CRIMES OF GENOCIDE AGAINST SERBS IN THE MUNICIPALITY OF KONJIC (1992 - 1995)
The city of Konjic is situated to the southwest of Sarajevo (at a distance of 59 kilometers by road) and north of Mostar (71 kilometers away).
According to the 1991 census the Municipality of Konjic had 43,878 inhabitants, of which number Muslims accounted for the largest percentage - 54.3%, Croats for 26.2 and Serbs for 15%.
During the 20th century the population structure in the Municipality of Konjic was forcibly disrupted to the detriment of the Serbs: in 1914 after the assassination in Sarajevo, over one hundred of the most eminent Serbs were killed, and during World War II Serbs were the victims of mass genocide (223 were slaughtered, of which 205 in 1941 by the local Ustashi).
Developments after World War II did not uphold the proclaimed national equality either: until 1991 fifteen mosques and five catholic churches had been built in the Municipality of Konjic and not a single Orthodox church; of the forty streets in Konjic only one bore the name of a Serb (the national hero Maksim Kujundžić); the names of streets, enterprises and institutions were written exclusively in the Latin script; monuments to victims fallen in World War II did not truthfully depict the nationality of the victims and the perpetrators of the crimes.
Growing nationalism threatened the survival of Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina, including in Konjic. Although guided by different motives and following different programmes, the Croats and the Muslims aligned with each other in the dismemberment of Yugoslavia. The Muslims sought to create of Bosnia and Herzegovina an independent state based on the ideas of Alija Izetbegović’s “Islamic Declaration” and the Croats aspired after annexing Bosnia and Herzegovina to Croatia.
The Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) was first established in Konjic and then the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), and only then the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS).
Parallel with politically organizing themselves on a national basis, the Croats and Muslims also militarily organized and armed themselves.
In SDA’s activities in the region of Konjic aimed at establishing the Patriotic League as the military wing of the party, early in May 1991, the lead was taken by Jasmin Guska, head of the organizational unit in Konjic of the Ministry of the Interior, Šefko Nikšić, deputy head of public security in Konjic and Nijaz Salčin, head of logistics of the Ministry of the Interior in Konjic. Sefer Halilović, a former JNA officer, was among the principal organizers of the operation of the Patriotic League. Members of the Patriotic League were armed through the illegal procurement of weapons, in particular via Croatia.
Towards the end of 1991 the Croats in the Municipality of Konjic set up the Croatian Defence Council (HVO). They formed two battalions and the HVO commander for Konjic was Ivica Azinović. The Croats armed themselves in an organized fashion through Croatia and the HVO also participated in the arming of Muslims.
The Croats and Muslims armed themselves also by stealing weapons and ammunition from the "Igman" factory in Konjic. The first theft occurred in December 1991, the second in the beginning of February 1992 and the third in late February or early March 1992. A large quantity of ammunition and over a thousand pieces of smaller caliber weapons were stolen. Among the principal organizers of the burglary was Fehim Čibo from Konjic who worked in the factory as an armorer on the proving ground.
The mass media were psychologically preparing the Muslims and Croats for a showdown with the Serbs, ever harping on the alleged threat coming from the Serbs, the "Serbo-Chetnik peril”. Thus the reporter of Radio Konjic Stjepan Galić would say that “Serbo-Chetniks with a corrupt mind with pus oozing from their brains want to destroy the Muslims and the Croat people”, and similar formulations were also used by Ethem Badžak, a journalist of the "Oslobodjenje" and Ilija Šagolj, in charge of propaganda at the HVO, who openly called the Croats and Muslims to settle scores with the Serbs.
After the war broke out, the Muslims and Croats in Konjic overtly committed crimes against the Serbs in an organized way with the objective of annihilating Serbs in the area. A particularly brutal killing campaign of Serbs took place in May 1992. During attacks on Serb villages (Bradina, Donje Selo, Blace and others), members of Muslim and Croat army units mass-killed Serbs who had not managed to escape. Throughout the area of the municipality Serbs were killed where they were found or were led away from their homes and killed or locked up in camps (Čelebići and Musala) in which they were also killed or subjected to humiliation and severe mental and physical torture often with a lethal outcome. Old men, women, children, the sick, the infirm, all were killed.
A number of Serb civilians were slaughtered just like in the genocide during World War II.
Mujahedin from Islamic countries who had joined Muslim army units also committed crimes against the Serbs.
Despite the existence of data on mass genocidal crimes against the Serbs in the Municipality of Konjic, the proceedings before the Tribunal in The Hague have been reduced to only four perpetrators of crimes (Zejnil Delalić, Zdravko Mucić-Pavo, Hazim Delić and Esad Landžo called “Zenga”) and only for the killing of 13 Serbs in one camp.