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Commentary

In Serbia, It's Time To Issue A Warrant For The Truth

Bosnian Army General Jovan Divjak pictured here in Sarajevo in 1995Bosnian Army General Jovan Divjak pictured here in Sarajevo in 1995
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Bosnian Army General Jovan Divjak pictured here in Sarajevo in 1995
Bosnian Army General Jovan Divjak pictured here in Sarajevo in 1995
By Nenad Pejic
On March 3 news broke that retired Bosnian Army General Jovan Divjak had been arrested in Vienna by Austrian police acting on an Interpol warrant issued by Serbia.

The general is accused of involvement in an incident that happened on Dobrovoljacka Street in Sarajevo on May 3, 1992. Gunfire began as Yugoslav Army units were withdrawing from the city. Serbian officials say as many as 40 soldiers died, while Bosnia says 4 soldiers were killed.

General Divjak was at the time the deputy commander of the Bosnian Territorial Defense and had remained in Sarajevo. An ethnic Serb, he was one of the most popular people in Bosnia and widely regarded as a deeply principled man.

Concerted Policy

Divjak's arrest is not an isolated incident but part of a concerted policy by Belgrade.

On March 1, 2010, British authorities arrested Ejub Ganic, a former member of the Bosnian Presidency. They were acting on the same sort of Serbian arrest warrant for alleged crimes committed during the Dobrovoljacka Street incident.

Later that year in July, a British court released Ganic and ruled that no evidence against him had been provided and the Serbian warrant was politically motivated.

In 2007, Serbia issued a warrant for Ilija Jurisic, a Bosnian Army officer accused of war crimes allegedly committed during the withdrawal of Yugoslav Army units from Tuzla. A court in Serbia convicted Jurisic of improper battlefield conduct and sentenced him to 12 years in prison. In October 2010, a Serbian appeals court overturned the conviction, released Jurisic from detention, and ordered a new trial

On the same day that Divjak was arrested in Vienna -- March 3, 2011 -- a Serbian warrant for former Croatian soldier Tihomir Purda, who was accused of involvement in war crimes in Vukovar, was annulled by Serbian war crimes prosecutors. After speaking with 44 witnesses, officials found no evidence that Purda committed a crime. Purda, who had been arrested in Bosnia in January on a similar Serbian warrant, was immediately released.

Who's Next On The List?

So who will be arrested next? All the members of the war-time Bosnian Presidency? Any officer who can be shown to have been in Sarajevo or who defended Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war?

Or will we see the arrests of those officials in Serbia who time and again produce false warrants based on nonexistent or falsified evidence? Hardly.

Nobody in Serbia spoke up when the British court declared the Ganic warrant was politically motivated. There was no probe into who prepared the falsified warrant or manufactured the falsified evidence. Nobody investigated who provided Serbian media with faked television footage. No politician suffered for supporting the production of the politically motivated warrant.

In the case of Jurisic, no one was punished for bringing an inadequate case to court and no one paid for the fact that Jurisic spent three long years in Serbian prisons.

Likewise, no one is asking who issued the warrant against Purda. Deputy prosecutor Bruno Vekaric told RFE/RL on March 3 that the case "was poorly prepared." No one has investigated or responded to charges that Purda was tortured while in a Serbian detention camp. In fact, Serbian officials do not admit the camp exists.

Standing behind all these cases are figures in Serbia's security organs, police, and military who are backed by far-right political forces. Many of these people were involved in preparing the Balkans wars, starting those wars, and losing them. They provided cover for Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic. They continue to hide Bosnian Serb military leader and accused war criminal Ratko Mladic.

They organized the 2003 assassination of moderate Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Djindic.

Under pressure from these forces, Serbian courts curtail investigations into war-crimes allegations against Serbs. Public opinion in Serbia continues to blame political leaders for losing the Balkans wars, not for starting them.

Despite having all these cases dismissed one after another -- and the case against Divjak will surely be dismissed as well -- the rightists have achieved their goal.

Serbian media covered all the arrests with patriotic jingoism, and ethnic tensions across the Balkans were inflamed. Divisions were deepened. Tolerance suffered another setback. The soil was prepared for future conflicts or partitions. And pro-Western forces in Serbia have been sent a strong message about the power of the far right. They are still fighting a war that has been lost.

Nenad Pejic is an associate director of broadcasting at RFE/RL. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL
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by: Nicholas Thompson from: Toronto
March 04, 2011 14:06
The author writes, "So who will be arrested next? All the members of the war-time Bosnian Presidency? Any officer who can be shown to have been in Sarajevo or who defended Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war?"

One can say that is exactly what the Croat and Bosnian Muslims and their wide cast of supporters in the United States did to the Serbs. Essentially arrested anyone who served in the army and in government. Politically motivated? Of course.

To criticize the Serbian government for trying to arrest alleged war criminals who committed crimes against Serbian soldiers and civilian, is exactly what one would expect from the gigantic coalition of anti Serb factions. According to them, the simple story is that all Serbs are criminals, all Croats and Muslims are victims and curse any Serb who says otherwise.

The truth in fact is that numerous crimes were committed against Serbian civilians and the majority of those crimes remain unpunished and ignored.

For the casual reader, one would think that the author, Mr. Pejic, was almost mocking the poor Serbs for trying to arrest those who committed crimes against their people. That in itself sounds politically motivated..


In Response

by: Dejan from: Vancouver
March 05, 2011 09:53
Nenad Pejic was in 1989 elected programme director of Sarajevo Television. From 1991 to 1992, he was a reporter for CNN World Report. In 1993 he joined Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where he remains today. War time propaganda is explored in Yougoslav War crime tribunal as a graounds for war crime. As Bosnia moves forward with war crimes trials, training unbiased reporters will be the key to breaking the county's wartime media propaganda cycle
In Response

by: Nicholas Thompson from: Toronto
March 07, 2011 04:51
Your comments were very insightful in shedding some light on the author's work history. No war in modern history generated the depth and extent of propaganda and out right misinformation as the civil wars in former Yugoslavia.

One day in the future, new historians will be able to assess the truth of this war and write without the hyperbole of current authors such as Mr. Pejic.




by: Bojan from: Toronto
March 04, 2011 14:40
Can the person who wrote this article answer than, who killed those unarmed 18 year old boys, who were agreably retreating peacefully from the city of Sarajevo, and who was on the Muslim side a guarantor for their safe passage? It was a straight out of the UN book approved retreat. When UN vehicles who carried a realesed by Serbs Bosnian president Izetbegovic , passed the barrikades, the remaining vehicles with unarmed Serbian soldiers were brutally burned and shot at by WHO I ASK YOU? Is that what you Muslims call a brokered peace deal. You release ours first, and than we will burn you all. Very United Nations like. Absoulutelly not radically motivated. In the end, you blew up your own people at Markale, just to falsly accuse Serbs and by working hand in hand with the Brits, provoke a large scale military strikes of an alliance counting over a half billion people, against the small internally and externally war, and sanction weakend Serbia. Oh, yea thats what God is all about. The mercifull one I mean. WRONG.
In Response

by: voxlogica from: Sarajevo
March 18, 2011 15:38
Those 'boys' should never have been in Sarajevo in the first place. Their leaders sent them there. You do not get to go abroad to commit attrocities and then complain when you are caught in the crossfires of hatred and murder.

by: Taylor
March 04, 2011 14:58
Hey Nenad do you really believe your own lies!!! hahahah what garbage, the world knows what the muslims did in bosnia and kosovo, keep begging, keep deceiving, it is no use - you have lost

by: Mike from: Toronto
March 04, 2011 16:03
I thought that these 'news' sites were supposedly non-biased. I could swear that I just read something from Al Jazeera's website instead. There is no more hiding and playing the pity card. The world is slowly but surely opening it's eyes. The Serbs were demonized enough! At least we have people on trial for war crimes! When will those other countries fess up and admit what they did?
In Response

by: ena from: Cairo
March 04, 2011 16:28
You mean - when will Serbia do everything to support its demonisation? When it realises that within Serbia there is a conflict between moderate, tolerant and radical, faschist politics. Bosnia is aware of its inner conflict - those who would sell it to pieces and those who love Bosnia as it is. Notice how it does not interfere with interior politics of its neighbours. You make your choice how to help Serbia manifest its beauty rather than its ugliness.
In Response

by: Mike from: Toronto
March 04, 2011 18:08
No, that's not what I mean at all. What I wrote was that the Serbs have been demonized for far too long. Demonize: To represent as evil or diabolic: wartime propaganda that demonizes the enemy.
In Response

by: Mercy from: USA
March 04, 2011 18:36
'Serbs were demonized enough'?!?! Are you kidding me? Serbs were the attackers...the ones who started the war. Bosnians and Croats defended themselves! What else is one supposed to do when their lives are on the line? No where in your argument can you even claim that Bosnians were on the Serbian soil doing the vicious acts that Serbs did on the Bosnian soil. People who kill young civilian boys and unarmed men and rape women taking turns with them deserve to be punished. Serbs can say anything they want to justify themselves or try and project the blame onto others, but I am sure even if they look fine, many of them can never sleep at night after hearing all the screams and cries of all the innocent people that died or still live with the most horendous of memories.
In Response

by: Bojan from: Toronto
March 04, 2011 20:43
Your reply is so basic. Doesn't touch the facts. You don't know the constitution of then Yugoslavia, and its relation to international law. You don't know that only Serbs were constitutional peoples in all three republics, Serbia, BiH, and Croatia. They got that priviledge for being the only people that fought Hitler's nazi troops, while Croats and Muslims fought on their side. Who is twisting history now? GET YOUR FACTS RIGHT
In Response

by: D from: Florida
March 04, 2011 20:59
You have no idea what you are talking about...first do some research and THEN say something!!!
In Response

by: Dorothy from: Australia
March 04, 2011 23:52
Bosnian soil?
Serbs were living in Bosnia long before Islam's arrival.
In fact they were the largest group in Bosnia before their genocide at the hands of Croatian and Muslim fascists during WWII.
And who are Bosnian Muslims?
Serb and Croat converts.
In Response

by: D from: S
March 05, 2011 00:25
Yes, Serbs attacked SAO Krajina. And initiated Operation Storm. No Serbians were killed by any Muslims/Croats. In fact, the Serbian army just decided one day to attack both of these countries. And cause mass murder for no reason whatsoever. Bosnians and Muslims never commited any "vicious acts" upon Serbs, am I correct?
I would like to say that whoever brainwashed you did a great job of it. Propaganda at its finest.

As opposed to your views, the mujaheddin that fired upon their own soldiers and the Croats that expelled hundreds of thousands from land that was not theirs were as guilty as the Serb army protecting its Serb citizens and Serb land from aggression. I am not saying the Serbs are innocent, but it is true, they have been demonized far too long and the blame for this war has not been spread across the three sides in proportion, and it's articles like this that make people doubt the media.

This is the most biased article I have read in a while. There was no clear aggressor and there were crimes committed by each side. To demonize a nation for trying to capture those who killed their people is cowardly. Or do you believe that your country is absolved of guilt?

Only god will judge.

Your god, or my god, or no god. The truth will come out.
In Response

by: DEDA CVETKO from: NEW YORK
March 05, 2011 07:08
Come again? Serbs were WHAT?!?! The attackers????

You have gotta be kidding me. How can one attack his own home, his own country -- from within?!?

The Serbian (and Croatian) Christians lived in Bosnia from roughly the first half of the 7th Century AD (presumably even BEFORE Islam was came to being) until today. Our continued and uninterrupted presence in Bosnia - whose XIV century king inconveniently called himself "The King of the Serbs", (not the "King of the Moslems") predates ANY Moslem presence in the territory by almost 1,000 years.

Read some history books. Get educated. It might help.

The Serbs are the ONLY indigenous nation in Bosnia. We are the Indians of the Balkans. The cowboys and the conquistadors came later -- much later.
In Response

by: quevedo from: Toronto
March 05, 2011 16:49
Bojan, you're ignorant as well as stupid...the constitution of Yugoslavia did not privilege any one nation because of its role in WWII; in fact, the very premise upon which the country was founded was the unity and equality of all of its peoples, who fought together against the invader. Anyone who went to primary school in Yugoslavia knows this, so I assume you were somewhere else during those years? You can imagine, then, the outrage felt by the citizens of Sarajevo when the JNA, the 'People's' Army which had supposedly inherited the mantle of the Partisans, and whose sole purpose was to defend its people, began firing on the city, and killing innocent people. This had been going on for a month before the Dobrovoljacka incident, and under those circumstances I would have fired on the JNA myself, if I was in a position to do so. Fortunately, Jovo Divjak was a less temperamental individual, and did his best to restrain passions. In any case, I said what I had to say about your 'opinions' elsewhere on this comments page - though they are not worthy of any intelligent response.

by: Sergey from: Chicago, USA
March 04, 2011 16:06
Another anti-Serb and pro-Islamic Bosnia article that can be ignored.

by: Gorazd Cvetic from: Valparaiso, Chile
March 04, 2011 16:10
Jovan Divjak is a legendary person, an antifascist who fought for a multiethnic Bosnia. His arrest in Vienna on March 3 shows that the defenders of Bosnia still have enemies all over Europe.

by: legolas from: vienna
March 04, 2011 16:52
its very funny to see all those "war experts" writing from canada or the usa and trying to explain what really happened in sarajevo. dear ladies and gentlemen, this yugoslav army which was retreating from sarajevo SHOT on civilians at the beginning of the war!! and dont forget: on may 2nd bosnia-herzegovina had already been a sovereign state for almost a month - what did the yugoslav army do there in the first place?? they were aggressors shooting on civilians and the city of sarajevo. mr divjak is certainly not responsible for any massacre and should and will be soon released. just as mr ganic was released. they defended their country against the yugoslav army and serbian aggressors!
In Response

by: Mike from: Toronto
March 04, 2011 18:10
It's even funnier to read about someone suggesting that North American commentary is invalid compared to someone in Vienna of all places.
In Response

by: Bojan from: Toronto
March 04, 2011 18:32
I was actually in Sarajevo when the war started. My grandfathers house was robbed and burned by the muslim forces. Do you want me to tell you when and where? And as a kid I was personally shot at by Muslim snipers, from "hladnjaca" which was on the border between the two fighting sides. And you and this Sara girl shouldn't twist this story. We are talking here about a separate attrocity that Mr Divjak is directly responsible for. I'm not saying that the other sides didn't commit certain attrocities as well during the course of the war. I advise you that you actually follow the trials in Hague, so that you can be regarded seriously when disucssing these legal matters.
In Response

by: legolas from: vienna
March 04, 2011 22:03
i am very much familiar with the trials in hague - and i havent seen mr divjak being prosecuted there - and he wont be, because there is not any responsibility of mr divjak for the incident in dobrovoljacka street. moreover, it was mr divjak who made possible that yugoslav general kukanjac and his aggressor forces leave sarajevo without many casualties! the number of fallen yugoslav soldiers in dobrovoljacka street has never been determined. some sources talk about several killed soldiers. and let me tell you something: serbian forces KILLED 11,000 civilians in sarajevo - 2,000 of them were serbs who refused to go with karadzic and shoot on their neighbors. i think you should keep this in mind before talking about "attrocities of muslim forces". everybody should be prosecuted for war crimes - but i am really sorry, the serb side perpetrated the most of them during the war. and there is no revisionist politics of serbia which can change that!
In Response

by: Gina from: London
March 05, 2011 03:45
The thing is Bojan,as you say yourself,you were a child,a boy,at the time of the war and there is no way you can know who did issue orders to attack that column of vehicles in Dobrovoljacka,or if it has been a spontaneous reaction to seeing a number of vehicles leaving the garrison without anyone knowing anything about it outside it. I myself am a Bosnian still regardless of living outside of it for the last 19 years.I witnessed people from neighbouring village leaving,Serbs,in a hurry,their belongings haphazardly thrown on to the tractors and other farm machinery.It was a sad day because these people were affraid.Little did I know that a day later the JNA would try to push through my village,at night,to take up a vital positon in that same village from which they would hold whole region as if in the palm of their hand.Thank God,they were not sucessfull.It was 3 people who stopped them that night.A column of JNA vehicles were advancing without lights towards a sleeping unarmed village.These 3 men started shouting that in the village there were a number of armed people and it would not be a good idea for the army to proceed.They stopped,had a discussion among themselves,we could hear them,turned around and went back to the garrison.They were affraid,and thank God they were.Neighbouring village was not so lucky.Whole village was forcibly evacuated and men were taken to camps,women were told to go,most of them went to relatives to wait for their men to return.My own brother in law was 18 months used as a human shield when the JNA was advancing against Bosnian army.He was made to rob houses and take posesions from them that were later taken to Serbia,to dig trenches,to burry dead,..he went hungry for days,they were not deemed worthy of feeding.. and all of that is recorded by UNHCR because they helped to get him out on a tip off to his whereabouts.Existence of these camps was strongly denied publicly and still is in Serbia and Bosnia.He was interviewed by relevant bodies before he was allowed to join his family abroad.That man is not the same man he was before the war and he does have a lot of unresolved issues,not least that he was beaten almost daily and his health has suffered,that his brother was tortured in front of him and that has left deep psychologicall scars on him.And all because they were muslims and I am a catholic by the way and have another brother and sister in law who are Serbs.We were a very mixed family.I left my home two days after witnessing my Serbian neighbours leaving.They are back at their homes now and I am not.My village was totally destroyed and there is no one living there now,it does not even exist on the map any more.All of this happened at the end of March 1992.So,don't talk about justice.There is no justice for my dead brother,he is gone and will not come back.Just being gratefull for being alive and sane,being able to live without hate and hope that future generations will not have to experience same fate as us,whichever religion or nationality we belong.
In Response

by: Bojan from: Toronto
March 05, 2011 19:57
First of all Gina, I'm sorry for your brother, and no one deserves to die like that. But I have to say that I stated allready, that all sides commited attrocities. It is just the question of when and where. Those 42 unarmed soldiers were retreating under an UN brokered deal, and it was supposed to be respected. I was a teenager at the time, but not that young that I couldn't understand what was going on. And as I was growing up I was learning about those direct happenings through more and more detail. That massacre was the first big massacre in Sarajevo and its subburbs, and is essential in determening the later developments of attrocities.
In Response

by: Bojan from: Toronto
March 05, 2011 20:11
In regards to Legolas. Who are you to say if anything can change anything? I think that I speak for the facts and truth. You know that truth allways swims to the surface, no matter what. It is just the question of when. In Milosevic trial the prosecution led by Mr. Nice from GB, have apsolutely proved nothing, and it is very odd, that he died of a heart attack. He wasn't that old you know. Please just go to you tube, and you will find late S Milosevic breaking down the witnesses in Hague. Its all in English. Why do you think that his trial never got any attention in the western media. He was deemed the butcher of Balkans, and than he dissapeared from the media headlines, untill he was finally dead. Do you think that everybody is that stupid? There was nothing to prove against him, otherwhise his name would have been plastered all over from CNN to BBC, :).
In Response

by: Vensla from: Grbavica
March 10, 2011 15:57
It is always surprising to me to see how many people have fallen prey to Milosevic war propaganda which is as strong today as it has ever been. The most common lie among Serbs is the thought of a “Civil” War in BiH where all sides committed crimes, followed closely by the idea that Americans and the “West” are to blame for the split. The third place is taken by the claim that all people in BIH are really Serbs who converted to Islam of Catholicism during the glorious Serbian history.
What is often forgotten is there is nothing civil about sitting cold and hungry in the dark listening to the sound of the cannons destroying your city. The realization that it was not an American or French tank but a Serbian/JNA one that destroyed your home for no reason whatsoever, especially when you are a partly a Serb yourself and you believed that it was a Peoples Army. Your mind races and inevitably arrives to a simple revelation: It wasn’t the Americans or the French who fought this war. Why would the Serbs attack other Serbs (since they believe that both Muslims and Croats are converted Serbs)? Why do they believe that their human rights in Bosnia where neglected when they ended up with all the heavy artillery when the aggression against BIH started? To all the Serbs out there, there is nothing glorious about what you did in Ex-Yu. Luckily there are many of us who remember the truth.

by: Sara from: London
March 04, 2011 17:13
Poor Serbian people-how could anyone accuse such" innocent "people .?
Sure you didn't hurt anyone, them Bosnians did everything to themselves.?
In Response

by: d from: florida
March 04, 2011 21:00
wow you are full of heitred arent you...
In Response

by: Dorothy from: Australia
March 04, 2011 23:38
There are several UN accounts of Muslim snipers shooting Muslim civilians and then blaming the Serbs. But you don't care about that, do you?

And over 1,500 Serbian civilians, including elderly and women and children, murdered around Srebrenica did that to themselves too did they?
In Response

by: d from: s
March 14, 2011 17:03
Please provide evidence, this is just common propaganda. More Serbian revisionism.

by: Sergey from: Chicago, USA
March 04, 2011 18:43
Moreover, how long RFE/RL will continue serve as a mouthpiece of Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia ? I am not denying that there were brutalities on Serbian side, but ignore the crimes committed by Muslim forces in Bosnia and Kosovo is simply TRAVESTY and MISINFORMATION PAID BY THE US TAXPAYER MONEY. It's time to get things straight. Serbia is not the only guilty party in the violent disintegration of the former Yugoslavia. Islamic forces are no less if not much more guilty of what happened in Bosnia and Kosovo.

by: human from: usa
March 04, 2011 19:29
I see a lot of muslim this muslim that. Well MR DIVJAK WAS A ORTHODOX SERB, WELL I WOULDNT CALL HIM A SERB. He was a BOSNIAN. That was the beauty of Bosnians, They were diverse and accepted him as a leader. It just goes to show that the serbs still focus on this muslim aspect because islamophobia has been embedded in our brains. Truth of the matter is that bosnians fought for bosnia and protected all of its people no matter what the religion or race. Take your stories somewhere else and let this hero go. Give him a multi euro settlement and raise a statue to honor him
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
March 07, 2011 18:05
you're absoutely right, dear friend. thank you. when i read that other anti-bosniak, boisnak-baiting and crude islamophobic jingoism i'm glad i don't personally know any such twerps, or else I would not hesitata one moment to give them back their hate. and like in the case of Ejup Ganic and Ilija Jurisic the serbofascists will only achieve more ridicule for themselves. As it is, the situation must be clarified as it was in Croatia. Let the Serbs sow more wind, and they will gather another - STORM!
In Response

by: Abdulmajid
March 08, 2011 21:18
Don't worry dear friend, Jovan Divjak, Rudolf Hren and all the Bosnian Serbs and Croats who were on the BOSNIAN side, who did not forsake their Bosniak friends, who believe in Bosnia-Herzegovina, will have streets named after them.
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