Borrowed from Srebrenica Genocide Blog.


The former Operations Officer for the Belgrade-based Hague Tribunal’s Liaison Office — and the former ‘human rights investigator’ who is on record for denying the Srebrenica genocide — is back to his old tricks again. We find James Luko on NolanChart’s web site in a self-described profile titled “Confessions of an Ethnic Cleanser.” (1)

To quote from his own words, “Actually I’ve been quite quiet these years about all these issues of the OTP, ICTY [the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia], Srebrenica, UN and ICTY corruption.” In his comments, he denied that genocide took place in Srebrenica and he announced that he would testify in Radovan Karadzic’s case. Here is what he said:

“The crimes of Srebrenica indeed included-extra-judicial killings and ethnic cleansing by Serb forces. I agree with those charges and they were in my reports and for which I will later testify at Karadzic’s hearing. However, I do not agree… that Genocide was intended or committed.” (2)

Imagine this discredited genocide denier, James Luko, testifying at the trial of Radovan Karadzic and pretending to be fair and balanced? Based on his history of distortions, he is a perfect fit for the Karadzic defense. We hope Prosecutors first Google his name before they cross-examine him. According to his web site, he is writing a book regarding his ‘experiences’ with the UN and the Tribunal titled “Inside the Hague Tribunal” – yet another genocide denial garbage, certainly not an academic resource.


This morbidly pro-Serb activist, the former “human rights investigator” was so biased that he even filed false reports back to the U.N. trying to deny that genocide ever took place in Srebrenica. James Luko is also a man who attempted to equalize Bosniak suffering in the besieged Sarajevo with that of the Serbs who kept the city under the siege and killed 10,000 – 15,000 of its residents, 1500 of them children (photo of dead children in Sarajevo morgue, killed by Serbs during the siege of Sarajevo).

It is important to note that James Luko does not posses academic skills, experience and credentials that would enable him to judge/interpret what does and what doesn’t constitute a case of genocide; he certainly never worked as an international judge. In this regard, he is incompetent. Consider the following two statement by James Luko:

“In my first report to Geneva, to the UN Centre for Human Rights, that Srebrenica, specifically was NOT Genocide for the fact that the Serb military collected and sent most women and children to Bosniak controlled territory. By no defination can this be labelled Genocide.” (3)

In support of his genocide denial diatribe, he used one of the weakest arguments available:

“The genocide will be interpreted ‘BROADLY’ to encompass ethnic cleansing elements to make the charge stick as I fully agree that by sparing most women and children- Srebrenica simply does not qualify for the generic idea and concept of what genocide is.” (4)

Let’s review some facts. First of all, the ICTY’s definition of what constitutes genocide is not “BROAD” but “very narrow.” For example, the Court still has not ruled that genocide occured in municipalities other than Srebrenica. Second of all, women and children were not spared during the Srebrenica massacre, as James Luko would want us to believe. Women and children were forcibly expelled from the enclave, many of women were mistreated and raped. Many boys were killed, many traumatized. (see the account of a survivor of the massacre – “a very young boy emerged from the heap of bodies, covered in blood and mangled flesh“). Also see the account published by Serbian journalist Snezana Vukic at the time of the Srebrenica genocide, on July 18, 1995:

“Zarfa Turkovic says she watched through half-closed eyes, pretending to sleep, hoping she would not be next, as four Bosnian Serb men raped a 28-year old Muslim woman… ‘Two took her legs and raised them up in the air, while the third began raping her. People were silent, no one moved. She was screaming and yelling and begging them to stop. They put her a rag into her mouth, and then we were just hearing silent sobs coming from her closed lips. When they finished, the woman was left there.'” (5)

Furthermore, in the Krstic Appeal ruling, the Hague Tribunal revealed why Serbs massacred only men and boys:

31. As the Trial Chamber explained, forcible transfer could be an additional means by which to ensure the physical destruction of the Bosnian Muslim community in Srebrenica. The transfer completed the removal of all Bosnian Muslims from Srebrenica, thereby eliminating even the residual possibility that the Muslim community in the area could reconstitute itself. The decision not to kill the women or children may be explained by the Bosnian Serbs’ sensitivity to public opinion. In contrast to the killing of the captured military men, such an action could not easily be kept secret, or disguised as a military operation, and so carried an increased risk of attracting international censure. (6)

(For more facts about the rapes of women during the Srebrenica massacre, see our article, titled: “Were men and boys the only victims of the Srebrenica genocide?“)

Blinded by his conviction that genocide never took place in Srebrenica, James Luko continues to use cheap and already highly discredited arguments in which he attempts to dispute the numbers of the killed in Srebrenica. Here is what he said:

“The scale of killings in Srebrenica, well, yes, the 8,000 figure is of course just an exaggerated number from incomplete and duplicate lists, which was VERY common and not entirely the fault of agencies like UNHCR and ICRC. How many bodies does ICTY have ? Well in reality, perhaps 1,500-2,000 separate bodies identified- and of those, approximately 400-500 show evidence of execution… massive crimes took place- but 8,000 ? Can’t be proven and highly unlikely. But, as you know, when dealing with this issue- the victors need to work with large numbers.” (7)

James Luko apparently does not know (or doesn’t want to know) that all duplicate victim’s names had already been removed from the list of missing, according to the highly respected Hague Tribunal’s expert Ewa Tabeau. (8) Furthermore, the DNA results of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) support an estimate of 8,100 Srebrenica genocide victims. So far, the identities of 6,186 genocide victims have been revealed by the DNA analysis. The DNA was extracted from these bone and blood samples. Additionally, approximately 4,000 DNA-identified bodies have so far been laid to rest at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potocari.

Consider this distorted statement by James Luko:

“I can also confirm that our UN Office in Bosnia was regularly reporting the direct reports of Bosniak attacks on Serb villages around Srebrenica, but we were repeatedly ignored.” (9)

As a matter of the fact, between 1992 and 1995, militarized Serb villages around Srebrenica had been used to attack and destroy nearby Bosniak villages around Srebrenica, as well as to launch brutal attacks on Srebrenica. (10) Serb village of Kravica had a large cache of weapons and was used to stage attacks on Srebrenica and nearby Bosniak villages. Furthermore, Serbs used their villages around Srebrenica to block humanitarian aid coming into the Bosniak enclave, which caused Bosniaks to start dying from starvation and engage in counter-attacks for the purpose of obtaining food and demilitarizing heavily armed Serbs around Srebrenica. According to the U.N. Report (1999) about the Fall of Srebrenica:

“A third accusation leveled at the Bosniak defenders of Srebrenica is that they provoked the Serb offensive by attacking out of that safe area. Even though this accusation is often repeated by international sources, there is no credible evidence to support it. Dutchbat personnel on the ground at the time assessed that the few “raids” the Bosniaks mounted out of Srebrenica were of little or no military significance. These raids were often organized in order to gather food, as the Serbs had refused access for humanitarian convoys into the enclave. Even Serb sources approached in the context of this report acknowledged that the Bosniak forces in Srebrenica posed no significant military threat to them. The biggest attack the Bosniaks launched out of Srebrenica during the more than two years which is was designated a safe area appears to have been the raid on the village of Visnjica, on 26 June 1995, in which several houses were burned, up to four Serbs were killed and approximately 100 sheep were stolen. In contrast, the Serbs overran the enclave two weeks later, driving tens of thousands from their homes, and summarily executing thousands of men and boys. The Serbs repeatedly exaggerated the extent of the raids out of Srebrenica as a pretext for the prosecution of a central war aim: to create geographically contiguous and ethnically pure territory along the Drina, while freeing their troops to fight in other parts of the country. The extent to which this pretext was accepted at face value by international actors and observers reflected the prism of ‘moral equivalency’ through which the conflict in Bosnia was viewed by too many for too long.” (11)

After being confronted with the above facts, James Luko responded the following:

“In this case, I think the details of the village attacks, back and forth, Bosniak vs. Serb- is now irrelevant, it was a dirty war. UN Operation Posts cleary recorded attacks by both sides.” (12)

Additionally, James Luko’s distortions have already been rebuted by the Trial Judgment in the Naser Oric case. The Oric judgment makes it clear that Serb villages around Srebrenica were heavily militarized bases from which Serbs launched brutal attacks on Bosnian Muslim villages, as well as on the town of Srebrenica itself. As stated in the Judgment, quote:

“Between April 1992 and March 1993, Srebrenica town and the villages in the area held by Bosnian Muslims were constantly subjected to Serb military assaults, including artillery attacks, sniper fire, as well as occasional bombing from aircrafts. Each onslaught followed a similar pattern. Serb soldiers and paramilitaries surrounded a Bosnian Muslim village or hamlet, called upon the population to surrender their weapons, and then began with indiscriminate shelling and shooting. In most cases, they then entered the village or hamlet, expelled or killed the population, who offered no significant resistance, and destroyed their homes. During this period, Srebrenica was subjected to indiscriminate shelling from all directions on a daily basis. Potočari in particular was a daily target for Serb artillery and infantry because it was a sensitive point in the defence line around Srebrenica. Other Bosnian Muslim settlements were routinely attacked as well. All this resulted in a great number of refugees and casualties.” (13)

According to the Judgment, the Bosnian Muslim villages around Srebrenica were totally unprepared for war:

“In comparison, it appears that the Bosnian Muslim side did not adequately prepare for the looming armed conflict. There were not even firearms to be found in the BosnianMuslim villages, apart from some privately owned pistols and hunting rifles; a few light weaponswere kept at the Srebrenica police station.” (14)

The Judgment makes it clear that Serb village of Kravica was a military base from which Serbs launched deadly attacks on neighbouring Bosnian Muslim villages and town of Srebrenica itself. The Bosniak counter-attack on Kravica on the 7 January 1993 followed as a result of Serb blockade of humanitarian aid and constant attacks on nearby Bosnian Muslim villages. According to the Judgment:

The fighting intensified in December 1992 and the beginning of January 1993, when Bosnian Muslims were attacked by Bosnian Serbs primarily from the direction of Kravica and Ježestica. In the early morning of the 7 January 1993, Orthodox Christmas day, Bosnian Muslims attacked Kravica, Ježestica and Šiljkovići. Convincing evidence suggests that the village guards were backed by the VRS [Bosnian Serb Army], and following the fighting in the summer of 1992, they received military support, including weapons and training. A considerable amount of weapons and ammunition was kept in Kravica and Šiljkovići. Moreover, there is evidence that besides the village guards, there was Serb and Bosnian Serb military presence in the area. The Trial Chamber is not satisfied that it can be attributed solely to Bosnian Muslims. The evidence is unclear as to the number of houses destroyed by Bosnian Muslims as opposed to those destroyed by Bosnian Serbs. In light of this uncertainty, the Trial Chamber concludes that the destruction of property in Kravica between 7 and 8 December 1992 does not fulfil the elements of wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages not justified by military necessity.” (15)

The Judgment also confirms that Bosniak refugees in the besieged enclave started dying from starvation caused by the Serb blockade of humanitarian aid. As a result, Bosniaks had to counter-attack Serb military bases around Srebrenica to obtain much needed food and other necessities for the survival:

“Between June 1992 and March 1993, Bosnian Muslims raided a number of villages and hamlets inhabited by Bosnian Serbs, or from which Bosnian Muslims had formerly been expelled. One of the purposes of these actions was to acquire food, weapons, ammunition and military equipment. Bosnian Serb forces controlling the access roads were not allowing international humanitarian aid – most importantly, food and medicine – to reach Srebrenica. As a consequence, there was a constant and serious shortage of food causing starvation to peak in the winter of 1992/1993. Numerous people died or were in an extremely emaciated state due to malnutrition.” (16)

We could go on and on rebutting outright lies promoted by James Luko, but he doesn’t deserve more of our time since all of his genocide denial arguments have already been discredited not just by us, but also by the Hague Tribunal, independent human rights organizations, and survivors of the massacre.

James Luko is simply a man who has reduced his life for the purpose of genocide denial. Currently, he makes living by selling wine over the internet and doing some consulting work in Beijing China. (17)

References / Footnotes:

(1) http://www.nolanchart.com/author1111.html

(2) http://www.nolanchart.com/article7012.html

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

(5) http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2009/08/serbs-raped-bosniak-women-in-potocari.html

(6) http://www.icty.org/x/cases/krstic/acjug/en/krs-aj040419e.pdf

(7) See footnote #2

(8) Conflict in Numbers, Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia,

(9) See James Luko’s comment (#6) agreeing with the genocide denial article written by Ari Rusila, http://arirusila.cafebabel.com/en/post/2009/07/19/Srebrenica-again-Hoax-or-Massacre

(10) http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/2009/07/serb-villages-around-srebrenica.html

(11) Report of the Secretary-General pursuant to General Assembly resolution 53/35, The Fall of Srebrenica, section: B. Role of Bosniak forces on the ground, see excerpts here:

(12) See footnte #2

(13) Naser Oric judgment, http://www.icty.org/case/oric/4

(14) Ibid.

(15) Ibid.

(16) Ibid.

(17) “Luko Wines” by James Luko http://www.lukowines.com/



Taken with permission from Srebrenica Genocide Blog.


Response to discredited genocide denier Stephen Karganovic, aka: Stefan Karganovic – founder of the so called “Srebrenica Historical Project”

PHOTO: The 1995 Srebrenica genocide resulted in a mass scale ethnic cleansing and forcible deportations of 25,000-30,000 people, as well as summary executions of at least 8372 men, boys, and elderly.

Reading time: ~15 minutes (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
Stephen Karganovic (aka: Stefan Karganovic), founder of the so called “Srebrenica Historical Project”, is one of the most manipulative genocide deniers we’ve seen so far. As a man with questionable credibility, he praises anti-semitic extremists as credible sources to “prove” that genocide in Srebrenica had not happened. He served as a defence team’s interpreter for a convicted war criminal Momcilo Krajisnik. Last year, Karganovic was the organizer of a genocide denial conference in Banja Luka that was attended by Rajko Kuzmanovic (President of Bosnian Serb entity known as Republika Srpska) and Milorad Dodik (Premier). Both of them offered their full political and financial support for Karganovic’s “Srebrenica Historical Project” farce. Now, Karganovic’s “Srebrenica Historical Project” is responsible for the propaganda stunt of filing a civil action with the court in an attempt to portray Serbs as the equal to the genocidal suffering of Bosniak population at Srebrenica under siege (1992-1995).


On his web site, Stephen Karganovic accuses this blog of being “Moslem-sponsored Srebrenica Genocide Blog.” The founder of this blog is not a Muslim – as Karganovic claims, nor is this blog sponsored by anyone. The nationality of the blog’s editor is none of Karganovic’s business, especially because Karganovic associates himself with people who hate Jews.

Karganovic tries to discredit one of our articles titled “We Will Never Forget and We Will Never Forgive.” The question is: Why should we forget the Srebrenica genocide? Why should we offer our forgiveness to the genocidal criminals like Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic who murdered at least 8,372 Bosniaks and forcibly expelled 25,000-30,000 people from the U.N. “protected enclave in a mass scale ethnic cleansing? Jewish people would certainly not “forgive-and-forget” the Holocaust, so why should Bosniaks forgive and forget the Srebrenica genocide?

Is there a point in arguing with Karadzic’s sympathizers, followers, and apologists? According to the Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel: “No point in arguing – the pigheaded Karadzic denied it all.” Srebrenica genocide deniers are no different than their”role model,” Radovan Karadzic, who is currently on trial for genocide at the Hague.


Stefan Karganovic’s lack of respect for DNA science is appaling. On his genocide denial web site, conveniently titled “Srebrenica Historical Project,” he alleges the following:

Out of the 8000 victims who were allegedly shot by the army of the Republic of Srpska, there is no relevant expert evidence for even 10% to prove that. The material cited by the Moslem side as evidence would not pass muster with any professionally responsible crime lab, let alone a serious forensic examination in a court of law in the civilized world.”

Karganovic’s allegations are rather laughable. The forensic examinations and DNA identifications of Srebrenica genocide victims have been performed by the ICMP’s most advanced DNA system in the world (see press release). The world renowned International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is a scientific organization of the highest repute in its field. Currently, it has three forensic facilities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, two of which focus on human remains related to the fall of Srebrenica (Podrinje Identification Project and Lukavac Reassociation Centre). It employs a staff of 170 scientists, forensic anthropologists, and researchers. The forensic examination data and DNA results from the ICMP have been extensively used as evidence at the UN-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) [aka: the World Court]. The ICMP is also on record for assisting in the identification of September 11th terrorist attack victims in New York, Hurricane Katrina victims in Louisiana, Typhoon Frank victims in Philippines (on Interpol’s request) and many other high profile cases.

Karganovic goes on to claim that “Serbian civilian victims… have been processed according to the highest internationally recognized standards,” while forensic examinations of Bosniak victims “would not pass muster with any professionally responsible crime lab.” Of course, his self-serving allegations are nonsense. Each exhumed victim of the Srebrenica genocide has gone through extensive forensic and DNA analysis by the world renowned ICMP labs with the most advanced DNA system in the World. On the other side, war-time Serb casualties from Bosnia and Croatia had been ‘processed’ and ‘investigated’ mostly by radical Serbian ultra-nationalists in Belgrade. For example, military pathologist Zoran Stankovic – a well known Serbian ultra-nationalist and a personal friend of indicted Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic. Stankovic’s ultanationalist forensics were gratefully accepted by media outlets like Glas Javnosti and Politika – owned and operated by the members of a right-wing ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party. In 2007, Glas Javnosti misused photos of Srebrenica genocide mass graves and portrayed them as graveyards Serbs who died as a result of the so called “Muslim-Croat terror.”

Unqualified Karganovic distorts the facts behind forensic evidence, without providing any sources or evidence for his dubious claims. Here is what he said:

“If a public hearing on the merits of the resolution had been held, the parliamentary committee would undoubtedly have been informed that 8000 Muslims were not lined up and shot and that the utmost number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre in July of 1995 is around 3400, assuming that each forensic report is taken at its face value as proof of execution, something that is not even theoretically possible. That is because slightly over 50% of those post-mortem reports refer to body fragments, such as a jaw or a femur, which zealous ICTY forensic experts elevated to the status of ‘cases’ but from which no credible conclusions about the cause and manner of death can be drawn. In fact, in about 50% of the cases, ICTY forensic specialists themselves stated in their reports that they are unable to determine the cause and manner of death, notwithstanding their obvious motivation to present satisfactory results to the institution which hired them.”

Karganovic’s arguments are classic examples of genocide denial that can be applied to all genocides that occured in the history of human kind, including the Holocaust. According to Kathryne Bomberger, the director general of the International Commission on Missing Persons, DNA samples support the number of at least 8,000 Srebrenica genocide victims. “We can tell this based on the rate of blood-sample collection. You have to collect at least three different family members’ blood samples for every missing person…. In 1999 we had hit a brick wall in making identifications—if there was no body there was no crime. After [former U.S. secretary of State] Madeleine Albright said [the United States] had satellite photos showing mass graves, the perpetrators went out and dug the bodies and moved them. We found one body in four different locations 50km [30 miles] apart,” she said. What kind of qualification does Karganovic have to challenge the science of DNA forensics? None.

On his web site, Karganovic refers to “several thousands” Serb victims in villages around Srebrenica – a number that had been grossly inflated and found to be inaccurate by the UN-endorsed Research and Documentation Center, ICTY’s Office of the Prosecutor, and Human Rights Watch. In reality, between 1992-1995, Serbs suffered 151 civilian casualties around Srebrenica (not “several thousands” as claimed by Karganovic) . During the same period, Bosniaks (Muslims) suffered approximately 1,000 victims as a result of the Bosnian Serb terror from militarized villages around Srebrenica – (no need to remind our readers that this mass scale murder of Muslim civilians in and around Srebrenica occurred well before the July 1995 genocide).


On his “Srebrenica Historical Project” web site, Stefan Karganovic devoted a lengthy page to his activist-friend – Dmitar Stoyanov, Bulgarian EU parliament deputy – praising him of saving “the honor of the European Parliament” for his opposition to the Srebrenica Genocide Resolution. Stoyanov is better known as hater of Jewish people or anti-semite. According to IsralNetDaily, Stoyanov said that “Jews have too much media influence and exploit economic crises in poor countries.”

Karganovic’s associate, Dmitar Stoyanov, told Britain’s Daily Telegraph that, “There are a lot of powerful Jews, with a lot of money, who are paying the media to form the social awareness of the people. They are also playing with economic crises in countries like Bulgaria and getting rich. These are the concrete realities.” Stoyanov and his anti-semitic Attack Party are also known for their hatred of Bulgaria’s Roma, or Gypsy population, which they label as criminal and lazy. The Attack Party’s leader, Volen Siderov, who has made numerous anti-Jewish statements, finished second in the first round of Bulgarian presidential elections last October with 21.5 percent of the vote.

Karganovic is a man of many talents, a habitual liar of the highest caliber, and a man without credibility. For example, he praises Jewish people when he sees fit to exploit their suffering for his own political gain. He accuses those who stand up against genocide denial of performing, what he calls, “a pathetic attempt to hitch a ride on the coattails of Shoah.” At the same time, he honors and associates himself with one of the worst anti-semites, like Dmitar Stoyanov. What a hypocrite!
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League (ADL), describes Stoyanov as “the youngest member of the European Parliament – [who] used the occasion of ITS’s foundation to launch a bitter attack on what he called the ‘Jewish establishment.‘” ADL reported on its web site that “Stoyanov has also refused to retract comments in which he railed against ‘powerful Jews.'”


In his carefully crafted argument, he presents sugar-coated version of the Srebrenica genocide denial by evoking emotions of Serb casualties to introduce – what he calls – the ‘positive aspect’ of his motivations:

“What we wish to achieve – and now we pass on to the positive aspect of our answer – is to ensure that victims from around Srebrenica during the three year period, 1992-1995, receive the same notice and the same recognition as Moslem victims from Srebrenica during the three day period in July of 1995. Period. That is all. Has anyone anything to say against this?”

First of all, Karganovic’s attempt to label 151 civilian Serb casualties in villages around Srebrenica as victims of genocide is unacceptable and factually wrong. Karganovic’s case for giving them the “same recognition” is based on deliberate and motivated misrepresentations promoted by his own genocide denial “Srebrenica Historical Project” farce. Second of all, there can never be any equivalence or comparison between the individual war crimes and the monstrous crime of genocide. The extreme gravity of genocide makes it the crime of all crimes. Third of all, isn’t it time for Karganovic to recognize genocide at Srebrenica and stop lecturing us what we should and should not do? If Karganovic wants to be taken more seriously (which is impossible considering his public denials of Srebrenica genocide), then why doesn’t he acknowledge that Serbs around Srebrenica slaughtered approximately 1,000 Bosniaks between 1992 and 1995? And we are talking about events before the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.

People like Karganovic are more than willing to accept the version of history that suites their pre-conceived conclusions. This version of ‘history’ is excessively promoted by the Serbian Radical Party establishment. According to Human Rights Watch findings published on July 11, 2006:

“The ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party launched an aggressive campaign to prove that Muslims had committed crimes against thousands of Serbs in the area. The campaign was intended to diminish the significance of the July 1995 crime, and many in Serbia were willing to accept that version of history.

But as the Oric judgment makes clear, the facts do not support the equivalence thesis. Take the events in the village of Kravica, on the Serb Orthodox Christmas on January 7, 1993, for example. The alleged killing of scores of Serbs and destruction of their houses in the village is frequently cited in Serbia as the key example of the heinous crimes committed by the Muslim forces around Srebrenica. In fact, the Oric judgment confirms that there were Bosnian Serb military forces present in the village at the time of attack.”

Commenting on the allegations of Serb victims around Srebrenica, the Office of the Prosecutor within the U.N.-based International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia cautioned that Serb casualties around Srebrenica cannot be counted as victims in the same way as victims of the Srebrenica genocide:

“Military or Police casualties from combat should not be considered victims in a criminal investigation context, in the same way people are victims from war crimes, such as summary executions. Before speaking about the whole area of Podrinja, including at least the municipalities of Srebrenica, Bratunac, Vlasenica and Skelani, I would comment on the various figures circulating around the Kravica attack of January 1993. The figures circulating of hundreds of victims or claiming that all 353 inhabitants were ‘virtually completely destroyed do not reflect the reality.”


Stefan Karganovic’s logic is based on a false assumption that Srebrenica massacre was a result of the so called Serb ‘retaliation’ for “earlier crimes” that Bosniaks allegedly committed against the ‘demilitarized’ Serbs around Srebrenica. At least, that’s how Karganovic sees his own version of history, based on his own opinion – not facts. But, the reality is different.

What Karganovic refuses to mention is the fact that Serbs stationed in villages around Srebrenica never demilitarized, even though they were required to demilitarize as per the demilitarization agreement. Militarized Serb-held villages around Srebrenica served as the bases from which Serbs launched military attacks on the Enclave – killing Bosnian Muslim civilians at will. For example, in 1993, Serbs from militarized villages around Srebrenica massacred 62 Bosniak children in Srebrenica, and wounded 152 (video link). In a period between 1992 and 1995 (and these events preceded genocide), Serbs in villages around Srebrenica killed approximately 1,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) civilians, torched all Muslim villages in the area, and committed mass scale ethnic cleansing, rapes and murders in the Podrinje region.

In response to Karganovic’s allegation, here is a short excerpt from United Nations’ General Assembly Resolution 53/35, quote:

“A third accusation leveled at the Bosniak defenders of Srebrenica is that they provoked the Serb offensive by attacking out of that safe area. Even though this accusation is often repeated by international sources, there is no credible evidence to support it. Dutchbat personnel on the ground at the time assessed that the few ‘raids’ the Bosniaks mounted out of Srebrenica were of little or no military significance. These raids were often organized in order to gather food, as the Serbs had refused access for humanitarian convoys into the enclave. Even Serb sources approached in the context of this report acknowledged that the Bosniak forces in Srebrenica posed no significant military threat to them. The biggest attack the Bosniaks launched out of Srebrenica during the more than two years which is was designated a safe area appears to have been the raid on the village of Visnjica, on 26 June 1995, in which several houses were burned, up to four Serbs were killed and approximately 100 sheep were stolen. In contrast, the Serbs overran the enclave two weeks later, driving tens of thousands from their homes, and summarily executing thousands of men and boys. The Serbs repeatedly exaggerated the extent of the raids out of Srebrenica as a pretext for the prosecution of a central war aim: to create geographically contiguous and ethnically pure territory along the Drina, while freeing their troops to fight in other parts of the country. The extent to which this pretext was accepted at face value by international actors and observers reflected the prism of “moral equivalency” through which the conflict in Bosnia was viewed by too many for too long.”


Throughout his genocide denial web site, Karganovic re-publishes outdated and already discredited diatribes written by science-fiction experts advocating Srebrenica genocide denial. No new names here. It’s an old circle of deniers that quote themselves. To name a few: Christopher James – Slobodan Milosevic apologist; Tara McCormack – writer for SPIKED, the successors of Revolutionary Communist Party’s LM/Living Marxism that participated in denial of existence of Serb-operated Concentration Camps in Bosnia (see photos of Bosniak and Croat civilians in Concentration Camps); Lewis MacKenzie – alleged concentration camp rapist who was never at Srebrenica and therefore not someone who argues on the basis of an adequately informed position (MacKenzie’s Srebrenica genocide denial debate is based on a wilful disregard of ICTY deliberations). On Karganovic’s web site, we also find a group of other heavily unreliable sources, like George Bogdanich, Diana Johnstone, Phillip Corwin, Carl Savich, Michael Parenti, Edward Herman, Jonathan Rooper, and other revisionists and apologists for war crimes and genocide.

Karganovic refers to Srebrenica genocide as “the phony Srebrenica narrative,”and labels Serbian human rights activists as “Self-Hating Serbs.” The target of Karganovic’s rage is projected toward respected Serbian human rights activists with an international repute, namely Natasa Kandic, Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco, and Sonja Biserko. He also targets other respected Serb journalists, like Svetlana Lukic and Svetlana Vukovic. Vojvodina political activist Nenad Canak, who argued in support of a change in Serbia’s criminal code to make genocide denial a criminal offense, can also find himself on Karganovic’s “Self-Hating Serbs” list.

Furthermore, Karganovic goes on to condemn legal findings of the Srebrenica genocide handed down by the two highest World Courts (ICJ and ICTY), arguing in his own stupidity that “the truth needs no laws to support it.” His version of the “truth” is, of course, manufactured and promoted by the Serbian ultra-nationalist circles. Karganovic’s “truth” is based on unsubstianted personal opinions, a cricle of sources with no credibility (we already mentioned some of them above), manipulations, fallacies, and distortions used in Srebrenica genocide denial purposes. In other words, his version of the “truth” is a bold faced lie.


Stefan Karganovic published a gallery of Serb gravestones he claims to be located in Srebrenica. He labeled all photos with one word: Srebrenica. In fact, these gravestones are located at a Serb Military Cemetery in a nearby ethnically cleansed town of Bratunac (bordering Srebrenica municipality). The cemetery contains gravestones of Serb soldiers (Chetniks), most of whom died attacking “safe haven” area of Sarajevo. They died under the leadership of two Bosnian Serb terrorists, namely Gen. Stanislav Galic and Gen. Dragoljub Milosevic.

The Bosnian Serb Gen. Stanislav Galic had been convicted on terrorist charges for his involvement in terrorizing citizens of Sarajevo during the longest siege in the modern European history. Galic was sentenced to life imprisonment by the U.N. based court at the Hague. Another Serb General, Dragoljub Milosevic, had also been convicted on terror charges and sentenced to 33 years in jail for his involvement in Sarajevo terror campaign.

According to the Research and Documentation Center in Sarajevo (research data certified by the experts from the U.N.-based International Criminal Tribunal):

“Under the Dayton Peace Accords, the suburbs of Sarajevo held by the VRS [Bosnian Serb Army] were to be re-integrated into the city of Sarajevo . The then leadership of the RS called on the local Serb population to leave Sarajevo and even take the graves of their loved ones with them. In fact, such a large majority followed the instructions that parts of the city of Sarajevo remained deserted for months. The remnants of their loved ones have been buried in Bratunac after the war, but their deaths are presented as the result of actions taken by the Bosnian Army units from Srebrenica.”


Karganovic’s goal is to make grossly inflated numbers of Serb casualties around Srebrenica “the subject of an official finding by a foreign court,” namely a local Dutch civil court which is unqualified to pass judgments of international importance, especially judgments that concern grave violations of war crimes in another country. Only the UN-sponsored International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia can deliberate serious issues of war crimes in the Former Yugoslavia and make factual verdicts based on the international law. The local Dutch court that Karganovic filed his lawsuit with is the same local court that dismissed the case filed by Mothers of Srebrenica Association against the Netherlands for the failure to prevent Srebrenica genocide in 1995. Karganovic’s case will also likely be dissmissed – and he knows it – but he will use bits and pieces of information from the trial transcripts to support his discredited claims and continue misinforming the public.


To prove his point about the Serbian ‘victimhood’ in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Stephen Karganovic uses the so called “UN Document” titled “Memorandum on War Crimes and Crimes of Genocide in Eastern Bosnia (communes of Bratunac, Skelani and Srebrenica) committed against the Serbian population from April 1992 to April 1993.” This document, filed under “A/46/171 and S/25635“, does NOT contain any official U.N. conclusions. The copy of this document is used on many Srebrenica genocide denial web sites, one of them being “Emperor’s Clothes” (web site run by Jared Israel, long-time Milosevic’s apologist and disgraced Srebrenica Genocide denier). The document had been carefully drafted by Slobodan Milosevic’s “Yugoslav State Commission for War Crimes and Genocide” and submitted to the U.N. on June 2 1993 by Serbian ambassador Dragomir Djokic. At the time, Djokic had worked in concert with then-Bosnian Serb “Iron Lady” Biljana Plavsic, professor of biology whose ‘scientific research’ included such genetic discoveries as her theory that “Muslims are genetically deformed”.

Bosnian Genocide Deniers: Diana Johnstone Sunday, Apr 13 2008 

From Leftist to Fascist: Bosnian Genocide Denier Diana Johnstone

From Leftist to Fascist: Bosnian Genocide Denier Diana Johnstone

Diana Johnstone is a leftist political writer, focusing primarily on European politics and Western foreign policy. Johnstone received a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota .Since 1976 Johnstone has been European correspondent for the US weekly In These Times.

In 2005 she wrote “Srebrenica Revisited”, in which she denies the Bosnian genocide, a claim that she denies. British historian Marko Atilla Hoare wrote an excellent article about the whole issue:


Using War as an Excuse for More War

Srebrenica Revisited


Last summer, almost the entire political spectrum in the Western world joined in a chorus of self-flagellation on the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. The dominant theme was “nostra culpa”: “we” let it happen, “we” didn’t want to know about it, and “we” mustn’t let it happen again.

Dear reader, who are “we” in this case? How in the world could “we” (you and I) have known or done anything about this at the time? And in fact, how much do “we” really know about it now? We know what we read in the newspapers or see on television. But how precise and accurate is that information? How do we know now that we are much better informed than we were before the event?

Such questions are virtually taboo. Srebrenica has become a sacred symbol of collective guilt, and to raise the slightest question is to be instantly condemned as an apologist for frightful crimes , or as a “holocaust denier”.

A left that retains any capacity for critical thinking should regard the lavish public breast-beating over “Srebrenica” (the quotation marks indicate the symbol rather than the actual event) with a certain skepticism. If mainstream media commentators and politicians are so extraordinarily moved by “Srebrenica”, this is because it has become an incantation to justify whatever future foreign war the U.S. government and media decide to sell under the label of “humanitarian intervention”.

The Uses of a Massacre

Aside from the probable future use of “Srebrenica”, there is the way it has already been used. Indeed, it was perhaps being used even before it happened.

From the the U.N. Secretary General’s 1999 Report on Srebrenica, it emerges that the idea of a “Srebrenica massacre” was already in the air at a September 1993 meeting in Sarajevo between Bosnian Muslim president Alija Izetbegovic and members of his Muslim party from Srebrenica. On the agenda was a Serb proposal to exchange Srebrenica and Zepa for some territories around Sarajevo as part of a peace settlement.

“The delegation opposed the idea, and the subject was not discussed further. Some surviving members of the Srebrenica delegation have stated that President Izetbegovic also told them he had learned that a NATO intervention in Bosnia and Herzegovina was possible, but could only occur if the Serbs were to break into Srebrenica, killing at least 5,000 of its people.” (1)

Izetbegovic later denied this, but he is outnumbered by witnesses. It is clear that Izetbegovic’s constant strategy was to portray his Muslim side in the bloody civil war as pure helpless victims, in order to bring U.S. military power in on his side. On his death bed, he readily admitted as much to his ardent admirer Bernard Kouchner, in the presence of U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke. Kouchner reminded Izetbegovic of a conversation he had had with French President Mitterrand in which he “spoke of the existence of ‘extermination camps’ in Bosnia.”

You repeated that in front of the journalists. That provoked considerable emotion throughout the world. […] They were horrible places, but people were not systematically exterminated. Did you know that?

Yes. I thought that my revelations could precipitate bombings. I saw the reaction of the French and the others-I was mistaken. […] Yes, I tried, but the assertion was false. There were no extermination camps whatever the horror of those places. (2)

Like the Bosnian Serbs, the Muslims also herded their adversaries into “horrible” camps at the start of the civil war, on the way to expulsion. Unlike the Bosnian Serbs, the Bosnian Muslims enjoyed the services of high-powered U.S. public relations experts in the Washington-based Ruder Finn agency who knew how to “spin” the Bosnian conflict in order to equate the Serbs with the Nazis-the quickest and easiest way to win public opinion over to the Muslim side. The news media and political figures were showered with press releases and other materials exaggerating Serb atrocities, whereas Muslim atrocities (such as the decapitations of Serb prisoners, fully documented) remained confidential. To the public, this was a one-sided conflict between a Serbian “fascist aggressor” and innocent victims, all unarmed civilians.

The general public did not know that Srebrenica, described as a “safe area”, was not in fact simply a haven for refugees, but also a Muslim military base. The general public did not know what Lord Owen knew and recounted in his important 1995 book, Balkan Odyssey (p.143), namely that in April 1993, Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was extremely anxious to prevent Bosnian Serb forces from overrunning Srebrenica. “On 16 April I spoke on the telephone to President Milosevic about my anxiety that, despite repeated assurances from Dr. Karadzic that he had no intention of taking Srebrenica, the Bosnian Serb army was now proceeding to do just that. The pocket was greatly reduced in size. I had rarely heard Milosevic so exasperated, but also so worried: he feared that if the Bosnian Serb troops entered Srebrenica there would be a bloodbath because of the tremendous bad blood that existed between the two armies. The Bosnian Serbs held the young Muslim commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, responsible for a massacre near Bratunac in December 1992 in which many Serb civilians had been killed. Milosevic believed it would be a great mistake for the Bosnian Serbs to take Srebrenica and promised to tell Karadzic so.”

Thus, many months before the July 1995 “Srebrenica massacre”, both Izetbegovic and Milosevic were aware of the possibility and of its potential impact-favorable to the Muslim cause, and disastrous for the Serbs.

A few other indisputable facts should not be overlooked:

Shortly before the Bosnian Serb attack on Srebrenica, the Muslim troops stationed in that enclave carried out murderous attacks on nearby Serb villages. These attacks were certain to incite Serb commanders to retaliate against the Srebrenica garrison.

Meanwhile, the Muslim high command in Sarajevo ordered the Srebrenica commanders, Oric and his lieutenants, to withdraw from Srebrenica, leaving thousands of his soldiers without commanders, without orders, and in total confusion when the foreseeable Serb attack occurred. Surviving Srebrenica Muslim officials have bitterly accused the Izetbegovic government of deliberately sacrificing them to the interests of his State.

According to the most thorough study of Srebrenica events, by Cees Wiebes for the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation report, the Bosnian Serb forces set out in July 1995 to reduce the area held by Bosnian Muslim forces on the outskirts of Srebrenica, and only decided to capture the town itself when they unexpectedly found it undefended.

“The VRS [Republika Srpska Army] advance went so well that the evening of July 9 saw an important ‘turning point’ […] The Bosnian Serbs decided that they would no longer confine themselves to the southern part of the enclave, but would extend the operation and take the town of Srebrenica itself. Karadzic was informed that the results achieved now put the Drina Corps in a position to take the town; he had expressed his satisfaction with this and had agreed to a continuation of the operation to disarm the ‘Muslim terrorist gangs’ and to achieve a full demilitarization of the enclave. In this order, issued by Major General Zdravko Tolimir, it was also stated that Karadzic had determined that the safety of UNPROFOR soldiers and of the population should be ensured. Orders to this effect were to be provided to all participating units. […] The orders made no mention of a forced relocation of the population. […] A final instruction, also of significance, was that the population and prisoners of war should be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. On July 11 all of Srebrenica fell into the hands of the Bosnian Serbs.”

In testimony to a French parliamentary commission inquiry into Srebrenica, General Philippe Morillon, the UNPROFOR officer who first called international attention to the Srebrenica enclave, stated his belief that Bosnian Serb forces had fallen into a “trap” when they decided to capture Srebrenica.

Subsequently, on February 12, 2004, testifying at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague, General Morillon stressed that the Muslim commander in Srebrenica, Naser Oric, “engaged in attacks during Orthodox holidays and destroyed villages, massacring all the inhabitants. This created a degree of hatred that was quite extraordinary in the region, and this prompted the region of Bratunac in particular—that is the entire Serb population—to rebel against the very idea that through humanitarian aid one might help the population that was present there.”

Asked by the ICTY prosecutor how Oric treated his Serb prisoners, General Morillon, who knew him well, replied that “Naser Oric was a warlord who reigned by terror in his area and over the population itself. I think that he realized that these were the rules of this horrific war, that he could not allow himself to take prisoners. According to my recollection, he didn’t even look for an excuse. It was simply a statement: One can’t be bothered with prisoners.”

Morillon recounted how “the Serbs took me to a village to show me the evacuation of the bodies of the inhabitants that had been thrown into a hole, a village close to Bratunac. And this made me understand the degree to which this infernal situation of blood and vengeance […] led to a situation when I personally feared that the worst would happen if the Serbs of Bosnia managed to enter the enclaves and Srebrenica.”

“I feared that the Serbs, the local Serbs, the Serbs of Bratunac, these militiamen, they wanted to take their revenge for everything that they attributed to Naser Oric. It wasn’t just Naser Oric that they wanted to revenge, take their revenge on, they wanted to revenge their dead on Orthodox Christmas.”

* * *In short, Srebrenica, whose Serb population had been chased out by Muslim troops at the start of the civil war in 1992, was both a gathering point for civilian Muslim refugees and a Muslim army base. The enclave lived from international humanitarian aid. The Muslim military did not allow civilians to leave, since their presence was what ensured the arrival of humanitarian aid provisions which the military controlled.

When the Bosnian Serb forces captured the town on July 11, 2005, civilians were clamoring to leave the enclave, understandably enough, since there was virtually no normal economic life there. Much has been made of the fact that Serb forces separated the population, providing buses for women, children and the infirm to take them to Tuzla, while detaining the men. In light of all that preceded, the reason for this separation is obvious: the Bosnian Serbs were looking for the perpetrators of raids on Serb villages, in order to take revenge.

However, only a relatively small number of Muslim men were detained at that point, and some of them are known to have survived and eventually been released in exchange for Serb prisoners. When the Serb forces entered the town from the south, thousands of Muslim soldiers, in disarray because of the absence of commanding officers, fled northwards, through wild wooded hills toward Tuzla. It is clear enough that they fled because they feared exactly what everyone aware of the situation dreaded: that Serb soldiers would take vengeance on the men they considered guilty of murdering Serb civilians and prisoners.

Thousands of those men did in fact reach Tuzla, and were quietly redeployed. This was confirmed by international observers. However, Muslim authorities never provided information about these men, preferring to let them be counted among the missing, that is, among the massacred. Another large, unspecified number of these men were ambushed and killed as they fled in scenes of terrible panic. This was, then, a “massacre”, such as occurs in war when fleeing troops are ambushed by superior forces.

Counting the victims

So we come to the question of numbers. The question is difficult, both because of the uncertainty that surrounds it, and because merely pointing to this uncertainty is instantly denounced as “revisionism” and lack of respect for the victims. This reproach is not logical. Victims are victims, whether few or many, and respect is not in proportion to their numbers.

The question of numbers is complex and has been dealt with in detail by others, recently by an independent international Srebrenica research group which will soon publish its findings in book form. (3)

Suffice it here to note the following:

1. The sacralization of the estimated number of victims. In many if not most disasters, initial estimates of casualties tend to be inflated, for various reasons, such as multiple reports of the same missing person, and are subsequently corrected downwards. This was the case for the World Trade Center disaster, where initial estimates of up to 10,000 victims were finally brought down to less than 3000, and there are many other examples. In the case of Srebrenica, the figure of 8,000 originated with September 1995 announcements by the International Committee of the Red Cross that it was seeking information about some 3,000 men reportedly detained as well as about some 5,000 who had fled to central Bosnia. Neither the Bosnian Serbs nor the Muslims were ever forthcoming with whatever information they had, and the “8,000” figure has tended ever since to be repeated as an established total of “Muslim men and boys executed by Serb forces”. It can be noted that this was always an estimate, the sum of two separate groups, the smaller one of prisoners (whose execution would be a clear war crime) and the larger one of retreating troops (whose “massacre” as they fled would be the usual tragic consequence of bitter civil war). Anyone familiar with the workings of journalism knows that there is a sort of professional inertia which leads reporters to repeat whatever figure they find in previous reports, without verification, and with a marked preference for big numbers. This inertia is all the greater when no truly authoritative figures ever emerge.

The number of bodies exhumed.

Despite unprecedented efforts over the past ten years to recover bodies from the area around Srebrenica, less than 3,000 have been exhumed, and these include soldiers and others-Serb as well as Muslim-who died in the vicious combats that took place during three years of war. Only a fraction have been identified.

2. The political desire for the largest possible number. Aside from the journalistic inertia mentioned above, the retention of the unproven high figure of massacre victims in the case of Srebrenica is clearly the result of political will on the part of two governments: the Bosnian Muslim government of Alija Izetbegovic and, more importantly, the government of the United States. From the moment that Madeleine Albright brandished satellite photos of what she claimed was evidence of Serb massacres committed at Srebrenica (evidence that was both secret, as the photos were shown in closed session to the Security Council, and circumstantial, as they showed changes in terrain which might indicate massacres, not the alleged massacres themselves), the U.S. used “Srebrenica” for two clear purposes:

to draw attention away from the U.S.-backed Croatian offensive which drove the Serb population out of the Krajina which, as much as Srebrenica, was supposed to be protected by the United Nations;

to implicate Bosnian Serb leaders in “genocide” in order to disqualify them from negotiating the future of Bosnia-Herzegovina. (The U.S. preferred to replace them at Dayton by Milosevic, whose eagerness to end the war could be exploited to get concessions the Bosnian Serbs might refuse.)

Exploitation of “Srebrenica” then helped set the stage for the Kosovo war of 1999:

by blaming the United Nations (whose failure to defend Srebrenica was in reality the inevitable result of the unwillingness of the United States to give full support to U.N. ground forces), NATO emerged as the only agent capable of effective “humanitarian intervention”.

by falsely identifying Milosevic with the Bosnian Serb leadership and by exploiting the notion that Srebrenica killings were part of a vast Serb plan of “genocide” carried out against non-Serbs for purely racist reasons, Madeleine Albright was able to advocate the NATO war against Yugoslavia as necessary to prevent “another Srebrenica” in Kosovo, where the situation was altogether different.

To use “Srebrenica” as an effective instrument in the restructuring of former Yugoslavia, notably by replacing recalcitrant Serb leaders by more pliable politicians, the crime needed to be as big as possible: not a mere war crime (such as the United States itself commits on a serial basis, from Vietnam to Panama to Iraq), but “genocide”: “the worst atrocity in Europe since the Holocaust”. That arouses the Hitler image, which is always good for the image of the United States as saviour from across the seas, and implies a plan decided at the highest levels, rather than the brutal behavior of enraged soldiers (or paramilitaries, the probable culprits in this case) out of control.

But what plan for genocide includes offering safe passage to women and children? And if this was all part of a Serb plot to eliminate Muslims, what about all the Muslims living peacefully in Serbia itself, including thousands of refugees who fled there from Bosnia? Or the Muslims in the neighboring enclave of Zepa, who were unharmed when the Serbs captured that town a few days after capturing Srebrenica? To get around these common sense obstacles, the ICTY prosecution came up with a sociologist who provided an “expert” opinion: the Srebrenica Muslims lived in a patriarchal society, therefore killing the men was enough to ensure that there would be no more Muslims in Srebrenica. This amounts to shrinking the concept of “genocide” to fit the circumstances.

It was on basis of this definition that in August 2001 the Tribunal found Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstic guilty of “complicity in genocide”. Although he neither ordered, participated in or was even aware of any executions, the judges ruled that he took part in what the ICTY calls a “joint criminal enterprise” simply by capturing Srebrenica, since he must have been aware that genocide was “a natural and foreseeable consequence”. This is the ruling that established “genocide” as the official description of events at Srebrenica.

Why such relentless determination to establish Srebrenica as “genocide”? A December 27, 2003, Associated Press dispatch provided an explanation by U.S. jurist Michael Scharf, one of the designers of the ICTY who has also coached the judges for the trial of Saddam Hussein: On a practical level, if the court determines Srebrenica does not fit the legal definition of genocide, it would be very difficult to make the charge stick against Milosevic, said Michael Scharf, a professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law.

“And it is crucial that he be convicted of genocide,” Scharf said. If Milosevic can’t be convicted, “then who can you convict of genocide in the modern age?” he asked.

The legal definition of genocide could also come into play in an Iraqi war-crimes tribunal, which has vowed to follow international legal precedent.

It is striking that from the very start, the effort of the United States and of the Tribunal in The Hague-which it mainly finances, staffs and controls-has been to establish what it calls “command responsibility” for Serb crimes rather than individual guilt of actual perpetrators. The aim is not to identify and punish men who violated the Geneva conventions by executing prisoners, but rather to pin the supreme crime on the top Serb leadership.

The office of the ICTY prosecutor has chosen to rely heavily on a single confessed participant in the Srebrenica massacre. This person is one Drazen Erdemovic, a petty criminal of Croatian nationality who was hospitalized in Serbia in March 1996 after a near-fatal brawl in a bar in Novi Sad. Quite possibly in order to escape further threats from his personal enemies, Erdemovic confessed to Western news media to having taken part in mass murder in Bosnia. He was arrested by Serb authorites who then, at his request, turned him over to the Hague Tribunal.

From then on, the prosecution has used Erdemovic repeatedly as its star witness, using the U.S. procedure of “plea bargaining” by which a confessed criminal gets off lightly by incriminating somebody else the prosecution wants to convict. He has told his story to the judges at his own brief trial, where he was exempted from cross examination thanks to his guilty plea, as well as at a hearing incriminating Karadzic and Mladic (in the absence of any legal defense) and at various trials whenever “Srebrenica” comes up.

His story goes like this: after briefly serving in the Bosnian Muslim army, Erdemovic joined an international mercenary militia unit that seems to have been employed by the Bosnian Serb command for sabotage operations on enemy territory. On July 16, 1995, his unit of eight men executed between 1,000 and 1,200 Muslim men near the village of Pilice, some 40 kilometers north of Srebrenica. From around 10:30 in the morning to 3 o’clock in the afternoon, these eight mercenaries emptied bus load after bus load of prisoners and lined them up to be shot by groups of ten.

Now in fact, it seems that a serious crime was indeed committed in Pilice. Subsequent forensic investigators exhumed 153 bodies. One hundred and fifty-three executions of prisoners of war is a serious crime, and there is material evidence that this crime was committed. But 1,200? According to the manner of execution described by Erdemovic, it would have taken 20 hours to murder so many victims. Yet the judges have never questioned this elementary arithmetical discrepancy, and Erdemovic’s word has consistently been accepted as gospel truth by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague. (4)

Why this insistence on an implausibly higher number than can be supported by material evidence? Obviously, the Tribunal wants to keep the figures as high as possible in order to sustain the charge of “genocide”. The charge of “genocide” is what sharply distinguishes the indictment of Serbs from indictments of Croats or Muslims for similar crimes committed during the Yugoslav disintegration wars.

In August 2000 after not quite four and a half years in jail, the self-confessed mass murderer Erdemovic was freed, given a new identity, residence in an unspecified Western country and a “job”, so to speak, as occasional paid and “protected” witness for the ICTY.

In contrast, General Krstic was sentenced to 35 years in prison and will be eligible for parole in 20 years.

Clearly, the purpose of the “genocide” charge is not to punish the perpetrators but to incriminate the Bosnian Serb, and the Yugoslav Serb, chain of command right up to the top.

Srebrenica As Myth

The transformation of Srebrenica into myth was illustrated last July by an article in the Italian leftist daily Liberazione (close to the “Communist Refoundation” party) reporting on a semi-documentary film entitled “Srebrenica, luci dall’oblio” (“Srebrenica, lights from oblivion”). The title suggests that the film-makers have rescued from oblivion a tragically neglected event, when in fact, rarely in the history of warfare has a massacre been the focus of so much attention.

Here we have the usual self-flagellation: “…what happened in Srebrenica: the massacre of 9,000 civilians, in the most total silence/absence on the part of the world institutions [responsible for] peace…” The author accepts without question the term “genocide” and raises the figure of victims to new heights. “Around 9,000 men between the ages of 14 and 70 were transported by truck to nearby centers where they were massacred and buried in mass graves…” This was “the greatest mass genocide committed since the days of Nazism until today”… What is the point of this exaggeration, this dramatization? Why is Srebrenica so much more terrible than the war that ravaged Vietnam, with countless massacres and devastation of the countryside by deadly chemicals, or the cold-blooded massacre of surrendering Iraqis at the end of the first Gulf War in 1991? But that is a genuinely forgotten massacre-not only forgotten, but never even recognized in the first place, and the “international community” has not sent teams of forensic scientists to find and identify the victims of U.S. weapons.

In all probability the film-makers, aspiring artists and “genocide experts” who consider “Srebrenica” suitable material for touching the emotions of the public believe that they are serving the interests of peace and humanity. But I would suggest quite the contrary. The misrepresentation of “Bosnia” as scene of a deliberate “genocide” against Muslims, rather than a civil war with atrocities on all sides, contributes to a spirit of “conflict of civilizations”. It has helped recruit volunteers for Islamic terrorist groups.

The political exploitation of Srebrenica has turned the Bosnian war into a morality pantomimew between pure good and pure evil, a version of events which the Serbs can never really accept and the Muslims have no desire to give up. This stands in the way of unbiased investigation and serious historical analysis. Reconciliation is in fact ruled out by the moralistic insistence that a stark distinction must be made between “aggressor” and “victim”. This stark difference exists between NATO and Yugoslavia, or between the U.S. and Iraq, where an overwhelmingly superior military power deliberately launched an aggressive war against a sovereign country that neither attacked nor threatened it.

But the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina was not of that nature. The war there was the result of an extraordinarily complex legal situation (an unsettled small Federal Republic constitutionally composed of three “nationalities”: Serb, Muslim and Croat, itself part of a disintegrating larger Federal Republic) exacerbated by myriad local power plays and the incoherent intervention of Great Powers. Moreover, this occurred in a region where memories of extremely bloody civil war during World War II were still very much alive. To a large extent, the fighting that broke loose in 1992 was a resumption of the vicious cycle of massacres and vengeance that devastated Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1941-44, when the Nazi occupation broke up Yugoslavia and attached Bosnia-Herzegovina to Greater Croatia, which proceeded to eliminate Serbs.

Today it is an unquestioned dogma that recalling atrocies is a “duty of memory” to the victims, something that must be endlessly repeated, lest we forget. But is this really so obvious? The insistence on past atrocities may simply prepare the next wave, which is what has already happened in the Balkans, and more than once. Because in reality, the dead victims cannot profit from such memories. But the memory of victimhood is a moral and political capital of great value for the heirs of victimhood and especially for their self-appointed champions. And in the case of Bosnia, it promises to bring considerable financial gain. If Milosevic, as former president of Serbia, can be convicted of genocide, then the Bosnian Muslims hope to win billions of dollars in reparations that will keep Serbia on its knees for the foreseeable future.

* * *The obsessive reference to “Srebrenica” has a negative effect far beyond the Balkans.

The “Srebrenica massacre” is part of a dominant culture discourse that goes like this: We people in the advanced democracies have reached a new moral plateau, from which we are both able and have a duty both to judge others and to impose our “values” when necessary. The others, on a lower moral plateau, must be watched carefully, because unlike us, they may commit “genocide”. It is remarkable how “genocide” has become fashionable, with more and more “genocide experts” in universities, as if studying genocide made sense as a separate academic discipline. What would all these people do without genocide? I wonder what is behind the contemporary fascination with genocide and serial killers, and I doubt that it is a sign of a healthy social psychology.

In the world today, few people, including Bosnian Muslims, are threatened by “genocide” in the sense of a deliberate Hitler-style project to exterminate a population-which is how most people understand the term. But millions of people are threatened, not by genocidal maniacs, but by genocidal conditions of life: poverty, disease, inadequate water, global climate change. The Srebrenica mourning cult offers nothing positive in regard to these genocidal conditions. Worse, it is instrumentalized openly to justify what is perhaps the worst of all the genocidal conditions: war.

The subliminal message in the official Srebrenica discourse is that because “we” let that happen, “we” mustn’t let “it” happen again, ergo, the United States should preventively bomb potential perpetrators of “genocide”. Whatever happened in Srebrenica could have best been prevented, not by U.S. or NATO bombing, but by preventing civil war from breaking out in Bosnia Herzegovina to begin with. This prevention was possible if the “international community”, meaning the NATO powers, Europe and the United States, had firmly insisted that the Yugoslav crisis of 1990 should be settled by negotiations. But first of all, Germany opposed this, by bullying the European Union into immediate recognition of the secession of Slovenia and Croatia from Yugoslavia, without negotiation. All informed persons knew that this threatened the existence of Bosnia Herzegovina. The European Union proposed a cantonization plan for Bosnia Herzegovina, not very different from the present arrangement, which was accepted by leaders of the Bosnian Muslim, Serb and Croat communities. But shortly thereafter, Muslim president Alija Izetbegovic reneged, after the U.S. ambassador encouraged him to hold out for more. Throughout the subsequent fighting, the U.S. put obstacles in the way of every European peace plan. [6] These years of obstruction enabled the United States to take control of the eventual peace settlement in Dayton, in November 1995.

This rejection of compromise, which plunged Bosnia-Herzegovina into fratricidal war, was supported at the time by a chorus of humanitarians- not least politicians safely ensconced in the European Parliament who voted for “urgent resolutions” about situations of which they were totally ignorant-claiming that Bosnia must be a centralized State for the sake of “multiculturalism”. These were the same humanitarians who applauded the breakup of multicultural Yugoslavia-which in fact created the crisis in Bosnia.

Clearly, whoever executes unarmed prisoners commits a very serious crime whether in Bosnia or anywhere else. But when all is said and done, it is an illusion to think that condemning perpetrators of a massacre in Bosnia will ensure that the next civil war somewhere in the world will be carried out in a more chivalrous manner. War is a life and death matter, and inevitably leads people to commit acts they would never commit in peacetime.

The notion that war can be made “clean”, played according to rules, should not be the main focus of international law or of peace movements. War first of all needs to be prevented, not policed.

The false interpretation of “Srebrenica” as part of an ongoing Serb project of “genocide” was used to incite the NATO war against Yugoslavia, which devastated a country and left behind a cauldron of hatred and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. The United States is currently engaged in a far more murderous and destructive war in Iraq. In this context, the Western lamentations that inflate the Srebrenic massacre into “the greatest mass genocide since Nazi times” are a diversion from the real existing genocide, which is not the work of some racist maniac, but the ongoing imposition of a radically unjust socio-economic world order euphemistically called “globalization”.

Diana Johnstone is the author of Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, Nato, and Western Delusions published by Monthly Review Press. She can be reached at: dianajohnstone@compuserve.com


1. Report of the Secretary-General Pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 53/35 (1998), Section IV, paragraph C.115.

2. Bernard Kouchner, “Les Guerriers de la Paix”, Grasset, Paris, 2004, pp. 372-375.

3. “Srebrenica: The Politics of War Crimes”, by George Bogdanich, Tim Fenton, Philip Hammond, Edward S. Herman, Michael Mandel, Jonathan Rooper and George Szamuely. See http://www.srebrenica-report.com/politics.htm.

4. Germinal Civikov, “Kalaschnikow und Einzelfeuer: Der Fall Drazen Erdemovic”, Freitag, 16 September 2005.

5. Davide Turrini “Il genocidio jugoslavo rivive sullo schermo”, Liberazione, 12 July 2005.

6. See David Owen, Balkan Odyssey, Victor Gollancz, London, 1995. Lord Owen, who, as co-chairman of the steering committee of the International Conference on the Former Yugoslavia, attempted from August 1992 to June 1995 to negotiate a peace settlement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, concludes (Indigo paperback, p.400): “From the spring of 1993 to the summer of 1995, in my judgement, the effect of US policy, despite its being called ‘containment’, was to prolong the war of the Bosnian Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”

Source: http://www.counterpunch.org/johnstone10122005.html

Bosnian Genocide Deniers: Thomas Deichmann Saturday, Apr 12 2008 

Thomas Deichmann is a freelance journalist who writes regularly for the German magazine Novo. He is among the first Bosnian Genocide deniers. In his article “The picture that fooled the world” published in a British low-circulated magazine Living Marxism(LM) he accused ITN of fabricating the Serb-run Trnopolje concentration camp footage. The publishers of LM, Informinc (LM) ltd., were sued for libel by ITN and in March 2000 the magazine was forced to close. Here is his article:

The picture that fooled the world

Photo: ITN archive

This image of an emaciated Muslim caged behind Serb barbed wire, filmed by a British news team, became a worldwide symbol of the war in Bosnia. But the picture is not quite what it seems. German journalist Thomas Deichmann reveals the full story

The picture reproduced on these pages is of Fikret Alic, a Bosnian Muslim, emaciated and stripped to the waist, apparently imprisoned behind a barbed wire fence in a Bosnian Serb camp at Trnopolje. It was taken from a videotape shot on 5 August 1992 by an award-winning British television team, led by Penny Marshall (ITN) with her cameraman Jeremy Irvin, accompanied by Ian Williams (Channel 4) and the reporter Ed Vulliamy from the Guardian newspaper.

For many, this picture has become a symbol of the horrors of the Bosnian war – ‘Belsen ’92’ as one British newspaper headline captioned the photograph (Daily Mirror, 7 August 1992). But that image is misleading.

The fact is that Fikret Alic and his fellow Bosnian Muslims were not imprisoned behind a barbed wire fence. There was no barbed wire fence surrounding Trnopolje camp. It was not a prison, and certainly not a ‘concentration camp’, but a collection centre for refugees, many of whom went there seeking safety and could leave again if they wished.

The barbed wire in the picture is not around the Bosnian Muslims; it is around the cameraman and the journalists. It formed part of a broken-down barbed wire fence encircling a small compound that was next to Trnopolje camp. The British news team filmed from inside this compound, shooting pictures of the refugees and the camp through the compound fence. In the eyes of many who saw them, the resulting pictures left the false impression that the Bosnian Muslims were caged behind barbed wire.

Whatever the British news team’s intentions may have been, their pictures were seen around the world as the first hard evidence of concentration camps in Bosnia. ‘The Proof: behind the barbed wire, the brutal truth about the suffering in Bosnia’, announced the Daily Mail alongside a front-page reproduction of the picture from Trnopolje: ‘They are the sort of scenes that flicker in black and white images from 50-year-old films of Nazi concentration camps.’ (7 August 1992) On the first anniversary of the pictures being taken, an article in the Independent could still use the barbed wire to make the Nazi link: ‘The camera slowly pans up the bony torso of the prisoner. It is the picture of famine, but then we see the barbed wire against his chest and it is the picture of the Holocaust and concentration camps.’ (5 August 1993)

Penny Marshall, Ian Williams and Ed Vulliamy have never called Trnopolje a concentration camp. They have criticised the way that others tried to use their reports and pictures as ‘proof’ of a Nazi-style Holocaust in Bosnia. Yet over the past four and a half years, none of them has told the full story about that barbed wire fence which made such an impact on world opinion.

It was through my role as an expert witness to the War Crimes Tribunal that I first realised that something was wrong with the famous pictures from Trnopolje. As a journalist with a track record of reporting on Bosnia, I was asked to present the tribunal with a report on German media coverage of Dusko Tadic, a Bosnian Serb accused of war crimes. Reviewing press articles and video tapes which had been shown on German TV, I became aware of the major importance of the Trnopolje pictures. The picture of Fikret Alic behind the barbed wire, taken by Penny Marshall’s team, could be seen again and again.

One night, while I was going through the pictures again at home, my wife pointed out an odd little detail. If Fikret Alic and the other Bosnian Muslims were imprisoned inside a barbed wire fence, why was this wire fixed to poles on the side of the fence where they were standing? As any gardener knows, fences are, as a rule, fixed to the poles from outside, so that the area to be enclosed is fenced-in. It occurred to me then that perhaps it was not the people in the camp who were fenced-in behind the barbed wire, but the team of British journalists.

My suspicions were heightened by a conversation I had with Professor Mischa Wladimiroff, Dusko Tadic’s Dutch defence advocate at the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. The main witness against Tadic, Dragan Opacic (later exposed as a trained liar), had told the court about the barbed wire fence surrounding the camp at Trnopolje and had even made a drawing of where it was. But when Professor Wladimiroff went to Bosnia to investigate for the defence, it became clear to him that Opacic had lied in the witness box; he could find no evidence of a barbed wire fence surrounding Trnopolje camp.

I decided to go back to Bosnia, and to review the British news team’s coverage of Trnopolje, in order to unravel the real story of how those pictures had come about.

The British news team’s trip to Bosnia in the summer of 1992 took place against a background of mounting hysteria, as the first reports claiming that the Bosnian Serbs were running brutal internment camps were published in the West. On 19 July 1992, the American journalist Roy Gutman wrote in Newsday about the camp at Manjaca, and Andre Kaiser’s pictures of prisoners with shaven heads at Manjaca were shown around the world. On 29 July in the Guardian, Maggie O’Kane quoted eye-witnesses who claimed that Muslims had been crammed into cattle cars and shipped off from Trnopolje station. On 2 August Roy Gutman published another article in which he called the Bosnian Serb camp at Omarska a ‘death camp’. Gutman’s and O’Kane’s articles drew heavily on hearsay and unconfirmed claims. Nevertheless, they caused an international sensation.

When Marshall, Williams and Vulliamy arrived in Bosnia at the end of July 1992, they were under intense pressure to get the story of the camps. Roy Gutman’s article about the ‘death camp’ Omarska, published while the British team were in Bosnia, had further raised expectations in the London editorial offices. After her return Penny Marshall told how she and Williams had received orders from the managing editors of ITN and Channel 4 to do nothing else before they had the camps story in the bag: ‘They had set Ian Williams and myself loose with an open-ended brief to find and visit the detention camps, and with orders to file nothing until we had come up with the story.’ (Sunday Times, 16 August 1992)

As the end of their trip approached, however, the British news team had been unable to find the camps story they were after. Their final stop was to be the refugee camp at Trnopolje, next to the village of Kozarac which had been overrun by Bosnian Serb units a few months earlier in May 1992. This was to be their last chance to get the story which their editors wanted.

The pictures they shot at Trnopolje camp on 5 August were edited in Budapest the next day, then sent to London and broadcast the same night. The broadcast centred on shots of the journalists talking to Fikret Alic and the group of Bosnian Muslims through the barbed wire. These were the pictures which were widely interpreted as evidence that the Muslims were penned behind a barbed wire fence, and which the international media seized upon to make a symbolic link to the Nazi camps. But how did the British team get them?

I have looked through the rest of the team’s film from Trnopolje, at the pictures which were not broadcast. They reveal a lot more about the story.

The camp at Trnopolje consisted of buildings that had previously been a school, and a community centre which housed a medical centre and a public hall, alongside a large open area that had been a sports ground. The only fences around parts of the camp were little more than a metre high, of the kind you might find around any school or public building. The British news team were able to enter all areas of the refugee camp. They shot some pictures in the buildings. Their attention, however, focused on a group of Muslims who had just been brought from the camps in Keraterm close to Prijedor, who were waiting in the open air to be registered and given food and somewhere to sleep.

To film these refugees, Marshall and her cameraman Irvin entered a compound next to the camp area. Inside this small compound were a kind of garage shed, an electricity transformer station, and a brick barn. Before the war, horticultural products could be bought there and tractors and construction machinery had been housed in the barn. To protect all this from thieves, the compound area of approximately 500 square metres had been fenced-in with barbed wire a couple of years before. The erection of the barbed wire fence had nothing to do with the refugees, the camp or the war. The poles to which this barbed wire was attached are still standing today, and traces of the wire can be found on the west side of the compound.

When Marshall, Williams and Vulliamy entered the compound next to the camp, the barbed wire was already torn in several places. They did not use the open gate, but entered from the south through a gap in the fence. They approached the fence on the north side, where curious refugees quickly gathered inside the camp, but on the outside of the area fenced-in by barbed wire. It was through the barbed wire fence at this point that the famous shots of Fikret Alic were taken.

The unused footage shows how cameraman Irvin zoomed through the compound’s barbed wire fence from various angles, apparently searching for the most dramatic shot. Most of the refugees in the camp were marked by their experience of the war, but few looked as emaciated as Fikret Alic. Yet he captured the camera’s attention.

On her return, Penny Marshall wrote in the Sunday Times that ‘Jeremy Irvin, our cameraman, knew he had come away with powerful images from Prijedor, but only when we screened them in our Budapest editing suite did we begin to sense their impact’. Ed Vulliamy summarised this impact in his book, Seasons in Hell: ‘With his rib-cage behind the barbed wire of Trnopolje, Fikret Alic had become the symbolic figure of the war, on every magazine cover and television screen in the world.’ (p202) Mike Jeremy, foreign editor of ITN, later called the picture ‘one of the key images of the war in former Yugoslavia’ (Independent, 5 August 1993).

Yet an important element of that ‘key image’ had been produced by camera angles and editing. The other pictures, which were not broadcast, show clearly that the large area on which the refugees were standing was not fenced-in with barbed wire. You can see that the people are free to move on the road and on the open area, and have already erected a few protective tents. Within the compound next door that is surrounded with barbed wire, you can see about 15 people, including women and children, sitting under the shade of a tree. Penny Marshall’s team were able to walk in and out of this compound to get their film, and the refugees could do the same as they searched for some shelter from the August sun.

Another unpublished sequence on the tape shows Fikret Alic and the other refugees who had just arrived from a different angle. The cameraman is no longer inside the barbed wire area, but about 20 metres to the west of it. From here it is obvious that the refugees are not caged behind barbed wire. While they wait to be registered and told where to go, they are standing behind an ordinary wire mesh fence which is little more than a metre high, adjacent to the barbed wire. But these pictures did not make it on to the world’s TV screens and front pages.

When I visited Trnopolje last December I asked local people about the camp and the barbed wire. Dragan Baltic, 17, went to school in Trnopolje until the spring of 1992. He is certain that, apart from the one around the small compound, ‘there has been no other barbed wire fence’. His 19-year old sister Dragana now works in a refugee centre in the school. Dragana confirms her brother’s account. She adds that there was a metal fence about one metre high in front of and around the school building, to prevent the children from running on to the road. That fence can be seen on the ITN tapes. Refugees lean on it, others jump over it to enter the camp area. Dragana also remembers a small wire mesh fence about 1.2m high, ‘as is used for keeping hens’, running from the road up to the community centre and adjacent to the barbed wire fence. This wire mesh fence, which stood before the war, can also be clearly seen on the ITN pictures.

I met Pero Curguz in his office in Prijedor. He manages the regional Red Cross, and was stationed in Trnopolje during the operation of the refugee centre. He was interviewed by the British journalists in August 1992. He says he told them that the people had come to the camp of their own free will for protection. He told me that, during the entire time of the operation of the camp, no fence had been erected. On the contrary: when the other camps in Keraterm and Omarska were closed, and Trnopolje became overcrowded with up to 7500 people, the refugees had pulled down fences and taken all other available materials to build shelters. Curguz stressed that this was no internment or prisoner camp; it was a collecting camp for exiled Muslims. Everybody I spoke to confirmed that the refugees could leave the camp area at almost any time.

When I showed the picture of Fikret Alic behind the barbed wire to people in Trnopolje, I saw always the same reaction: anger and disappointment. They had expected fair treatment from the Western journalists and had welcomed them. Veljko Grmusa and his family were exiled from Bosanska Bojna near Velika Kladusa and were assigned the house of an exiled Muslim in Trnopolje. In the middle of August 1992 he worked as a guard in the refugee centre for a couple of days, before he was sent to the front. He was glad when I told him that Fikret Alic had survived the war, but angry about this image. His wife Milica told me that she assisted in the camp by order of the local authorities during the war: ‘We wanted to help the journalists at that time, we had no idea how the Western newspapers work. Later we received orders not to talk any more with reporters who could not produce a special authorisation.’

Misa Radulovic, 68, was a teacher in Kozarac and Trnopolje. Now he walks with a stick and is nearly blind. But like all other men considered able-bodied, he was enlisted in the army during the war and stationed as a camp guard in Trnopolje for three days. ‘We protected the Muslims from Serbian extremists who wanted to take revenge’, he said. ‘The people could leave the camp without papers, but this was dangerous. A barbed wire fence existed only at this corner around the barn, this little shop for rural products and the electricity station.’

Without doubt most of the refugees in Trnopolje were undernourished. Civilians were harassed in the camp, and there were reports of some rapes and murders. Yet the irony is that, if this collection centre for refugees had not existed under the supervision of Bosnian Serb soldiers, a far greater number of Muslim civilians might have lost their lives.

The collection centre was spontaneously created by refugees when the civil war escalated in the Prijedor region. In May 1992 Bosnian Serb forces took the town of Kozarac and drove its Bosnian Muslim occupants out, just as Serb and Croat civilians had been driven out of their homes elsewhere in the war zone. Many of the fleeing Muslims sought refuge on the school grounds at Trnopolje. They congregated there in the hope of avoiding being picked off by Bosnian Serb militia or press-ganged into the war by Bosnian Muslim forces. Many of the Bosnian Serb guards sent to the camp were local civilians, mobilised a few days before, who knew the refugees. And there was a permanent Red Cross presence under Pero Curguz, who told me that he too had met many old acquaintances in the camp.

For all that, in the middle of a bloody war zone, the camp could never be completely safe. But many refugees preferred to stay there rather than risk their lives outside. There are reports of refugees who left the camp briefly to visit their fields and homes, hoping to find food and belongings, and were never seen again.

Paddy Ashdown, the British Liberal Democrat leader, visited the camps in Manjaca and Trnopolje a few days after Penny Marshall’s team. Ashdown is no ally of the Bosnian Serbs, and had been a loud advocate of British military intervention in the conflict. Yet his impressions of Trnopolje, described in the Independent on 13 August 1992, struck a more sober note at a time of widespread hysteria about the camp: ‘They have gathered here because they have to go somewhere. Their houses have been burnt and their lives threatened. Muslim extremists pressurise the men to join up with the guerrillas, so they have come here for safety. But on most recent nights the unprotected camp has been raided by Serbian extremists who beat them, rob them of what little they have left and, it is claimed, rape the women. Things are better now.’

In the eyes of the world, however, the dramatic pictures of Fikret Alic apparently imprisoned behind barbed wire in Trnopolje had left the impression that the Bosnian Serbs were running Nazi-style camps. This set the tone for the coverage that followed. Misa Radulovic told me that, after the British team visited Trnopolje, other Western journalists came to the camp: ‘Every one of them wanted to see only the front part of the camp area and take pictures of the most emaciated bodies. I had a dispute with a journalist and requested him to take his pictures somewhere else, for example in the school building. But he did not want to enter it.’

Ed Vulliamy’s first article on Trnopolje was published in the Guardian on 7 August 1992, the morning after the ITN pictures had been broadcast for the first time. Vulliamy had probably not seen the edited ITN broadcast when he wrote it. This article did not mention the barbed wire fence, and stated that Trnopolje should not be called a concentration camp. Vulliamy presented quite a balanced view of the situation in the camp, quoting Muslim refugees who reported that no force had been used against them, that the place offered them a certain security, and that they would not know where to go otherwise.

However, by the time Vulliamy came to describe his impressions of Trnopolje in his 1994 book Seasons in Hell, the Guardian reporter’s tone had changed. The barbed wire which he had not considered worth mentioning in his first article had now become the focus of attention. In his book, Vulliamy described his first impressions of Trnopolje in these terms: ‘More dirt tracks, more burned villages, and finally what was formerly a school in its own grounds, and another startling, calamitous sight: a teeming, multitudinous compound surrounded by barbed wire fencing.’ (p106)

The tone of some of Vulliamy’s discussions with local people also seemed to have changed between his original report and his later writings on Trnopolje. For instance Inar Gnoric, a Bosnian Muslim, told Vulliamy that she had come to Trnopolje of her own will, seeking safety. In the Guardian article of August 1992, Vulliamy quoted her as saying that ‘The conditions are very hard here, but there was terrible fighting and we had no food at all. It is safer here, but we don’t know what kind of status we have. We are refugees, but there are guards and the wire fence’. What fence she was talking about is not clear. In Vulliamy’s book, however, Gnoric clearly talks of a barbed wire fence around the camp.

Penny Marshall did mention the barbed wire fence in the first report she wrote after returning from Trnopolje, published in the Sunday Times (16 August 1992). About her first visit to the camp she simply wrote that ‘Outside was barbed wire’. Describing her second visit to the camp in the same article, she noted that ‘Outside, the camp had changed in the week since our original report. The barbed wire fence had been removed and the Serbians had left building materials for the prisoners to make shelters’.

This was true; the barbed wire fence (and the ordinary wire mesh fences) which Marshall’s cameraman had shot during the first visit had indeed been removed before her return. But Penny Marshall had left open the question of precisely whereabouts ‘outside’ the barbed wire fence had been located. She thus failed to correct the false interpretation which so many people had placed upon the pictures. Similarly, Ed Vulliamy wrote in his book that ‘Four days after our visit to Trnopolje, the fence came down’ (p113). This left untouched the impression which had settled in the public mind – that the camp had been fenced-in with barbed wire.

A year after the ITN pictures were first broadcast, Penny Marshall reacted to the suggestion that her report might have been sensationalist: ‘I bent over backwards, I showed guards – Bosnian Serb guards – feeding the prisoners. I showed a small Muslim child who had come of his own volition. I didn’t call them death camps. I was incredibly careful, but again and again we see that image being used.’ (Independent, 5 August 1993) Despite her plea of objectivity, however, she did not explain how ‘that image’ of Fikret Alic behind barbed wire had been produced by her team.

In a German television programme ‘Kozarac – Ethnically Cleansed’, broadcast on 11 October 1993, Marshall told German movie producer Monika Gras about the impact of the Trnopolje picture: ‘That picture of that barbed wire and these emaciated men made alarm bells ring across the whole of Europe. I believe that the report would not have caused such a reaction had it been transmitted without that picture, although the facts would have been the same.’ Marshall said that the Bosnian Serbs did not know how to deal with the Western press: ‘It was a PR mistake in the Bosnian Serbs’ terms.’ She did not mention her team making any mistakes in their presentation of the Trnopolje story.

The notion that there was a barbed wire fence around Trnopolje camp, and the comparison with Nazi concentration camps, have been widely accepted as matters of fact. ‘When the first journalists had arrived there a few days earlier, barbed wire surrounded the place and there was no welcoming banner’, Peter Mass wrote in Love Thy Neighbours: A Story of War, about his visit to Trnopolje in the late summer of 1992. (London, 1996, p41) ‘I walked through the gates and couldn’t quite believe what I saw. There, right in front of me, were men who looked like survivors of Auschwitz.’ Marshall, Williams and Vulliamy have not used such language themselves. But neither have they corrected the false interpretation of the picture of Fikret Alic apparently imprisoned behind the barbed wire.

When the ITN pictures of Trnopolje were broadcast around the world, they sparked widespread calls for the Bosnian Serbs to close the camps. Sir John Thomson, head of a CSCE investigation committee in Bosnia, warned the West against leaping to premature conclusions: ‘If some camps were just opened, I have the impression some of the prisoners would not get very far – there would be nearby graves.’ (Guardian, 5 September 1992) But the international pressure on the Bosnian Serbs had already had its effect.

Omarska camp, which the ITN team had also filmed, was shut down in August 1992, and most of the refugees from there along with other Muslims from Keraterm and Manjaca were taken to Trnopolje, which was transformed from a refugee camp into a transition camp in a couple of days. The International Committee of the Red Cross complained that, thanks to the global excitement caused by the ITN reports, every chance had been lost to attain a solution which would allow the Muslims to remain in the region. On 1 October 1992, the first big Red Cross convoy set off from Trnopolje to ship 1560 refugees over the border into Croatia. In a sense, the exile of thousands of Muslims from their home in Bosnia Herzegovina was thus inadvertently facilitated by the international reaction to the ITN reports from Trnopolje.

Roused by the pictures, British prime minister John Major summoned cabinet colleagues back from holiday for an emergency meeting. Shortly afterwards, his government announced that British troops would be sent into Bosnia. In the USA, where the 1992 presidential election campaign was in full swing, Democratic Party candidate Bill Clinton and running mate Al Gore used the ITN pictures to demand that president George Bush should take military action against the Bosnian Serbs. In Brussels, meanwhile, Nato staff responded by planning a military intervention in the Balkans.

The pictures of Fikret Alic in Trnopolje were also to influence the work of the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, set up by the UN Security Council to prosecute those accused of atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. The tribunal has relied heavily on the report of an expert commission, led by Frits Karlshoven, who was later replaced by Cherif Bassiouni. The report, published in the summer of 1994, mentions the barbed wire fence in Trnopolje in several places. Although the report is full of contradictions, it does state clearly in Annex V, ‘The Prijedor Report’, that ‘The camp was surrounded by barbed wire, and a number of camp guards watched the detainees’. The same chapter describes Trnopolje as a Serbian concentration camp: ‘Albeit Logor Trnopolje was not a death camp like Logor Omarska or Logor Keraterm, the label “concentration camp” is none the less justified for Logor Trnopolje due to the regime prevailing in the camp.’ As a source for this chapter, Ed Vulliamy’s book Seasons in Hell is referenced several times.

The story of the barbed wire fence played a prominent part in the trial of the Bosnian Serb Dusko Tadic, the first case heard before the War Crimes Tribunal. Tadic was accused by witness ‘L’, later revealed as Dragan Opacic, of committing atrocities at Trnopolje. On 15 August 1996, Opacic made a drawing in the courtroom to show how the barbed wire fenced-in the camp area. Questioned by the British defence attorney Stephen Kay, he insisted that the barbed wire fence had enclosed the entire camp.

By the end of October 1996, however, the accusations against Tadic with regard to Trnopolje had been dropped; the prosecution’s main witness Opacic had been exposed as a liar trained to make false statements by the Bosnian authorities. Opacic finally broke down and admitted his deceit when confronted by his father, whom he earlier claimed had been killed in the war. Tadic’s Dutch defence advocate, Professor Wladimiroff, told me that he interviewed Dragan Opacic the day after he was exposed as a liar. Opacic said that the police in Sarajevo had schooled him for the witness box by repeatedly showing him videotapes of Dusko Tadic and of Trnopolje, which he scarcely knew. Prominent among these tapes were the pictures from ITN which were supposed to show Muslims imprisoned behind the barbed wire fence.

Ed Vulliamy himself was also invited by the prosecution to give evidence in the trial of Dusko Tadic. In June 1996, Vulliamy gave the War Crimes Tribunal his impressions of Trnopolje, which he described as a refugee and transition camp. Much of his evidence was accompanied by the ITN videotapes. But when Vulliamy came to the point where the barbed wire and Fikret Alic were shown on screen, he asked the judges to switch the tape off while he described the news team’s meeting with the refugees: ‘I am going to describe who was behind the wire with the video off because I can do it better if I am not trying to accompany the picture.’ Why did Vulliamy not want the court to see this impressive sequence?

Source: LM Archive, http://web.archive.org/web/19991110185707/www.informinc.co.uk/LM/LM97/LM97_Bosnia.html

And here’s a LM’s press release:

PRESS RELEASE EMBARGO 00:01 GMT Saturday 25 January 1997

Journalist exposes the truth behind Bosnia ‘death-camp’ photograph

The picture that came to symbolise the Bosnian war has been condemned by an expert witness to the UN War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. German journalist Thomas Deichmann says that the image of an emaciated Bosnian Muslim caged behind barbed wire was created by ‘camera angles and editing’.

The picture provoked an international outcry and was seen by much of the world as proof that the Bosnian Serbs were running Nazi-style ‘concentration camps’. But Deichmann, in an exclusive article published in February’s LM magazine, insists that ‘the image is misleading and has fooled the world’.

The picture of Fikret Alic was taken from videotape shot at Trnopolje on 5 August 1992 by an award-winning British television team led by Penny Marshall (ITN) with her cameraman Jeremy Irvin, accompanied by Ian Williams (Channel 4) and Guardian reporter Ed Vulliamy. Deichmann has revisited Trnopolje and has also seen unused video footage that shows how this powerful image was created.

He found that:

  • there was no barbed wire fence surrounding the Trnopolje camp.
  • the camp was a collection centre for refugees, not a prison.
  • the refugees in the picture were not surrounded by barbed wire. The barbed wire surrounded the news team who were filming from inside a small enclosure next to the camp.

Thomas Deichmann says:

‘I am shocked that over the past four and a half years, none of the journalists involved has told the full story about that barbed wire fence which made such an impact on world opinion. The photograph has been taken as proof that Trnopolje was a Nazi-style concentration camp, but the journalists knew that it was no such thing.’

Mick Hume, LM editor, says:

‘If they are not very careful, journalists who have some kind of emotional attachment in a conflict can end up seeing what they want to see, rather than what is really there. Taking sides cannot be an excuse for taking liberties with the facts.’

Source: http://www.srpska-mreza.com/lm-f97/LM97_Bosnia-press.html