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Blueprint for genocide: the destruction of Muslims in Eastern Bosnia

The Six Strategic Objectives could be considered as the Bosnian Genocide’s Wannsee Conference. The only difference is that the participants of this Assembly are still active as politicians in modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina. 

A copy of the Six Strategic Objectives of the Serbian people in Bosnia and HerzegovinaThe atmosphere in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the start of 1992 was quite tense. The Serb Democratic Party headed by Radovan Karadžić was already being armed and plans for creating an ethnically pure Serb state were well under way.

The Bosnian Serbs had already created their own assembly made up of Serb politicians, established the Autonomous Region of Krajina – a semi-state consisting of municipalities in the Krajina region of Bosnia – as well as the Serb Autonomous Regions of Romanije, Birač and Herzegovina, collectively known as “Republika Srpska”. As soon as Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence on 1 March 1992, barricades popped up all over the country.

The Serbs demanded the separation of municipalities, the creation of parallel institutions and that these Autonomous Regions remain in Yugoslavia. In April, Serb Special Forces, named “The Tigers” and  “The White Eagles” attacked, along with the regular Yugoslav People’s Army, the border towns of Zvornik, Bijelina and Višegrad. The war had officially started.

The intellectuals and elites were targeted first. Hundreds were executed, and thousands expelled from their homes, left to seek refuge in Bosnian Government-controlled areas. The Bosnian Serbs were shocked by the amount of unexpected resistance especially after the Bosnian Serb Army’s failure to take control of the Presidency building in Sarajevo on 2 May 1992.

As the war already seemed to be lasting longer than had previously been assumed, on 12 May, the 16th session of the assembly of the-then ‘Serbian Republic of B&H’ was held in Banja Luka, the largest city in the RS. There was a long discussion on how and what should be done to bring about a Serb victory.

The President of the Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadžić then announced the strategic goals of the Serb people in Bosnia and Herzegovina. These goals were adopted by the Serb Assembly and became the official policy of Republika Srpska throughout the war:

“The Six Strategic Goals of the Serbian Nation

1. State delineation from the other two national communities.

2. The establishment of a corridor between Semberia and Krajina.

3. The establishment of a corridor in the valley of the Drina River, meaning the elimination of the Drina as a border between the two Serb states.

4. The Establishment of a border on the rivers of the Una and Neretva.

5. The Division of the city of Sarajevo into Serb and Muslim parts, and the establishment of a state authority in each part.

6. Creation of an outlet for Republika Srpska to the sea.”[1]   

The first strategic goal was the separation of the Serb community from the Muslim and Croats communities, leading to the creation of an ethnically ‘clean’ Serb state on Bosnian territory. The second strategic goal would create to a territorial connection between the Republika Srpska Krajina (the Serb republic in Croatia which was militarily defeated in 1995) and Yugoslavia (which by then, comprised only of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro)

The third strategic goal, was well defined by Radovan Karadžić during his speech in assembly:

"We are on both sides of the Drina and our strategic interest and our living space are there. We now see a possibility for some Muslim municipalities to be set up along the Drina as enclaves, in order for them to achieve their rights, but that belt along the Drina must basically belong to Serbian Bosnia and Herzegovina. As much as it is strategically useful for us in a positive way, it helps us by damaging the interests of our enemy in establishing a corridor which would connect them to the ‘Muslim International’ [Official Serb propaganda portrayed Bosniaks as fundamentalist who wish to establish a Muslim state and connect with the other Muslims in the Balkans so-called “Green Transversal”] and render this area permanently unstable."[2]

In the Trial Chamber judgement of Zdravko Tolimir in which he was found guilty of genocide in Srebrenica and Žepa, it was found that the policy of forcibly removing the Bosniaks of Eastern Bosnia was laid out within the Six Strategic Objectives on 12th May 1992. Tolimir, an Assistant Commander of Intelligence and Security for the Bosnian Serb Army, was convicted in 2012, on six counts: genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, extermination, murder, persecution on ethnic grounds and forced transfer. The Chamber sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The Six Strategic Objectives were the starting points which shaped the rest of the war. The most horrible crimes were committed after these objectives were adopted by the Serb Assembly. They were later further elaborated upon and ‘upgraded’ by Directive 4 and finally Directive 7, issued by Republika Srpska President Radovan Karažić to the Bosnian Serb Army several weeks before both Srebrenica and Žepa fell. Directive 7 of 8 March 1995 issued the following commands to the Drina Corps of the Republika Srpska Army:

“As many enemy forces as possible should be tied down by diversionary and active combat operations on the N/W part of the front, using operational and tactical camouflage measures, while in the direction of the Srebrenica and Žepa enclaves complete physical separation of Srebrenica from Žepa should be carried out as soon as possible, preventing even communication between individuals in the two enclaves. By planned and well-thought out combat operations, create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica and Žepa.” [3]

This year we mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide against the Bosniaks of Srebrenica and Eastern Bosnia. The crimes in and around Srebrenica are mostly narrowed down to a couple of days in July 1995, though in reality they began much earlier in 1992, soon after Karadzic announced his goals. We tend to forget that in order to commit such a widespread and horrible crime such as this, it is necessary to have political and military intent to destroy a group - in whole or in part.

The Six Strategic Objectives demonstrate amongst other things, the intent to eliminate those Bosniaks of Eastern Bosnia living along the Drina valley. The 16th session of the Assembly of the Serbian Republic of B&H could be considered as the Bosnian Genocide’s Wannsee Conference. The only difference is that the participants of this Assembly are still active as politicians in modern-day Bosnia and Herzegovina.  

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[1] Lara J. Nettelfield, Courting Democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambridge University Press, p. 68

[2] Krajisnik Trial Transcript, ICTY,  13 June 2006,  http://www.ictytranscripts.org/trials/krajisnik/060613IT.htm

[3] Popovic Trial Transcript, ICTY, 17 November 2008, http://www.icty.org/x/cases/popovic/trans/en/081117IT.htm

About the author

Hikmet Karcic is a human rights activist based in Sarajevo, author of 'An Appeal for Truth' and Researcher at Institute for Islamic Tradition of Bosniaks.


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