By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
When Yugoslavia broke apart in 1992, political power plays led to mass killings. Murders of civilians in Nevesinje were the first of multiple acts of ethnic cleansing. Eight war criminals were recently arrested.
Police in Bosnia have arrested eight former members of the Bosnian Serb Army for war crimes related to their roles in a 1992 massacre of more than 100 Bosniaks early in the intense 1992-1995 conflict in the area. The victims of the former officers and soldiers taken into custody included newborn babies, women, and the elderly.
Most of the deceased were Muslims, part of an ethnic cleansing led by the Bosnian Serb Army’s political leader, Radovan Karadžić, with the support of ex-Serbian President Slobodan Milošević. In his video series America after the Cold War: The First 30 Years, Dr. Patrick N. Allitt, Cahoon Family Professor of American History at Emory University, details the conflict, from its origins until its conclusion in 1999.
A Fractured Yugoslavia
“The former country of Yugoslavia broke into six different miniature nations after the Cold War: Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia,” Dr. Allitt said. “The area contained a volatile combination of populations whose ethnic differences and ancient hatreds were intensified by a three-way religious division among Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Roman Catholics.”
In 1991, Slobodan Milošević attacked Croatia and Bosnia’s Muslim population in hopes of dominating the other nations in the area. After this, he began a genocide of Muslims, stoking fears of a new Holocaust. Initially, American Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton were reluctant to get involved. Doing so would come with no easy way out after the conflict, and both presidents believed the nearby European nations should shoulder the responsibility.
“Finally, Milošević’s mass murder of Muslims in the city of Srebrenica, a town supposedly under the protection of United Nations peacekeepers, prompted Clinton to agree to a NATO intervention,” Dr. Allitt said. “American air raids on Serbian communications forced Milošević to accept a cease-fire, followed by negotiations in Dayton, Ohio. Clinton’s secretary of state, Warren Christopher, presided.”
Richard Holbrooke, one of the United States’ most experienced diplomats, also sat in for the discussions. Holbrooke may have understood the complexity of the situation better than any other American. Eventually, these talks would become the Dayton Accords of 1995. They partitioned Bosnia-Herzegovina into Serb areas and Muslim-Croatian areas, ushering in a delicate peace. Unfortunately, this peace only lasted for two years.
Fool Me Once…
According to Dr. Allitt, in 1997, the ethnic Albanian population living in Kosovo rebelled against Milošević’s rule. Kosovo, just 225 miles south of Srebrenica, lies in southern Serbia just east of Montenegro. Milošević, who by then was the president of short-lived Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, responded with further atrocities against Kosovo, leading to the creation of nearly a million refugees.
“President Clinton’s new secretary of state, Madeline Albright, the first woman ever to hold the position, was the daughter of a Czech diplomat whose family had escaped from the Nazis in the late 1930s,” Dr. Allitt said. “More hawkish than her recent predecessors, she favored decisive action against Milošević.
“In 1999, American aircraft again bombed Serbian troops and headquarters, killing several thousand Serbians and forcing them to call off their campaign in Kosovo.”
Milošević surrendered unexpectedly and became the first sitting head of state to be charged with war crimes in connection to the Bosnian War, the Croatian War of Independence, and the Kosovo War. He died in prison in 2006 while on trial.
Perhaps, with the arrest of eight ex-Bosnian Serb Army members, the families of 100 victims of the Nesevinje slaughter will finally find some closure.