„The Srebrenica Massacre“: A Hoax?

Veröffentlicht: August 24, 2015 in "The Srebrenica Massacre": A Hoax?
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2015 – the 20th anniversary of “Srebrenica”. The major changes in the political rules of conduct in international relations and media standards that were becoming apparent in the “case of Srebrenica“ – as is described in the introduction of the following article – have, in the meantime, become „normal.“


„The Srebrenica Massacre“: A Hoax?

By George Pumphrey

Published in Dialogue Vol. 7 No. 27-28 (Autumn/Winter 1998)

Table of Contents:


Playing the Numbers

Sidebar 1: UN Gen. Secretary’s Report on Srebrenica (1995)

A Satellite’s view of Srebrenica

Sidebar 2: KAL-007 before the Security Council

The vanishing corpses:

Sidebar 3: The Eyewitness, Erdemovic


The „massacre of Srebrenica“, where 8,000 Muslim males of military age are reported to have been summarily executed by Bosnian Serbian troops in the aftermath of the takeover of the town that carries the same name, has been termed the worst war crime in Europe since World War II. Most significantly, it has been deemed not merely a crime of war, but evidence of a campaign of genocide, the intention to liquidate a people as such, the worst war crime imaginable.

The case of Srebrenica, and the subsequent genocide indictment, can be seen to have brought about a major change in the political and social rules of conduct in international relations, and not only for this region of Europe. A new set of factors have been introduced into world politics. Some of the most important changes are:

*        the discrediting of the United Nations for supposedly having stood idly by, allowing a „genocide“ to take place on territory under its authority, which was a prerequisite for:

*        promoting NATO as the world’s new „peace keeping“ force, allowing the US-led military alliance to strike and eventually occupy sovereign states or to take sides in civil wars outside the constraints of the democratic and peace-oriented principles of the United Nations Charter;

*        creating public acceptance of inquisitorial methods of journalism and judicial inquiry, denying the accused not only the presumption of innocence and the benefit of the doubt, but of long-established democratic rights to proper legal defense;

*        undermining journalistic standards of fairness in favor of propaganda in a media industry organically linked to dominant economic and military powers;

*        the imposition of a discriminatory „moral“ double standard of „human rights“, selectively applied in favor of particular national, social, cultural or „ethnic“ groups, leaving others without „rights“ worthy of respect by Euro-American powers, and therefore:

*        growing acceptance of treating a whole nation or people as inherently criminal and therefore unworthy of basic rights of equity before the law.

*        Particularly in Germany, Srebrenica has been of special importance in ushering out the stigma connected with the Second World War. Comparing Srebrenica to Auschwitz is for Germany a convenient means of relativizing and therefore trivializing Nazi barbarism and permitting it to resume an arrogant, expansionist, militarist tradition.

Joschka Fischer proved his „Regierungsfähigkeit“ (capacity to govern) when he successfully used Srebrenica in his campaign to get the Green Party to relinquish its anti-war principles and to sanction military intervention – first only under UN auspices and more recently even as an act of aggression in violation of German law and international standards.

German politicians – right and left, have accepted the accusation that Serbs, – a traditional enemy“ – are committing genocide, with particular relish. This allows the lasting historical guilt of Germany for the crimes committed during the Second World War aggression against Yugoslavia and the 1,6 Million Yugoslav victims to be forgotten. In light of the fact that war crimes committed by Germans on Yugoslav territory remain untried and unprosecuted in the Federal Republic of Germany, the penal prosecution in German courts of citizens of the former Yugoslavia for war crimes in Bosnia is particularly presumptuous. German history is persistently being sanitized: in May (1999) a German court convicted the Gestapo helper Alfons Götzfrid to 10 years suspended sentence for „complicity in the murder“ 17,000 Jews, and the German Supreme Court upheld in the same month the conviction and sentencing of the Bosnian Serb, Nikola Jorgic to 13 years (his sentence was not suspended) for „genocide“ carried out on 30 Bosnian Muslims.

This has all been made possible through a massive propaganda campaign spreading the story of a yet-to-be-proven massacre, which has become the key piece of evidence for an also yet-to-be-proven campaign of genocide. Momentous political decisions have been based upon and justified by the supposition that a huge massacre took place in Srebrenica, decisions determining the welfare of the peoples of this region and beyond.

Three years later, in 1998, the effort to find evidence was still underway, as yet more areas in the vicinity of Srebrenica were being dug up in search of the „mass graves“ presumed to contain the remains of the victims of the „Srebrenica massacre.“ As with previous years‘ excavations, representatives of the UN Security Council’s ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia held its press conference at the beginning of the dig.

Information from this press conference, as reported in the New York Times, provokes questions about the basis of the juridical work of this ad hoc tribunal. Mike O’Connor, reporting on the beginning of a dig in the village of Kamenica, in the spring of 1998, writes that „Exhumations in 1996 [the first year of digging] recovered 460 bodies, (…) 7,500 others were still missing from the town of Srebrenica. Finding the others has been the goal of war-crimes investigators for more than two years.“ Anonymous investigators (investigators for the Tribunal spoke to the reporter „on condition of anonymity“) say that what they hope to find „will bolster the cases against [the] 2 Bosnian Serb leaders“ Radovan Karadzic and Gen. Radko Mladic, indicted for genocide by the tribunal.1)

Two months later, the NYTimes reported that the total number missing was 7,300, that 1,000 bodies had been found, but that „only about 15 bodies have been identified.2) Other reports have given similar, though slightly inconsistent, figures.3) This inconsistency is based on the different sources of the figures given. Whereas O’Connor sticks to the quasi-offical (because least partisan) figures given by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the author of the second Times article, David Rohde, relies on figures from the „survivors“ of Srebrenica, meaning Muslim (usually government) sources. That the Muslim authorities have every reason to exaggerate the number of victims on their side of the conflict is without question and therefore to be taken with more than a grain of salt. Already throughout the course of the war their estimations of the numbers of dead, – widely reported in the press without verification – have had to be revised downward.4) For this paper, the Red Cross figures will be taken.

But if finding the other 7,000 has been the goal of war crimes investigators for more than two years, the question should be raised: on what did the Tribunal base its charges of „genocide“ if they did not even have the proof that the massacre for which the two Serb leaders are charged ever occurred? If they now – three years later – are still trying to scrape together enough bodies to make their indictment plausible, on what was their indictment based? O’Connor writes that they now have to try to „prov[e] that the soil around the bodies came from the original mass graves,“5) Does this mean that what they had considered to be „the original mass graves“ were either empty or sheltered too few bodies to justify their charges.

Under such circumstances, it appears that the Tribunal charged Karadzic and Mladic according to the principle: „Indict now. Look for evidence of a crime later“. And even when the evidence is not found, there is no suggestion that perhaps the proper course would be to revise the indictment or drop the charges.

Diana Johnstone, who has been closely following the developments in the Balkans noted in The Nation:

„When, in the early months of the war which raged across Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1992, the Muslim-led government in Sarajevo, seconded by Croatian agencies in Zagreb, presented Western media with reports indicating that the Serbs were pursuing a deliberate policy of genocide, a basic principle of caution, essential to justice was rapidly abandoned. That is the principle that the more serious the accusation, the greater the need for proof, since otherwise accusations will become an instrument of the lynch mob.“6)

In the media, each succeeding generation of speculation – even falsification – is built upon preceding generations of unproven reports, many of which were set in motion as deliberate disinformation by secret services and public relations agencies. Once they have been repeated over and over as certainty, anyone who would dare to venture upstream to the source and demand substantiating evidence runs the risk of being verbally lynched for having denied something as obvious as the earth’s surface being flat.

Given the fact that the number of persons alleged to have been summarily executed could make the difference between a charge of „genocide“ and a charge of „war crime“, and faced with the difference between the 8,000 alleged to have been killed and the 460 dead bodies actually found, the first step in beginning to sort out fact from fiction would be to clear up this discrepancy in numbers.

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Playing the Numbers:

The International Committee of the Red Cross published a press statement on September 13, 1995, in which it was stated:

„The ICRC’s head of operations for Western Europe, Angelo Gnaedinger, visited Pale and Belgrade from 2 to 7 September to obtain information from the Bosnian Serb authorities about the 3,000 persons from Srebrenica whom witnesses say were arrested by Bosnian Serb forces. The ICRC has asked for access as soon as possible to all those arrested (so far it has been able to visit only about 200 detainees), and for details of any deaths. The ICRC has also approached the Bosnia-Herzegovina authorities seeking information on some 5,000 individuals who fled Srebrenica, some of whom reached central Bosnia.“7)

The September 15, 1995, New York Times gives another accounting:

About 8,000 Muslims are missing from Srebrenica, the first of two United Nations-designated ’safe areas‘ overrun by Bosnian Serb troops in July, the Red Cross said today. (…) Among the missing were 3,000, mostly men, who were seen being arrested by Serbs. After the collapse of Srebrenica, the Red Cross collected 10,000 names of missing people, said Jessica Barry, a spokeswoman. In addition to those arrested, about 5,000 ‚have simply disappeared,‘ she said.8)

Aside from simply adding the 3,000 Muslim men in Srebrenica upon arrival of the Bosnian-Serb military (who the Serbs then took as prisoners of war) and the 5,000 Muslim men, reported to have left Srebrenica before the arrival of Bosnian Serb forces, to inflate the figures – and therefore the gravity of the accusation – this report makes no mention of the fact that by mid-September 1995 a sizable portion of the group of 5,000 had already reached Muslim territory and safety. And the fact that the Red Cross was asking the Bosnia-Herzegovina [Muslim] authorities for information about the 5,000 (the original figure) – „some of whom [had already] reached central Bosnia“ – has completely disappeared from the news. The entire 5,000 of the one group and the 3,000 of the other are still today – 5 years later – being counted as „missing“ and therefore presumed dead.

The Red Cross report was, itself, lacking the objectivity that one would have hoped for from a non-partisan organization. Its very off-hand „some of whom reached central Bosnia“ gives the impression that only a handful could be accounted for by mid-September. But again the press gave another picture. Within a week of the takeover of Srebrenica (July 18, 1995) one learns that:

„Some 3,000 to 4,000 Bosnian Muslims who were considered by UN officials to be missing after the fall of Srebrenica have made their way through enemy lines to Bosnian government territory. The group, which included wounded refugees, sneaked past Serb lines under fire and crossed some 30 miles through forests to safety.“ 9)

Similar reports appeared in other journals at the time. On August 2, 1995, The Times of London published the following:

„Thousands of the „missing“ Bosnian Muslim soldiers from Srebrenica who have been at the centre of reports of possible mass executions by the Serbs, are believed to be safe to the northeast of Tuzla. Monitoring the safe escape of Muslim soldiers and civilians from (…) Srebrenica and Zepa has proved a nightmare for the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. For the first time yesterday, however, the Red Cross in Geneva said it had heard from sources in Bosnia that up to 2,000 Bosnian Government troops were in an area north of Tuzla. They had made their way there from Srebrenica „without their families being informed“, a spokesman said, adding that it had not been possible to verify the reports because the Bosnian Government refused to allow the Red Cross into the area.10)«

The Washington Post explains: „The men set off at dawn on Tuesday, July 11, in two columns that stretched back seven or eight miles11).

Two weeks before the Red Cross representatives Angelo Gnaedinger and Jessica Barry gave their numbers to the press, another spokesperson for the International Red Cross in Geneva, Pierre Gaultier, provided an important detail. In an interview given to the German journal Junge Welt, he explained:

All together we arrived at the number of approximately 10,000 [missing from Srebrenica]. But there may be some double counting… Before we have finished [weeding out the double countings] we cannot give any exact information. Our work is made even more complicated by the fact that the Bosnian government has informed us that several thousand refugees have broken through enemy lines and have been reintegrated into the Bosnian Muslim army. These persons are therefore not missing, but they cannot be removed from the lists of the missing (…) because we have not received their names.12)

Since the number of „missing“ (and therefore assumed dead) has remained at roughly 8,000 throughout the past 5 years, it can be reasonably assumed that the Muslim government has never furnished the Red Cross with the names of those who reached Muslim lines. Also to be noted is that when Prof. Milivoje Ivanisevic at the University of Belgrade took a close look at the Red Cross list, he discovered it contained the names of 500 people who were already deceased before Bosnian-Serb troops entered Srebrenica. Even more interesting, when comparing the Red Cross‘ list with the electoral list for the 1996 fall elections, he also found that 3,016 people listed by the Red Cross as „missing“ were on the electoral lists the following year.13) This leads to one of two possibilities: either the Muslims were having their dead vote, meaning that the voters were bogus, and the election a fraud; or the voters were in fact alive, in which case, here is an additional piece of evidence that the massacre is a hoax.

Early in the war, journalists of Time magazine saw through the game being played on the press and international organizations. They wrote: „Bosnian Muslims, fighting at the raw level of their rivals, are likewise guilty of barbarism–and of inflating horror stories about the Serbs to win sympathy and support.14) It appears that they were not without success.

With deliberately inflated figures clearly being used to fuel a major propaganda campaign to make „Srebrenica“ a symbol of Serbian „genocide“, some Red Cross spokespersons in effect became a party to the conflict by failing to bring important information to public attention. It is difficult to understand how correspondents such as Mike O’Connor and their editors could be unaware of the extremely misleading and inaccurate content of the reports they published.

Both Red Cross and UN officials knew that thousands were safe. Yet neither corrected the communique given in September. And both failed to report that Ms. Barry’s 5,000 who „simply disappeared,“ had simply disappeared back into the ranks of the Bosnian army. The propaganda put into circulation by representatives of the Bosnian government was allowed to stand uncontested even by organizations otherwise seen as non-partisan.

Within days of the take-over of Srebrenica, Zepa, a second Moslem enclave (and UN Safe Area), was also captured by Bosnian Serb forces. Among the defenders of Zepa were hundreds of the „missing“ soldiers from Srebrenica. The New York Times recounts:

„The wounded troops were left behind, and when the Bosnian Serbs overran the town on Tuesday, the wounded were taken to Sarajevo for treatment at Kosevo Hospital. Many of them had begun their journey in Srebrenica, and fled into the hills when that ’safe area‘ fell to the Bosnian Serbs on July 11. These men did not make it to Tuzla, where most of the refugees ended up, but became the defenders of Zepa instead. ‚Some 350 of us managed to fight our way out of Srebrenica and make it into Zepa,‘ said Sadik Ahmetovic, one of 151 people evacuated to Sarajevo for treatment today. (…) They said they had not been mistreated by their Serb captors.15)

It might seem strange that the Muslim soldiers of Zepa would abandon their wounded comrades and that 5,000 Srebrenica soldiers would abandon their women and children to an enemy with a reputation – at least in the media – of being sadists, and rapists seeking to commit „genocide„. Could it be that these Muslim soldiers knew that they need not be particularly worried about their women, children and wounded comrades falling into the hands of their Serbian countrymen? The Serbian forces had the wounded Muslim soldiers evacuated behind Muslim lines to their Muslim hospital in Sarajevo. Is this how one goes about committing genocide? Is this the military force compared to Nazis? What a trivialization of Nazi barbarism! Even the fact that the Serbs provided safe passage to women and children is interpreted as sinister, when it is proof that „genocide“ was not happening.

The London Times article quoted above mentions that 2,000 Srebrenica soldiers made their way to the north of Tuzla „without their families being informed„. Were their families ever informed? Other than the very few articles that took notice of their resurrection from the presumed dead, the public at large was never informed that they were in fact alive. On the contrary. And the women of Srebrenica continue to demonstrate demanding information about their loved ones, whom they believe are still alive.

To maintain the hoax, it is not only necessary to create the illusion that the proof of a massacre exists, but it is also necessary to suppress any evidence that it did not happen. Not only must the 5,000 never be accounted for, but not too many of the 3,000 listed by the Red Cross as prisoners of war must be allowed to return „from the dead.“

On January 17, 1996, the British daily „Guardian“ published an article concerning one group of the former Muslim POWs from Srebrenica and Zepa, who, once liberated from a POW camp, were flown directly to Dublin:

Hundreds of Bosnian Muslim prisoners are still being held at 2 secret camps within neighboring Serbia, according to a group of men evacuated by the Red Cross to a Dublin hospital from one camp – at Sljivovica. (…) A group of 24 men was flown to Ireland just before Christmas [1995] (…). But some 800 others remain incarcerated in Sljivovica and at another camp near Mitrovo Polje, just three days before the agreed date for the release of all detainees under the Dayton peace agreement on Bosnia (…). The Red Cross in Belgrade has been negotiating for several weeks to have the men released and given sanctuary in third countries. A spokeswoman said most were bound for the United States or Australia, with others due to be sent to Italy, Belgium, Sweden, France and Ireland. (…) Since late August, the Red Cross has made fortnightly visits from its Belgrade field office. (…) Teams from the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague have been in Dublin to question and take evidence from the men.“16)

Why would prisoners of war, whose normal first wish upon being freed would be to be reunited with their families and to restart their interrupted lives in peacetime, be rushed off to Dublin, with „papers to remain in Ireland„? Why would the Red Cross – usually known for reuniting families – be seeking to secretly spirit them out of their homeland, away from their family and friends? Were their families ever informed?

The ex-prisoners were widely dispersed. To a second country…:

[The] US decided to accept 214 Bosniaks who, (…) had been detained in Serbian camps and give them refugee status.17)

Why have neither the Red Cross (which has been visiting the prisoners since August), nor the Tribunal (in its search for evidence of a „genocide“ in Bosnia, for which Srebrenica is slated to be the key incriminating evidence), nor the American government made mention since August 1995 of these men being held as war prisoners?

And a third country… The pro-government [Muslim] news agency TWRA reports:

„[One] Hundred‑three Bosnian soldiers who were recently released from prisons in Serbia, were sent to Australia against their will“, claims their commander, Osmo Zimic. Zimic also criticizes the UNHCR, whose spokesman claimed these soldiers demanded departure to Australia and by no means return to Bosnia for they would allegedly face criminal charges as deserters there. „This is not true“, says Zimic. Australian immigration & ethnic affairs office spokesman says he was informed [of] Zimic’s allegation from the Bosnian embassy in Canberra and that the investigation was initiated.“18)

„The Bosnian Embassy in Australia requested the Hague International Tribunal (ICTY) to start an investigation on the deportation of Bosniaks (800 persons) from Serbia to Australia and Europe in which, supposedly, UNHCR assisted, instead [of] involving Bosniaks in the exchange of prisoners, esp. for they had been in the camps in Serbia which claimed not to be involved in the war in Bosnia. The principal witness for the prosecution is Osmo Zimic, a Bosnian Army Officer, one who had been deported to Australia against his will.“19)

It seems as though the Red Cross, the UNHCR, and a host of „western“ governments around the world were engaged in hiding the fact that these men were not massacred. Who stood to gain?

As a result of the Srebrenica hoax, a new order of the world is beginning to take shape, where the UNHCR assists in creating refugees, where the Red Cross helps separate families and where tribunals indict first and look for crimes later.

Before discovery of conclusive evidence that the alleged crime has even been committed, the indictment alone is made to serve as punishment. This reverses the principle of „innocent until proven guilty“ and amounts to inquisitorial „justice“. For three years the Tribunal has been searching for evidence of an alleged „genocide“ which has already largely served its political purpose. Now the search is on for a retrospective judicial fig leaf.


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Sidebar 1: Excerpt from Report of UN Sec. General N°. S/1995/988


Security Council



27 November 1995






  1. Missing persons
  2. The Bosnian Serb offensive on Srebrenica from 6 to 11 July 1995 led to a mass displacement of the entire Bosnian Muslim community of the area. An estimated 25,000 people were forcibly evacuated on a convoy of buses and trucks organized by the Bosnian Serb authorities. A group of people, estimated at between 10,000 and 15,000, most of whom were men, left Srebrenica on foot. The exact number of persons from these two groups who arrived safely in Bosnian Government-held territory is not known. By most accounts, the local population prior to the Bosnian Serb offensive numbered 38,000 to 40,000, although UNHCR estimated the population of the enclave for food distribution purposes at 42,600.
  3. Thousands of people still remain unaccounted for. An unknown number who made their way to safety have simply not been registered by the appropriate authorities. At least several hundred persons are believed to have been killed in armed combat. There are also accounts of men in hiding in Bosnian Serb-held territory, although no more than a few hundred men are believed to be still at large.
  4. It is thus difficult to ascertain the exact numbers of those missing. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has received over 10,000 tracing requests from families and has determined that 2,000 of the requests are duplicative, leaving a total of 8,000 tracing requests. A further analysis by ICRC indicates that 5,000 of the tracing requests concern individuals who are said to have left the enclave before it was taken by Bosnian Serb forces. Some 3,000 requests concern persons who were taken from their families by Bosnian Serb forces during the expulsion itself.
  5. So far, ICRC has had limited access to prisoners. It is understood that only 193 prisoners from Srebrenica have been visited. The difficulty of arriving at exact numbers of missing persons is compounded by the fact that resolved cases are not always reported to ICRC.
  6. Based on all available information, it would appear that at least 3,000 but less than 8,000 people from Srebrenica are still missing. When ICRC tracing information is evaluated in the light of estimates of the population of the enclave and of the number of residents who are known to have arrived in Bosnian government territory, the best current estimate of the number of missing is perhaps between 3,500 and 5,500. (Emphasis added G.P.)



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A Satellite’s view of Srebrenica

The charges against the Bosnian Serb leadership stem from the August 10, 1995 closed session of the Security Council where Madeleine Albright, then US ambassador to the UN, for the first time showed aerial spy photos purporting to show that the Bosnian Serbs in the aftermath of the takeover of Srebrenica „committed wide-scale atrocities against Muslim civilians„. (Ms. Albright’s disdain for precision is evident in her allegation that the supposed atrocities were committed against „civilians„, when she must have been aware that she was referring to Muslim soldiers.)

The Clinton Administration made public three of the eight photos shown in the Security Council. As a New York Times journalist complained, the US government refused „to let reporters see the satellite photographs (…) which were said to include pictures of people crowded into a soccer field. American officials said the satellite photographs were classified, although Ms. Albright showed them to the other 14 members of the Security Council.20) This striptease sort of procedure, in itself, should provoke questions concerning the credibility not only of these photos but also of the journalists who base their reports on satellite photos they themselves have never seen.

According to one American official who has seen the photographs, one shows hundreds and perhaps thousands of Muslim men and boys in a field near a soccer stadium about 5 miles north of Srebrenica. Another photo taken several days later shows a large area of freshly dug earth, consistent with the appearance of known mass graves, near the stadium, which is empty.21)

Given the fact that the photos are „classified“, the anonymous American „official“ must have been from or close to the intelligence community – a reason for his anonymity. What he declares, should be taken as being what the intelligence community wants us to believe. Still his version of what is on those pictures is of interest. Some of the questions that arise are:

*        Why are photos, purported to be the most important – those showing „Muslim men and boys“ – hidden from the public? Do they actually show what the US administration claim that they show?

*        How does the US secret service discern the difference between „hundreds and perhaps thousands of Muslim men and boys“ from the same number of Serb or Croatian males – and that from a high altitude? If they could not count the figures precisely (to tell „hundreds“ from „thousands“), how could they identify them as „Muslim men and boys“? The Security Council members apparently saw something different on these photos: Following the presentation to the Security Council a New York Times journalist reports: „The photographs showed a stretch of fields at Novo Kasaba, near Srebrenica, where Bosnian Muslim families were apparently herded together.22) A mere detail? Which is the true story? The version „Muslim men and boys“ given by the anonymous „official“ the day before, or the one of „Bosnian Muslim families“ the day after members of the Security Council viewed the pictures with their own eyes? Had they realized that they were viewing mainly women and children (perhaps being „herded together“ to prepare to be taken by bus to Tuzla)? Is this not an indication that perhaps the surveillance photos will not stand up under independent appraisal? Could this embarrassing discrepancy be the main reason why this surveillance photo was made inaccessible to the public?

*        How closely were diplomats of the Security Council able to examine (for authenticity, manipulation, falsification) the photos? Did they have their intelligence experts on hand or did they have to view the photos with the eyes of non-experts? Were they forced to appraise the photos quickly? Were they allowed to keep copies of the photos?

*        The assumption that several days after having seen a full soccer field, an empty one would signify that those formerly seen there had been executed, is so farfetched, that it could be dismissed out of hand. How many soccer stadiums remain filled overnight, or days at a time? Or were they thinking of Santiago de Chile, autumn 1973? If those seen had in fact been captured Muslims, why not assume that they had been taken to a prisoner of war camp?

*        Satellite surveillance is carried out on a permanent basis, observing the targeted area without interruption for any meaningful interval. Where then were the other more conclusive photos showing people in the process of being shot, dead bodies being removed, open pits being dug or already filled with bodies or being covered?

One of the photos that were made available to the public and reproduced in several newspapers may give a clue as to the level of credibility of the other photos that remain hidden. It could also shed light on journalists‘ level of critical treatment of this tidbit of image. Questions to be raised about the photo Possible Mass Graves; Kasaba/Konjevic Polje Area, Bosnia are:

*        Why was the original photo taken by the reconnaissance aircraft not shown to the Security Council? Photos from reconnaissance cameras show built-in time and the geographical settings. The labeling that accompanied the published photo: „Possible Mass Graves“ was added after the photo was taken and time and geographical settings of the original were edited out of the picture. Arrows and other written interpretations of what one is supposed to see were edited onto the photo. Without such indications, the same photo could be interpreted to show something having nothing to do with either warfare or the Balkans. How does one even know that the photo was taken near Srebrenica, or at the time that it is claimed to have been taken?

*        Could it be that the US government knows that the origin of this „disturbed soil“ has nothing to do with „Mass Graves„? Could this be the reason why the photo is entitled: „Possible Mass Graves„? Would this not also explain why the State Department and CIA found it necessary to launch rumors that Serbs had allegedly removed the thousands of bodies that were supposed to have been buried under this and similar „disturbed soil“ – albeit without any satellite photos to back up their new rumors?

Making use of its superior technological development particularly in the area of global hi-tech espionage, the US government blackmails any and all into bowing to its wishes because it „knows„. „Knowledge, more than ever before, is power,“ is how Joseph S. Nye, Jr., the Clinton Administration’s former Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Affairs, and Admiral William A. Owens, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Clinton Administration, introduced their important essay on the role of info-technology in US foreign policy strategy. They write:

„These technologies provide the ability to gather, sort, process transfer, and display information about highly complex events that occur in wide geographic areas. However, this is important for more than fighting wars. In a rapidly changing world, information about what is occurring becomes a central commodity of international relations, just as the threat and use of military force was seen as the central power resource in an international system overshadowed by the potential clash of superpowers.

(…) In this setting, the emerging US capabilities suggest leverage with friends similar to what extended nuclear deterrence once offered. The nuclear umbrella provided a cooperative structure, linking the United States in a mutually beneficial way to a wide range of friends, allies, and neutral nations. It was a logical response to the central issue of international relations (…).

Now the central issue is ambiguity about the type and degree of threats, and the basis for cooperation is the capacity to clarify and cut through that ambiguity.

(…) These capabilities point to what might be called an information umbrella. Like extended nuclear deterrence, they could form the foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship. The United States would provide situational awareness, particularly regarding military matters of interest to other nations. Other nations, because they could share this information about an event or crisis, would be more inclined to work with the US.23)

Having a quasi monopoly on this „knowledge“ means that no one can prove the contrary of what the US alleges.

By imposing surveillance photos upon the Security Council, and therefore upon the rest of the world, photos that the Clinton Administration had apparently no intention of voluntarily making available to independent, impartial scrutiny, and in the knowledge that no authority exists to force them to publicize the other photos, the US Administration has created a lawless and law-free realm for itself. The US government can fabricate, manipulate, present or suppress evidence at will and with impunity and call it legal proof. (See also Sidebar 2: KAL-007) Any country or other institution allying itself with the US can also enjoy a bit of this „freedom“ from the restraints of international codes of conduct and national standards of rule of law, provided the interests they pursue do not conflict with those pursued by the US.

As in the case of Srebrenica, the US government finds it unnecessary to come forward with evidence in support of its claims about situations elsewhere in the world, for example that Iraq poses a „threat to the peace“ in the Middle East, that Bin Laden was in any way connected to – let alone responsible for – the bombings near US embassies in Eastern Africa, or that the factory in Khartoum was producing anything other than pharmaceutical products for healing people and animals. These unproved claims have been used to justify the US government literally „getting away with murder“ of distant peoples.

A second question is: what objective was the US pursuing in making these allegations against the Bosnian Serb leadership?

The day Ms. Albright made her exhibit at the Security Council, the New York Times shed light on the intentions behind the scenes.

The timing of the Administration’s disclosure of the photos, (…) coincided with a new American plan to broker peace in the Balkans. Anthony Lake, the President’s national security adviser, arrived in London today to begin talks with European allies.24)

Alongside Lake’s trip to London, a second reason for Ms. Albright’s spectacular stage management became apparent: „Ms. Albright’s presentation today came as thousands of Serbian refugees fled their homes after a Croatian military offensive, carried out with tacit American approval, overran an area of Croatia previously held by rebel Serbs.“25)

To distract attention from the largest ethnic cleansing of the entire Yugoslav civil war, with not only „tacit American approval“ but with active American assistance, the Clinton Administration put on a spy photo „peep show“ for the UN Security Council. A supplementary objective must have been to dissuade Security Council members from seeking to impose sanctions against an ally of the United States for a criminal offensive in the Krajina on a far greater scale than the Serb capture of Srebrenica. The US government hoped to spare itself the politically embarrassing situation of having to veto any such initiative. A US veto would have meant giving up its official position of impartiality, which it needed to be a credible chaperon for the negotiations.

To monopolize attention, the crimes attributed to Serbs had to be more horrendous than those known to be committed by Croats or Muslims. From then on the well-tested Big Lie method of „waving the bloody shirt“ serves to prepare the lynch mob.

Nye and Owens provide confirmation in the article quoted above. They write: „The negotiation of the Bosnian peace agreement at Dayton, Ohio, last fall illustrated a diplomatic dimension of information power. The United States succeeded in getting an agreement where for years other negotiating parties had failed in part because of its superior information assets.26)

The advantage of a US „knowledge“ (intelligence) monopoly is supposed to be based on its „real-time“ instantaneous availability. The US government claims to be able to observe events thousands of miles away at the time they are taking place. But what happened with Srebrenica? Why does the US only come forward with „incriminating“ evidence one month after the events are supposed to have taken place?

The Tribunal receives a large portion of its „evidence“ from the media. The fact that neither the media nor the Tribunal were ever given access to all of the photos, means that the Tribunal’s charges against Karadzic and Mladic linked with Srebrenica are primarily based on faith. The Bible defines faith as „the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen„. The indictments were based on faith in the journalists‘ faith in the Security Council’s faith in the CIA and its spy photos.

The first of the two indictments on charges of genocide eliminated Karadzic and Mladic as partners in the Dayton negotiations. That this was the political intent behind the indictment can be inferred from a statement made during the July 1995 genocide indictment hearings by Antonio Cassese, then president of the International Criminal Tribunal. Cassese said: „The decision [to indict on charges of genocide] represents a decisive step. Let us see who will sit down at the negotiating table now, with a man accused of genocide.“ He concluded: „That gentleman will not be able to take part in peace negotiations.“27) That this was no mere idle threat can be seen from the fact that the Serbs of Bosnia had to content themselves with Slobodan Milosevic to represent their interests. But then other questions arise: What was Milosevic‘ role? Why did he keep silent during the campaign around Srebrenica?

But once the indictment was handed down, once the Bosnian Serb leaders were shut out of negotiations and once the Serbian President Milosevic was under effective blackmail (that he too could suffer indictment like his Bosnian Serb brethren if he doesn’t play by US rules), the Clinton Administration showed little interest in helping „further the cause of justice“.

Apparently realizing that with the Dayton negotiations about to get underway, the Tribunal would no longer be needed as a fig leaf, its chief prosecutor Richard Goldstone, desperate to maintain the Tribunal as an international institution, pressured the US government for assurances that the indicted leaders of the Bosnian Serbs would be extradited to The Hague for trial. Also desperately searching for evidence to justify the second „genocide“ indictment arising from the Srebrenica legend, Goldstone wrote a letter to the US Embassy in The Hague, asking the US government to come forward with the „evidence“ it had evidently promised, but not delivered. His letter was quoted in the Washington Post. Describing the „quality and timeliness“ of the information provided by the U.S. government as ‚disappointing‘ he expressed „dissatisfaction with the quality of U.S. responses to requests for information and the failure to hand over reconnaissance photos that could help in identifying mass graves“ believed to have appeared after the fall of Srebrenica. He also complained that much of the information furnished by the US was largely „open-source material“ not relevant to the original request.28)

(The reference to „open-source material„, simply means that the US government provided the Tribunal with media reports as „evidence„, some of which were obviously propaganda plants.)

The White House spokesman, Michael D. McCurry, and other US officials responded to Goldstone’s complaints by saying:

There are certain types of intelligence information that our Government cannot share with the international community. Mr. McCurry cited ’national security reasons‘ as the reason the United States would withhold some evidence, and criticized the complaints by the prosecutor, Judge Richard Goldstone, as ‚unfortunate.‘ (…) In defending their level of cooperation with the tribunal, Administration officials insisted that Judge Goldstone is getting most of his data from the United States and there would be no war crimes tribunal if not for the United States.“29)

With this statement, US „administration officials“ actually confirmed what critical observers have been saying from the beginning: that the Tribunal is an instrument of US foreign policy, manipulated by the US to serve its interests. This Tribunal is supposed to proceed on the basis of „evidence“ that is never produced and unverifiable „data“ selectively provided by a single Superpower which (by its support to Croatian and Muslim operations against Serbs) has become a party to the conflict it is judging.

It has been reported that in the New York central headquarters of the UN, all files relevant to Srebrenica have been classified „secret“ for the next 30 to 50 years and are not to be made available even to the Tribunal. This decision was taken at the demand of three permanent members of the Security Council, the USA, France and Great Britain, to protect the secrecy of government documents.30)

By what right does the US classify, as a „national security secret,“ evidence that it claims to possess, concerning what is often referred to as „the worst war crime committed in Europe since World War II„? Does this not make the US government party to the obstruction of justice, if not to its outright perversion? How does the US justify classifying evidence of „crimes against humanity“ committed by those it designated as „enemy forces„? Is the US administration hiding proof of a crime or proof that it has no proof of a crime? Is the helplessness of the Tribunal in the Hague in this situation not simply another indication that this body is merely a poodle on the US government’s leash? Most disturbing of all is that amid all the clamor for „Human Rights“, no one appears interested in raising these and other important questions.


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Sidebar 2: KAL-007 before the Security Council

Madeline Albright’s show for the Security Council was certainly not the first of its kind. In 1983 another US ambassador to the UN, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, put on a show that also had a very wide-ranging effect on the international situation in Europe and the world.

September 1, 1983 the Soviet Union’s air defense shot down a passenger plane, Korean Air Lines jet number 007, as it passed through Soviet air space over the militarily sensitive areas of the Kamchatka Peninsula and Sakhalin Island. All 268 persons aboard were killed in the crash.

Sept. 6 the UN Security Council was shown a video put together by US Information Agency television. Made on orders from and using an audio tape of the Soviet pilot’s communication before he shot the jetliner down furnished by the State Department, Alvin A. Snyder, then director of USIA-TV, admits that „the tape supported the contention that the Soviets wantonly shot down what they knew to be a passenger plane.1)“ He goes on to explain that „the video became a key factor in what Secretary of State George Shultz promised in a memo to President Ronald Reagan would be a massive public relations effort to exploit the incident. (…) The video was powerful, effective and wrong.“ Former US officials involved in the cover-up told Snyder, that „monitoring data was intentionally withheld from [the] UN tape. Beyond the propaganda value, the United States did not wish to tip off the Soviets to the sophistication of its intelligence along the Soviet border.2)

Snyder was later to learn that the raw material, given to him by the State Department for the video, had been manipulated to remove all exonerating evidence showing that the Soviets in fact had not known that the plane being targeted was a passenger airliner but had taken it to be an electronic espionage RC-135 plane, in flight patterns 24 hrs/day off the Soviet coast. But this was not the only thing that Snyder was not told.

Also kept from both Alvin A. Snyder and the Security Council is the fact that the airliner flew a completely false route soon after leaving Alaska, a route taking it toward the militarily sensitive area of the Soviet Union and the grave consequences every pilot knows could be awaiting if he violates Soviet airspace. According to affidavits submitted by attorneys of the families of the victims, someone in the Air Route Traffic Control Center in Anchorage, Alaska, said, „We should warn him“ as the jet deviated from its course.3) Evidently no one did – a full 2½ hours before it was shot down.

While headed toward the Soviet border, an RC-135 electronic surveillance plane approached and flew alongside the KAL for 10 minutes before again veering off away from Soviet territory, leaving the passenger plane to continue its course toward the Soviet border and its death. (This maneuver of flying alongside the passenger plane for 10 minutes created a pea-in-a-shell game for the Soviets at their radar screens: 2 blimps become one, and then 2 again: „now figure out which one is the spy plane. Only 1 guess.“)

RC-135s pick up, record and relay not only ground-to-air-to-ground communications and other signals, they also can tell when allied planes get picked up by enemy radar, and can warn the pilots to get out before getting shot down. Why was there no warning from the RC-135 to the KAL?

Two former US Air Force communications intelligence specialists, who flew on RC-135 reconnaissance flights, questioned the official Reagan version of events leading to the catastrophe. They summarized:

We have precise reasons to believe that the entire sweep of events – from the time the Soviets first began tracking KAL flight 007, to the „confusion“ with the American reconnaissance aircraft, to the moment Soviet fighters sitting on Soviet airfields were ordered to go from „standby“ to „alert“ status, to the time of the shootdown – was meticulously monitored and instantaneously analyzed by US intelligence. Without sounding like apologists for Soviet actions, we believe, based upon our experiences, that the official version of events is incomplete and misleading. There are serious questions about what role the capabilities of the RC-135 played and why they were not used to try to head off the tragedy.4)

Someone must have stopped the air route traffic controller in Anchorage and the RC-135 crew from trying to warn the pilot of KAL 007. Someone had an interest in having the catastrophe happen. The only one in a position to influence both is the US government. But why would US officials allow a passenger plane – with 268 people aboard – fly head-on to its doom? Snyder gives a hint at part of an answer:

The intent was to link the incident to nuclear disarmament issues. Raising concerns about Soviet integrity could do serious damage to the Kremlin’s peace campaign to dissuade NATO allies in Europe from placing upgraded American nuclear weapons on their soil.5)

Half a world away a major battle was being waged in Europe between forces in favor of the installation of a new generation of first-strike American nuclear weapons and those who were opposed, and favoring peaceful coexistence with the socialist countries of Eastern Europe. The focal point of this dispute was West Germany. Not only because the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) had the longest and most fortified borders to the socialist countries, or even because the West German peace movement was the strongest and best organized of the West European peace movements, but also and above all, because if the government of the FRG refused the installation of the American missiles on its territory, the other nations of Western Europe had made it known that they too would refuse.

The governments of the FRG and the US were not at all sure that they could democratically – through the parliamentary vote in the fall of 1983 – win the dispute and have the parliament approve installation.

At the beginning of 1983 the SINUS Institute in Munich published opinion polls showing that 61% of the population of the FRG were for putting off the installation of the missiles even if the negotiations in Geneva do not bring concrete results; 58% felt their government should refuse these additional missiles if the US does not negotiate seriously and 85% wished a continuation of the détente policy vis à vis the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries. 75% of the SPD partisans and 53% of the CDU partisans were not in agreement with the Reagan policy.

Exactly this credibility gap between the policies of the US and Soviet Administrations had to be bridged. This is what the State Dept. was referring to when it spoke of „Soviet integrity“ and „the Kremlin’s peace campaign.“

The policy of the US Government – and NATO – was probably best explained in a letter (stamped „NATO SECRET„) from the Supreme Commander of NATO, Gen. Alexander Haig, to NATO’s General Secretary, Joseph Luns dated June 26, 1979. Haig writes:

We will never be able to put into effect our joint plans in this vital area unless quite exceptional efforts are made to check European tendencies toward neutralism, pacifism and unilateralism. To achieve this, it is necessary, I feel, to emphasize the theme that the nuclear weapons balance, particularly in the European theater, has changed sharply in favor of the East. We should constantly bear in mind the necessity of continuously directing attention to the Soviet military threat and of further activizing our collaboration with the mass media. If argument, persuasion and impacting the media fail, we are left with no alternative but to jolt the faint-hearted in Europe through the creation of situations, country by country as deemed necessary, to convince them where their interests lie. This would call for appropriate and effective action of a sensitive nature which we have frequently discussed and I have been greatly encouraged by the absence of disagreement between us regarding priorities.6)



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The vanishing corpses:

Franklin Zimring, director of the Earl Warren Legal Institute at the University of California at Berkeley described statistics on murder as „important because homicide is by far the best measured crime, given the difficulty of hiding bodies„, he added „also because homicide is the crime that most alarms the public.31)“ With this statement, Mr. Zimring touched the heart of the Srebrenica question. Wanting to secede from Yugoslavia like Slovenia and Croatia before it, the Muslim leadership in Bosnia was confronted with a very special set of circumstances. Having neither a majority of the population nor control of the greater part of the territory, and without having the military power to offset those disadvantages, President Alija Izetbegovic’s Islamic party (the Party of Democratic Action, or SDA) in power in Sarajevo, set out to mobilize international public opinion in order to pressure the US government and NATO to come to its aid. Time Magazine wrote Aug. 17, 1992: „Bosnian Muslims, fighting at the raw level of their rivals, are likewise guilty of barbarism–and of inflating horror stories about the Serbs to win sympathy and support.“ To get this support the Sarajevo government had to cry „bloody murder“ in every possible variation…. only to run up against the fact that for „bloody murder“ there has to be a proof in the form of dead bodies. The Tribunal and the media, having generally – and uncritically – propagated the „bloody murder“ line, found themselves obliged either to produce the bodies or come up with an excuse for being unable to do so.

At the time the political leaders of NATO countries had not yet found a plausible excuse for entering the war on the side of Sarajevo. The dispute was around the „new tasks of NATO“ in the aftermath of the dissolution of the Warsaw Treaty Organization and the Soviet Union. An internal tug of war was taking place in NATO, over the future orientation of the Atlantic Alliance and the individual governments were trying to sell their respective populations on an usurpation of the UN peace keeping task. For those forces pleading for „Out of Area“ intervention, outside of the Alliance boundaries, a military presence independent of and if necessary to intervene militarily outside of UN guidelines, the „call for help“ coming from the government in Sarajevo came right on time.

„Already 2 years before the Serb take over of Srebrenica, evidence existed of a plan, at the highest levels, for a large-scale simulated massacre of Muslims to serve as a propaganda coup justifying NATO intervention on the side of the Muslim government in Sarajevo. The former president of the Social Democratic Party for Srebrenica, former chief of police of Srebrenica during the civil war, Hakija Meholjic, quotes Izetbegovic as having told a delegation from Srebrenica (of which Meholjic was a member) in September 1993: „You know, I [Izetbegovic] was offered by Clinton in April 1993 (…) that [if] the Chetnik forces enter Srebrenica, carry out a slaughter of 5,000 Muslims, (…) there will be a [NATO-US] military intervention.32)

In November 1995, when the indictment against Dr. Karadzic and Gen. Mladic for the events in and around Srebrenica was handed down, the icy winter ruled out the possibility of digging in search of evidence. As the spring thaw approached, the Tribunal and its chief prosecutor at the time, Richard Goldstone, began to get nervous. The US government was still not forthcoming with more conclusive evidence of a massacre. At one point, Goldstone warned that „the exhumation of the graves may become necessary in order to determine the identity of the corpses and the time and cause of death and to obtain the necessary evidence.“33) What Goldstone formulated here should have been – had the tribunal been functioning as a normal court of law – the most logical first step in order to determine that the alleged crime had in fact been committed, in other words a prerequisite for an indictment, not a result.

In March 1996, shortly before the spring thaw brought the long awaited digging, Drazan Erdemovic appeared out of nowhere, begging journalists to help him get to the Hague to testify. (See Sidebar 3: Erdemovic)

The digging began in the spring of ’96 with media fanfare. At the end of the first year’s exhumations of mass graves and the collecting of bodies of those who had obviously fallen in combat and in flight, the Tribunal’s investigators began asking: „Where have all the bodies gone?“ In Nov. 96, the Sunday Times observed: „Of the thousands of men and boys from the UN safe area who were executed by Bosnian Serbs in July 1995, only a few hundred – less than 10% of the 7,000 Muslims missing – have been dug up.“ Of those bodies found, one never learned any forensic details about time, cause, and the circumstances of death. Neither was the identity of the bodies and therefore their classification by nationality. All bodies were classified as „Muslim“ and all as „massacred“.

The fact that the Tribunal’s investigators found so little proof of a large-scale summary execution ought to suggest that an execution, at least on such a scale, is an exaggeration – if not a complete fabrication. One New York Times journalist prefers another explanation:

7,500 Muslim men were hidden to try to thwart the prosecution of Bosnian Serb leaders for genocide. (…) When the original sites were inspected in 1996, investigators suspected most of the bodies had been moved.34)

One notes that the 1996 investigators „suspect“ the bodies to have been moved, which leads one to suppose that evidence of the act they did not find. It is apparently out of the question that an unexpectedly small number of bodies might mean that fewer people were killed. If fewer people were killed, then even if through summary executions then that would indeed constitute a war crime, but not „genocide“, and certainly not „the worst atrocity since World War II“. Furthermore the discovery of hastily buried bodies in an area where civil war raged on and off for over three years is to be expected.

There is the widespread – but mistaken impression supported by a large sector of the media – that finding a „mass grave“ means having found victims of a mass execution. In both war and peace time, deaths in large numbers that make immediate burial impossible, may be dealt with by the interim mass grave burial solution, at least until orderly burial is possible. When in October 1998, an oil pipeline exploded in Nigeria, killing more than 600 people, the Nigerian government, to avoid wide scale contamination, had the victims buried in mass graves until the fire could be extinguished and a proper burial could be arranged. The same is common practice in warfare, where battlefield victims of the opposing side may be disposed of in this way, until a transfer of the remains can be negotiated with the other side, to avoid the health problems that their decomposition on the surface might cause, particularly in summer.

Even before exhumation got underway, the media began to prepare public opinion for the disappointment that would come when the „mass graves“ failed to produce the promised incriminating evidence.

Already while showing her pictures to the Security Council, Ms Albright had an excuse prepared for the lack of evidence to support her charges. She warned:

„We will keep watching to see if the Bosnian Serbs try to erase the evidence of what they have done.“35)

Explanations for the shortage of corpses were sought and found. Again O’Connor of the NY Times:

Doubts were cast on American military’s satellite surveillance, with some investigators charging at the time that slipshod monitoring had allowed Bosnian Serb authorities to move the bodies undetected. Now, however, tribunal officials say the bodies were moved in October 1995, before the pinpoint satellite surveillance was requested by the tribunal. Once the original sites were discovered to have been tampered with, American satellite photographs of the region were reviewed and were found to show trucks and earth-moving equipment at the original burial sites, according to tribunal officials.36)

But if the surveillance photos show, what they claim to show, why have they not been made public? Why have they not been turned over to either the Tribunal or the press? The author boasts that the US had provided surveillance satellites that can locate bodies decomposing underground to aid the search. If so why have they not found more corpses over the 3 years (1996-98) of searching? Is this not added evidence that the bodies are not there to be found?

Other rumors have been circulated. One of the early rumors for the lack of corpses was that „the Serbs“ used a corrosive agent. Once again the anonymous „American officials“ were behind the rumor:

„American officials said today that they suspect Bosnian Serb soldiers may have tried to destroy evidence that they killed thousands of Muslim men (…). The Serbs are suspected of pouring corrosive chemicals on the bodies and scattering corpses that had been buried in mass graves, the officials said. The suspicions first arose in early August, after Central Intelligence Agency experts analyzed pictures of the area taken in July by reconnaissance satellites and U-2 planes.“37)

So instead of omnipresent sky spy „knowledge“/intelligence, Serbs are – merely – „suspected“ of having destroyed evidence. As with the „possible“ mass graves photo, rumor is enough to convict in a lynch-mob climate. This rumor circulated in October 1995, months before the first „mass grave“ exhumations. In the climate of optimistic anticipation as the graves began to be opened in 1996, this „suspicion“ was again forgotten, only to be revived when the graves‘ yield proved disappointing.

The Sunday Times advanced the following explanation:

„The empty graves speak volumes about the conspiracy by Bosnian Serbs to cover up the massacre at Srebrenica. Their leadership claims that few bodies have been found because the stories of atrocities there were exaggerated. The more plausible theory is that bodies have been made to „disappear“. As long as a year ago, American spy satellites first revealed evidence of tampering at several grave sites which, when later exhumed, yielded fewer corpses than expected. […] One explanation for the empty graves is that the bodies may have been dug up and taken to an aluminium factory at Zvornik to be chemically dissolved. American satellite images from between September 27 and October 2 last year show unusual activity both at the aluminium plant, which officially was shut down, and at the grave site itself. The aluminium factory had the capability to dissolve human flesh because it was using sodium hydroxide to convert bauxite ore into aluminium. Sodium hydroxide is highly toxic and, according to Abdulah Sacerbegovic, a Muslim and the plant’s former manager, it easily dissolves human flesh, leaving virtually no trace except a sludge.“38)

Before the crime can be proven to have taken place, the culprit has been identified. Throughout the summer’s digging, there had been no mention of sludge. Even in the absence of sludge (how would „the Serbs“ then dispose of that much sludge?), the journalist still finds CIA legends „more plausible,“ than the evidence at hand- or the lack of it.

Another explanation was simultaneously being circulated: „the Serbs“ had simply dug up and reburied bodies somewhere else.

This excuse has its advantages: no sludge to find, and Bosnia is large. With a „needle in the haystack“ search for „mass graves“, the public could be kept in anticipation – and at bay – year after year for quite a while. But also its disadvantages. How does one „plausibly“ remove thousands of buried, decomposing bodies without being seen by Madeleine Albright’s „sky-eyes“ of aerial surveillance? Undismayed by such problems of factual detail, the Tribunal (and media) continued their course.

In November 1995, the Dutch Minister of Defense, Joris Voorhove, accused Serbs of „trying hastily to destroy the evidence of the massacre they committed against thousands of Bosniaks around Srebrenica.“ Citing „intelligence services“ as his source, he claimed in a TV interview, that „these days Serbs have been exhuming the corpses from the mass graves in order to remove the evidence of their crimes„.39)

It should be remembered that „these days“ the United States – according to the NY Times article quoted above – already had its satellite surveillance in place, a satellite surveillance able to find decomposing bodies under the earth’s surface. Where was the proof furnished by „intelligence services“ that incited Joris Voorhove to make such an allegation? Why in three years of digging have they been unable to locate the corpses that they claim were in the area since July 1995? (The digging took place from 1996 – 1998. 1999 the tribunal forgot Bosnia to better concentrate on the results of NATO’s aggression against Serbia, albeit with similar results concerning „mass graves.“) Also missing is any explanation as to how „the Serbs“ were able – „plausibly“ – to dispose of 7,500 decomposing corpses, – undetected – in the time and space that this presumably would entail.

Washington Post journalist John Pomfret visited sites that „according to a Western investigator, could be two of several mass graves in the region believed to hold corpses of some of the estimated 12,000 Muslim fighters„. Pomfret observes that: „while dirt obviously had been moved recently around the sites in Glogova, if Serbian gunmen had attempted to tamper with it or destroy evidence, they did not do a thorough job. Bones were readily visible on the clay dirt, as were bandages, shoes and other things that obviously once belonged to the men buried below.40)) Besides his inflationary figure of „12,000 Muslim fighters„, pulled out of thin air, Mr. Pomfret readily attributes recently „moved dirt“ to „Serbian gunmen“. Had Serbs come back with guns rather than shovels to „tamper“? No wonder they didn’t do a thorough job. Another explanation could be that dirt was moved to make it appear as though someone had „attempted“ to tamper. Since the region was being watched by American IFOR forces, if they didn’t catch the „would be tamperers“ in the act, there is no way to know whether they were Serbs. This is all very vague, but fortunately Mr. Pomfret has his „Western investigator“ to put the right „spin“ on it.

The civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina has produced many brutal encounters among Serbs, Muslims and Croats. The Srebrenica area was a site of such encounters throughout the war. Contrary to the assumption that a „UN protected area“ was a demilitarized zone for civilian refugees, Srebrenica was used for years by Muslim fighters as a protected military base from which to launch attacks on nearby Serbian villages.41) Muslims had massacred and driven out Serb inhabitants early on. Serb forces that took the town in July 1995 were no doubt looking for Muslim soldiers who had taken part in those murderous raids. Knowing this would happen, most Muslim soldiers fled. Others remained. Although exactly what happened remains unclear – deliberately unclear, so long as all facts must be distorted to lend credence to the notion of a massive „genocide“.

* * *

The International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague has not sought to render justice in a non-partisan manner, which might have contributed to reconciliation among the peoples of the region. Instead, a biased approach only exacerbates the feeling among each ethnic group of being the victims: the Muslims, of being victims of Serbian „genocide“, as their leaders claim; the Serbs, of being victims of unjust accusations. The Tribunal was set up on the assumption that one side in the Bosnian conflict, and one side only – the Bosnian Serbs – were guilty of „genocide“. The Tribunal is a political instrument used by the United States to demonstrate support for the Muslim side and put pressure on the Serbian side. The bias was built-in, and those media that were a contributing source of that bias have spared the Tribunal any serious critical scrutiny of its methods or results. Instead, it has been widely praised as an example of what is needed on a more global basis as an answer to the problems of „war crimes“ and „genocide„. Viewed as a tentative first step toward a brave new system of world justice, the Tribunal is not held to any normal judicial standards. The fact is that neither the Tribunal (nor the press) have yet produced solid evidence that genocide had ever been planned, attempted or carried out in Bosnia or that a crime against humanity on the level of „genocide“ ever took place in Srebrenica. And still the indictments stand.

Should the standards promoted by this Tribunal ever become international legal norms, humanity will be set back to a period predating the French and American Revolutions. Even the best national system of jurisprudence would be corrupted and undermined by the pressure of an overriding international jurisprudence that has abandoned such safeguards as the assumption of innocence until proven guilty, and the need to produce material proof that an alleged crime has actually been committed.

Standing at the threshold of absolute domination, following the end of the world socialist system, deciding literally over the life and death of entire populations, the United States and its „western world“ allies cloak themselves in a moralist fig leaf and call their dictate to the rest (the majority) of the world „law.“ The tribunal is designed merely to lend an aura of „justice“ and permanence to the unabashed return to the realm of the mighty, „governed“ by the arbitrary law of the jungle.



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Sidebar 3: The Eyewitness, Erdemovic

Apparently not anxious to exhume suspected graves, but needing other material proof of mass executions, to make a plausible indictment of the Bosnian Serb leadership, the tribunal turned to „Eyewitness‘testimony as its fundamental form of „evidence“. Eyewitness testimony though widely used is one of the most unreliable forms of evidence. Based on memory of the witness and open to interpretation, this form of evidence proves to be one of the easiest to be manipulated and tailored to fit desired circumstances or discredited. It is also the form of evidence that proves often difficult – when lacking other corroborating evidence – to prove false, and therefore which goes a long way toward reversing the basic rule-of-law maxim: „proof of a guilt lies with the prosecution„.

The „eyewitness“ to the mass execution in Srebrenica, Drazen Erdemovic, came forward, in March 1996, asking to go to The Hague as a witness. In a confession to the French daily, „Le Figaro“, Erdemovic described himself, as having been a „soldier in the Bosnian Serb Army“ and as such having participated in mass executions of Muslim civilians from Srebrenica. In vague details, spiced with bits of concrete information, he told how he participated in the execution of 1,200 people from Srebrenica on a farm in Pilica. According to him the executioners „used 7,62mm bullets1) and that the bodies were disposed of in mass graves on the same farm.

With this concrete information, one would think that the Tribunal would finally have absolute proof, provided Erdemovic was telling the truth. They would simply have to go to the scene – with Erdemovic – let him show what happened, where the bodies were buried and exhume the bodies. A forensic examination could verify if they had, in fact, been killed with 7,62mm bullets from what angle and distance. That is of course, if the tribunal really wanted to learn if Erdemovic was a reliable witness or simply giving false testimony.

(In fact Reuters News Agency published the following information in the spring of 1998: during „the opening of a mass grave in Bosnia, according to the United Nations, experts found the remains of skulls, clothes and hundreds of spent rounds.“ Further down in the article, one learns that „more than 1,500 spent rounds have been discovered in this area over the past two years„.2) One sees that the tribunal is lacking both bodies and bullets. Or are we to believe that with each shot more than 5 people were killed?)

Erdemovic’s story raises many questions. Born of Serbo-Croatian parents, he identifies himself as a Croat. In 1992, Erdemovic first served in the military police of the HVO (the ultra-nationalist, paramilitary Croatian Council of Defence) in his native Tuzla, before he crossed over to the Bosnian-Serbian side following punishment for allegedly having helped Serbs escape to Republika Srpska.3) According to his testimony he was then mustered into the Serbian military and was present at the takeover of Srebrenica. Erdemovic, who had been an ordinary soldier, said, that after a falling out with his commander in Bosnia, he decided to move to Serbia and tell his story, „apparently in revenge“ writes the International Herald Tribune.4) In Serbia he first came in contact with correspondents of (US) ABC‑TV station, and the (French daily) Le Figaro, to whom he offered his story, asking them to help him „escape to The Hague.5)

Is Erdemovic a reliable witness? Is it plausible that a Croatian nationalist, an ex-HVO military policeman, would have joined – or even been accepted – in the Bosnian Serb army? Already as a military policeman of the HVO, he helps „the enemy“. Runs into difficulty with his superiors and runs to the other side. Serves under arms with the Serbian forces, gets into difficulty again with his superiors, and again changes sides. Did he go straight to the correspondents, or did he first go to the Muslim government to offer his services? Being someone who seemingly touches all bases, this could be a plausible explanation for his asking to „escape to the Hague“ – how many common soldiers seek out the Hague? The only ones to gain from his testimony, would be those in the government in Sarajevo, and apparently this is the only one of the 3 civil war contenders against whom he does not (yet) have a grudge. Would this not also help explain the „anonymous“ witness (an alleged survivor of the execution) who testified before the tribunal that Erdemovic stopped other soldiers of the Serbian troops from killing him?

Likewise this could help explain why it was Le Figaro that is credited for breaking this story, even though it was the „scoop“ worth a Pulitzer Prize. Why didn’t ABC-TV take this „scoop“ of a lifetime? This resembles an often used CIA „black propaganda“ method: Plant a hoax in a reputable foreign paper, to avoid suspicion of its American origin. The American press then carries it as a reprint. In comparison to the German and American media at the time, the French press was far less fanatically anti-Serb.

All speculations. But nevertheless questions that should have at least made experienced judges begin to doubt the credibility of a Drazan Erdemovic.

It has also been reported – and denied – that among the offers made Erdemovic by former chief prosecutor, Richard Goldstone were benefit of the „state’s witness“ regulation, freedom from prosecution for himself and a guarantee of a new life abroad in exchange for his valuable testimony6) against the Serbian leadership.

Erdemovic arrived in the Hague as a witness and became a defendant charged with crimes against humanity, for his role in the executions that he had described.

In her article in „The Nation“, Diana Johnstone described the conviction as being:

heralded as a great „first“ in establishment of global justice. [The Erdemovic] case is considered of great importance to the Tribunal since his confession of taking part in executing over a thousand Muslims after the Serb capture of Srebrenica is considered prime evidence in the Tribunal’s „main event“, the future trial of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic. 7)

Mirko Klarin, journalist for Nasa Borba described the trial as follows:

To the prosecution, Erdemovic is above all a „valued collaborator“. (…) The defendant further helped the investigators to identify about 10 persons who had perpetrated or ordered these crimes, whose identity, the prosecution admitted, would have remained a mystery without Erdemovic’s cooperation. Also in his favour was the „voluntary, courageous and public testimony“ in the Rule 61 hearings on the indictments of Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, where Erdemovic appeared as the leading witness for the prosecution.“8)

But as Johnstone further points out, there was a catch:

„(…) inasmuch as he confessed to his crimes, there was no formal trial and no presentation of material evidence to corroborate his story. In any case, since he had turned „state’s evidence“, there would have been no rigorous cross-examination from either a contented prosecution or a complaisant defense regarding the discrepancy between the number of Muslims he testified having helped execute at a farm near Pilica — 1,200 — and the number of bodies actually found there by the Tribunal’s forensic team: about 150 to 200.9)

Originally sentenced to ten years in prison. Upon appeal, the judges accepted his change of plea from „guilty to a crime against Humanity,“ to one of „guilt of a war crime.“ Citing his „honest disposition; [] supported by his confession and consistent admission of guilt10) among other things, his sentence was reduced from 10 to 5 years.

The question remains: does the „honest disposition“ cited by the tribunal, signify that those who insist upon and defend their innocence will be exemplarily punished, especially since the tribunal makes no effort at verifying the evidence in their defense?


* * *

(Back to Top)

1)       O’Connor, Mike; Mass Graves in Bosnia Bolster War-Crimes Cases; IHT (NYT-Services), 14.5.98

2)       Rohde, David; „In Bosnian Town Where Thousands Died, Ethnic Hate Overwhelms Small Kindnesses“ New York Times, July 25, 1998.

3)       As noted below, early reports used the figures 10,000 and then 8,000. The Washington Post gives 12,000 as the original number of missing.

4)       „News organizations and specialists, after three years of war, talk of 200,000-250,000. The Bosnian government in April 1995 lowered its previous estimate to just over 145,000, about 3 per cent of the pre‑war population.“(my emphasis. gp) David Owen, Balkan Odyssey, Harcourt Brace, 1995, pg. 80;

5)       ibid

6)       Johnstone, Diana, Selective Justice in The Hague: The War Crimes Tribunal on Former Yugoslavia is a Mockery of Evidentiary Rule; The Nation, 22.9.97

7)       Former Yugoslavia: Srebrenica: help for families still awaiting news; ICRC News 37

8)       AP; Conflict in the Balkans; 8,000 Muslims Missing; New York Times; Sep 15, 1995; p. 8.

9)       Chris Hedges; Conflict in the Balkans: In Bosnia; Muslim Refugees Slip Across Serb Lines; New York Times; July 18, 1995, p. 7. The same day, the Washington Post reported the number closer to the upper estimate: „About 4,000 Bosnian army soldiers trudged for five days through Serb-held territory to escape from Srebrenica and reach a safe haven in Medjedja“ (Pomfret, John; Bosnian Soldiers Evade Serbs in Trudge to Safety; Washington Post, Jul 18, 1995)

10)      Evans, Michael and Kallenbach, Michael; Missing‘ enclave troops found; The Times; 02 August 1995 p. 9.

11)      Dobbs, Michael/ Spolar, Christine; 12,000 Muslims Massacred In July Srebrenica Exodus; Washington Post, October 27, 1995.

12)      Pierre Gaultier (interview), Wo sind die Vermißten aus Srebrenica? Junge Welt, 30.8.95

13)      Faux électeurs… ou faux cadavres; Balkans Infos, Paris; Oct. 1996 (No. 6); See also Ivanisevic, Milivoje; „Un Dossier qui pose bien des Questions“; Balkans Infos, Paris; Dec. 1996 (No. 8).

14)      McAllister, J.F.O. et al; Specters of barbarism in Bosnia compel the US and Europe to ponder: Is it time to intervene?; Time Magazine Aug. 17, 1992.

15)      Hedges, Chris; Bosnia Troops Cite Gassings At Zepa; New York Times, Jul 27, 1995

16)      Vulliamy, Ed; Bosnia: The secret War – Serbs ‚run secret camps‘: Men freed from clandestine detention tell Ed Vulliamy of random beatings and ‚mobile torture machines‘; Guardian, 17.1.96

17)      S.K., Another Two Mass Graves ‑ Discovered, Press TWRA, Jan 19,1996

18)      A.S.; Bosnian Soldiers in Australia Against Their Will; Press TWRA, Feb 6, 1996

19)      A.S.; Investigation on Deportation of Bosniaks Requested; Press TWRA, March 9, 1996

Part 2:

20)      Op cit: Crossette, Barbara; U.S. Seeks to Prove (…) The New York Times; 11.8.95

21)      Schmitt, Eric; Spy Photos Indicate Mass Grave at Serb-Held Town, US Says; NY Times, Aug. 10, 1995

22)      Op cit: Crossette, Barbara; U.S. Seeks to Prove (…) The New York Times; 11.8.95

23)      Nye, Joseph L. Jr./Owens, William A.; America’s Information Edge, The Power Resource of the Future, Foreign Affairs Vol. 75 No. 2 March/April 1996 pg. 20, 24, 26, 27

24)      Schmitt, Eric; Spy Photos Indicate ob cit

25)      Crossette, Barbara; U.S. Seeks to Prove Mass Killings; NY Times, Aug 11, 1995

26)      Nye, Joseph L. Jr./Owens, William A.; America’s Information Edge, ob cit

27)      Nasa Borba, July 27, 1995, Quoted in Cavoski, Prof. Dr. Kosta; „The Hague against Justice Revisited: The Case of Dr. Radovan Karadzic; Serbian Sarajevo 1997, pg. 19

28)      Dobbs, Michael; War Crimes Prosecutor Says U.S. Information Insufficient; Washington Post, Nov 7, 1995

29)      Sciolino, Elaine; US Says It Is Withholding Data From War Crimes Panel; NY Times, 8.11.95

30)      Zumach, Andreas; UN-Tribunal kritisiert französische „Totalblockade“: Paris verbietet Zeugenvernehmung Janviers und anderer französischer Offiziere in Den Haag; Tageszeitung (Berlin), 17.12.97

Sidebar 1: KAL-007

1)       Snyder, Alvin A.; We Were Wrong About Flight 007; IHT Sept. 2, 1996 (reprinted from the Washington Post).

2)       ibid

3)       Foley, Tom; „KAL 007 investigation: ‚We should warn him‘ said US air Controller“ Daily World Sept. 6, 1985.

4)       Eskelson, T. Edward, Bernard, Tom; RC-135 + KAL 007 = Some Questions; International Herald Tribune, Sept. 16, 1983 (Reprinted from the Denver Post).

5)       Snyder, Op.Cit.

6)       Transcribed from the facsimile of the document appearing in the article: „Was Haigs geheimer Brief enthüllt“; Unsere Zeit, 7.5.82

Part 3:

31)      Butterfield, Fox; Serious Crime Recedes Further in US, But 4-Year Downtrend Masks a Surge of Violence by Teenagers; IHT (NYT), May 6, 1996

32)      Meholjic, Hakija; 5,000 Muslim Lives for Military Intervention; Interview by Hasan Hadzic in „Dani“, June 22, 1998. (www.cdsp.neu.edu/info/students/marko/dani/dani2.html) See also „Refuting the Srebrenica Myth: An Islamist Perspective“ in this reader.

33)      god/cha, UN‑Tribunal will Massengräber in Bosnien öffnen lassen; Goldstone: Exhumierung notwendig zur Beweissicherung, Agence France Presse (Deutschland – AFD) 19.01.1996 ‑ 17:54

34)      O’Connor, Mike; op cit

35)      Weiner, Tim; U.S. Says Serbs May Have Tried To Destroy Massacre Evidence; NY Times, Oct. 30, 1995

36)      O’Connor, Mike; op cit

37)      ibid

38)      Swain, Jon; Empty Bosnian graves baffle UN; The Sunday Times, Nov. 3, 1996

39)      Serbs Try To Remove Evidence Of Massacre In Srebrenica, TWRA – Daily Bulletin, Nov 18, 1995

40) )    John Pomfret, Bosnia Killing Fields Reveal A Grisly Demise, Mass Graves near Srebrenica, IHT / WPS, 20.1.96

41)      The UN Secretary General, Butros Butros-Ghali complained in his Report to the Security Council – 6 weeks before the „fall of Srebrenica“ that Muslim government armed forces were intensifying their attacks against Serbian forces in the surrounding area with „unprovoked attacks“ launched from the safe area jeopardizing UNPROFOR’s defense of the civilian population. See Security Council document, S/1995/444 (May 30, 1995)

Sidebar 2: Erdemovic

1)       Vanessa Vasic‑Janekovic, A Man Who Knows Too Much (Covjek koji zna previse), quoted in the ARZIN index-60, 15.3.96

2)       lae/gwa; Schädelreste und Kugeln in Massengrab in Bosnien; Reuters (Germany) Apr. 20, 1998 – 19:39

3)       Klarin, Mirko; Defendant for the Prosecution: To the Prosecutors, Erdemovic is above all a valued witness; The Institute of War and Peace Reporting 1996

4)       Jane Perlez, Milosevic is expected to Aid in a War crimes Case; 2 Bosnian Serbs may face court, IHT, 14.3.96 (emphasis added)

5)       Klarin, Mirko; op cit

6)       cd sg Bosnien/UN/Jugoslawien; Tribunal verlangt in Belgrad Auslieferung von Srebrenica‑Zeugen, dpa 12.03.1996 ‑ 12:57

7)       Johnstone, Diana; Selective Justice in The Hague: The War Crimes Tribunal on Former Yugoslavia is a Mockery of Evidentiary Rule; The Nation, 22.9.97

8)       Klarin, Mirko; op cit

9)       Johnstone, Diana; Ibid

10)      Drazan Erdemovic sentenced to 5 Years imprisonment; Press Communiqué of the ICTY; http://www.un.org/icty/pressreal/p299-e.htm


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