used without permission, for "fair use" only

5,000 Muslim Lives for Military Intervention

Dani, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Hercegovina, June 22 1998

Interview with Hakija Meholjic, president of Social Democratic Party for Srebrenica, by Hasan Hadzic

In your accusations of the state leadership, and particularly of President Izetbegovic, over a share of the Bosniak blame for the Srebrenica tragedy, the departure of the Srebrenica delegation to Sarajevo in September 1993 for talks on the fate of this enclave cannot be avoided?

The invitation came from President Izetbegovic. At a meeting of the municipal war presidency we designated the delegation for Sarajevo. We immediately had some premonition that big issues would be resolved there because it was the first time we were leaving Srebrenica and we were provided transport in two helicopters. We exited safely, yet ever since we had became a demilitarized zone not a single civilian or military delegation had come to us. It was envisaged that Naser Oric would be going also, but he did not want to go. We were transported in armored personnel carriers from Sarajevo airport to the Holiday Inn hotel. That was the time of the Bosniak Convention, where a decision was being made on the peace plan and the division of Bosnia. We were received there by President Izetbegovic, and immediately after the welcome he asked us: "What do you think about the swap of Srebrenica for Vogosca [a Sarajevo suburb]?" There was a silence for a while and then I said: "Mr. President, if this is a done thing, then you should not have invited us here, because we have to return and face the people and personally accept the burden of that decision."

So you rejected Izetbegovic's decision?

We rejected it without any discussion. Then he said: "You know, I was offered by Clinton in April 1993 (after the fall of Cerska and Konjevic Polje) that the Chetnik forces enter Srebrenica, carry out a slaughter of 5,000 Muslims, and then there will be a military intervention." Our delegation was composed of nine people, one among us was from Bratunac and unfortunately he is the only one not alive now, but all the others from the delegation are alive and can confirm this. Since the Convention had started the President entered to announce us, and when he did it all the present stood up and welcomed us with an applause as heroes. We had a request, in case the peace plan was accepted, that Srebrenica be provided a physical link with Tuzla and not with Gorazde. Therefore, we asked for Bratunac and Zvornik because a link across the desolate stretches and mountains did not suit us and we had never been linked to that area anyway. It was said the President would receive all delegations, but he accepted them all except ours.

Srebrenica Was Sold

Did you talk to someone else?

Then they somehow judged I was the toughest nut to crack, so Hazim Rancic, the then chief of the Tuzla police, told me it was the politicians' stance that I should stay behind for some seven days in order for us to discuss and agree on something. Then they would transport me by a helicopter to Zepa and I should then go on foot from Zepa to Srebrenica. I told them I was to go to Srebrenica because the people would think I did not want to return. I also told them if they really wanted it I would go to Zepa from Srebrenica if they would send a helicopter. Since the people there were already disappointed, during the trip back we decided not to tell the people we were offered a swap; otherwise they would understand it as if we were written off. I can say that, regardless of the mistakes, the municipal presidency was good and tried to work for the good of the people. We understood everything clearly. We connected that with the fact that nobody had organized us for defense since the ruling party surrendered Srebrenica in April 1992 without resistance. I had been asked then to surrender weapons because I had organized a unit of my own, but I had refused to do so. My most difficult moment was when at the departure from Sarajevo my colleague Adnan Karovic told me: "Hakija, you have been sold! Please, if Srebrenica does fall, kill my mother, I beg of you. Just do not let her fall into their hands!"

Even after the fall of Srebrenica in 1995 you had a chance to address President Izetbegovic?

I requested then that a state commission be formed to examine the responsibility of the international community, the President, the Army General Staff, the Second Army corps, our responsibility.... The people are missing, hey.... He (President Izetbegovic) asked me what I would achieve with that? Rasim Delic tried to say something, too, but nobody gave him a chance to speak. I did not interfere, but, generally, I have a very bad opinion about the majority of the General Staff members. Never in the history of wars had the people, "processed" by other armies, been appointed commanders. You spend five to six months in their prison, then you come through an exchange, and become a commander. On the second day after Srebrenica fell we heard on the radio in the woods Rasim Delic calling us to return as the situation in Srebrenica was normal. That provoked a total confusion.

You had another interesting meeting with the President?

That was immediately after the liberation of Vozuca. I was informed that the President was waiting in Kozlovac to talk to me. We went through the complete history of Srebrenica. I told him I was going to sue him when his power weakens. He asked me again what I was going to achieve with that. I told him again that an investigation must be conducted because the people were missing.... He then said: "You know, these investigations remind me of my own investigation." He meant the political one he had undergone [1983 trial of Izetbegovic]. I told him: "There is a difference there, hey, you are an individual, and there are no more people...."

One of the most puzzling personalities from Srebrenica is the commander Naser Oric. He has avoided speaking, and the others are divided in their opinion about him.

I have a normal relationship with Naser. I said that we should all be held responsible, but as they did not initiate anything that means Naser is not to blame for anything. All that must be proven. Naser knows a lot and I told him once he must have been given "something" to keep quiet. He laughed at that. I told him he would speak sooner or later. If he was guilty then that should have been proven and he should have been punished; if not, he should have been kept in the army or police.... They left the man on the street and now they say he deals with this or that. Well, he has to do something. Alija is giving up the people. He is getting rid of the greatest commanders and fighters.

The Role of Ibran Mustafic

An interesting individual in the Srebrenica story, both the wartime and the postwar one, is Ibran Mustafic. He has accused everybody else for the tragedy, yet he is being reproached for rescuing himself through Serb contacts. Then he founded a new party, after which the authorities denounced him, and then the authorities sent him to suppress the revolt of the Srebrenica women. What kind of conclusion should one draw from all that?

As a deputy of the SDA [Party of Democratic Action] Ibran was a "hawk" in the prewar assembly. He was not in Srebrenica in the beginning of the war because he was in Sarajevo. When we advanced well, despite all our internal disputes, suddenly Ibran came, somewhere from the woods.... Then he started spreading stories that our army was not good, so bit by bit there was a split among the soldiers. He wanted power again, so the SDA split into two camps. One evening someone attacked him, Hamed Salihovic and Hamed Efendic. Salihovic was killed then. Ibran was wounded and transported to the hospital. I was the police chief then and we wanted to carry out an inquiry. But Ibran and Hamed, as eye-witnesses, did not want to give a statement. Then there was a session of the municipal assembly at which Ibran asked to be given a radio set to talk to Momcilo Krajisnik so that Krajisnik could take him out of Srebrenica. Naturally, he was not allowed to do that. I connected these facts only later. Ibran came to "wreck" Srebrenica while we advanced as that did not suit someone's plan, and I assume that was the SDA's plan. When Srebrenica fell he went straight to Potocari instead of going with all of us through the forest. It is difficult to explain how he managed to get out while the others were killed. Later he gave statements in Bijeljina that we killed one another. Many people who did not have any clue as to what the SDA was were killed, yet he went out and arrived in Sarajevo.

Then again in 1996 Alija invited us to a meeting in the SDA main office where Ibran stood up and recited a poem: "Alija, without you the Sun will not shine, without you there will be darkness." And he cried at the same time. Ibran is the President's man. He openly tells the people not to return to Srebrenica, and the women who are content are on his side. Those are the women who receive good money from the SDA in order not to go there, since it is better for them to talk hot air and halt the traffic here. All that is a scenario. Srebrenica was first glorified, then mourned, and, in the end, made odious by taking people to the streets. The goal of the authorities is to discredit us in the face of other citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina so that they say we are savages and that the authorities should do to us what they have been doing.

What is the position of your minister, Adib Djozic?

Before the war Adib Djozic spoke on the Srebrenica radio station protecting Goran Zekic, a Chetnik leader, who we had denounced as an organizer of Chetnik training. Upon his arrival to Tuzla in the beginning of the war Djozic presented himself as a founder of the SDA, organizer of the uprising, and the like. The best illustration of what kind of person he is, is one detail regarding the petition that thousands of Srebrenica people signed against him. He then came to the premises of the Srebrenica municipality in Tuzla and said: "Dear people, I was called by President Izetbegovic, who asked me if I could 'wreck' Srebrenica, and if I could, then I would be a minister. I promised I could." That took place in front of a large number of witnesses.

You are now in the SDP [Social Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina] and in that political framework you have been trying to do something for the return of refugees. How does it go?

I have a reason to trust the people like Bogic Bogicevic, Nijaz Durakovic, Zlatko Lagumdzija, Mirsad Djapo, and many others. They have proved that they are most sincerely for Bosnia-Herzegovina as a normal state. For me, Bosnia-Herzegovina without my Srebrenica does not exist and my biggest goal in life is to return. The current authorities have shown thousand of times so far that they do not want that.