Demonstrators rallied in Tuzla in Bosnia after a book was published in Serbia denying that Bosnian Serb forces were responsible for the Tuzla Gate massacre which killed 71 people in the town in 1995.
Scores of people joined a rally in Tuzla on Wednesday to protest about the recent publication in Serbia of the book ‘Tuzla Gate – A Stage-Managed Tragedy’, which claims that Bosnian Serb forces did not shell the town and kill 71 people on May 25, 1995.
The protesters were angry that the book, which was written by Ilija Brankovic, a former Yugoslav People’s Army general, was promoted at a Serbian Defence Ministry venue, the Central Military Club in Belgrade, last week.
“The worst thing is realising that the book, which crudely belittles the biggest war crime in the history of Tuzla, has received direct support from the Serbian government and its Ministry of Defence,” said Adi Selman of the Tuzla Youth Council.
The book claims that the Tuzla Gate area of the Bosnian town was not shelled by Bosnian Serb forces, as a court verdict has established, but instead was destroyed by an explosive device pre-planted by others.
Zineta Hidanovic, the mother of Alem Hidanovic, who was 15 years old when he was killed in the 1995 attack, said that state institutions in both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia should not deny the truth about what happened.
“We do not know how long we will live, but as long as we live, we shall not allow you to spread lies,” she said.
Novak Djukic, the wartime commander of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Ozren Tactical Group, was convicted of ordering the shelling and sentenced to 20 years in prison by the Bosnian state court in April 2014, but did not turn up to start serving his sentence and left for Serbia.
The Bosnian authorities have repeatedly asked Serbia to take over the verdict and force the fugitive Djukic to serve his sentence there, but the Belgrade court has yet to issue any ruling.
Hearings in the case have been postponed several times.
Edin Huric, the head of the May 25 – Kapija association, said the Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has offered reconciliation and cooperation to Bosnia and Herzegovina, but at the same time Belgrade is openly financing the denial of crimes.
“The convicted criminal [Djukic] is at large. Serbia is guaranteeing his freedom. Serbia is the country which supported the book that denies us and our pain,” Huric said.
The Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Dunja Mijatovic, has accused the Serbian Defence Ministry of “propagating falsehoods and disinformation” by hosting the Tuzla Gate book event.
The ministry responded by claiming that “any attempt at a different view of the civil war in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a big crime if it comes from Serbs”.
“Serbs have been victims of double standards many times, and still are, and have often been tried, and are being tried, for someone else’s crimes,” it said.
The Tuzla Gate book promotion at the Central Military Club came ten days after the Serbian Defence Ministry organised an event at the Belgrade Book Fair to promote a book by former senior Yugoslav Army officer Nebojsa Pavkovic, who is currently serving a prison sentence for war crimes in Kosovo.