The Inside Story
of the Zvornik Seven
Having safely hidden for 10 months
after the Srebrenica Massacre, seven
Muslim men have been handed over to
the Bosnian Serbs by IFOR.
The U.N. says they've been tortured and
accused of murder. Who's responsible?
The answer lies buried in denials.
By Jim Bartlett
Editor in Chief, Berserkistan
EXCLUSIVE TO BERSERKISTAN
Confidential sources have given Team Berserkistan a reliable account of the events surrounding the detention and handover of the Muslim men known as the Zvornik Seven. The men presented themselves 11 days ago to an American artillery section southwest of the Bosnian Serb held city of Zvornik. After a week of conflicting reports and rumors, questions of who the Seven are, and how they came to be in Serbian custody, are beginning to unfold.
Sometime on the morning of Friday, May 10 in the vicinity of a remote village called Planinci, an American Artillery unit attached to 2nd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, heard several gunshots fired. A short while later, seven men claiming to be Muslims who had fled from the massacres at Srebrenica presented themselves to American troops who confiscated three handguns, several grenades, and took the seven into custody while contacting Serbian police. The seven were dressed in a mixed bag of civilian and military clothingwithout insignia.
The seven are Ahmu Harbas, Enver Harbas, Behudin Huskic, Nezad Hasic, Vahdet Audic, Mujo Mehic and Muharem Hasand.
Responsibility for Hand Over Is Vague
Serbian police arrived on scene and took custody of the men. They were then taken to the police headquarters at Zvornik. During this time the IPTF (International Police Task Force) were also notified and a team was dispatched to Zvornik to investigate. Early reports from NATO that the seven were turned over to IPTF by the artillery unit, who then turned them over to Serb police have been emphatically denied by IPTF officials.
From Reuterss, May 13 . . .
"More time should have been taken to ascertain the facts and circumstances before making any decision about what to do with the seven men," a NATO officer who asked not to be named told Reuterss. "An American major on the ground took the decision without consulting any higher authority. General Nash (commander of U.S. ground troops in Bosnia) went ballistic and tried to get the men back from the Serbs but it was too late."
Upon arrival in Zvornik on the afternoon of May 10, requests by the IPTF team to interview and photograph the suspects were denied by the president of the Zvornik courts. As the IPTF team waited outside, a hostile crowd gathered. Elements of the 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry were placed on alert their armored units stood ready on the road to Zvornik, artillery and air support were coordinated, and their commander flew to Zvornik, according to military sources. The IPTF team and the NATO commander remained in Zvornik until 22:00 hours local time. The IPTF team then returned to their headquarters and the Cavalry stood down.
Accused of Civilian Murders
At the same time, Bosnian Serb Television in Pale began speculating that the men were responsible for the alleged deaths of four woodcutters in the Srebrenica area on May 2. The Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA said the seven admitted killing the four civilians and burying them in Krusev Do, 10 miles southwest of Srebrenica. This line was quickly taken up by Serbian police and quoted in official NATO press releases.
The following day, Saturday, May 11, Serbian police claimed that the seven had been responsible for an attack on a police station in which ten were killed. This was also quoted in official NATO press releases along with Serbian claims of evidence which justified the charges.
Later Saturday morning, the IPTF team returned to Zvornik and were informed that "confessions" had been "extracted" from the seven on Friday evening at 23:00 hours, one hour after the departure of the IPTF team. The team was also informed that five of the seven had been transferred to police headquarters in Bijeljina and that the remaining two were being kept in Zvornik to assist in further "investigations." Serbian police promised to produce forensic evidence to back up their charges.
On Saturday, police in Bijeljina allowed the prisoners to be interviewed by IPTF and the ICRC. Investigators found that one of the prisoners had been "severely" beaten while in the custody of the Zvornik police. Investigators from the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) also cross-referenced the names of the prisoners and positively checked them against the missing persons list from Srebrenica. The names also matched those on the Bosnian government's Srebrenica missing persons lists. Throughout the week, the ICRC and the IPTF have had daily access to the prisoners and continue to monitor their condition.
Evidence Yet to Materialize
Meanwhile, Serbian authorities continued to claim the possession of evidence implicating the seven in the alleged homicide of the woodcutters. During the week, they produced the remains of two people found in a car near Milici, 20 kilometers northeast of Srebrenica. A pathologist, called in from Belgrade to examine the remains, reported to the IPTF that the individuals had not only been dead for two years, but that they had been incinerated as well. Serbian officials responded that they would produce further evidence on Monday, May 20th. As of Monday night, the evidence was not forthcoming. The Serbs have promised to make the evidence public today, May 21st.
"As far as the actual incident goes, that is over. The main concern now is the legalities of the matter," the Berserkistan source said, referring to alleged charges against the seven that now include murder and possession of firearms. Serbian authorities usually restrict the possession of firearms to those whom they deem politically loyal to the Republiska Serbska.
The reaction of local people who have talked with Team Berserkistan has been shock and dismay that IFOR would turn over survivors from Srebrenica to Bosnian Serb police.
Berserkistan, May 21 · UN: Zvornik 7 Tortured into Murder Confessions
Berserkistan, May 19 · Bosnia Furious Over U.S. Handling of Zvornik 7
Berserkistan, May 18 · Zvornic 7 Beaten in Serb Prison
Berserkistan, May 14 · Zvornik 7 Believed to be Srebrenica Refugees
Berserkistan, May 13 · U.S. Blundered Turning 7 Muslims Over to Serbs
Berserkistan, May 11 · Accused Muslim Soldiers Surrender to U.S. Troops
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