News

Dossier: “Deportation of Srebrenica Refugees”

08.06.2020

After the fall of Srebrenica on 11 July, 1995, an estimated 7,905 persons disappeared, mostly men considered by the Army of Republika Srpska as “able-bodied”. DNA analysis of the mortal remains of those found in mass graves, to date, has enabled positive identification of 5,977 persons killed in Srebrenica.

Most of these men were killed between 13 and 16 July 1995, in mass executions at several locations. A day before the fall of the enclave, between ten and sixteen thousand men fled into the forests around Srebrenica, intending to reach the “liberated territory” under the control of the Army of BiH. The search for, capture and killing of these men continued for weeks after the fall of Srebrenica.

A number of these men crossed into the territory of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Evidence that has been publicly available at least since 2005 shows that the FRY border guards handed all captured men back to the Army of Republika of Srpska (VRS), contrary to the Republic of Serbia’s international commitment not to return persons to their country of origin, BiH in this case, where their life or health could be at serious risk.

Even though there are indications that more Srebrenica inhabitants arrested in Serbia were handed back to the VRS, the Humanitarian Law Center (HLC) has collected evidence on the apprehension of 30 men from Srebrenica between 15 July and 1 August, 1995. They were all turned over to the VRS. Some of these apprehended men harmed themselves in order to avoid being deported, but were deported nonetheless. The mortal remains of 15 deported men were found in the Srebrenica mass graves, while nine others are still reported as missing.

Only six of the refugees survived, and were handed over to the Bratunac Brigade of the VRS on July 23, and thereupon, outside of the procedural pattern applied to the others, imprisoned in the Batković camp near Bijeljina.

On the basis of a large amount of evidence presented before the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), these two courts found beyond doubt that at the time the deportations took place, the leaders of the Serbian Government knew of the mass killings in Srebrenica. By turning over the men who had fled Bosnia to the VRS with the knowledge that they were likely to be killed, Serbia violated a number of its international obligations, which entails, among other things, the responsibility of the state for international crimes.

No court, national or international, has ever addressed the individual criminal responsibility of any member of Serbian state organs or its leadership, or the responsibility of the state itself, for the events described in this Dossier.