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Before the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, the JNA’s chemical weapons program produced the nerve agent sarin, the blister agent sulfur mustard, the psychochemical incapacitant BZ, and the irritants CS and CN, and turned these chemical agents into weapons. In addition, the JNA also produced the choking agent phosgene, the psychochemical incapacitant LSD-25, and the irritant chloropicrin, and experimented with laboratory quantities of the nerve agents soman, tabun and VX, the blister agents nitrogen mustard and lewisite, and the blood agent cyanogen chloride.23

Most of the JNA’s infrastructure, production capability, and expertise were inherited by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992. There are no indications that the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has destroyed its stockpiles of chemical agents or disassembled its chemical agent production equipment since that time.24 The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has not acceded to the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Yugoslav Army continues to maintain a significant chemical defense posture, despite the absence of an external chemical weapons threat.25

Moreover, during the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina, the Bosnian government produced crude chemical munitions at a factory near Tuzla, according to a former Bosnian military officer and other sources in the former Yugoslavia. These sources assert that after the war, the Bosnian government stopped production of chemical munitions.26 Bosnia and Hercegovina ratified the CWC on February 25, 1997.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the JNA conducted extensive research on psychochemical incapacitants, and in 1981 produced and distributed a manual on the use of hand grenades filled with CS, a tear agent, and BZ, a psychochemical incapacitant.27 This suggests that these weapons had been produced in some quantity at that time. Several sources indicate that the JNA continued to experiment with incapacitating agents during the 1980s, and it appears that at some point it started filling 82mm and 120mm mortar shells with BZ.28 (See appendix A for a review of the characteristics of BZ and other chemical incapacitants). At least one source, Lt. Col. Zvonko Orehovac, the chief of the Departmentof NBC Defense at the Croatian Ministry of Defense, has claimed that “among combat toxins with nonfatal action, the former Yugoslav Army [had] decided on ‘CS’ from the group of irritants and ‘BZ’ from the group of psychochemical combat toxins. In order to install and employ them, hand grenades, toxic-smoke containers, rifle grenade projectiles, mortar rounds, and a shoulder mounted sprayer have been developed thanks to which these chemical weapons have attained the name ‘tactical chemical weapons for incapacitating and disabling people.’”29


According to former JNA officers, high-ranking army officers were trained in the offensive use of chemical weapons.30 Special JNA chemical and biological warfare units were trained to use chemical weapons and defend against CW attacks. The 1981 JNA manual on “special” BZ- or CS-filled hand grenades and CS sprayers and a 1988 JNA manual on CS-filled rifle-propelled “school” grenades both describe how and under what circumstances these agents should be used.31 According to the U.S. Department of Defense, JNA special operations teams were also trained to use toxic agents for sabotage.32

The JNA’s 1981 manual is of particular interest in any investigation of claims concerning the use of BZ during the war in Bosnia and Hercegovina. It suggests the use of a chemical incapacitant to create severe mental confusion in a military formation in order to destroy its military cohesion, render it less effective as a fighting force, and facilitate the killing or capture of its members. According to the manual, a small dose of an incapacitating agent will affect memory, problem-solving capabilities, attention span, and comprehension; larger doses will destroy completely the ability to perform any task.33

The JNA apparently thought that BZ could be used with little danger to its own troops, and might go relatively undetected, affording it plausible deniability in case accusations of the use of chemical weapons were to surface. Tobe sure, the manual suggests that the use of BZ be disguised, for example by mixing it with CS tear gas, lest the enemy forces realize at once that they are being attacked with a chemical incapacitant.

According to the manual, JNA doctrine suggested the use of BZ in the following situations:

· When a group is blocked (Section 35): BZ should be used against a “blocked” group, i.e., a group that is pinned down and cannot maneuver, “[w]hen it is desired to exhaust the blocked group and bring them to a condition of mental confusion. Mental confusion should appear one hour after application of the bombs and should last several hours to several days. Then, appropriate action can be taken to capture, disarm or destroy the blocked group.”34

· In an ambush (Section 41): “[BZ] is very effective for the ambush of a certain person or group, but not when there is an immediate need to capture or destroy the group, but rather to disable them for a later operation.”35

· In surrounding and destroying a group (Section 45): BZ can be used to “destroy” a surrounded group “when it is unimportant that the task is accomplished immediately. Under these conditions the destruction, or capture, of the group which is surrounded should be attempted one or more hours after application of the [chemical agent], and after clear and positive signs of the effect of the chemical are registered (some of them may be shouting, coming out of the shelter, uncoordinated fire, etc.).”36

The manual also warns that if BZ is used, “enemy individuals or groups should not be captured or destroyed immediately, because it can be expected that such individuals or groups will subsequently, under the effects of [this chemical agent], inflict great damage and losses on their own forces.”37

Furthermore, Lieutenant Colonel Orehovac (see above) has stated that the Yugoslav Army’s nonlethal chemical weapons are “technically designed mainly for defensive combat operations, ambush, surprise raids, as well as for special psychological operations; under certain conditions they can also be used in offensive combat operations.” About the use of “tactical chemical weapons,” including BZ, he remarked that they can

by and large cause a series of negative effects on people and military formations, from toxicological to psycho-physical effects for an individual, and from disruption of planned speed and depth of attacking operations to provocation of panic and disorganization in command and control of the formation. In conditions of specific use of these weapons, such as the mixed use of weapons filled with CS and BZ, or BZ with other conventional rounds and grenades, against formations, logistical units and command points and such, it is possible to cause panic in the formation and violence among members of the formation itself as a result of the delayed psychological effect of the BZ.38

Using BZ in Srebrenica: A Scenario

It is conceivable that the Bosnian Serb leadership anticipated that the planned capture of the Srebrenica “safe area” might yield the kind of situation particularly well-suited to the effective use of an incapacitating agent like BZ. The attack on Srebrenica had been planned for quite some time. General Mladic, himself a former high-ranking JNA officer, reportedly consulted with a number of Yugoslav Army generals, including Gen. Momcilo Perišic, the Yugoslav Army’s chief of general staff, in the preceding month. (See chapter 1.) They would all have been familiar with the JNA doctrine for the use of a chemical incapacitant, and, if they anticipated any of the scenarios described in the 1981 JNA manual, it is possible they considered using BZ in Srebrenica.39 Interestingly, in early July—right before the assault on Srebrenica—Nedeljko Pristojivic, chairman of the Military Council of Ilidza, alleged that Bosniak forces had carried out a chemical attack on two Serb-held suburbs of Sarajevo, Ilidza and Nedarici. Human Rights Watch has not been able to substantiate this allegation, but Pristoiyvich used it to make a threat, by saying: “This criminal act gives the Serbs the right to respond in kind.”40

In planning the taking of Srebrenica, General Mladic, his counselors and staff would have calculated that, if the men from Srebrenica did not surrender, they had few avenues of escape. The thousands of Bosnian men could flee to Zepa, another U.N. “safe area” about thirteen miles distant, or they would have to undertake a fifty-mile trek through Bosnian Serb territory to Tuzla, which was under Bosnian government control. If they decided to march, it could be anticipated that the lightly armed group would head for Tuzla along a frequently used smuggling route that avoided Han Pijesak, General Mladic’s headquarters, and the main roads, which the Bosnian Serbs controlled with tanks, armored personnel carriers, and truck-mounted anti-aircraft guns. Given that the march would last a number of days, the Bosnian Serb leadership would have plenty of time to carry out its plan to intercept and destroy the escaping column.

The Serb military planners would further have calculated that because the terrain around Srebrenica is hilly and heavily forested, and counts only a few well-maintained paved roads, Serb forces would not be able to bring in their heavy equipment. Moreover, the U.N.-instituted no-fly zone also prevented them from using airplanes to bomb the column. The hills and the trees reduced both visibility and mobility, and placed Bosnian Serb troops at risk of ambushes (which did occur a number of times during the march) and flanking attacks. In this situation, a primary military goal would be to disrupt the column and break it into smaller groups that would be easier to capture and destroy, with minimum risk to their own forces. To accomplish this goal a chemical incapacitant would be an ideal weapon, precisely as suggested in the JNA manual.

In chapter 3 we present an account of the march based on the testimonies of survivors. In chapter 4 we conclude this report with a preliminary assessment of claims made by some of the marchers that a chemical incapacitant was used against them shortly after they set off on their trek to safety on that fateful morning of July 12, 1995.

23 For more information, see Human Rights Watch Arms Project, “Clouds of War.” 24 Acknowledgment of the existence of the JNA’s chemical weapons program is contained in a 1995 NATO-wide intelligence assessment of chemical and biological weapons programs in the former Yugoslavia, excerpts of which were obtained by Human Rights Watch; and in the U.S. Department of Defense, Bosnia Country Handbook (December 1995), pp. 6-32 to 6-33, a copy of which was obtained by Human Rights Watch under the Freedom of Information Act. 25 The U.S. Department of Defense’s 1995 Bosnia Country Handbook describes how the Yugoslav Army has special units dedicated to chemical warfare defense and trains individual soldiers in chemical detection and decontamination. U.S. Department of Defense, Bosnia Country Handbook, p. 6-33. 26 Human Rights Watch interviews, Tuzla and Sarajevo, July-August 1996. 27 Yugoslav People’s Army, “Specijalne Rucne Bombe M79 I Leðni Raspršivac M1" (Special Hand Grenade M-79 and Sprayer M-1), (Belgrade, 1981). The effects of BZ received a comprehensive review in a Yugoslav journal in 1974. N. Rosic, “Psychochemical War Gases of BZ Type,” Vojno-sanitetski Pregled, vol. 31 (1974), pp. 393-96. (In Serbo-Croatian.) It is unclear whether the chemical agent designated BZ by the JNA is the same as that standardized by the U.S. Army in the 1960s. The United States destroyed its BZ stockpile because its effect was unpredictable and it was therefore considered unreliable as a weapon. 28 Human Rights Watch interview, Belgrade, March 15, 1997, and other interviews in the former Yugoslavia, March 1997. 29 Zvonko Orehovac, “Incapacitant and irritant chemical weapons of the armed forces of the so-called Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.” Hrvatski Vojnik (Zagreb), vol. 4, no. 74 (October 7, 1994), pp. 49-52, translated into English by the U.S. Department of the Army, National Ground Intelligence Center (June 15, 1995), and obtained by Human Rights Watch under the Freedom of Information Act.

30 This is based on conversations with numerous ex-JNA officers, both in Croatia and in Bosnia and Hercegovina. Most claimed that they did not know whether the JNA had possessed chemical weapons, but said that they had been told by their superiors before the breakup of Yugoslavia that they would receive chemical weapons from “friends” in case they were needed. It was unclear to them who these “friends” were, but they said they assumed that they might be either the Warsaw Pact or NATO, depending on which alliance were to invade Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia had long positioned itself as nonaligned between NATO and Warsaw Pact states, and its defense planning sought to anticipate an invasion by either alliance. Human Rights Watch interviews, Zagreb and Sarajevo, February-March and July-August 1996.

31 Yugoslav People’s Army, “Specijalne Rucne Bombe M79; and Yugoslav People’s Army, Tromblonske Hemijske Školske Mine M83 (Rifle-Propelled School Grenade M-83), (Belgrade, 1988). Both the Croatian and Bosnian armies possess multiple original copies of the 1981 manual. Concerning the term “school” munitions, apparently many chemical munitions in the JNA were designated this way to give the appearance that they were not intended for wartime use. Numerous western chemical weapons experts interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they had never heard of the use of CS-filled rifle-propelled grenades for training purposes.

32 U.S. Department of Defense, Bosnia Country Handbook, p. 6-18.

33 According to a U.S. military manual on the treatment of chemical agents, exposure to an anticholinergic incapacitant like BZ can produce a variety of symptoms, including “restlessness, dizziness or giddiness, failure to obey orders, confusion, erratic behavior, stumbling or staggering, vomiting, slurred or nonsensical speech, hallucinatory behavior, disrobing, mumbling and picking behavior, stupor and coma.” Headquarters, Departments of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, Treatment of Chemical Agent Casualties, p. 3-2.

34 Yugoslav People’s Army, “Specijalne Rucne Bombe M79, p. 37. (Translated by Human Rights Watch.)

35 Ibid., pp. 38-39.

36 Ibid., p. 40.

37 Ibid., section 41, p. 39.

38 Zvonko Orehovac, “Incapacitant and irritant chemical weapons.”

39 The use of a chemical incapacitant on other occasions during the war has been alleged a number of times by both the Bosnian Army and the Croatian Army. Because very few people claim to have been affected directly by such an agent, Human Rights Watch has not been in a position to investigate these allegations further.

40 “Use of CW in Sarajevo,” Krasnaya Zvezda (Moscow), July 4, 1995.

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