While Human Rights Watch's sources have mentioned many names of persons who were allegedly involved in the takeover and subsequent "ethnic cleansing" of Bijeljina, there are some individuals who have been accused frequently of playing a major role.
ðeljko Rañnatovi_, a.k.a. Arkan
In the early hours of April 1, 1992, Arkan's Srpska Dobrovolja...ka Garda (Serbian Volunteer Guard), also known as Arkan's Tigers, moved into Bijeljina, and embarked upon a campaign of terror against the minority population. Houses, shops, and businesses owned by Bosniaks were ransacked, looted, and burned, and many Bosniaks lost their lives during the first four days of April.
Arkan, a proponent of a "Greater Serbia," was one of the most notorious paramilitary leaders in the Balkans. Before he came to Bijeljina, Arkan's Tigers had already made their mark in the war in Croatia, where they were instrumental in the takeover of Vukovar, Osijek, and other cities.94 After Bijeljina, Arkan and his Tigers continued their killing spree during similar "cleansing" operations in other areas in Bosnia and Hercegovina, including Zvornik, Bratunac, Prijedor, Bosanski Novi, Sanski Most, Bosanska Dubica, Br...ko, and other cities. Moreover, Dutch UNPROFOR troops have positively identified Arkan as having been present during the fall of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacre of thousands of Bosniaks.
In the communist era, Arkan was known as a hit man for the regime, as well as a criminal accused of bank robberies, burglary, and murder in Sweden, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. When the war started, Arkan was serving a sentence in a Croatian jail, but he was released pending an appeal. Arkan ran his criminal activities, as well as his paramilitary gang from behind the facade of a pastry and ice cream shop he ran in the center of Belgrade. He was once president of the Belgrade's Red Star soccer team fan club, and many of Arkan's paramilitaries were recruited from its supporters. Moreover, Arkan at some point was a member of the Serbian parliament, representing his Party of Serb Unity (Stranka Srpskog Jedinstva) from a region in the predominantly ethnic Albanian Kosovo province.
On March 31, 1999, Louise Arbour, then-ICTY prosecutor, announced that since September 30, 1997, Rañnatovi_ had been indicted for crimes against humanity, violations of the laws and customs of war, and grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Because the indictment has not yet been made public, it is unclear whether Rañnatovi_ was indicted for crimes committed in Bijeljina. Rañnatovi_ was murdered on January 15, 2000 in the lobby of the Intercontinental Hotel in the center of Belgrade. It is so far not known by whom, and for what reasons, Arkan was killed.
Ljubi_a Savi_, a.k.a. Major Mauser
Ljubi_a Savi_'s paramilitary brigade, known as the "Panthers," "Mauser's Guard," or "Vojkan's men," were initially part of Arkan's Serbian Volunteer Guard, but later became a special unit of the Bosnian Serb Army. Mauser's paramilitary group, according to many witnesses, was responsible for much of the "ethnic cleansing" in the Bijeljina area. Moreover, Mauser introduced himself to Human Rights Watch as the commander of the notorious Batkovi_ detention camp north of Bijeljina. However, Mauser's activities were not limited to the Bijeljina area. There are several reports of Mauser's involvement in the Br...ko area as well, where a brutal campaign of "ethnic cleansing" and mass executions was carried out in May 1992.95
After the war, Ljubi_a Savi_ established the Democratic Party (Demokratska Stranka), which had its main support base in Bijeljina as a result of Savi_'s "local hero" status. The Democratic Party was mainly meant as an alternative to the Serb Democratic Party (Srpska Demokratska Stranka, SDS) and the Serb Radical Party (Srpska Radikalna Stranka, SRS). Many sources claim that Mauser is strongly opposed to Radovan Karadñi_, Ratko Mladi_, and their supporters in the SDS and SRS, even though he helped them implement their policies. Allegedly, Savi_ feels disappointed that those who claimed to be fighting for the ideal of a "Greater Serbia" in the meantime amassed enormous riches at the expense of ordinary citizens. His opposition to hard-liners in Pale earned him a high-ranking position in the Republika Srpska authority: under former Prime Minister Milorad Dodik, Ljubi_a Savi_ was appointed chief of Uniformed Police of the Republika Srpska, a position immediately under Minister of the Interior Stankovi_.
During his tenure as chief of Uniformed Police, Savi_ undertook an all-out effort to rid the Republika Srpska of organized crime, which in large part is believed to be run by people loyal to Radovan Karadñi_. These efforts, however, were not appreciated by those involved in organized crime. Three assassination attempts against Mauser are generally believed to have been attempts by criminals to stop his investigations. In the last attempt, which took place on July 9, 1998, two men tried to place a bomb under Savi_'s official car. However, the bomb went off early, and the two men were killed in the explosion.
On September 14, 1998, Ljubi_a Savi_ was disqualified and removed from his post by then-IPTF Commissioner Richard Monk in the wake of the murder of Srðan Kneñevi_. Kneñevi_, the deputy chief of the Srpsko Sarajevo Public Security Center, was murdered in Pale on August 7, 1998. A team consisting of high ranking police officials was set up to investigate the murder, and Savi_ was appointed as the leader of the team. On August 9 and 10, the team arrested fourteen suspects in relation to the murder. All but one of the men were severely beaten by Savi_ and others at the time of their arrest. During the subsequent investigation, the men were illegally detained in a building in Pale, where they were at times handcuffed to radiators or furniture. An investigation by the U.N. Human Rights Office held Savic personally responsible for torture:
During the interviews, Mr. Savi_ personally, as well as other police officers under his command, severely tortured, both physically and mentally, eight of the fourteen detainees. The torture techniques included using a high-voltage "stun gun" on the tongue and other parts of the body; loosening teeth with a pair of pliers; pulling hair from the chest; and other sustained and violent physical abuse. Some detainees received threats that they and their families would be killed. Under pressure of torture and ill-treatment, some of the detainees did confess or make incriminating statements. The police officers tortured and re-interviewed several of the fourteen detained men numerous times until they signed statements prepared for them.96
After the extraction of confessions, seven of the fourteen suspects were transferred to a prison in Kula, but seven others were transported to the Famos factory, where they were illegally detained for three days. During this period, the men were again handcuffed to furniture and radiators, and mistreated by Savi_ and other police officers.
After then-IPTF Commissioner Monk had disqualified Ljubi_a Savi_ from police service for supervising and directly engaging in the torture and ill-treatment of the illegally detained persons, Minister Stankovi_ ordered Savi_'s removal from his post. On March 1, 2000, the public prosecutor filed criminal charges at the basic court in Sokolac against Savi_ and eight other persons involved in this case. Savi_ was charged with having conducted an illegal detention, extortion of a statement, mistreatment, and an illegal search.
The question is how the international community in Bosnia and Hercegovina, in particular the IPTF97, accepted that a person who is allegedly responsible for a brutal campaign of "ethnic cleansing," and allegedly was a detention camp commander, be appointed to such a high-ranking position within the police force set up under the Dayton accords. The name "Major Mauser" instills fear in many Bosniaks from northeastern Bosnia, and stories about his activities abound. Admittedly, the IPTF only came to Bosnia and Hercegovina after the war was over, and does not necessarily have personnel with in-depth knowledge of wartime Bosnia. Moreover, the IPTF has not yet completed the process of restructuring and screening the police force in the Republika Srpska, and had not formally approved Savi_'s appointment. However, one would expect the IPTF to keep close track of appointments of high police officials, do a thorough background check on these officials, and vehemently object to their appointment if there are serious, credible allegations about wartime or postwar abuses committed by them or under their command.
A comment by a staff member of an international organization working in the Bijeljina area, who knew about Savi_'s past, may shed some light on this issue. When asked how it was possible that Savi_, a person with a well-known wartime record, was appointed to such a high-ranking position, the staff member answered:
You have to realize the different interests of the international community. They want to drive a wedge between the Pale98 and the Plav_i_ supporters, and Savi_ serves that purpose. He supports the government, and is ... most anti-Pale and anti-Belgrade of all of them. I don't think the international community will address his position.
While overlooking allegations of wartime atrocities may have a beneficial effect in the short term, one cannot expect that those who are allegedly responsible for atrocities will be able or willing to implement the Dayton Peace Agreement and to respect internationally recognized human rights and standards of democratic behavior. In the long run, the ongoing involvement of those responsible for war crimes or other serious abuses undermines the peace process and seriously impedes the efforts to encourage displaced persons to return to areas where they would now be a minority.
Vojislav "Vojkan" Ðurkovi_
Vojislav Ðurkovi_, generally known as "Vojkan," was a major in Arkan's Tigers and at some point the leader of the Bijeljina branch of Arkan's Party for Serb Unity. As head of the Commission for the Exchange of the Civilian Population, Ðurkovi_ and his associates were responsible for massive "ethnic cleansing" operations in the Bijeljina area. His commission arranged for the "voluntary" transport of Bosniaks, Roma, and other minorities to the Federation or abroad in exchange for considerable fees. In addition, those transported by Vojkan were almost without exception forced to hand over all their money, as well as valuables and documents. Moreover, those who owned a house were forced to sign a document stating that they had voluntarily given up all rights to their property. The transport was not as safe as promised. Many men of military age were taken off the transport and forced to work at the front lines.
Those who did not sign up for "voluntary" exchange were often forced to leave anyway by Vojkan and his men, or by Major Mauser's Panthers, who cooperated closely with Ðurkovi_. As discussed above, people were often given less than fifteen minutes to pack, after which they were forcibly taken to the front line, where they were forced to cross over to Bosnian government controlled territory. During the biggest wave of expulsions in 1994, Vojkan and his aides expelled more than 6,000 Bosniaks from Bijeljina and Janja in a period of less than three months.
Vojkan Ðurkovi_ continues to live in Bijeljina, where he runs the "Jaguar" detective agency, which is allegedly involved in collecting debts. Moreover, Ðurkovi_ established his own political party, the Serb Displaced Persons Party. The party was not very successful during the 1997 municipal elections, which led Ðurkovi_ reportedly to complain that "voters in Janja failed my trust. If I had known by whom it would be inhabited, I would not have given them an ethnically cleansed Janja."99 Despite numerous reports about Ðurkovi_'s activities, he has not been (publicly) indicted by the ICTY.
Vojkan Ðurkovi_ was assisted in his activities by Risto Marian, who now allegedly lives in Florida, United States, where he runs an immigration agency.
Jovan A...imovi_, a.k.a. A...im
In 1995, Jovan A...imovi_ was a member of the Republika Srpska Special Police based in Janja. After the Dayton agreement was initialed, but not yet signed, there was an effort to expel those Bosniaks who had managed to remain on their own property throughout the war, apparently to solidify the results of "ethnic cleansing." Jovan A...imovi_, according to several witnesses, played a major role in these evictions, which were often accompanied by substantial violence. Human Rights Watch has also received reports that A...imovi_ during peace time continued to evict Bosniaks from their homes. Jovan A...imovi_ is now a member of the local police in Ugljevik.
94 See, among others, Blaine Harden, "Serbia's Treacherous Gang of Three," Washington Post, February 7, 1993; Keith Dovkants, Victor Sebestyen, "War Criminals Who May be Charged with Balkan Atrocities," Evening Standard, February 16, 1993; David Firestone, "Serb Lawmaker is Called Vicious Killer," St. Louis-Dispatch, January 3, 1993; Chuck Sudetic, "A Shady Militia Chief Arouses Serbs," New York Times, December 12, 1993.
95 Frech, Disappearances, pp. 45-52; Helsinki Watch, War Crimes..., pp. 94-99; Human Rights Watch, "The Continuing Influence of Bosnia's Warlords," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 8, no. 17, p. 16; "Dossier: Br...ko," Dani, March 2, 1998; State Commission for Gathering of Facts about War Crimes - Tuzla, War Crimes in the Tuzla Area, Tuzla, 1996, pp. 83-96; State Commission for Gathering of Facts about War Crimes - ðivinice, Criminals and Victims, ðivinice, 1995, pp. 113-127.
96 UNMIBH HRO, Interrogation Techniques Employed by Republika Srpska Law Enforcement Officials in the Srdan Knezevic Investigation, January 21, 1999, pp. 3-4.
97 Human Rights Watch has published two reports on the functioning of the United Nations International Police Task Force: Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, "Beyond Restraint. Politics and the Policing Agenda of the United Nations International Police Task Force," A Human Rights Watch Report, Vol. 10, No. 5 (D), June 1998; Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, "No Justice, No Peace," A Human Rights Watch Report, vol. 8 no. 15 (D), 1996.
98 Pale is the former seat of the Republika Srpska government, and seen as a stronghold of hard liners supporting Radovan Karadñi_ and Ratko Mladi_.
99 "How does Bijeljina breathe?," Reporter Digest, Banja Luka, August 27, 1997.