"It Seems It Is Dangerous To Even Talk About My Vlado..."
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, March 23, 2000
After March 8, 1995, when her husband disappeared, Jagoda Santic was asked questions for at least one day. Or, later they would ask others about the uncertain fate of HVO General Vlado Santic, the founder of the Bihac branch of HDZ, and together with General Ramiz Drakovic the founder of the 502nd Croat-Muslim Brigade and the founder of the HVO unit in Bihac.
"Last year my son Duje and I had a brief appearance in 'Motrista', a Croatian TV show. This year silence. No one. I expected that at least the War Veterans Association or the volunteers would say something. Nothing," says Jagoda. She adds: "Sometimes it seems to me that it is dangerous to even talk about my Vlado."
Five years after his disappearance, nothing is officially known about the fate of this HVO general. The only reliable information is that he was last time spotted, according to witnesses, being taken in the night between March 8 and 9 from his headquarters in "Sedro". There, in the hotel, the then commander of the 502nd Bihac Brigade, the recently appointed commander of the Federation Army (VF) Atif Dudakovic had thrown a party for his closest collaborators and their spouses.
About ten days ago, replying to our questions about the disappearance of Dr. Jasmin Merdzanic, a wartime chief of the First Corps medical service, who was last seen entering the hospital in Kiseljak, where he had brought a gravely wounded HVO soldier, General Vahid Karavelic told us that the Croatian side conditioned the return of the remains of Dr. Merdzanic by the return of the remains of General Vlado Santic.
Amor Masovic, the chef of the State Exchange Commission, told us that he guaranteed that no one from the "Croat side" had as much as mentioned General Santic for the last three years.
"That is not true," claims Jerko Radic, deputy chief of the Office for Exchanges based in western Mostar. He claims that as far as General Santic is concerned, everything has been tried "but a lot is tied in with that disappearance, even the top leaders of the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina... We are working and trying. Perhaps even we got a bit tired... The work we do is very hard... It is not easy to reach the truth..."
Our interlocutor said that they possessed a lot of documentation about the disappearance of General Santic "but all those stories are open ended. For example I cannot say that he was thrown in a lake if there is not evidence to back up that claim..."
Mr. Radic is also aware of the uncertain fate of Dr. Merdzanic. He claims that the information at the disposal of his office is insufficient to make any concrete conclusions. "The people here are inclined to making generalizations," adds our interlocutor. He says that in the war it is enough that one out of control fool shows up... Radic denies that the Croat side would keep the remains of Dr. Merdzanic if it knew where they are. "What am I going to do with someone's corpse? That used to be the practice in the past. Those times are behind us". Masovic told us that he had heard three versions regarding General Santic's disappearance. "According to one, the general was a victim of his fellow Croats, according to the second one of some suspicious channels, and according to the third of 'our men'".
Jagoda Santic todays lives in Zagreb with her son (27) and daughter (18), but the distance is not an obstacle for her. "I went everywhere. To Bihac, to Posusje, to Mostar and the only result is that I got no reliable information anywhere. I did not find out anything more than has already been published. And that is that a group of the Army of Bosnia-Hercegovina soldiers, including 'Tiger' Hamdija Baksic took my husband from 'Sedro'. I heard that they beat him up, even some commanders participated in that, and that is all that is known for sure. Mr. Izet Nanic, a wonderful man, did not participate in that. But he also died several days later... I was also very disturbed by his death..."
Jagoda claims that she tied many times to contact General Dudakovic. "We used to be close friends, visited each other, celebrated holidays together. That is why I was hurt when he refused to see both my son and me. I consider General Dudakovic, because he was the commander there, to be the most responsible person in all this. I believe that he is responsible for the disappearance of my husband..."
The last conversation Jagoda had with Vlado was two days before he disappeared. "He called to wish happy birthday to the daughter". Jagoda confirms that for that occasion her husband wanted to come to Zagreb, but when he showed up in front of a helicopter that was supposed to take him there, a soldier stopped him crying and saying that he had been ordered not to let him board the helicopter. According to another story that has found its way to Mrs. Jagoda Santic, when Santic returned to his headquarters in the center of Bihac, he phoned Dudakovic to ask him what was going on. Two days later about ten armed soldiers broke into Santic's office around midnight. He was taken away in their vehicle.
"His driver and bodyguard, obviously scared themselves, refused to tell me what happened after that. They only told me that they had had to return their weapons and that they had been released later. I do not understand anything," says Jagoda.
"My husband never complained about General Dudakovic. Dudakovic is for me a bad general... He did not complain even when Dudakovic hit him in front of many people, including foreign soldiers, after Vlado criticized him for attacking some Croat villages near Zadar while he was in the Yugoslav People's Army. But Vlado forgot about that and they still together participated in the liberation, in the fighting..." Jagoda says that she failed to find out anything from the persons who were somewhat later accused of killing General Santic, arrested and then released due to lack of evidence. What would she ask General Dudakovic if he received her?
"Only one question: where is my husband? And I know that he would most likely tell me the same story, that he was not in Bihac that night. That is what he told in an interview for a Croat magazine two years ago. That is simply not true. Everyone knows that..."
General Atif Dudakovic, from whom we wanted to hear his version of the Santic case, promised that he would grant us an interview later.
Unavoidable Touch of Evil
by Zija DIZDAREVIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, March 17, 2001
Pandora's box has been opened above the soil of the former Yugoslavia for two decades already. Currently the historically justified assertion that Macedonia is the soft underbelly of the Balkans is being tested. Macedonia has so far successfully avoided all provocations and its former president Kiro Gligorov should be credited for that. Columns of refugees leaving Macedonia clearly indicate what is going on there. Macedonia resisted greater-Serbian provocations partly thanks to the preoccupation of the creators and implementers of the project Greater Serbia in Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina. But, nevertheless, Macedonia is these days under so far strongest pressure of greater Albanian extremists. Albanian nationalists also waited for the Greater Serbian impetus to weaken in the aggression against Croatia and especially against Bosnia-Hercegovina. Distinguished Albanians who publicly said anything in condemnation of the aggression against Bosnia-Hercegovina and crimes committed there can be counted with the fingers of one hand. Had Kosovo Albanians risen then against the Serb extreme-nationalism, neither would have there been such slaughter in Bosnia-Hercegovina nor would Slobodan Milosevic resist for so long. Under the motivation of protection of Albanian population from the greater Serbian terror in Kosovo, about which there can be no doubt, as a justification for the final overthrow of Milosevic and his regime, the USA and Europe placed Kosovo and the local Albanians under special military and police protection. Milosevic is facing a trial, intra-Serb and Serb-Montenegrin political showdown is under way, and the Republic of Srpska is considered for a promising achievement of the Greater Serbian idea and the key trump card in the settling of (inter)national and (inter)state accounts in the territory of the former Yugoslavia. The tragic break up of the former Yugoslavia, whose reputation and authority under Tito's rule was far above her true power, was without any doubt motivated by anachronistic (greater)nationalist claims. But nothing would have happened in this region without the decisive role of the outside factors. The international support for an attempt to economically and politically transform the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) into a democratic country that would through political and economic reforms gradually draw nearer to the European and trans-Atlantic integrative processes was lacking. And those who within the country were the loudest supporters of such a transformation of SFRY (Slovenia, and later also Croatia) were in practice against that, fanning the flames of Greater Serbian nationalism and a morbid symbiosis of Chetniks and a large part of the Serb-Montenegrin leadership of the Yugoslav People's Army, all for the sake of the achievement of dreams about their own independent states. Those yearnings of Slovenia and Croatia were from the start supported by Germany and the Vatican. The ideological aversion of the West with respect to Communists and socialism and diverse imperial interests of the great powers significantly contributed to the ideological and armed reaffirmation of Nazism and Fascism in this region, by turning Chetniks, Ustashe and religious nationalism into legitimate political factors. At the same time distaste towards Islam on the other hand would increase the dimension of the suffering of Bosniaks and Bosnia-Hercegovina. International authorities are directly responsible for the raging of Greater Serbian chauvinism, and later of the Greater Croatian nationalism. In spite of that tragic experience NATO has cleared space for the Greater Albanian rage. Just as in the case of the expansion of the Serb and Croat hegemonism, under the mask of sacred national interests, now a criminal political-militaristic structure that imposes its interests is being created. That is why weapons smuggling and drugs and people trafficking have been tied with the Albanian guerrillas for years. Thousands of Albanian women have been exported as white slaves. Profitable mafia links have been established between groups that are supposed to be mutual enemies. And all that with international presence. In such a context the demand of the European Union to Macedonia for full respect of political and cultural rights of ethnic Albanians there sounds simply cynical. Those whose rights are supposedly endangered are shooting at Macedonia. Macedonia is in the situation that she is being offered assistance in the struggle against Albanian extremists by countries that historically have claims on the Macedonian territory, Bulgaria and Greece, and the unavoidable Serbia. The song "Yugoslavia from the Vardar river [in Macedonia] to the Triglav mountain [in Slovenia]" has for more than a decade been substituted by the sounds of war from Slovenia (where it was almost comical), all the way to Macedonia. At the same time, Greater Serbian and Greater Croatian nationalist are regrouping in hope that the new destabilization will offer a new chance for them. The time in which above all the character of the foreign policy of the George W. Bush [sic] administration will be tested is coming. The USA bears major responsibility for the solution of the Albanian national question. The Albanians already have an ethnically clean state, in Kosovo another autonomous Albanian entity has been created, and now a third one is being created in Macedonia. When will they have enough?
by Dr. Slavo KUKIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, April 10, 2001
Last week, the biggest contribution to the heightened political tensions again came from the local HDZ. Political analysts were thereby served more material for analytical assessments and projections of future events. Many would expect the same approach from this analysis. To their regret I do not feel a personal need for something like that. There are several reasons for that. Political limping from last week is definitely not the last circus of that kind directed by the HDZ. On the contrary. It is very likely that the so far demonstrated destructive energy is not the peak of the political opposition to the unavoidable processes. On the other hand, however, I am inclined to believe that a lot has already been said about that. A day after the events in Hercegovina, the American ambassador in Bosnia-Hercegovina (BH) [Thomas Miller] stated that the illusion that the HDZ is perhaps a political party driven by political motives had been shattered. According to him, the style of this political party is the same as "that used by criminals and Mafia". The top representative of the international community in our country was equally harsh. According to him "well organized criminal structures that manipulate with uninformed citizens" are hiding behind the violence in Hercegovina. Consequently, he repeated his view that he is not prepared to hold talks with them. And not only that. To the world as well as the BH public he told that "organizers of these disturbances must be punished". I do not intend to act here like Racan's prostitute in the Croatian Parliament. Of course, I am referring to the deputy president of the Croatian Parliament [Dr. Zdravko Tomac], whose statements about BH, during the last month, totally disagree with the official policies of his party [SDP] and the state he represents. Only he knows why that is the case. Unfortunately for him, his behavior has raised quite a few eyebrows even in Hercegovina. However, my intellectual honesty does not allow me to ignore the other side of reality, to which, by the way, I have drawn attention several times so far. And without which it will be difficult to achieve peace in Bosnia. Of course, I am referring to the constituent character and equality of all three nations. I never bought the nonsense that without participation of the HDZ in the executive authorities there can be no equality for Croats. I have several times so far written that the formation of the executive authorities based on the currently valid legal rules is the matter for a majority in the parliament. And that majority, regardless of whether someone likes that or not, was secured after the November 2000 election by the Alliance for Changes. However, the seats in the Chamber of Nations, as an institution for the protection of national interests cannot be allocated based on the changes in the temporary election regulations and rules, and that much is clear. It would be human and honest to admit a mistake, but that is, naturally, difficult to do. However, I am convinced that the first man in the OSCE [Robert Barry] is aware that he made a mistake, even if he is not prepared to admit that in public. Because of that, I am inclined to believe that he will personally advocate such solutions in the permanent election law that will remove that mistake. Finally, the interpretation of the BH Constitution according to which three nations are constituent everywhere in BH, rather than only on a part of the territory of this country, has several times so far been assessed as an essential turnaround in the creation of the conditions for the return of people to their homes, as well as for the creation of the condition of the reintegration of BH state and society on the foundations of reaffirmation of coexistence and tolerance. Unfortunately, the proposed amendments and changes of the entity constitutions that are supposed to ensure that principle offer rather incomplete solutions. I am personally concerned by the attempts of the ruling mob in the Republic of Srpska to extend the old situation. It is clear that, in spite of all the interpretations of the BH Constitution, they will insist on the Republic of Srpska (RS) as a state of the Serb people. It is clear that they will do everything in their power to definitely elevate the Serb language and the Cyrillic alphabet to the level of the only official language and alphabet in that entity. Finally, it is clear why they are doing that. Besides, any visitor to this entity quickly looses all doubts. Even the signs welcoming visitors to the Republic of Srpska, posted everywhere, indicate that. There is no welcome to Bosnia-Hercegovina, even on border crossings. And that, then, indicates that BH is far away otherwise. However, even the traffic signs talk about that. If you do not know the Cyrillic alphabet, you are helpless. Which is not the case even in Serbia. But, nevertheless, I do not understand double standards of the international community in the process aligning entity constitutions with the BH Constitution. The proposals offered for the expert debate by the international working group do not indicate the desire to resolve the question of the constituent character of nations identically in the Federation BH and RS. Why? Some other solutions in that proposal also seem unfortunate to me. I am referring above all to the formula for the allocation of seats in the Federation BH House of Nations, although the proposed solution is better than the one from the November 2000 election regulations. Finally, I also dislike the offered solutions about the formation and structure of entity governments. It is true that governments are executive bodies and that the principle of ethnic parity and consensus should not apply to them. But the constitutional solutions should find a way to include the principle of ethnic balance. I think that that would be wise. Besides, time will show that I am right. Because BH is condemned to such solutions. Regardless of how crazy they may seem to all the experts of this world.
After Five years of Waiting
Welcome by Mayor of Rudo
by Sa. MUSTAJBEGOVIC
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, April 7, 2001
Yesterday, first returnees came back to the local commune Strogacina, Rudo Municipality. Columns of buses and cars that headed for Strogacina could fool the observers, as only about 40 of them will remain there. The reason is lack of tents and beds donated by the UNHCR. Returnees in Strogacina were given only six tents and five beds for each tent. "We shall take turns. About fourty people will stay here for the first eight days, and then they will be replaced by others," said Zulfo Svraka, the president of the Association of Refugees and Displaced persons from Rudo Municipality. Svraka explained that another problem is the lack of facilities necessary to maintain personal hygiene. However, he emphasized that they had waited for return for five years. A specific problem with the return to Strogacina was the barracks of the Army of the Republic of Srpska in the village, consisting of converted privately owned apartments. "It does not make sense that the soldiers are housed in this object as only about ten kilometers away there is an empty barracks of the Army of the Republic of Srpska," Svraka said. Namely, this object includes 16 apartments, owned by Bosniaks, and the barracks also includes a part of the local primary school. Above the barracks, there are about 12 houses that are cut off as long as the military stays in the barracks, and a ramp that cuts the road. A mosque, destroyed in the war, was also based at the some locale, while now only a gasulhana remains. However, it was obvious that the returnees were happy; many of them said that they felt reborn, even though right now they do not have any pledges of assistance in food or seed that would make their return sustainable. The mayor of Rudo, Milko Colakovic, visited and welcomed the returnees. "We shall try to help the returnees, but I must emphasize that Rudo is a poor municipality," Colakovic stated for Oslobodjenje.
When will Milan Lukic, commander of "White Eagles" in Visegrad, be arrested?
Lukic Murdered 410 Bosniaks and One Serb!
by Edina KAMENICA
Oslobodjenje, Sarajevo, Federation Bosnia-Hercegovina, B-H, March 22, 2001
Merjem (a fictitious name for a real person) was a high school junior [third year of high school, one before graduation] in Visegrad. She hadn't turned seventeen when the Uzice Corps arrived in N (we also cannot reveal the name of the village for obvious reasons). According to the 1991 census Visegrad had 21,199 residents at the time - 13,471 Bosniaks (63.54%), 6,743 Serbs (31.88%), 32 Croats (0.15%), and 319 Yugoslavs (1.5%) and 634 "others" (2.99%). Merjem testifies: "They took into custody and questioned only those they identified as extremists. They first set on fire M's house, and later, when they withdrew, they set a few other houses on fire. While the Corps was in N they said to us that no one was going to touch us while they were there, but that it would be dangerous once they left. And it turned out they were right... After several days, our neighbors, who were in the Territorial Defense, told us that we had to leave in fifteen minutes or they would slaughter us. We were expelled from the village by Momir Savic, Dragan Savic, Petar Savic, Mirko Savic, Leka Tesevic, Milomir Tesevic, and Zeljko from the village of P whose surname I do not recall. Some of the neighbors escaped through the forest, and we went to Visegrad. During our escape Momir Savic and his gang killed and mutilated Safet Omerovic as well as a few others who could not run. And we were in Visegrad, in an apartment, until they evicted us from there by force. By the way, the apartment was owned by a Muslim who went missing during the withdrawal of the Uzice Corps. Later I heard on the radio that he had been slaughtered."
He Cheated, Then Killed
Merjem, her mother and sister were then taken in by two women they had vaguely known from earlier. "I remember well. On June 9 a soldier came to our apartment, asked us various questions and on departure he told us to write our names on the door. Later we found out that he was Milan Lukic. The very same day three men were taken from our buildings. They say that all three were killed by Lukic." Therefore, after the Uzice Corps of the former Yugoslav People's Army "prepared the terrain" for a SDS takeover of local authorities, after which this Corps pulled back, the top Serb officials (and not only them, but we shall write about that on another occasion) called on Bosniaks who had escaped to the Gorazde Municiaplity in front of the Yugoslav People's Army troops to return to Visegrad. All of them were guaranteed safety! All of that is followed by a strong media campaign and Bosniaks returned, many only to save their property. They were welcomed by "White Eagles". Merjem continues: "Milan Lukic again came around noon with another soldier and told me N and N (names known to the author) to get ready. We were supposedly going to identify some youths who refused to give their names." The other two girls were also underaged. One of them was a year younger and the other one a year older than Merjem. "They drove us to the spa Vilina Vlas and put us in a room, and soon another two soldiers came to get the other two girls. I hadn't seen one of them before, and I do not know the other soldier's name, but I do know that he is from Visegrad. Lukic told them to question the girls but to make sure they did not overdo it. Then he laughed. I was left alone until Lukic came back, locked the door and placed a table against the door. He asked me what my father's profession was, who in the village had weapons... I responded that all the weapons had been turned in to the authorities. He then took off his clothes, ordered me to take off mine and to lie down. I obeyed and he got close to me and tried to rape me. I started screaming, I defended myself. He said that if I did not behave he would bring ten 'little eagles' to quarter me, that's exactly what he said. He said that he could have killed me had he wanted, that I could have ended up in a ravine or in the Drina river, but that I was lucky that I belonged to him. I stopped screaming and then he did to me what he would do to a man."
Founder of "White Eagles"
Milan Lukic, the son of Mile, was born on September 6, 1967 in Foca. Until 1985 he lived in the village of Ruiste, Visegrad Municipality, and then until 1992 in Obrenovac. As soon as he returned to Visegrad he founded a unit named "White Eagles". His cousin Sredoje Lukic and Mitar Vasiljevic were in the unit, under Lukic's command. Milan Lukic, Sredoje Lukic and Mitar Vasiljevic were in 2000 indicted by the Hague Tribunal for crimes against civilian population. "In the evening, actually it was already dawn, at about 3am I heard intermittent female cries. After that I heard a door being unlocked, as two girls were screaming and crying. Based on their voices I guessed that they were the two girls with whom I had been brought there. A bit later someone slammed at the door. There were three men outside and they insisted that Milan let them in. He opened the door and they left. I only know that one of them had a nickname Montenegrin. Later I found out that they had picked up more girls in the district of Bikavac. I do not know their names... The next morning, at about 11am, Milan Lukic again came and took me home. I asked him what had happened with the other two girls and he said that they had been taken to Zupa or Zepa, I do not remember, to be exchanged." No one has ever again seen those girls. "While we then passed through the hallways of the hotel, I could see inside the rooms as all the doors were open. All of the rooms were empty. There were only two soldiers at the reception." After her return from Vilina Vlas, Merjem found shelter with her mother and sister in a house "because Risto Perisic was looking for me. He said I should report to the Police station, so that he could supposedly question me. We hid until June 20, when all Muslims were ordered to leave Visegrad. On that day, a lot of people gathered near the fire station. I got on a truck at about 8 in the morning. I hid between the people because I saw Milan Lukic with other Chetniks in front of the station. We reached Kaljina in the truck and then moved into a bus." In a written statement, given immediately after the arrival in the free territory, Merjem also stated the following: "Besides Lukic, other men participated in the collection and taking away of girls. Among them were Dusko Andric, a former policeman and now one of the chief terrorists, Risto Perisic, a former high school teacher in the high school 'Hamid Becirevic' and now the Serb police chief in Visegrad. Regarding Momir Savic, Dragan Savic, Petar Savic, Mirko Savic, Leko Tesevic, Milomir Tesevic, I can tell you that they are bums who haven't done anything worthwhile in their whole life and who saw in the war a chance to kill, maltreate and take away civilians". According to so far unchecked data Milan Lukic together with the members of his unit killed between mid-May 1992 until the end of 1995 410 Bosniaks and one Serb, because he was helping Muslims. Unfortunately, we do not know the name of that Serb.
They Burnt Mosques
The commander and his "little eagles" in early June 1992 set on fire, and immediately afterwards demolished mosques in Visegrad, near the bridge on the Rzav river and the one in Tito's St. It is also known that Lukic closely collaborated with Dusko Kornjaca, a member of the top SDS leadership during the aggression, but (this is also known for sure) he also collaborated with the Serbian Secret Service. Merjem knows the names of two girls who were like her taken away and brought back, as well as the names of six girls that are today classified as missing. It is claimed that Milan Lukic is responsible for the execution of 19 passengers abducted from the train in Strpci. Having in mind that until recently Lukic lived in Serbia and that Sreten Lukic is his relative, according to Slobodna Bosna, the Government of Serbia appointed him last year for the main chief in the arrests of criminals and war crimes suspects. It would be interesting to find out why Sreten Lukic does not start by arresting his cousin Milan! Merjem will be a terrific witness in court. When? Milan Lukic is, they say, now in Visegrad. Is our source who claims that together with Lukic, among accomplices, as murderers, we shall soon see in front of the Hague Tribunal murderers of the family Klapuh, Radomir Kovac and Zoran Vukovic, right?
Translated on June 13, 2001