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Monday, 13 March, 2000, 13:55 GMT
Srebrenica: A survivor's tale
Srebrenica refugees
Thousands were trapped in Srebrenica
The massacre of thousands of people in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica was, in the words of one judge, a scene from hell, written on the darkest pages of human history.

Srebrenica was also an inglorious moment for the United Nations - the troops there beat a retreat as Serb forces over-ran the town.

Hasan Nuhanovic, from Srebrenica, was a Bosnian Muslim interpreter for the UN as the town came under threat in 1995. He told the BBC's The World Today programme of his experience.

'I saw everything'

I saw everything. I was acting all the time between the UN officials, the Dutch battalion commanders and the local authorities and I translated for those organisations at very critical moments.

UN soldiers with male refugee
Some people were helped by UN soldiers but thousands were turned away
Inside the Srebrenica enclave there were about 45,000 people, and most of them were civilians. But I realised the Dutch battalion was not really prepared to do much.

One day before the actual fall of the enclave, I realised it was most probably going to fall. I took my younger brother and smuggled him into the Dutch battalion base. That was the only safe place in the whole area.

Civilians handed over

The following day when Serbs took the town, about 25,000 people, all of them civilians, moved towards that village called Potocari and they begged the Dutch civilians and other UN officials to let them enter the base.

The Dutch allowed some people to enter the base. This lasted for about two hours, but after two hours the Dutch closed the base and all the rest of the people had to just sit around the base.

It turned out that the Dutch battalion and other UN officials there decided to hand over all the civilians from the base to the Serbs, including my parents, my brother, everybody.

Years of searching

I've spent five years now looking for information about those who were involved and I have found out a lot of things.

Mass grave pic
Men and boys were separated from their families and then killed
Those who were on the spot knew exactly what was going on and knew exactly that all people from the base, once they stepped out, would be killed.

There were at least two or three years of agony. People were all the time trying to find out what had happened to their missing relatives.

We simply couldn't believe that 10,000 people were killed in three days .

More arrests needed

The Hague is the only court in the world, as far as I know, with the authority to indict and try war criminals who have committed war crimes on this territory, but we are very disappointed about the slow speed of the whole process.

Of course we like the fact that he is there and he will probably be in jail for the rest of his life. But he is only one person.

Because it is a very small area, and everybody knows everybody else, we know, more or less, the names of dozens of Serbs who were involved.

So our question is: "Who is going to arrest them?"

And if the international forces don't do it, then why won't they allow our own authorities arrest them? The hands of the authorities here are tied up, they cannot arrest anyone.

Hasan Nuhanovic
Talks about his bitter feelings

At The Hague

Still wanted



See also:

16 Nov 99 | Europe
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