SAT, 05 MAR 1994 20:54:53 GMT
Anniversary of the Crime in Strpci
Summary: Even a year after the crime in Strpci, when 20 passengers of Moslem nationality were abducted from the train on the regular Belgrade - Bar line, the inquiry has yielded no results. The abduction was, admits the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia (MUP) carried out by members of the Army of the "Republic of Srpska", but neither their names nor details about the destiny of the abducted people have been made public so far. Kukanjac called on Biljana Plavsic to tell the truth about the abduction of these innocent people. Their relatives were deceived by the authorities of Serbia and Montenegro. The case gets to the Hague also. The Anti-War Society blames the ministers of police, defense, transport of Serbia and Montenegro, as well as the Presidents of these Republics. The editors-in-chief of the state media are also accomplices.
A large panel painted black, with a picture of rails on it and a large red - bloody stain in the center and beside it the words: Strpci, February 27, 1993. The picture says everything, but as a reminder we should say the following: on the mentioned date, February 27, 1993 a group of passengers was abducted from the train on the regular line Belgrade - Bar, at the station of Strpci near Priboj, and it was later established that they were of Moslem nationality. The abductor is unidentified, the fate of the abducted unknown - these are the available facts a year after, mainly thanks to the "concern" of the state authorities of Serbia and Montenegro, which, as one of the unfortunate parents said, did more to conceal the crime, than shed light on it.
Mujo Babacic, caretaker in a school in Bijelo Polje, father of the abducted 31 year old Ismet, says bitterly: "On our first meeting, immediately after the abduction, probably to assuage our fresh grief, President Bulatovic and Minister of the Police, Pejakovic, firmly promised an investigation and results in the shortest possible time. Instead, during every subsequent contact, Minister Pejakovic would forestall us by asking: Have you learned anything, wishing to direct the investigation to another, wrong track if we told him something tangible. Everyone promised, from the President of the Commune to the Presidents of Serbia and Montenegro, that the case would be clarified, but even a year later we do not know what has happened to our kinfolk".
What could be heard or read, immediately after the crime in Strpci, but only as "hear-say" or "unofficially", is that the express train was stopped at the local station of Strpci, that armed soldiers in varicoloured uniforms entered, demanded that the passengers show their ID cards and, after that took off the train and led away in an unknown direction 20 of them, only because of, their relatives say, the "stigma" of their names. Rumors to the effect that policemen escorting the train also participated in this, that a list of passengers was made already at the station in Belgrade, that the train was stopped at Strpci, although that is not a regular stop (which enabled the terrorists to carry out the plan), only strengthened the suspicion that not only unidentified "night callers" were behind the crime.
For the same reasons, the later excuses of the state authorities of Serbia and Montenegro to the effect that the case had happened on the "territory of a neighbouring state", (because the railway partly runs, for a distance of about 10 kms., over the territory of B&H) and that the perpetrators were members of units of Mladic's Army, (and those over whom the Supreme Command at Pale has no control at that) were received with large reservations. In that context, mention was made of the Lukic brothers "who have been waging their own private war for months", in the area of Priboj (Serbia) and Cajnice (Bosnia), as the possible abductors, with the horrible epilogue - all the captured persons were allegedly immediately massacred and killed.
Even if all these rumours are discarded, chances that the abducted passengers are still alive, a year after their abduction, are very slim. The relatives, nevertheless, still harbour hopes, because after everything there is nothing else they can do: "I cannot reconcile myself to the fact that my brother is dead. On the other hand, if someone were to tell me he was alive, I couldn't believe that either. Still I hope that he is alive, and that hope keeps me going. What upsets me most is the silence of the authorities - twenty people is not a needle to get lost without a trace, and they persistently repeat that the is nothing new. This sounds unconvincing and suspicious to me", says Ragib Licina, whose 38 year old brother Iljaz is also on the list. "If they would only say, your child, brother or father are alive, but we cannot deliver them to you, or they have been killed so that we can mourn for them as it is befitting and end this agony once for all - says Elizabeta Kapetanovic, whose 19 year old brother Esad disappeared in Strpci, and concludes that she does not believe that "the authorities in Serbia and Montenegro do not know what has happened to our closest of kin".
The private investigation initiated by the families of the abducted people, when they realized the futility of believing in the good will and efficiency of the state authorities, has also not yet disclosed the full truth, especially the most important thing - whether twenty citizens of Serbia and Montenegro, their kinfolk, are still alive? On the basis of evidence they have obtained, but which they do not wish to make public yet, the families claim that the crime was organized "at the highest level", with a "higher" political aim which, as Safet Babacic says, "does not concern us, except to the extent it affected the fate of our brothers". He shows us a clipping from the "Index", an independent paper from Vojvodina, number of July 4, 1993, where it says that the then President of FRY, Dobrica Cosic, "found the killers of the people kidnapped from the train through the military security service... The Minister of the Interior of Serbia, with the knowledge of the Minister of Police Sokolovic, and Vojislav Seselj's people, also took part in this action..." This, says Babacic, pointing at the article, was never denied by anyone.
The families of the abducted have also obtained the statement of an inspector from Priboj, who is evidently well informed of the matter, and who in front of one of the relatives made a slip saying that the Ministry of the Interior of Serbia (MUP) knows "not only who kidnapped and killed them, but also where they are buried". That information, claim the families, contains the names and data related to the unit of Karadzic's army which committed the crime. It is a fact that, after the initial refusal of the leader of the Bosnian Serbs to have his army directly connected with the abduction and even the attempt to accuse "Alija's extremists" of the crime, the Ministry of the Interior of the "Republic of Srpska", on July 8, 1993 officialy stated that "the group which had kidnapped the passengers from the Belgrade - Bar train has been disbanded thanks to the decisive action of the MUP of the Republic of Srpska and some of its members arrested..." However, the names of the "arrested" and "routed" were never published, nor anything else related to the destiny of the abducted passengers.
Somewhat later, the now relieved of office and retired General of the former YPA (Yugoslav People's Army), Milutin Kukanjac, in a testimony carried by the "Borba" directly invited the "Serbian La Pasionaria" Biljana Plavsic, "to say who had abducted the innocent citizens from the train and what had happened to them".
"Except for expressions of sympathy and numerous promises, despite a number of reliable clues and facts, the authorities in Serbia and Montenegro did nothing to throw light on the crime - on the contrary - it could be rather said that they are doing everything for the crime to be forgotten. All this indicates that another crime is now being committed, this time over the families of the abducted people, concludes Rifat Rastoder, who coordinates the efforts of the families to discover the truth about this case.
Thus, to make matters worse, the families of the abducted passengers, instead of getting information on the destiny of their family members, got fired from their firms (mainly construction companies from Belgrade). "My husband worked in the Belgrade "Planum" for 24 years, he was an example, he did not have a single day of sick-leave, and after all that, I and my three children received notice on his dismissal from the Director. When I called Belgrade and begged them not to do that as we had nothing to live on, the assistant to the General Manager answered: "Alija will give you" - says Elifa Bakija, wife of the missing Fehim (53), with tears in her eyes. The others also were fired - some by "Planum", others by "Rad", and yet others from "Ratko Mitrovic" ... The majority of the abducted were also the breadearners in their families - and probably, taking that fact into account - the Montenegrin government gave these families a lump sum of DM 20 for the whole year!. On the one hand distressed, on the other impoverished - that is the situation of 20 families of the passengers abducted from train 671.
The only thing left to them, it seems, is to seek justice from international fora. "Due to, as Rastoder points out, the indolence and ineffficiency of the authorities in Montenegro and Serbia, we are forced to go abroad, as there even exists evidence for the Hague Court on War Crimes. The anti-war and civil association "The Public Against Fascism" of Podgorica is of the same opinion, and in its recent statement it emphasizes : "On account of justified suspicion that they took part in the planning and coordinating of the abduction..., on account of the inadequate security of the railway and train..., on account of failing to take adequate action so as to capture the abductors and save the abducted..., we consider the following accomplices in this abduction: Biljana Plavsic, the conductors and engineers of train 671, the ministers of transportation and police of Montenegro, Serbia and FRY, the minister of defence of FRY, Pavle Bulatovic, the public prosecutors of Montenegro and Serbia and finally the presidents of Serbia and Montenegro Milosevic and Bulatovic. The mentioned Association extends the list of accomplices also to the editors-in-chief of the state televisions of Serbia and Montenegro because they " with untruthful information and by causing confusion in connexion with the abduction and withholding objective information, have contributed to the concealing of the crime".
Perhaps yet another piece of evidence in the file of the state propaganda people is : not a single Montenegrin state media covered, either by word or by picture, the mentioned gathering in Podgorica commemorating the anniversary of the crime in Strpci. The representatives of the ruling party also abstained, although they had been invited. The opposition representatives who came to this gathering, were heard to say that not even the Assembly Commission set up to work on the "Strpci case" would do anything worthwhile ,because "we were encountering a wall of silence everywhere" (Savo Jablan, deputy and member of the Commission).
And thus continues the agony of the relatives of the passengers abducted from the Belgrade - Bar train. These unfortunate people are still being humiliated by different frauds and deceptions, while the state whose nationals both they and their missing relatives are, is shaming itself more and more. It is hard to believe that someone will feel the pangs of a guilty conscience, even less that anyone will be called to account for that. It is only certain that the Argentina syndrome is also spreading in this society as well.
Zeljko IVANOVIC Seki RADONCIC