Operations Krivaja '95 and Stupčanica '95


Operations Krivaja '95 and Stupčanica '95
Operations Krivaja 95 and Stupčanica 95
Part of the Bosnian War
Srebrenica massacre map.jpg
Serbian forces capturing Srebrenica
Date July 6, 1995 - July 25, 1995
Location Srebrenica and Žepa
Result Decisive Bosnian Serb Army victory
1995 NATO bombing campaign
Belligerents
Republika Srpska Army of Republika Srpska Bosnia and Herzegovina Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Indirect participation:
Netherlands Netherlands
Ukraine Ukraine
Commanders and leaders
Republika Srpska Ratko Mladić
Republika Srpska Radislav Krstić
Republika Srpska Milorad Pelemiš
Bosnia and Herzegovina Ramiz Bećirović
Bosnia and Herzegovina Ejub Golić
Bosnia and Herzegovina Avdo Palić
Bosnia and Herzegovina Naser Orić
Netherlands Thom Karremans
Strength
Republika Srpska 9,450 soldiers
300 mercenaries
10 tanks
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3,000 soldiers (Srebrenica)[citation needed]
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1,500 soldiers (Žepa)
Netherlands 370 peacemakers and 2 F-16
Ukraine 79 peacemakers
Casualties and losses
More than 50 dead
more than 150 injured
2 padded tank
less than 2,000 dead
35,632 and 12000 evacuees
800 refugees[1]
750 and 1,500 POW

Operations Krivaja 95 and Stupčanica 95 (Serbian: Операције Криваја 95 и Ступчаница 95) are code names of military operations launched by Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) against Bosnian Muslims in UN enclaves of Srebrenica and Žepa. It was launched on July 6, 1995. The main excuse for the attack cited by the Serbs was alleged presence of more than 10,000 Bosnian Army (ARBiH) troops in the area.

Contents

Background

The command of the Drina Corps decided to launch the operation ordered by Main staff of VRS, and ordered forming of units that will participate in this operation under the codename Operation Krivaja 95. The goal was separating protected zone Srebrenica from protected zone Žepa. The task would be relatively easy to accomplish considering the UN named Srebrenica a "Safe Zone" and required all armed Bosnian Soldiers within the town (Mainly men under the command of Brigadier Naser Orić) to hand over their weapons, thus completing the Srebrenica take over.

Operation Krivaja 95

On July 8, a Dutch YPR-765 armored vehicle took fire from the Serbs and withdrew. A group of Bosniaks demanded that the armored vehicle stay to defend them. When the Dutch refused, one Bosniak threw a hand grenade on the vehicle, killing soldier Raviv van Renssen.

Serb forces entered the UN Safe Area in July 1995. Late on 9 July 1995, emboldened by early successes and little resistance from largely demilitarized Bosniaks, as well as the absence of any significant reaction from the international community, President Karadžić issued a new order authorising the VRS Drina Corps to capture the town of Srebrenica.[2]

On the morning of July 10, 1995, the situation in Srebrenica was tense. Residents crowded the streets. The Dutch UNPROFOR troops fired warning shots over the attacking Serbs’ heads and their mortars fired flares but they never fired directly on any Serb units. Lieutenant-Colonel Karremans sent many urgent requests for NATO air support to defend the town, but no assistance was forthcoming until around 2:30PM on July 11, 1995, when 2 Dutch F-16's guided by British SAS bombed VRS tanks advancing towards the town. NATO planes also attempted to bomb VRS artillery positions overlooking the town, but had to abort the operation due to poor visibility. NATO plans to continue the air strikes were abandoned following the Serb Army's threats to kill Dutch troops and French hostage Pilots being held in the custody of the VRS as well as shell the UN Potočari compound on the outside of the town, and surrounding areas where 20,000 to 30,000 civilians had fled.[2]

The Dutch soldiers operating under the auspices of the UN have been criticized for their part in failing to protect the Bosniak refugees in the safe haven. Lieutenant-Colonel Karremans was filmed drinking a toast with genocide suspect and Serb general Ratko Mladić during the bungled negotiations on the fate of civilian population grouped in Potočari.[3]

The massacre

On 14 July 1995, more prisoners from Bratunac were bussed northward to a school in the village of Pilica, north of Zvornik. As at other detention facilities, there was no food or water and several men died in the school gym from heat and dehydration. The men were held at the Pilica school for two nights. On 16 July 1995, following a now familiar pattern, the men were called out of the school and loaded onto buses with their hands tied behind their backs. They were then driven to the Branjevo Military Farm, where groups of 10 were lined up and shot.[4]

Dražen Erdemović — who confessed killing at least 70 Bosniaks — was a member of the VRS 10th Sabotage Detachment (a Main Staff subordinate unit) and participated in the mass execution. Erdemović appeared as a prosecution witness and testified: "The men in front of us were ordered to turn their backs. When those men turned their backs to us, we shot at them. We were given orders to shoot."[4]

On this point, one of the survivors recalls:

When they opened fire, I threw myself on the ground. . . . And one man fell on my head. I think that he was killed on the spot. And I could feel the hot blood pouring over me. . . . I could hear one man crying for help. He was begging them to kill him. And they simply said “Let him suffer. We’ll kill him later.”

Witness Q [4]

Erdemović said that all but one of the victims wore civilian clothes and that, except for one person who tried to escape, they offered no resistance before being shot. Sometimes the executioners were particularly cruel. When some of the soldiers recognised acquaintances from Srebrenica, they beat and humiliated them before killing them. Erdemovic had to persuade his fellow soldiers to stop using a machine gun for the killings; while it mortally wounded the prisoners it did not cause death immediately and prolonged their suffering.[4] Between 1,000 and 1,200 men were killed in the course of that day at this execution site.[4]

Aerial photographs, taken on 17 July 1995, of an area around the Branjevo Military Farm, show a large number of bodies lying in the field near the farm, as well as traces of the excavator that collected the bodies from the field.[4]

Erdemović testified that, at around 15:00 hours on 16 July 1995, after he and his fellow soldiers from the 10th Sabotage Detachment had finished executing the prisoners at the Branjevo Military Farm, they were told that there was a group of 500 Bosniak prisoners from Srebrenica trying to break out of a nearby Dom Kultura club. Erdemović and the other members of his unit refused to carry out any more killings. They were then told to attend a meeting with a Lieutenant Colonel at a café in Pilica. Erdemović and his fellow-soldiers travelled to the café as requested and, as they waited, they could hear shots and grenades being detonated. The sounds lasted for approximately 15–20 minutes after which a soldier from Bratunac entered the café to inform those present that "everything was over".[4]

There were no survivors to explain exactly what had happened in the Dom Kultura.[4] However, it is remarkable that this was no execution at some remote spot, but one in the centre of town on the main road from Zvornik to Bijeljina.[citation needed] Over a year later, it was still possible to find physical evidence of this atrocity. As in Kravica, many traces of blood, hair and body tissue were found in the building, with cartridges and shells littered throughout the two storeys.[4] It could also be established that explosives and machine guns had been used. Human remains and personal possessions were found under the stage, where blood had dripped down through the floorboards.

It is noteworthy that two of the three survivors of the executions at the Branjevo Military Farm were arrested by local Bosnian Serb police on 25 July and sent to the prisoner of war compound at Batkovici. One had been a member of the group separated from the women in Potočari on 13 July. The prisoners who were taken to Batkovici survived the ordeal and were later able to testify before the Tribunal.[citation needed]

Čančari Road 12 was the site of the re-interment of at least 174 bodies, moved here from the mass grave at the Branjevo Military Farm.[4] Only 43 were complete sets of remains, most of which established that death had taken place as there result of rifle fire. Of the 313 various body parts found, 145 displayed gunshot wounds of a severity likely to prove fatal.[5]

Operation Stupčanica 95

After the fall of Srebrenica Ratko Mladić and Radislav Krstić assembled the commanders from several brigades present in the area that would be contributing some or all of their forces to the Žepa attack (now codenamed Stupcanica 95), including the 1st Zvornik Infantry Brigade, the Bratunac Light Infantry Brigade, the Birač Infantry Brigade, the 2nd Romanija Motorised Brigade, the 1st Podrinje Light Infantry Brigade, the 5th Podrinje Light Infantry Brigade, the 1st Milici Light Infantry Brigade, the 1st Vlasenica Light Infantry Brigade, and the 5th Mixed Artillery Regiment. In Viogora they assembled the Bratunac Brigade, the Milici Brigade, and the Independent Skelani Battalion, marched southward, and arrived at the wider assembly area of Podravanje, Rupovo Brdo, and Bracan.[4] They would be attacking along the line of Podravanje-Orlov Kamen, Zlovrh and on to Žepa.

On July 13 there was a flurry of preparatory measures involving scouring the terrain for remaining members of the 28th Division, organizing mine groups to detect minefields and conduct demining operations, removing obstacles on roads within the protected area as well as roads between units and the staging area for the Žepa operation.

Despite losing some of his force in a transfer to augment operations in the Alibegovac and Kak areas, on the morning of July 17, the march on Žepa commenced, with the attack building to full swing a few days later. The attack was initially slowed down due to terrain features along the attack axes. Žepa fell to the VRS on July 25.

References

  1. ^ O'Connor, Mike (11 April 1996). "211 Bosnians Free After 8 Months. Why So Long?". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1996/04/11/world/211-bosnians-free-after-8-months-why-so-long.html. "So to avoid the Bosnian Serb forces to their west, about 800 of the men and boys of Zepa fled east. They crossed the Drina River to Yugoslavia, where they were split between two detention camps." 
  2. ^ a b "The Prosecutor v. Vujadin Popović, Ljubiša Beara, Drago Nikolić, Ljubomir Borovčanin, Radivoje Miletić, Milan Gvero, & Vinko Pandurević". International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. http://www.icty.org/x/cases/popovic/cis/en/cis_popovic_al_en.pdf. 
  3. ^ Daruvalla, Abi (21 April 2002). "Anatomy of a Massacre". TIME Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/0,13005,901020429-232505,00.html. Retrieved July 20, 2006. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Prosecutor v. Radislav Krstic Judgement". International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. http://www.icty.org/x/cases/krstic/tjug/en/krs-tj010802e.pdf. 
  5. ^ Manning, Dean (16 May 2000). "Srebrenica Investigation: Summary of Forensic Evidence - Execution Points and Mass Graves". International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. pp. 18–21. http://www.domovina.net/archive/2000/20000516_manning.pdf. 

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