April 6 marks 30 years since the beginning of the Bosnian war, an international armed conflict that lasted from 1992 to 1995 and resulted in ethnic cleansing of the Bosnians.
According to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), more than 100,000 people were killed in the Bosnian war, and at least 70 percent of them were Bosniaks.
Following the recognition of Bosnia as an independent state in 1992, Bosnian Serbs, backed by Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, launched a campaign to clear Bosnia’s national territory.
More than two million people became refugees during the conflict, according to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR).
Dissolution of Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia was founded after the First World War, and consists of six Slavic groups with the official language Serbo-Croatian.
During World War II, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was established – a federation divided by ethnic lines and comprising six republics – Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
The republic was ruled by Communist leader Josip Broz Tito from 1944 until his death in 1980. After Tito’s death, tensions between nationalists escalated as republics became more distant from each other.
In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared their independence from Yugoslavia – this was the beginning of the dissolution of the state. In 1992, Macedonia followed.
On March 1, 1992, a referendum was held on independence in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with 99.7 percent of the population, with 63.4 percent of the electorate, voting in favor of secession from Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serbs wanted to remain part of Yugoslavia and boycott the referendum.
Bosnia’s independence independence was driven by Serbia’s aggressive separatist policies, with Milosevic seeking to unite Bosnian and Croatian Serb territories. In Bosnia, the Serbian Autonomous Region (SAO), an administrative unit, had already been established by separatist Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia in the early 1990s.
In April 1992, the United States and the European Economic Community recognized Bosnia as an independent state. Following the recognition, Bosnian Serb forces launched an attack on Sarajevo.
In early April 1992, Bosnian Serb forces launched what would become the longest-running civil war in modern-day warfare. Bosnian Serb forces, backed by the Yugoslav army, turned off electricity and water in the city during a 43-month siege. From 1992 to 1995, 11,000 people were killed in Sarajevo.
Key figures in the Bosnian war
Nationalism played a major role in the Bosnian war, in which Serbia and Croatia crossed Bosnia’s borders to strengthen their nationalism.
The UN ban on arms sales to the entire Yugoslav federation was imposed by the Security Council in 1991, leaving Bosnians defenseless against Serbian and Croatian invaders. Serbia, on the other hand, had inherited military installations and weapons from the JNA (Yugoslav National Army) – the fourth strongest force in Europe at the time.
Here are some key figures in the Bosnian war:
Slobodan Milosevic – The President of Serbia was the most influential figure in the Bosnian war and in the Balkans in the 1990s. Milosevic played an important role in boosting national tensions in the region.
Alija Izetbegovic Bosnia’s first president led the country to independence in the 1992 referendum. He was one of three leaders who negotiated the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords.
Franjo Tudjman The leader of the Croatian nationalists was a key participant in the “common criminal enterprise” to nationalize the Bosnians, supported the Bosnian Croats in the Bosnian war and also negotiated a peace agreement in the Dayton Accords.
Radovan Karadzic The Bosnian Serb leader was responsible for the massacre that took place in Srebrenica. Following the war, Karadzic went underground before being arrested in 2008.
Ratko Mladic Bosnian Serb commander known as “the butcher in Bosnia”, Mladic led the Bosnian Serb army during the conflict. Together with Karadzic, he was responsible for planning the genocide in Srebrenica.
Radislav Krstic The Bosnian Serb military commander was involved in the assassination of Bosnians.
Timeline of major events in the war
March 1 – Bosnians and Croatian Bosniaks are seeking independence from Yugoslavia.
April 4-5 – The siege of Sarajevo begins under Radovan Karadzic.
April 6 – The European Union recognizes Bosnia’s independence.
May – The United Nations is imposing sanctions on Serbia for supporting rebels in Bosnia and Croatia.
October – Croatian forces launch an unexpected attack on Bosnians in the municipality of Prozor, which marks the beginning of the Croatian-Bosnian war in Bosnia, often referred to as a pre-war war.
January – Peace efforts fail in Bosnia.
April 16 – The United Nations declares that Srebrenica is a safe area under the protection of the United Nations Security Council. Troops are sent to the scene, but the town is remote as only a few humanitarian trains can reach the area.
May 6 – The UN includes the cities of Sarajevo, Zepa, Gorazde, Tuzla and Bihac in security zones.
March – The United States leads a treaty that ends the Bosnian Croat war and results in a federal state.
March – Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has ordered that Srebrenica and Zepa be completely cut off and that the envoys’ assistance in reaching these areas be stopped.
July 9 – Karadzic issues an order to capture Srebrenica.
July 11 – Under General Ratko Mladic, Serbian forces capture Srebrenica and systematically kill more than 8,000 Bosnian men and boys. The International Court of Justice in The Hague later ruled that it was a genocide in 2005. Bosnian women and girls were massacred.
November 21 – Following the bombing, Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic agree on an agreement between the United States.
December 14 – The Dayton Peace Accords are signed in Paris. The treaty divides the country into two administrative units: the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with Bosnia and Croatia for the most part, and the “Republika Srpska” (Serbian Republic) unit with a majority of Serbs – seen by some as a direct result. of ethnic cleansing.
Charged with war crimes
In 1993, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was set up by the United Nations to deal with war crimes committed in the Balkans. The court lasted for 24 years, from 1993 to 2017.
Witnesses and victims provided evidence of the horrors of the war, in which 161 people were charged – 90 were convicted, 19 were acquitted, 20 were acquitted, 17 died before being convicted, 13 were referred to other courts and two were remanded.
Four types of crime were registered in court – genocide, crimes against humanity, violations of the law / customs of war and serious violations of the Geneva Conventions.
Among those convicted by the court were:
Slobodan Milosevic – proceedings ended in 2006 after his death.
Radovan Karadzic – sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.
Ratko Mladic – sentenced to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity and genocide.
On February 26, 2007, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) formally recognized the genocide in Srebrenica as genocide. In June of that year, the survivors and family members of Srebrenica’s victims filed a complaint against the United Nations and the Netherlands for failing to protect civilians in Srebrenica and for not reporting war crimes.
On 27 June 2017, the Court of Appeal in The Hague ruled that the Dutch government was partly responsible for the deaths of 350 Bosnian men and boys in the Srebrenica genocide.