Large scale crime, large scale complicity

There is a little problem with the "individualization" of gross violations of international law. It turns out that murdering thousands of people over the course of a few days, then covering up the evidence is a large technical undertaking. It requires administrative arrangement, technical resources of various types, and the engagement of personnel. How many people? According to the report filed today by the Republika Srpska Srebrenica Working Group, 19,473 "immediate participants" are identified, with as many as 25,083 involved in the events in and around the operation. The larger figure includes 22,952 people under the command of the RS defence ministry, 34 contract drivers and 209 people under the command of civil defense, as well as 1,988 people under the command of the RS interior ministry, "including 15 members of the 'Scorpions' unit" (Note of caution: my calculator says that when the numbers from FENA's report are added up, the total is 25,183, not 25,083). Of the military participants, all but 268 have been identified by name. The names, among which are the names of people still working in public institutions, have not been made public. But aside from opening up the possibility of new prosecutions against people who know very well who they are, the report also underlines the fact that killing on the scale carried out around Srebrenica in July 1995 cannot be done without considerable commitment of resources, planning, and the involvement of institutions.


Anonymous said...

OK this is going to be a bit snarky of me, but I guess the Serbs weren't quite the killing machine they were said to be, 19,000-25,000 guys to kill between 7,000, to 8,000 I mean even if you include the labor intensive bits of separateing families, driveing people places, tortureing them, rapeing some of them, and destroying identity documents, then there is actually killing them, even one by one by hand, as they did, that's STILL a LOT of guys to do it.

Eric Gordy said...

The report is not being released to the public, so I don't have as many details as I would like to, but here is how I think it goes: 25000 is the total number of people with some relation to the RS military or police (including paramilitaries) in the area at the time, and 19000 is the number of people involved in one way or another with the killings. But I don't think that this necessarily means that all of the 19000 were actually doing killing -- they may have been guarding, doing logistics, or other support. It also doen't mean that every one of the people involved was involved on all four days of the intensive killing. But considering the low level of technology involved (there weren't devices for mass killing, like the Nazis had) and probably also the need to show overwhelming force in order to carry it out, then yes, doing a mass killing this size requires a lot of people. What might matter most here is that all of those people have at least partial knowledge of what happened.

Anonymous said...

For many, the iconic image of the Srebrenica massacre is that ghastly video footage of Serb soldiers separating the Bosniak men from the women at the Dutch UN base at Potocari; we watch as the men are put on buses and driven away. We know they're going to their deaths, and many of them seem to know it, too. The next shots we see are of the execution sites and mass graves. But that footage captures only a relatively small part of the story -- 1000 to 1,200 people. The greater part of the 8,000+ victims had to be chased down through the woods over the next several days and nights. A column of 10 to 15,000 Bosniak men and boys had set out from the former Srebrenica enclave across rough country in an attempt to break through to the safety of Bosnian government lines west of Zvornik. Fewer than half made it in the end. But hunting them down in the wooded and hilly terrain had to have been a very manpower-intensive operation, and sometims a dangerous one, as some of the Bosniaks carried arms and all were desperate. Bosnian Serb troops were positioned every few meters along the length of the highway running west from Bratunac to Konjevic Polje and beyond. Artillery and tanks were brought in to bombard escape routes. Search parties had to be sent into the woods to hunt down and bring back Bosniak captives. Some units were assigned to hold key points to block possible escape routes and to prevent breakthroughs. Then there were the rotating shifts of guards and executioners, the bus drivers, mechanics, bulldozer operators, and other personnel needed to attend to communications, transportation and other logistical needs (keeping equipment fuelled and running, troops fed, burying the bodies, disposing of belongings etc.). And only weeks after the bodies were first buried, the first satellite photos with evidence of mass executions and burials were made public -- and all the mass graves had to be dug up again and the remains redistributed to secondary and tertiary grave sites. In short, this was low-tech genocide (if not quite as low-tech as the one in Rwanda) and a very labor-intensive operation. I've seen the terrain where all this took place and am not at all surprised to hear that the ratio of killers & "support staff" to people killed turned out to be in excess of 2 : 1.


Yakima_Gulag said...

All I know is that there are still people in denial about this event. There were people who denied what happened in Kosovo too. It was seen practically live on satellite in both cases and there was reporting of the men and boys who tried to escape throught the woods in the case of Srebenica. I remember that the women and kids were taken out sometimes in DUMP TRUCKS I saw this on the news here in our gulag.

John1975 said...

I had a Serb friend who as a child in Srebrenica and Bratunac tell me that some of the victims were bruned down to their bones and then the bones were dumped into the Drina.

I don't know if any of you have ever been to Bratunac, but if you drive out of Bratunac heading the border crossing; a large bridge over the Drina that leads out of Bosnia and into Serbia; the village of Ljubovia (Spelling).

Just a few hundred feet passed this bridge-border crossing is a small park with a bar right on the Drina.

I was told the bones were dumped into the Drina at this spot by the truck load.

There is even a cobblestone "boat-vehicle" ramp at the very spot he trucks back up to to dump these bones.

On a personal not, I think the numbers may be a little exagerated.

I tend to agree with what Eric Gordy wrote more than anything.