TUE, 08 FEB 1994 22:06:36 GMT
Summary: A refugee hunt which began twenty or so days before the general mobilization in the Republic of Srpska is underway in the RF of Yugoslavia. It is estimated, although no precise data are available, that approximately 90,000 refugees are on the lists of those who are to be sent to the battlefields in Bosnia. People are in hiding, they do not wish to go to war, and the data about them is supplied by the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations. The mobilization is carried out by the military police of the Army of Yugoslavia. Military police officers break into the refugee camps and hand over the drafts under the threat of prison. Representatives of the High Commissioner for Refugees claim that such acts are contrary to international covenants.
Ten days have passed since a fifty-year old invalid, Slobodan Plavsic, a refugees from Western Slavonija, has been summoned to the premises of Red Cross in Aleksinac. There an employee handed him the mobilization draft issued by the Republic of Srpska Krajina.
If I have to go, then I'll go, he concluded. He got into a bus with four other men who were likewise unwilling to go (also invalids), reconciling himself to his destiny. He left behind a fifty-year old wife and a deaf child who lived off the aid they received from the same Red Cross. Today his wife Nevenka says:
" He is an ill man, he does not hear well. He did not wan't to go, but was afraid of the military police. I haven't heard from him since. If only I knew were he was.
All this happened ten days before the army command of the Republic of Srpska declared general mobilization. " Calls of the mother-country" to military capable refugees have been served in the last twenty days in Serbia and Montenegro, while the "mobilization of all available forces of the Republic of Srpska" at this moment implies a hunt after cheap refugee lives, regardless of where they come from. People, who have already, as a rule, experienced the hell of war and who have lost everything except their bare lives were to serve as feed to megalomaniac war plans. Their heads should overweight on the war balance and force the Muslims to be obedient. The production of new warriors is being carried out illegally and in an ugly but expected manner. Yugoslav humanitarian organizations, together with the Army of Yugoslavia are making the necessary "preparations and processing the data",while,there is no doubt, Karadzic and Mladic will take care and determine the final use.
The Aleksinac case of "catching invalids" is a clear demonstration that all is not going as planned, "cannon fodder" is offering resistance and hiding, and the number of naive dreamers is constantly falling.
At this moment it is not known how many men have been caught on the spot and how many succeeded in escaping from this "patriotic" act. It seems that only those frightened by the threat of "severe legal proceedings against deserters and all other persons who are avoiding their military obligations" have consented to go. Or else those unfortunate men who were caught on the spot in refugee centres scattered throughout Serbia and Montenegro. Although these two republics are not at war, their military police pays visits to refugees centres, serves calls and explains with patriotic pathos that any form of opposition will result in military prison even before the men cross the Drina River.
From such a centre, in the vicinity of Kovin, two weeks ago 16 men were picked up. Rumors from there that have reached the Belgrade office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees claim that drafts have been served to women as well. The "administrator" of the centre, Mr.Corovic, knows nothing of that, but he does claim that no resistance was given by athe men that have been taken away.
"Abductions" of men have been effectively executed on January 21 in the villages around Ruma. According to eye-witnesses, who contacted the UN High Commisioner, about 320 men were packed into eight buses. Some of them came to the military department after having received the drafts, while others were abducted. The same source claims that the Red Cross in Ruma, acting together with the military authorities, refused to render assistance to the conscripts, and thereby "aided" their going off to war.
A large number of refugees no longer feel this war as theirs and have gone into hiding after the calls began to be served.
- I shall not go to war under any conditions, a young men who is hiding in Belgrade told us. I spent sixteen months on the battlefied and have fully come to understand the profiteering motifs of various "fighters." I have absolutely no intention of going again.
After all that has happened, hardly anyone stil believes in the words " Homeland is calling" printed on the draft.
- Tell me please, who can still be naive and believe in the story about the famous ancestors and defenders of fire-sides - wonders an anonimous fifty-year old refugees from Sarajevo now living in Belgrade. - I received the call a few days ago with the seal of the Republic of Srpska, ordering me to contact the garrison in Belgrade. I did no go, nor do I intend to. For eight months "I had the honour" to dig trenches and bury the dead under a shower of shells. I had a whole series of operations so I was exempted from army service. All my property has been destroyed. And now, when I found a job and have a chance of feeding my family, they just will not let me be. They won't allow me to settle down.
He adds with bitterness: "They can no longer sell me the story about defending the home and about Serbdom. Many of my cousins, also Serbs, remained in Sarajevo, they do not wish to leave the city even today, and these "summoners" are the ones who are shelling them.
Mr. Janjic from Bogatic, a pensioner, could feel only rage when he received the call to "war". What was he, who was born in Bogatic, and fled from Rijeka, to do now on the battlefield in Bosnia, he asked with anger.
At present, a worn out man from Zenica in his late fifties is also hiding from the war. The draft reached him in Valjevo and he approached the UNHCR for help. He spent thirteen months as a slave, digging trenches in a Muslim held camp. He lost everything he had and is a completely broken man. For him, returning to the front has become senseless.
IT IS NOT MY WAR
The most exciting attempt at mobilization was experienced by the refugees from the vicinity of Pristina. It is not know to how many addresses the drafts were sent to, but 35 men showed up at the Pristina garrison who believed that they were called only for the purpose of verifying the records. Nineteen men originating from Bosnia and sixteen from Croatia, became aware of what was happening as soon as they reached the military facilities. And while they were being "registered", the building was surrounded by the military police.
Two buses were already waiting for the passengers who were being convinced that they were not going to the front but for a medical check-up to Nis. No one believed the story, so the men virtually ran off leaving the buses empty. Later on they seeked help in the Pristina Office of the UNHCR and claimed they saw a list with the names of 160 men who were to be "brought to the mother-land."
- Among them, there were Muslims, Croats and Serbs, who are all hiding now, and I do not have any information whether they suceeded in taking of to war anyone at all - Johan Vatman, from the Pristina Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees points out. - I must say that the local authorities are directly implicated in the mobilization. For example, Zoran Dimitrijevic, the leading person in charge of refugees, as well as those working in the Red Cross. They did not hide their engagement, covering it up with patriotic speeches. Helena Surlic, from the Ministry of Justice in charge of Kosmet, agreed with me that such acts were illegal, but nothing has been done to remedy the matter, people are still hiding, and my impression is that the Minister of Justice has no means to influence the military authorities. These people are in a very unconfortable situation, the local population calls them cowards and tells them to return to where they have come from.
In spite of the pressures exerted by their immediate surroundings and official threats, an increasing number of people hiding from the military authorities and frightened, are contacting the Centre for Anti-War Action in Belgrade asking for legal advice. People of various age and professions are approaching the centre, always with the same sentence: This is not my war. The three lawyers working there have no means at their disposal to help them. All they can advise them, in a roundabout way, is to "take care of themselves."
Yugoslavia is the signatory of the International Convention on the Rights of Refugees and the Treaty on Human and Civil Rights, and what is being done is directly in contrast with these acts, as well as with the Yugoslav Law on the Army. However, a Republican Law on Refugees also exists and it stipulates that refugees are subject to conscription just as the citizens of Serbia are - Elena Popovic, a lawyer explains. We have launched an initiative with the Constitutional Court of Yugoslavia to proclaim the Law on Refugees contrary to the Constitution, however, a lot of water will pass under the bridge until the Constitutional Court begins to consider this matter.
It is only in the office of the High Commesariat for Refugees that these people are openly told: Hide. What they are doing to you is immoral. And illegal too.
- From the time it all began, more than 100 people have contacted us claiming that the military authorities have obtained their addresses from the Republican Commesariat for Refugees or else the Red Cross. It would only be normal that at least these two institutions defended refugees. We spoke with all the officials in Yugoslavia and Serbia, including the minister for foreign affairs. In their written replies all of them expressed shock at such acts and claimed that they were neither envolved or responsible.Nevertheless, everything goes on as before, claims Lindl Saks, the officer in charge of information at the UNHRC Office in Belgrade. - There are people who go voluntarily, but the number of those who are afraid of police revenge is much greater. They are afraid they will loose their refugee status, and thereby, the aid of the Red Cross which is their source of living.
At the Office of the High Commissioner, they cannot assess the real proportions of this action, since often only rumors reach them. Those accomodated in the rural regions do not have enough money either for a phone call or for a trip to Belgrade. It is nevertheless assumed that at present a hunt after about 90,000 refugees is underway in Yugoslavia. Among them are those who have been exempted from serving the army, invalids, the old and the young. One mother claims that a call was served to a boy who was born here, although his parents originally came from Bosnia, which can be a warning. If this chase does not bear fruit, will the citizens of Yugoslavia capable of serving the army soon begin to dream of their birth certificates at night,only to accuse during the day their living and deceased ancestors for ever having crossed the Drina River? Karadzic and Mladic are so full of new ideas for "convincing" the Muslims, that all the Bosnian-Serb blood cannot incarnate them.