[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 10 December, 2004, 14:46 GMT
Bosnian Serbs voice grievances
Bosnian Serb police
Bosnian Serb police have not caught the top fugitives
From January, the burden of bringing Balkan war criminals to justice will shift to local courts in Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia - potentially thousands of cases.

Already in the Republika Srpska - the Serb-dominated area of Bosnia-Hercegovina - the police are in search of those accused of atrocities, with recent newspaper reports of eight men arrested on suspicion of war crimes.

Most of those facing the international war crimes tribunal in The Hague are Bosnian Serbs. This has led many Serbs to say their whole nation is on trial.

But at the same time, some who have already been tried in The Hague and served their sentences are now returning home - and they are unrepentant.

"Everyone has to have justice - but justice doesn't exist," Miroslav Tadic, released last month after serving three years of a five-year sentence, told BBC World Service's Assignment programme.

"That's the problem. Through my experience, I can't see how the right people will be brought to justice."

'Big political ambitions'

Tadic was found guilty of driving non-Serbs from his town in northern Bosnia.

Banja Luka
We've been here for 1,000 years, suffering for Christianity and for western civilisation
Andjelko Grahovac
Banja Luka politician

He claims he was performing "humanitarian" work, and that there was no plan to move non-Serbs from the area in order to link one majority Serb community with another.

"There was no plan for this - we're not talking about forcing people to leave," he said.

"You couldn't put anyone on a list who didn't want to go."

In Banja Luka, de facto capital of the Republika Srpska, the sentiments of local politician Andjelko Grahovac remain the same as 13 years ago, when he first outlined plans to remove all non-Serbs.

He told Assignment he was happy with the post-war make-up of Banja Luka - but not with the rest of the Republika Srpska.

"Talking about the settlement of Serb people, we are quite satisfied - especially in this area," he said.

"But it's extraordinarily little in comparison with what we wanted."

He added that in 1991 they had "big political ambitions" but these had become "unrealistic."

"The Serb people deserve our own state," he maintained.

"We've been here for 1,000 years, suffering for Christianity and for western civilisation."

But not all those directly involved in the dark recent past of this part of the world hold such strong views.

Notorious camp

Predrag Banovic
Predrag Banovic: Jailed for eight years in October 2003
On the edge of Prijedor, a town in north-west Bosnia, is a nondescript factory for bathroom tiles, which once housed one of the camps that Bosnian Muslims and Croats were sent to in 1992.

In three months that year, nearly 2,000 Muslim and Croat men died in detention camps in this area. One of the most notorious is Keraterm.

Recent prosecutions at The Hague relating to Keraterm include:

  • Guard Predrag Banovic, convicted of crimes against humanity

  • Bosnian Serb propagandist Radoslav Brdjanin, convicted, amongst other things, of providing "moral encouragement and support" to military and police running the camp - as well as ones at Omarska and Trnopolje

  • Dragan Kolundzija, a former prison guard found guilty of crimes against humanity, and who has served a three-year sentence.

Kolundzija said the camp guards had felt "much closer to robots that human beings".

"We were all doing things that were not connected to our true selves," he added.

"We didn't fear our superiors, we just feared those who caused the problems - people from outside.

"They had guns and they could kill your friends, without anyone knowing you'd done it."

Kolundzija said that the guards were unable to do more because they feared the consequences.

"It was a time of chaos. The role of the guards was extraordinarily unpleasant, and no-one wants to talk about this today.

"We guards were never clear where we were, which side we were on."

He maintained that he had tried to prevent deaths at the camp when on shift.

'A dark, black night'

But on one night, military trucks rolled into Keraterm. More than 200 people were locked in a warehouse and gunned down by guards who shot through the doors. More than 150 people were killed.

Bosnian Muslims in refugee camp
TV footage of camps in north Bosnia shocked the world
A former prisoner at the camp, Suad Varmaz - known as Duda - said that he had seen Kolundzija tell the army not to shoot, but his pleas had not been heeded.

Duda described the conditions at Keraterm as "catastrophic."

"The room I was in was about 120 metres square, and there were 400 of us in it.

"There were four rooms about the same size - altogether about 2,000 men, men from 15 to 90 years old."

Duda also said he still did not know the reason why they had been treated like this.

"Before the war we lived together," he said.

"It still doesn't make sense how overnight some people could become beasts."

Meanwhile Kolundzija argued that thousands of his own people had escaped justice.

"If you want individuals to face justice for all the problems in Bosnia, you can count on your fingers all the people who have been prosecuted," he said.

"When something like this happens and you're a witness, the only way to survive is not to think about what's happening.

"It was a dark, black night."

But among the mix of emotions in the Republika Srpska is forgiveness.

Mufti Edhem Camdzic, the spiritual leader of Bosnian Muslims in Banja Luka, pointed out that under the constitution each people must be recognised and given their own rights - but also called for reconciliation.

"It's natural people should regret what they did, which was bad, or be proud of what they did, which was good," he said.

"Justice will spring like a fountain in humans. You just can't stop it."

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific