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Territories of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Croatia controlled by the Bosnian and Croatian Serb forces, after Operation Corridor (July 1992).

Serbia was involved in the Yugoslav Wars in the period between 1991 and 1999 - the war in Slovenia, the war in Croatia, the war in Bosnia and the war in Kosovo. During this period, Slobodan Milošević was the authoritarian leader of Serbia, which was in turn part of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

Official Serbian politics has supported the ethnic Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, who largely opposed the secession of those republics and instead wanted to join FR Yugoslavia. The responsibility of Serbia (as part of FRY) in the Bosnian and Croatian wars is considered controversial.

Accused of supporting the Serb rebels in Croatia and Bosnia, the FRY was suspended from the majority of international organisations and institutions, and economic and political sanctions were imposed,[5] which resulted in economic disaster and massive emigrations from the country.

Various judicial proceedings at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have investigated different levels of responsibility of the Yugoslav People's Army and the leadership of FRY and Serbia for the war crimes committed by the ethnic Serbs in other republics of former Yugoslavia, while the Government of Serbia has been tasked with apprehending numerous ethnic Serb fugitives from the Tribunal.


An animated series of maps showing the breakup of SFR Yugoslavia.

Milošević used a rigid control of the media to organize a propaganda campaign in which the thesis that Serbs were the victims and the need for reajust Yugoslavia to redress the alleged bias against Serbia. This then was then followed by Milošević's anti-bureaucratic revolution in which the governments of Vojvodina, Kosovo and Montenegro were overthrown, which gave Milošević the dominating position of 4 votes out of 8 in Yugoslavia's collective presidency.

Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who was also the leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, has repeatedly stated that all Serbs should enjoy the right to be included in Serbia.[7] Mihajlo Markovic, the Vice President of the Main Committee of Serbia's Socialist Party, rejected any solution that would make Serbs outside Serbia a minority. He proposed establishing a federation consisting of Serbia, Montenegro, BiH, Macedonia and Serbs residing in the Serbian Autonomous Region of Krajina, Slavonia, Baranja, and Srem.[7]

Slovenia and Croatia declared independence on June 25, 1991. Both were internationally recognized on 15 January 1992. Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence on March 5, 1992. It was internationally recognized on 22 May 1992 by the United Nations. With the collapse of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Montenegro proclaimed the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia as a sole successor state of SFR Yugoslavia, on April 27, 1992. It remained unrecognized during the conflict.

Milošević propaganda

The Serbian media during Milošević's era was known to espouse Serb nationalism while promoting xenophobia toward the other ethnicities in Yugoslavia. Ethnic Albanians were commonly characterised in the media as anti-Yugoslav counter-revolutionaries, rapists, and a threat to the Serb nation.[8] When war erupted in Croatia, Politika promoted Serb nationalism, hostility towards Croatia, and violence.[9] On June 5, 1991, Politika ekspres ran a piece titled "Serbs must get weapons". On June 25, 1991 and July 3, 1991, Politika began to openly promote partitioning Croatia, saying "We can't accept Croatia keeping these borders", "Krajina in the same state with Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina", and prominently quoted Jovan Marjanovic of the Serbian Renewal Movement, who said "The [Yugoslav] Army must come into Croatia and occupy the line Benkovac-Karlovac-Pakrac-Baranja", which would essentially have occupied all the territories in Croatia that were claimed by nationalist promoters of a Greater Serbia.[10] To promote fear and anger amongst Serbs towards Croatia, on June 25, 1991, Politika reminded Serbs about the atrocities by the Croatian fascist Ustase against Serbs during World War II by saying "Jasenovac [an Ustase concentration camp in World War II] mustn't be forgotten".[11]

Serbian state media during the wars featured controversial reportage that villainized the other ethnic factions. In one such program, a Croatian Serb woman denounced the old "communist policy" in Croatia, claiming that under it "[t]he majority of Serbs would be assimilated in ten years",[12] while another interviewee stated "Where Serbian blood was shed by Ustasha knives, there will be our boundaries."[12] Various Serbian state television reports featured a guest speaker, Jovan Rašković, who claimed that the Croat people had a "genocidal nature".[12] These repeatedly negative media depictions of the opposing ethnic factions have been said to have been examples of Milošević's state media promoting fear-mongering and utilizing xenophobic nationalist sentiments to draw Serbs to support the wars.[12] The director of Radio Television of Serbia during Milošević's era, Dušan Mitević, has since admitted on a PBS documentary "the things that happened at state TV, warmongering, things we can admit to now: false information, biased reporting. That went directly from Milošević to the head of TV".[13]

Armed conflicts

Ruins in Vukovar after the JNA invasion, 1991.

During the Yugoslav wars of the 1990s, the concept of a Greater Serbia was widely seen outside of Serbia as the motivating force for the military campaigns undertaken to form and sustain Serbian states on the territories of the breakaway Yugoslav republics of Croatia (the Republic of Serbian Krajina) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Republika Srpska).[14] Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic supported the Serb breakaway entities and their leaders in Bosnia and Croatia as well as working with the dominant Serb faction of the Yugoslav army to give weaponry and supplies to the Serbs of Bosnia and Croatia. This support extended to controversial figures such as Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić, and accusations by some international figures claimed that Milošević was in charge of the Serb factions during the war and had authorized war atrocities to occur.

The wars saw the rise of Serbian ultranationalist parties, such as the Serbian Radical Party led by Vojislav Šešelj, who promoted the idea of Serbs continuing to live in a single state. The nationalistic thrust of Milošević's government reached its peak between 1990 and 1993 when he governed in a coalition with the support of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, which directly promoted the creation of a Greater Serbia. In this period, Milošević adamantly supported Serbs' irredentism in Bosnia and Croatia.

Serbia's role in the Slovenian war

Immediately after the Slovenian independence referendum, the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) announced a new defence doctrine that would apply across the country. The socialist doctrine of "General People's Defence", in which each republic maintained a Territorial Defence Force (TO), was to be replaced by a centrally-directed system of defence. The republics would lose their role in defence matters, and their TOs would be disarmed and subordinated to JNA headquarters in Belgrade. The Slovenian government resisted these moves, and successfully ensured that the majority of Slovenian Territorial Defence equipment was kept out of the hands of the JNA.

General Veljko Kadijević was de facto commander of Yugoslav People's Army during the Slovenian Independence War. The officer corps was dominated by Serbs and Montenegrins. The rank and file troops however were conscripts, many who had no strong motivation in fighting against the Slovenes. Of the soldiers of the 5th Military District, which was in action in Slovenia, about 30% were Albanians.[15] Serbian government of Slobodan Milošević was not particularly concerned about Slovenia's independence, because there were no significant Serb minority in the country. On 30 June, Defence Minister General Kadijević suggested to the Yugoslav federal presidency a massive attack on Slovenia to break down the unexpectedly heavy resistance. But the Serb representative, Borisav Jović, shocked the military establishment by declaring that Serbia did not support further military action against Slovenia.[16] Serbia was at this point more concerned with the situation in Croatia; even before the war had ended, JNA troops were already repositioning themselves for the imminent war in Croatia.

Slovenia won considerable sympathy of Western audiences as a case of a "David versus Goliath" struggle between an emerging democracy and an authoritarian communist state. The columns of Yugoslav tanks brought to mind the events of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 two years earlier. The Ten-Day War was formally ended with the Brioni Accord under the political sponsorship of the European Community. It was agreed that all Yugoslav military units would leave Slovenia, with the Belgrade government setting a deadline of the end of October to complete the process.

Serbia's role in the Croatian war

Map of the strategic offensive plan of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) in Croatia, 1991. The JNA was unable to advance as far as planned due to Croatian resistance and mobilization problems.

Milosevic believes he now has the historic opportunity to, once and for all, settle accounts with the Croats and do what Serbian politicians after World War I did not - rally all Serbs in one Serbian state.[7]
— Belgrade newspaper Borba, August 1991.

In April 1991, the Serbs within the Republic of Croatia began to make serious moves to secede from that territory, that in turn seceded from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It is a matter of debate to what degree the Milošević-led Serb government gave the push to self-declare. In any event, the Republic of Serbian Krajina was declared consisting of Croatian territory with a substantial Serb population — which the Croatian government saw as an armed rebellion. During 1991, an important role in the Serb military forces was filled by paramilitary units like Beli Orlovi, Srpski Četnički Pokret, etc. that committed numerous massacres against Croat and other non-Serbs civilians.

During his trial at the ICTY, Franko Simatović requested to be acquitted of all charges. The trial chamber however ruled against it, citing the chain of command in the Croatian War:[17]

Several witnesses gave evidence supporting the conclusion that the Serbian DB played a substantial role in the events that occurred in the SAO Krajina. They described the existence of two special command structures existing in the SAO Krajina at the time, both headed by Milosevic. In one command structure, Stanisic, as head of the Serbian DB, would command Krajina police units, special DB units, and volunteer units. Another line of command would go through the JNA.

In May 1991, Stipe Mesić, a Croat, was scheduled to be the chairman of the rotating Presidency of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, but Serbia blocked his installation, so this maneuver technically left Yugoslavia without a leader.[18] The federal army, the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) remained led by the nominally Federal government under Milošević. As the war progressed, the cities of Dubrovnik, Gospić, Šibenik, Zadar, Karlovac, Sisak, Slavonski Brod, Osijek, Vinkovci and Vukovar all came under attack by the Yugoslav forces. On occasion, the JNA sided with the local Croat Serb forces. With the retreat of the JNA forces in 1992, JNA units were reorganized as the Army of Serb Krajina, which was a direct heir to JNA organization. Early 1992, JNA retreated from Croatia into Bosnia and Herzegovina where a new conflict was on the rise.

In various verdicts,[19][20] the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) concluded that Krajina presidents Milan Babić and Milan Martić were cooperating with Serbia's president Milošević who sent them amunition, financial assistance and the JNA and Serb paramilitary as back up during 1991 and 1992 in order to take over large chunks of Croatia. After the United Nations imposed sanctions against Serbia, the JNA formally withdrew from Croatia by May 1992. However, in the 2011 Momčilo Perišić verdict, the ICTY also established that Belgrade was, through the 30th and 40th Personnel Centre, still supplying armies of Krajina and Republika Srpska all until 1995, despite international sanctions. In the judgement, the judges ruled that members of the Yugoslav Army served under banners of Military of Serbian Krajina (SVK) and VRS, but received pensions, salaries, benefits and promotions directly from Belgrade.[21] Even though Perišić did not have effective control over the VRS, he had control of the SVK, but failed to punish them for the Zagreb rocket attacks.[21]

Serbia's role in the Bosnian war

During the Bosnian war, it was a part of the strategic plan by Serb leadership, aimed at linking Serb-populated areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina together, to gain control over these areas and create a separate Serb state, from which most non-Serbs would be permanently removed. The Serb leadership was aware that their strategic plan could only be implemented by the use of force and fear, thus by the commission of war crimes.[22]

The Bosnian Serb Army was "under overall control" of Belgrade and the Yugoslav Army, which meant that they had funded, equipped and assisted in coordination and planning of military operations.[23] The Army of Republika Srpska arose from the Yugoslav army forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[24] Despite sanctions, Belgrade was still the main source of soldiers, ammunition, spare parts and financial assistance for Republika Srpska until 1995.[21]

The Martyrs' Memorial Cemetery in Stari Grad for victims of the siege of Sarajevo.

Slobodan Milošević, Alija Izetbegović and Franjo Tuđman signing the Dayton Agreement in Paris on December 14, 1995.

Milošević had realized that Bosnia and Herzegovina was about to be recognized by the international community, and since Yugoslav Army troops were still located there at that point, their presence on Bosnian territory could have led to the Serbia and Montenegro being accused of aggression. To avoid this, Milošević decided to move all JNA soldiers originating from Serbia and Montenegro back into Serbia and Montenegro, and to move all JNA soldiers originating from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Bosnia and Herzegovina.[24] In this way, every Bosnian Serb was transferred from the Yugoslav army to what became the newly created Bosnian Serb Army. Through this, the Bosnian Serb army also received extensive military equipment and full funding from the FRY, as the Bosnian Serb faction alone could not pay for the costs.[25] The Bosnian Serb Army was led by an ex-Yugoslav military commander, Ratko Mladić, an extremely controversial figure, who served the Yugoslav Army during the Croatian War of Independence 1991-1992, and has been accused of committing war crimes in Bosnia.[26]

Furthermore, Serbian Radical Party founder and paramilitary Vojislav Seselj has publicly claimed that Serbian President Milošević personally asked him to send paramilitaries from Serbia into Bosnia and Herzegovina.[25]

After 1993, media reports of large-scale atrocities by the Bosnian Serb armed forces, such as the long siege of Sarajevo, resulted in increased pressure and sanctions by western governments against Serbia and Montenegro to persuade Milošević to withdraw his support of the Bosnian Serbs. After 1993, Milošević abandoned his alliance with the Serbian Radical Party and declared that his government advocated a peaceful settlement to the war. The new coalition government abandoned its support of Radovan Karadzic's Bosnian Serb government and pressured the Bosnian Serbs to negotiate a peace treaty. During the Dayton Accord, Milošević sparred with Karadzic, who opposed the Dayton Accord, while Milošević supported the accord as it gave the Bosnian Serbs autonomy and self-governance over most of the territories they had claimed.

In 1995, Milošević, President of Serbia, represented the Bosnian Serbs during the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement.

Serbia in the Kosovo war

In 1998, facing political crisis, Milošević again formed a national-unity government with the Serbian Radical Party. After 1998, conflict in Kosovo intensified. The Yugoslav Army and the Serbian Police were in spring 1999. "in an organized manner, with significant use of state resources" conducted a broad campaign of violence against Albanian civilians in order to expel them from Kosovo and thus maintain political control of Belgrade over the province.[27]

By June 1999, the Yugoslav military, Serbian police and paramilitaries supposedly expelled 862,979 Albanians from Kosovo,[28] and several hundred thousand more were internally displaced, in addition to those displaced prior to March.[29] Presiding Judge Iain Bonomy concluded that "deliberate actions of these forces during the campaign provoked the departure of at least 700,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo in the short period from late March to early June 1999".[27]

Numerous reports of atrocities in Kosovo by Yugoslav military and Serbian paramilitary forces against ethnic Albanian civilians led to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) launching a series of air raids against FR Yugoslavia.

War crimes

Numerous war crimes were committed by Serbian military and Serbian paramilitary forces during the Yugoslav Wars. The crimes included massacres, ethnic cleansing, systematic rape, crimes against humanity and genocide.

The war crimes were usually carried out on ethnic and religious grounds and were primarily directed against civilians (Albanians, Croats, Bosniaks). Several United Nations bodies have judged that the aim of these war crimes in various wars was to create an ethnically pure Serbian state, or "Greater Serbia", encompassing Serbia as well as the Serb-populated areas in former Yugoslavia.[7][14]

After the wars in the 1990s, many senior military and political leaders were convicted of war crimes. Some of them are still on trial, such as Vojislav Šešelj and Radovan Karadžić, while some, including Ratko Mladić and Goran Hadžić only recently been apprehended by Serbian authorities.

All parties involved in the conflict have committed «grave breaches» of the Geneva Conventions and other violations of international humanitarian law. These violations include the killing of civilians, rape torture, and the deliberate destruction of civilian property, including cultural and religious property, such as churches and mosques. But, there are significant qualitative differences. Most of the violations were committed by Serbs against Bosnian Muslims.[7]

— Final report of the United Nations Commission of Experts

According to definition of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Serbian forces included the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), Serb Territorial Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, the Military of Serbian Krajina, the Army of Republika Srpska, territorial defense of Serbia and Montenegro, Police of Serbia and Police of Republika Srpska, including national security, special police forces of Krajina known as Martićevci (after Milan Martić), as well as all Serbian paramilitary forces and volunteer units.[30]

Croatian War

Shelling of Karlovac, a town situated directly at the front during the war

The Tribunal claimed that about 170,000 Croats were expelled from territories Serbian forces sought to control.[31][32] Rebel Croatian Serbs' forces together with Serbian military and paramilitary forces[6] committed numerous war crimes and massacres in Republic of Croatia:

There were also prison camps, where Croatian prisoners of war and civilians were kept by Serbian authorities.

  • Begejci camp (Logor Begejci) in Begejci near Zrenjanin, Serbia.
  • Sremska Mitrovica camp in Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia.
  • Stajićevo camp (Logor Stajićevo) in Stajićevo near Zrenjanin.

According to Croatian Association of Prisoners in Serbian Concentration Camps, a total of 8,000 Croatian civilians and Prisoners of war (a large number after the fall of Vukovar) went through Serb prison camps such as Sremska Mitrovica camp, Stajićevo camp, Niš camp and many others where many were heavily abused and tortured. A total of 300 people never returned from them.[33] A total of 4570 camp inmates have started legal action against former Serbia and Montenegro (now Serbia) for torture and abuse in the camps.[34]

According to Croatia's lawsuit against Yugoslavia (later Serbia) in front of the International Court of Justice, 590 cities and villages were damaged and 35 entirely razed to the ground, three national parks, five natural parks and 19 park cultural monuments were damaged while 171,000 housing units (about 10 percent of the entire housing capacity of the country) were destroyed or damaged in Croatia during the war. In addition, about three million land mines were left by the warring fractions that blocked about 300,000 hectares of arable land.[35]

In its verdict against Ante Gotovina, the ICTY for the first time concluded that the War in Croatia was an international armed conflict since the military of Serbian Krajina acted as an extension to Serbia's military.

In particular, the Trial Chamber considered the evidence pertaining to Serbian President Milošević's control and influence over SVK forces and Serbia/FRY's funding, arming and supplying of the Krajina Serbs. Based on the above evidence, the Trial Chamber finds that Serbia/FRY had overall control of the SVK. Recalling the agreement of all the parties that Croatia and Serbia were engaged more broadly in hostilities around the beginning of the Indictment period, the Trial Chamber further finds that the armed conflict that existed at the outset of the Indictment period was international. If it was not already an international armed conflict in 1991, then it became one based on the SVK acting on behalf of Serbia/FRY

— ICTY in its verdict against Ante Gotovina[36]

Bosnian War

An exhumed mass grave in Potočari, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where key events in the Srebrenica Massacre unfolded.

Serbian paramilitary forces and Army of the Republika Srpska committed numerous war crimes against Bosnian civilian population during the Bosnian War:

There were several concentration and prison camps in Bosnia, run by Serbs:

The International Court of Justice confirmed the ICTY judgment that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide:

The Court concludes that the acts committed at Srebrenica falling within Article II (a) and (b) of the Convention were committed with the specific intent to destroy in part the group of the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina as such; and accordingly that these were acts of genocide, committed by members of the VRS in and around Srebrenica from about 13 July 1995.[37]

It cleared Republic of Serbia of direct involvement in genocide during the Bosnian war, but ruled that Belgrade did breach international law by failing to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.[38]

Kosovo War

The Serbian police and the Yugoslav Army were in spring 1999 "in an organized manner, with significant use of state resources" conducted a broad campaign of violence against Albanian civilians in order to expel them from Kosovo and thus maintain political control of Belgrade over the province.[27]

According to the legally binding verdict of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Federal Army and Serbian police after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia 24 March 1999, systematically attacked villages with Albanian population, abused, robbed and killed civilians, ordering them to go to Albania or Montenegro, burning their houses and destroying by their property.[39] Within the campaign of violence, Albanians were mass expelled from their homes, murdered, sexually assaulted, and their religious buildings destroyed. Serbian forces committed numerous war crimes during the implementation of "joint criminal enterprise" whose aim was to "through the use of violence and terror, force a significant number of Kosovo Albanians to leave their homes, across the border, the state government to retain control over Kosovo".[27] Ethnic cleansing of the Albanian population is performed by the following model: first the army surrounded a place, then followed the shelling, then the police entered the village, and often with them and the army, and then crimes occurs (murders, rapes, beatings, expulsions...).[39]

Presiding Judge Iain Bonomy was imposing sentence said, "deliberate actions of these forces during the campaign provoked the departure of at least 700,000 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo in the short period from late March to early June 1999."[27]

Incomplete list of massacres:

Goran Stoparić, ex-member of Special Anti-terrorist Unit (SAJ), speculating about motives behind Podujevo massacre, said:

"In my opinion, the only motive was the fact that the victims were Albanians, and perhaps because of some hidden immaturity or sickness of mind on their part. They would probably have killed them had they been Bosnians or Croats. But it is certain that they were killed because they were not Serbs".[53]

Number of victims in the Kosovo war

13,000 people killed, out of whom over 10,000 were Albanians. The true number of deaths continues to be disputed as the number of Albanian civilians still missing since the war reaches up to 3000.[54][55][56]

War crime trials

International trials

International Court of Justice treated all violent conflicts in ex-Yugoslavia until September 7, 1991 as internal clashes or civil war. But, after that date, all conflicts, especially armed confrontations and human victims, belong to regime of International armed conflict.[57] Republic of Serbia officially denied any military engagement into Bosnian War and Croatian War for Independence. However, many Serbian political, military and paramilitary leaders (including Slobodan Milošević, Vojislav Šešelj, Jovica Stanišić, Franko Simatović, Veljko Kadijević, Blagoje Adžić and Željko Ražnatović) were accused of war crimes committed in Bosnia and Croatia. According to Prosecution, those leaders participated in a joint criminal enterprise aimed to established "Greater Serbia" from the disintegrating Yugoslavia.[14]

The prosecution's argument that [...] the allegations made in the three indictments [Croatia, Bosnia, and Kosovo] were all part of a common scheme, strategy or plan on the part of the accused [Slobodan Milošević] to create a "Greater Serbia", a centralised Serbian state encompassing the Serb-populated areas of Croatia and Bosnia and all of Kosovo, and that this plan was to be achieved by forcibly removing non-Serbs from large geographical areas through the commission of the crime charged in the indictments. Although the events in Kosovo were separated from those in Croatia and Bosnia by more than three years, they were, the prosecution claimed, no more than a continuation of that plan, and they could only be understood completely by reference to what had happened in Croatia and Bosnia.[14]

— Decision of the ICTY Appeals Chamber; 18 April 2002.

Complicity in a joint criminal enterprise also included "Serbian forces", that includes the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), later the Yugoslav Army (VJ), the newly formed Serbian Territorial Defense of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, Republic of Serbian Krajina Army, the Army of the Republika Srpska, territorial defense of Serbia and Montenegro, the police of Serbia and the police of Republika Srpska, including national security, special police forces of the Krajina region known as "Martićevci, as well as all Serbian paramilitary forces and volunteer units.[30]

Slobodan Milošević, along with Milan Milutinović, Nikola Šainović, Dragoljub Ojdanić and Vlajko Stojiljković were charged by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) with crimes against humanity including murder, forcible transfer, deportation and "persecution on political, racial or religious grounds" during the Kosovo War. Further indictments were leveled in October 2003 against former armed forces chief of staff Nebojša Pavković, former army corps commander Vladimir Lazarević, former police official Vlastimir Đorđević and the current head of Serbia's public security, Sreten Lukić. All were indicted for crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war. Tribunal prosecutor's office has accused Milosevic of "the gravest violations of human rights in Europe since the Second World War".[31] Milosevic died in prison before sentencing.

The Court pronounced the following verdict for war crimes in Kosovo War.:[39]

  • Milan Milutinovic, former President of the Republic of Serbia and Yugoslav Foreign Minister, acquitted.
  • Nikola Sainovic, Yugoslav Deputy Prime Minister, guilty on all counts, sentenced to 22 years in prison.
  • Dragoljub Ojdanic, Chief of General Staff of the VJ, guilty to two counts, sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • Nebojsa Pavkovic, commander of Third Army, guilty on all counts, sentenced to 22 years in prison.
  • Vladimir Lazarevic, commander of the Pristina Corps VJ, guilty of two counts, sentenced to 15 years in prison.
  • Sreten Lukic, Chief of Staff of the Serbian police, guilty on all counts, sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Nikola Sainovic, Nebojsa Pavkovic and Sreten Lukic were convicted as members of the joint criminal enterprise, while others are convicted of aiding and abetting crimes.[27]

In Serbia, Serb policemen who fought ethnic Albanians in Kosovo are still revered by many as war heroes.[40][58]

Domestic trials

The democratic leadership of Serbia recognized the need to investigate Serbian war crimes after the fall of Slobodan Milošević, and a special war crimes tribunal was founded in Belgrade in 2003, after the Parliament of Serbia passed the Law on Organization and Competence of State Bodies in the Proceedings Against War Crimes Perpetrators.[59] Since then, the special prosecutor has prosecuted and the court has convicted several individuals for instances of war crimes, also committed under the command of the Serbian Ministry of Internal Affairs and other state agencies.[60][61]

Post-war developments

War crime denials

In Serbia, many people still deny war crimes committed by Serbia or Serbs.[62] The policy of war crime denials is implemented through the Serbian educational system that teaches schoolchildren about crimes committed against Serbs, but not about crimes committed by Serbs.[62][when?] Some public figures who are known for speaking openly about crimes committed by Serbs are labeled as a "traitors".[62]

Bosnian War

Denial of the Srebrenica genocide takes many forms. The methods range from the brutal to the deceitful. Denial is present most strongly in political discourse, in the media, in the sphere of law, and in the educational system.[63]

Despite the ICTY's finding, confirmed by the ICJ, a range of alternative views of the Srebrenica massacre exist, most of which argue that fewer than 8,000 were killed and/or that most of those killed died in battle rather than by execution.

According to Human Rights Watch, the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party "launched an aggressive campaign to prove that Muslims had committed crimes against thousands of Serbs in the area", which "was intended to diminish the significance of the July 1995 crime".[64] The ICTY Office of the Prosecutor noted that the number of Serb deaths in the region alleged by the Serbian authorities had increased from 1400 to 3500, a figure the Prosecutor stated "[does] not reflect the reality".[65] Personal details were only available for 624 victims.[65] The validity of labeling some of the casualties as "victims" is also contested[65] — studies have found a significant majority of military casualties compared to civilian casualties.[66] Nevertheless the event continues to be cited by Serb sources as the key example of heinous crimes committed by Bosniak forces around Srebrenica.[64]

Kosovo War

The Serbian police denied Drenica massacres in February–March 1998 and claimed they were just pursuing "terrorists" who had attacked the police. A police spokesman denied the "lies and inventions" about indiscriminate attacks and excessive force and said "the police has never resorted to such methods and never will."[67] Belgrade government also denied responsibility for Vučitrn and Gornje Obrinje massacre on 26 September 1998.[68] President Slobodan Milosevic has denied a policy of ethnic cleansing during the NATO bombing in Kosovo 1999,[69] but the Court latter found that Serbian state conducted systematic campaign of terror and violence against Kosovo Albanians in order to expel them from Kosovo.[27][70]

Domestic situation

Many Croats of Serbia suffered a pattern of persecution during the Yugoslav Wars, escalating with the 1992 expulsions in Hrtkovci for which Vojislav Šešelj was charged by the ICTY.[71]

The high number of casualties incurred in the Battle of Vukovar caused serious popular discontent in Serbia and Montenegro, where tens of thousands of those receiving draft papers went into hiding or left the country. A near-mutiny broke out in some reservist units, and mass demonstrations against the war were held in the Serbian towns of Valjevo, Čačak and Kragujevac. In one famous incident, a tank driver named Vladimir Živković drove his tank all the way from the front line at Vukovar to the federal parliament in Belgrade. Many Serbs simply did not identify with the Croatian Serb cause and were unwilling to see their lives, or those of their children, sacrificed at Vukovar.[72]

Controversy involving Serbia issuing unfounded indictments

Following the end of Yugoslav Wars, Serbian war crimes court sparked controversy on at least four occasions after issuing indictments and arrest warrants against non-Serbs that were later found to be entirely unfounded. These indictments against foreign citizens of Serbia are perceived by some as key to redressing the "aggressor-victim" balance in the wars.[73]

  • Hasan Morina - a Kosovo Albanian, accused by the prosecutor's office of war crimes against Serbs, was acquitted of all charges by a court and released from detention.[74]
  • Ejup Ganić - Bosniak member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina during the Bosnian War. On 1 March 2010, Ganić was arrested on Heathrow Airport in London after Serbian judicial authorities issued an extradition warrant against him for alleged war crimes against Serbs. Judge Timothy Workman, however, decided that Ganić should be immediately released because Serbia's request lacked "any serious evidence". In his decision, he also said that Serbia's request "[was] being used for political purposes, and as such amounts to an abuse of the process of this court".[75]
  • Tihomir Purda - a former Croat soldier who defended Vukovar during the battle of Vukovar the 87-day siege of the city in 1991. In February 2011, he was detained on the Bosnian border because Serbia issued an extradition warrant against him for alleged war crimes against Serb soldiers in Vukovar. Serbia's indictment was based on the time when Purda was in the Begejci camp and Sremska Mitrovica camp and was forced to sign a statement admitting the crimes. Purda however denied any wrongdoing and told the judges in Bosnia that his confession in Serbia was made under torture.[76] After Deputy war crimes prosecutor Bruno Vekarić subsequently interviewed 44 witnesses both in Serbia and Croatia, the investigation did not find a single witness who burdened Purda. The indictment against him was thus dropped in March.[77]
  • Jovan Divjak - a Bosnian general in the Bosnian army during the Bosnian War. On 3 March 2011, he was detained in Vienna because Serbia issued an extradition warrant against him for alleged war crimes against Serb in the 1992 Yugoslav People's Army column incident in Sarajevo.[78][79] After an almost four month review of evidence, the Austrian authorities rejected Serbia's extradition request due to lack of proof. He too was released and returned to Sarajevo on 29 July 2011.[80]

Controversy involving PTSD

A study conducted in the Greater Toronto Area, involving the University of Toronto, regarding Posttraumatic stress disorder, found symptoms of PTSD in 26.3% of Serbian children due to war-related stress or during the Kosovo Conflict.[81]

Displaced Serbs after the wars

At the conclusion of the wars in Bosnia and Croatia, numerous Serbs left those countries and moved to Serbia and Montenegro. By 1996, Serbia and Montenegro hosted about 300,000 registered refugees from Croatia and 250,000 from Bosnia and Herzegovina, while an additional 15,000 persons from Macedonia and Slovenia were also registered as refugees. The UNHCR registered 566,000 refugees from Croatia and Bosnia in Serbia and Montenegro. During the first half of 1996, more than 40,000 Bosnian Serbs arrived in the FRY. About three quarters had left suburbs of Sarajevo that were to fall under the control of the Bosnian Federation.[82] After the defeat in the Kosovo War, an additional 200,000 to 245,000 Serbs and Roma, Ashkali or Egyptian people fled into Serbia proper or within Kosovo,[83] fearing revenge,[84] amounting to about 700,000 displaced or refugees in that country.[85] One out of eleven people were refugees or displaced in Serbia by 1999. This made that country a host of one of the largest populations of displaced people in Europe.[86]

Military groups reported of committing war crimes

See also


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