EUROPEINTL CONFLICTSOPINIONPOLITICS

War crimes: one still at large

By Fazlur Rahman Chowdhury

We all know about the massacre of Jews during the WWII in the Germany and Poland by the Hitler’s forces. That was the biggest massacre of civilians in human history. Europe’s largest massacre of civilians since World War II happened in Bosnia in 1995 and this article exposes how it all happened.

Former Yugoslavia was a state comprised of six units/ epublics. In the days of Marshal Tito, the constituent units lived in peace and harmony even though Serbia always played a dominant role. Yugoslavia even enjoyed the status of a leading non-aligned nation. Things changed after the death of Tito. It was during the period of Slobodan Milosevic that the Serbs tried to maintain the national unity not by amity but by military force. This forced the units to defy Serb suppression and declare independence. Yugoslavia started to break up. Bosnia was the only state with Muslim majority, though Serbia and Croatia also had sizeable Muslim population. The Serbs were determined not to allow Bosnian independence. They incited the Serbian population within Bosnia to take up arms against Muslims. Milosevic appointed General Ratko Mladic as the military commander of the Bosnian Serb forces. Radovan Karadzic became their political head like the president of Bosnian Serbs. The idea was to deprive Bosnia from becoming an independent state. Bosnians had no arms except local police force. Serbs had weapons and they laid siege of Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia-Herzegovina. It appeared that Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic took up on them to take revenge of 500 years of Turkish Ottoman rule of Serbia.

Eventually UN Forces were deployed on peace mission. On 16 of April 1993, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 819, declaring Srebrenica and a 30 square mile area around the town as the UN ground. The UN French General Morillon came first came to the enclave to see the condition on the ground. He was kept there by the women of Srebrenica until UN promised enforcement of its resolution. On April 18 UNPROFOR soldiers entered the town. Bosnian troops in the enclave were told to give up their arms and surrender to the UN protection troops. The Bosnian Muslims complied with UN instruction as they felt safe under UN peace keepers.

In 2005, the Serb forces under General Ratkno Mliadic suddenly attacked and overran the town. They took full control of the town including the enclave where armless Muslims were supposed to be under UN protection. The Dutch Commander Lt-Col. Thomas Karremans of the UN contingent offered no resistance. They simply pulled off to their Potocari camp. It still remains a mystery as to why UN forces offered no resistance or asked for reinforcement or for air support from nearby UN/ NATO base. The UN troops kept looking as spectators when Serbs were separating the women and children from the enclave. The Serbs killed more than 8000 Muslims. The Bosnian Federal Commission of Missing Persons later compiled a list of 8373 names. The killing was eventually declared as genocide by the International Court of Justice in Hague and it was subsequently recognised so by the EU Parliament, the US, UK, Canada and many other States. By his total passive role the Dutch Colonel proved his connivance with Serbian forces in the killing of over 8000 innocent unarmed people. Col. Karremans is as guilty as General Mladic of Serb forces. He is still at large. He has never been questioned by the UN or by his higher command back in his country. Trial of Milosevic, Karadzic and Mladic leaves a big gap in the trial process – and that gap is Col. Karremans. He and the soldiers under his command have tarnished the image of UN peace-keeping forces all over the world.

The bereaved families will still have some consolation if the United Nations conducts and inquiry into the role of Col. Karremans and his unit working under the banner of the UN. The United Nations belong to all peace-loving people of the world and they have a right to know about it.

Fazlur Rahman Chowdhury was the Commandant of the Marine Academy and then Director General of Shipping in Bangladesh. He graduated from Juldia Marine Academy and World Maritime University. He pursued a career as a merchant ship cadet. He eventually retired from the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

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