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Seven arrested on suspicion of war crimes in Bosnia

25th Feb 2022

Harun Nasrullah

Seven former members of the Bosnian Serb police were arrested on suspicion of massacring ethnic Muslim Bosniaks, including children in 1992 in Balatun, in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The group was apprehended by police officers with the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) on December 3, 2019, in the areas of the eastern towns of Bijeljina and Sokolac, a statement by the Bosnian security agency said.

Bosnia’s prosecutors said those arrested are suspected of the execution-style killing of 22 Muslim civilians, in an eastern Bosnian village during the conflict.
Among those arrested are people accused of directly participating in the executions of the victims.

One of those arrested was Goran Šarić, former commander of a Bosnian Serb police special brigade, who has previously been acquitted in two separate cases at the Bosnian state court of involvement in the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and of participating in war crimes in Sarajevo in 1992.

Šarić was acquitted in 2018 of assisting members of a joint criminal enterprise responsible for committing genocide against Muslims from Srebrenica, as well as ordering and controlling his deputy Ljubomir Borovćanin, convicted by the Hague Tribunal of crimes committed in Srebrenica.

The other men who were arrested are Zivan Miljanović, Deputy Commander of the Public Security Station in Bijeljina; Stevo Bokarić, a State Security Service operative in Bijeljina; Jovica Petrović and Mirko Simić of the Public Security Station in Bijeljina, and Ljubo Marković and Slavenko Kocević, members of a Bosnian Serb police special unit known as the Pahuljice (Snowflakes).

Speaking to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Jusuf Trbić, a journalist from Bijeljina who survived torture by Bosnian Serbs in 1992 recalls: “On the night of September 23, Pahuljice came to Bijeljina, 22 members of the Sarajlić, Sejmenović and Malagić families were taken out of their homes and marched to the banks of the Drina River and executed.

Among the dead were eight women, four of whom were over the age 60 and seven children, youngest was six years old.”

Fifteen of the bodies were found in neighbouring Serbia, in cemeteries in Sremska Mitrovica, Sabac and Belgrade. Trbic said that it is not clear to him why it took three decades for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

“The murdered people and pictures from Bijeljina, including photos of Ron Haviv, have travelled the world and no one has used it to do anything so far.” He has published the names of the perpetrators in his book Masters of Darkness in 2007, and he says that since then, whoever wanted to, could find out about the participants in this crime.

“We asked many times, insisted in various ways, sent urgencies, requests, etc, that case moved from one drawer to another in the Prosecutor’s Office and no one wanted to do that. Probably the reason is that the order for that crime came from the very top.

Namely, ‘Pahuljice’ was commanded by Mićo Stanišić, the then Minister of Police and his Deputy Tomo Kovač, and, of course, Radovan Karadžić at the top of that pyramid “, says Trbić for RFE.

Lawyer Duško Tomić, who has pursued prosecution of the perpetrators for years, says that the murder of children was a tragedy that was covered up at every turn.

“Nothing will be the same in Bijeljina anymore. The whole of Bijeljina should follow the trial, and I will try to make that trial public so that the planet can be a witness,” said Tomić.

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