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Srebrenica Genocide - Europe's worst genocide since Hitler:

How Dutch peacekeepers looked on as Karadzic's men

butchered 8,000 at Srebrenica

Photo: Silent witness - One of the dead from the massacre of Srebrenica.
Europe's worst genocide since Hitler: How Dutch peacekeepers looked on as Karadzic's
men butchered 8,000 at Srebrenica

By David Jones
23rd July 2008.

Herded into a white-stone farm building at machine-gun point by Serbian soldiers, scores of
captured Bosnian civilians were ordered to sit cross-legged on the hay-strewn floor.

The ragged band of prisoners had been marched here on the assurance that they would soon be fed
and clothed, and reunited with their wives and children.

But when the stiflingly hot storehouse had been crammed so tightly that they could barely breathe,
the door and shuttered windows were suddenly opened.

And in that fleeting instant, between seeing the guns trained on them and being cut down, they
realised the terrible truth.

In an act of barely believable savagery, the soldiers fired on the defenceless men with every
available weapon.

Grenades and bazookas were even used, filling the room with acrid black smoke. With wounded
men writhing and groaning, and blood oozing over the straw, it was like a vision from hell.

So far as is known, just one man emerged alive from the carnage that took place at the deserted
farm on that terrible day in July, 1995. He did so by hiding beneath a pile of corpses for 24 hours,
until the Serbs had gone.

A humble farmer with a wife and three children, then aged 51, his name is Hakija Hadzic, and he is
among the few survivors of the worst act of mass murder in Europe since World War II. An event
remembered as the Srebrenica Massacre.

Today, on entering Srebrenica, incongruously surrounded by the most beautiful mountain

landscape, it is immediately appare nt in the eyes of the people that they have witnessed scenes
which no human being should ever have to see.

Those scenes, hauntingly described to me by a few tormented survivors, unfolded on four shameful
days between July 11 and 15,1995.

According to the most accurate records, precisely 8,373 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered by the
Serbian army during that brief period.
Many of the victims were harmless old men, women and children, and they were raped, tortured
and butchered with such callous deliberation that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia are in no doubt it was an act of genocide.

It may have been orchestrated with breathtaking ruthlessness by Radovan Karadzic, who was
finally captured this week, yet the Bosnian Serb president is by no means the only one whose hands
are indelibly stained with blood.

Photo: Members of the Serb paramiltary Scorpion unit leading Bosnian Muslim civilan
prisoners from the camp at Srebrenica to their deaths.

For at the time, Srebrenica — a town of some 60,000 so- called Bosniaks (Bosnian muslims)
marooned in Serb-held territory — had been designated a ‘safe enclave’. Its besieged residents
were supposedly under the protection of a UN peace-keeping force, comprising of 400 Dutch

With their World War II weaponry and lack of strong leadership, the Dutch were hopelessly ill-
equipped to perform this task. They were also hidebound by ludicrous rules of engagement which
made them powerless to fend off the Serbs.

The massacre happened in the final months of the 1992-95 Bosnian War, which broke out after the
Bosnians declared independence after the break up of Serbcontrolled Yugoslavia.

Growing increasingly frustrated at his army’s failure to capture Srebrenica, one of several areas of
stubborn resistance, in March, 1995, Karadzic issued his now notorious ‘Directive 7’.

This was an order to his most senior commander, General Ratko Mladic, to use whatever means
necessary to isolate the enclave and ‘create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope
for further survival or life for the inhabitants.’

The murderous Mladic (who remains at large, despite the U.S. government’s offer of a $5 million
bounty for his capture) was in no doubt of the task assigned to him.

He was to attack the UN protectorate, round up all the men-folk, and systematically wipe them out.

Shortly before he launched the operation, the Bosniak garrison leader, Naser Oric, and several
senior officers were airlifted to safety by helicopter, leaving a ragbag garrison command.

Deprived for months of food supplies and fresh water, the thousands of civilians in their charge
were beyond desperation. Eight had already died of starvation.

Photo: Crime scene - Journalists inspect the site where four Muslims were slaughtered.
By July 9, the Serbs’ intentions were becoming alarmingly apparent, even to the hapless Dutch,
encamped on the outskirts of the town at Potocari.

Their compound was surrounded and shots were fired from the woods to intimidate them. Even if
the peacekeepers had had the stomach for a fight, they were stymied by rules stating that they could
only return fire after identifying the precise Serb tank or sniper who had first shot at them.

Before long Srebrenica was being over-run and the Bosniaks were abandoned to their fate.

In their panic, they divided into two groups: those who decided to try to escape across the
mountains to other enclaves, or Bosnian government-held territory, and those who opted to seek
sanctuary in the UN compound.

The former were mainly women and children, who thought they would be afforded some mercy
and allowed to pass out of Srebrenica unharmed; the latter mainly men who knew full well how the
Serbs treated Bosniak prisoners.

By the evening of July 11, some 25-30,000 were clamouring at the high wire gates of the Dutch
compound, but the UN troops — who had been assured by Mladic that buses would be sent to ferry
them to safety — would not let them in.

The next day, the Serb troops waded into the pathetic, bedraggled throng of Bosnians, knives and
bayonets drawn. Karadzic’s summary executions, which now extended to women and children, had

One witness later described how a Serb soldier ordered a mother to stop her baby crying. When she
failed, he grabbed the child, and, laughing, slit its throat.

Begging for mercy, another mother saw her three teenage sons marched away. She found them
later, also stabbed through the throat. Another survivor saw about 100 men herded behind the old
Zinc factory, lined up, and machine-gunned.

By now the Serbs, many drunk on slivovic and other strong spirits, were intent on degrading the
captured Bosniaks — once their friends and neighbours — in every imaginable manner.

A witness described watching a young girl being raped by one soldier on a bloody mattress in a
deserted building as another stood guard, waiting his turn. ‘She was in total shock and afterwards
went crazy,’ he says.

Rather than face a similar ordeal, a sizeable number of women hanged themselves in the
forest.Inside the compound, meanwhile, the hamstrung Dutch did nothing until a young soldier saw
a girl of seven or eight clinging to the fence with a gaping hole in her leg.

Deeply moved, he opened the gates to bring her in, whereupon the thousands of refugees poured in
after her.

‘I reckon I saved about 30 other lives that day — but nobody wants to know about that,’ he told me
bitterly. ‘We are remembered as cowards.’

Indeed they are, and seven years after the massacre, when an official report into its causes severely
criticised its army, the Dutch government acknowledged its shame by resigning en masse.

There is widespread agreement this was necessary, for the death toll included many thousands of
those who chose to stay in Srebrenica, under the ‘protection’ of the Dutch, and wait for the Serbs’
promised convoy of blue and white buses.

Photo – Victims, Women refugees at the Srebrenica camp.

The 10-15,000 Bosnians who took to the mountains fared no better. Joined by a band of several
hundred soldiers from the 28th Division of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s army, they separated into
three columns, with the intention of taking different routes to safe territory in the town of Tuzla.

Even for fit, well-fed men, this would have meant a three-day trek through parlous terrain. But
many had no clothes or boots, and they were weakened by hunger, terrified and disoriented. To
survive, they ate leaves and slugs, and bound their bleeding feet in rags.

As they left the cover of the forest and crossed a main road, the first and biggest column of
Bosniaks was bombarded by fierce artillery fire, and two-thirds were wiped out.

At 8pm on July 12, many more were cut down in an ambush. Another offshoot of the massacre
took place after a Bosnian prisoner was tricked into persuading his comrades to come out of hiding
and negotiate.

Those who fell for the ruse were lined up on the roadside with their hands behind their heads and
mown down.

One witness, remained in hiding behind a nearby tree, saw a Serb soldier gouge out the eyes of one
of his comrades, slice off his ears, and carve a cross in his head before sending him off to be shot.

Photo - Remembered: The bodies of 610 victims are finally buried in July 2005.

In the ensuing man-hunt, thousands more were rounded up. Sometimes they would answer a call
for help, supposedly from a wounded comrade, only to be confronted with a Serb soldier.

One man who surrendered that day was Hakija Hadzic, who had fled Srebrenica after ushering his
wife and three children to Potacari, where he supposed they would be taken to safety.

Hakija took me back to the scene. It was the first time he had returned to that benighted place and I
will never forget his terror.

As we approached, he began trembling and begged us not to stop the car.

Listening to his story, his reaction was understandable. He had given himself up, he said, because
he was close to starvation, and feared he would not survive a few more hours in the forest.
At first, he believed he might be treated mercifully. As he sat beside the road with countless other
Bosnians, baking under a fierce afternoon sun, Mladic himself had come to address them.

The beaming general promised the men new boots and fresh water, and assured them they would
soon be reunited with their families. ‘We all applauded him,’ Hakija recalls.

After he left, however, they were taken to the farm building, some miles away, at Kravica, where
many of the men later found bulldozed into mass graves were slain.

His survival is little short of a miracle. He remained beneath the bodies even when the Serbs
returned and shouted for anyone left alive to declare themselves, with the assurance that they
would be spared and enlisted in the Serb army.

Photo – Mourner, A woman cries as her husband is buried following the massacre

He was well advised not to trust them, for those who stood up were shot. Only when the Serb
guards left their posts did he make his escape.

After an epic two-week scramble through the forested mountains, on July 26 he arrived at Bosnian-
held Zepa, and two months later he was reunited with his family, who had made it on to one of the
blue and white buses.
In the great human catastrophe of Srebrenica, such uplifting stories are very rare.

Some time after 1pm on July 16, when the first few male survivors finally stumbled to safety
behind Bosnian lines at Tuzla, most reporters were several miles away at the airbase, meeting the
convoys of women and children.

But those few who were there to greet the exhausted, emaciated band of escapees described them
as ‘an army of ghosts’.

Some later killed themselves, unable to live with their memories. Others, like Hakija Hadzic, are
damned to be forever haunted by them. ‘Never a night goes by that I don’t wake up with a
nightmare of what happened on that farm,’ he told me.

For reasons only they can explain, it has taken the Serbs 13 long years to begin to bring Radovan
Karadzic to justice.

But now, at last, the architect of Directive 7 will have to account for his supreme act of evil.

Photo: Shocking - The remains of 600 Bosnian Muslims lie in factor in Potocari.