Ethnic cleansing and war crimes, 1991-1995 – part eleven

TransConflict is pleased to present part eleven of a chapter of “Confronting the Yugoslav controversies – a scholars’ initiative”, entitled “Ethnic cleansing and war crimes, 1991-1995”, which “aims at describing causes, features, and consequences of ethnic cleansing as a policy in Bosnia-Hercegovina during the war.”

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Conflict Background


By Marie-Janine Calic

During the Trial against Momčilo Perišić, the JNA Chief of the General Staff from August 1993 until November 1998, more than 100 witnesses were heard and thousands of documents provided. On this basis it could be proved that the Yugoslav Army provided extensive logistic assistance to the Serb armed forces in BiH and Croatia, by arming, supplying, and reinforcing it periodically and by paying the salaries of thousands of its officers. These officers were drawn from the ranks of the Yugoslav Army and remained members of it even as they were fighting for the armies of the Bosnian or Croatian Serbs. The General Staff exercised effective control over these officers through the JNA’s Personnel Centers. [68] Altogether, some 4,800 VRS military personnel were paid by the VJ, including General Ratko Mladić.[69] In December 1994 the latter informed the RS Assembly that 47.2% of infantry ammunition, 34.4% of artillery munitions, and 52.4% of anti-aircraft ammunition came from the JNA.[70]

The Supreme Defense Council of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia granted General Perišić and the Yugoslav Army the authority to provide logistic assistance to the Croat Serb and Bosnian Serb armies. The General Staff also held monthly meetings with representatives from the VRS and SVK in Belgrade in order to coordinate equipment, economic and technical assistance.[71] Both Banja Luka and Belgrade treated the issue of military support “with the highest level of secrecy”.[72]

On 8 November 1993, the political and military leadership of the FRY, RS and RSK, including Perišić, Mladić, and Slobodan Milošević met in Belgrade, to agree on the “Drina Plan”. The core of the subsequent directive was to coordinate war efforts by all three armies (JNA, VRS and SVK). The war plan was signed on 14 November 1993 by the President of the Supreme Defense Council, Zoran Lilić as the “Directive for Use of the Yugoslav Army, the Republika Srpska Army, and the Serb Army of Krajina”. The so-called “Drina Plan” aimed to:

defend the territorial integrity of the Serbian states west of the Drina and Danube rivers and the FRY, protect Serbian people from genocide, liberate parts of Serbian territories with Serbian majorities, create conditions for the establishment of a single state of the Serbian people, prevent creation of Greater Croatia and a compact Islamic state on the territory of the former Yugoslavia.[73]

Belgrade’s political and military leadership was well aware that the Bosnian Serb armed forces made no clear distinction between military action against Bosnian Muslim troops and attacks against Muslim civilians, and that crimes were committed systematically on a large scale. Also the International Court of Justice (ICJ) established that “the FRY was in a position of influence over the Bosnian Serbs who devised and implemented the genocide in Srebrenica.”[74]

The same charge of command responsibility has been leveled against Belgrade’s political leadership. Former president of Serbia and of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milošević was charged with genocide, crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva conventions, and violations of the laws or customs of war.[75] Together with officials of the Bosnian Serb leadership, he was accused of having participated in a “joint criminal enterprise,” the purpose of which was “the forcible and permanent removal of the majority of non-Serbs, principally Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, from large areas of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina.”[76] Charges of genocide and complicity to commit genocide include the mass killings in Srebrenica and the murder or mistreatment of Bosnian Muslims in detention facilities. The ICTY notes, “The detention of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in detention facilities within Bosnia-Hercegovina, including those situated within the territories listed above, under conditions of life calculated to bring about the partial physical destruction of those groups, namely through starvation, contaminated water, forced labor, inadequate medical care and constant physical and psychological assault.”[77] Milošević’s death brought a sudden end to his trial and left open the question of whether he was guilty of the charge of genocide.

Regarding the intentional removal of the Serb population from the Croatian Krajina, the ICTY, in its judgment against General Gotovina et al., found that “certain members of the Croatian political and military leadership shared the common objective of the permanent removal of the Serb civilian transfer, and persecution through the imposition of restrictive and discriminatory measures, unlawful attacks against civilians and civilian objects, deportation, and population from the Krajina by force or threat of force, which amounted to and involved deportation and forcible transfer.” According to the ICTY, President Franjo Tudjman, Minister of Defense Gojko Šušak, and Zvonimir Červenko, the Chief of the Croatian army Main Staff, were key members of this “joint criminal enterprise.” At the Brioni meeting of 31 July 1995, a few days before launching of Operation Storm, President Tudjman had met with high-ranking military officials to discuss the military operation, including the importance of the Krajina Serbs leaving as a result and part of the imminent attack. General Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment.[78]

‘Ethnic cleansing and war crimes, 1991-1995′ is a component of the larger Scholars’ Initiative ‘Confronting Yugoslav Controversies’ (Second Edition), extracts of which will be published on every Friday.

Previous parts of the chapter ‘Ethnic cleansing and war crimes, 1991-1995’ are available through the following links:


68) Case Information Sheet Momčilo Perišić,, accessed 11 November 2011.

69) 58th Session of the Supreme Defense Council, 19 November 1996, 5.

70) 50th Session of the Supreme Defense Council, 15-16 April 1995, 49-51.

71) Prosecutor v. Momčilo Perišić, Case IT-04-81-T, 6 September 2011, Judgment, 293.

72) Ibid., 236.

73) Perišić Judgment, 410. The exhibit was made available at Miodrag Simić, T. 10162-10163; Ex. P215, The Directive of the President of the SDC, for the Use of VJ, VRS and SVK, 14 November 1993, 7.

74) Case concerning the application of the convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide (Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro): Judgment, 26 February 2007, ICJ Web site, 156,, accessed 10 October 2008.

75) ICTY, Case No. IT–02–54–T, 21 April 2004, the Prosecutor of the Tribunal against Slobodan Milosevic, Amended Indictment,, accessed 10 October 2008.

76) Other individuals mentioned in the indictment are: Radovan Karadžić, Momčilo Krajšnik, Biljana Plavšić, General Ratko Mladić, Borisav Jović, Branko Kostić, Veljko Kadijević, Blagoje Adžić, Milan Martić, Jovica Stanišić, Franko Simatović (also known as Frenki), Radovan Stojičić (also known as Badža), Vojislav Šešelj, Zeljko Ražnatović (also known as Arkan), and other known and unknown participants.

77) ICTY, Case No. IT–02–54–T.

78) Summary Judgment for Gotovina et al., The Hague, 15 April 2011,, accessed 10 November 2011.

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6 Responses

  1. jj

    “General Gotovina was sentenced to 24 years of imprisonment.[78]”

    General Gotovina’s sentence was overturned like a year later. The Croats got away with PERMANENT ethnic cleansing of Serbs with next to no time served. Only some Bosnian Croats got more than a few years for actions during the war with Bosnian Muslims – this despite Bosnian Croats being the smaller of the forces compared to what they had in Croatia and that they were more overwhelmed and surrounded by the Bosnian Muslim forces. So in a place where they were outnumbered they were punished because the “international community” favored the Bosnian Muslims, yet in Croatia where they cleansed and killed a lot more people, hardly any has served real sentences because the “international community” ignores Serbian victims the most.
    At the top for the “international community” are the Bosnian and Albanian Muslims, next are the Catholic Croats and a very distant last are the ethnic Serbs.

  2. Pingback : Ethnic cleansing and war crimes, 1991-1995 – part fifteen - TransConflict

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