement. The small-scale executions of the remaining people that were found by the RS army in the meantime continued until the 21st of July. Starting from September the same year, in order to hide the evidence of the genocide against Bosnian Muslims, Serbs would dig out the bodies from the primary graves, of which there were over 40, and move them to the secondary and tertiary mass graves.
Context is the last thing that Aleksandar Vucic should refer to in order to justify his fascist statement given at the moment of the climax of the Srebrenica genocide. Since the genocide, 20 years have passed in denying the responsibility of the Serbian political, military and intellectual elite for the crime that permanently marked our history and led to the deaths of thousands of innocent people during only one week of a war that, in various forms, lasted for almost 10 years.
The statement of Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic that he will not attend the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide matches Vucic’s “justifications” in the interview for Euronews. From his attitude towards the obligation he has as the President of Serbia, the country whose people committed this and many other atrocious crimes, we can see that he expects some kind of reciprocity (“I will go only if Bakir Izetbegovic [Bosnian political leader] visits Serbian graves.”). This is particularly vile, because there was no reciprocity in the war, it was exactly as Vucic said, and often even worse – 100 Muslims for one Serb.
The current President and Prime Minister should not even appear in Srebrenica, because they have not shown even the minimum of civil and human decency and awareness regarding the consequences of their warmonger activities. To that effect, they are in no way different from their former spiritual and political father, Vojislav Seselj.
Therefore, their presence in Srebrenica would be an insult to the victims and their families, even though it would bring political points to at least one of them and praise from the European Union. After all, we already had that situation: former Serbian president, Boris Tadic, went to Srebrenica in 2005, but years after that “historic visit”, he was symbolically and literally hiding Ratko Mladic. He also supported the adoption of the shameful resolution on Srebrenica at the Serbian National Assembly and in that way only deepened the denial of responsibility of Serbia for this crime and supported the rising nationalist public opinion.
In a broader context, the rehabilitation of Dragoljub Mihailovic that was finalized by the Chetniks from Tomislav Nikolic’s cabinet, as a continuation of the work initiated by Chetniks from Milosevic’s, Kostunica’s and Tadic’s cabinet, hits its target again. In this case, that target is the equalization of responsibilities for the victims of the wars from the 90’s that are still being called civil wars, although they were not, and erasing the responsibility of Serbia and its former and current political representatives for the genocide in Srebrenica and other war crimes in Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo.
Prime minister Vucic should have to know that manuscripts don’t burn, and neither do statements nor actual deeds that speak about his responsibility for the violent deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and millions of destroyed lives. If he does not consider them with shame and regret, then at least he should not refer to the context, since it, more than anything, puts him permanently on the side of the crime.
Translated by Ana Vukovic