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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    THU, 22 JUN 1995 21:40:12 GMT

    HUNTING DOWN MEN FROM KRAJINA

    Summary: While Serb police does not hinder to use all means in forcible mobilization of the men from Krajina who have run away from the war, military authorities from Knin claim that "they are volunteers and military conscripts". They are taken away in the middle of the night from apartments, they are arrested in the streets, at students' hostels, taken away from high school balls. The men from Krajina are left completely defenceless: humanitarian organizations are helpless, majority of the Serb public indifferent. It this a form of intra-Serb ethnic cleansing? Or violation of law and fundamental human rights, but also hipocricy of the regime which publicly declares to be solely in favour of peace.

    AIM, Belgrade, June 18, 1995

    Information centre of the "Serb Army of Krajina (SVK)" in Knin publicized on June 17 that "a large number of volunteers and military conscripts" were arriving at Krajina, as result of a coordinated action of Serb and Krajina authorities. When they are arrive, they are "equipped and sent to war units". The action "met with full understanding and solidarity of the citizens of Serbia", and according to this statement, those men from Krajina who have not budged from Krajina insist that this action be continued uncompromisingly. This is the best way to consolidate the morale of "the army and the population".

    Vampiric mobilization

    So much for the official statement. The reality is the following. Policemen of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia and commissioners of the Krajina military departments started on Sunday (June 11) with the action of raiding apartments of men from Krajina who are in any way registered in Serbia. This occurs mostly at the dead of the night, about three or four o'clock in the morning. The men taken by surprise in this way are allowed about 15 minutes to take money and some clothes. Then, in case this is happening in Belgrade, the caught men from Krajina are first taken to collection military-police bases in Bubanj Potok and number 9, Volgina street, and then, when a sufficient number of them is gathered, they are transported to Sremska Mitrovica. From there, buses take them to Krajina, where the first destination is the former Yugoslav People's Army base in the village of Zeljava.

    A man from Banja Luka testifies that he counted ten buses with "volunteers and army conscripts" between Derventa and Sremska Raca in the night between June 14 and 15. The same is happening in refugee camps, and even those men from Krajina who have not informed the local authorities or humanitarian organization about their existence in any way, are not safe either. At any moment they may be identified in the street, on a train, bus, at a students' hostel, and if the police determines that they are by origin from Krajina (there are testimonies that the characteristic accent is sufficient), they can be sure that they will be arrested and sent to their place of origin. The police are also informed about their accomodation with relatives and addresses of rented apartments, which is no cause for surprise. It seems that there are no criteria in this forcible mobilization and that all means are used. All men are hunted, regardless of their status in Serbia: it is insignificant whether they have identity cards issued here, registered residence, whether they are refugees...

    At a control point of the Ministry of Internal Affairs near Surcin, at the outskirts of Belgrade, Momcilo Vuksa, a citizen of Serbia by origin from Krajina, was pulled out of a car and with no explanation and possibility to contact his family, taken to number 9, Volgina street. The man is seriously ill: with several duodenal ulcers, he is under constant medical therapy. As "Nasa Borba" reports, in Kikinda, the police took three young man from their high school graduation ball in Hotel "Narvik". Their friends, all dressed up for the graduates' ball, stood by and calmly watched what was going on, and the Director of the high school later said that "everything passed without incidents", and praised the police "for having correctly done their job".

    According to unofficial sources, forcible mobilization of men from Krajina is founded on the lists of military departments on site, which were then thoroughly checked in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia. It is claimed that there are some 18 thousand names on them, that "deserter hunters" have already caught about two thousand men, and that they will not rest until they hunt down at least six to seven thousand soldiers. They will not end their action then either, but the intensity of their hunt is expected to diminish. It is stressed that the authorities in Knin are especially interested in respectable former citizens of Krajina (doctors, lawyers), former officials and public figures. Bringing them back is expected to demonstrate introduction of law and order, unity and resoluteness to "persist to the end". In other words - levelling of cannon fodder.

    Humanitarian organizations, Centre for Anti-War Action and the SOS telephone for victims of discrimination, protested against forcible mobilization of men from Krajina. They were joined by the Civic Alliance of Serbia; other political parties remained silent. Serbians who experienced hunting down of members of reserve forces in 1991, show neither concern nor solidarity. Some, like the well-known Association of Autochthons of Serbia, openly gloat. The president of this group of citizens, Vlajko Popovic, says: "Mobilization of refugees is the act of the Association. Not a single military conscript fit to be a soldier should be classified among either deserters or refugees. If his home was burnt to the ground, he should have continued to wage war, and not come to Serbia".

    "I am a deserter from the Republic of Serb Krajina"

    At the Commissariat for Refugees of Serbia, they claim that they know nothing about this. Head Commissioner, Bratislava Buba Morina, admits that she has heard that "a lad who was selling ice-cream in the street was taken away" and continues: "Noone asked for data on refugess from us, nor can anyone give the data without me and my knowledge. It is obvious that there are people in this city who are informed about movements of other people around the city".

    The assistant of Mrs Morina, Vladimir Curguz, requested explanation from the competent agencies. He was told that "this has nothing to do with any sort of mobilization, but solving the problem of persons who are unlawfully living on the territory of Serbia, and who are a problem to Serbia". It was not said what state agency is in question, but well-informed sources claim that it is the republican Minister for the Serbs out of Serbia, Radovan Pankov. At the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees of the United Nations (UNHCR), they say that, since the action of forcible mobilization began, on the average fifty people a day contact them asking for help and protection. The only thing this organization can do is express its protest to the office of Krajina in Belgrade, and its concern to the authorities of the FR of Yugoslavia.

    Besides men from Krajina, Bosnian Serbs are also forcibly mobilized in Serbia, although the hunt for them is not so intensive as against the first. The fundamental question here is why the Serbian regime decided right now to deliver to the war lords all those who are actually in line with its official "peaceful policy" because they refuse to serve in Serb armies across the river Drina. For quite some time now these war lords, like Milan Martic and especially Radovan Karadzic, are pursuing a policy which is contrary to the publicly advocated policy of Slobodan Milosevic: they refuse to negotiate and reject international peace plans adopted in Belgrade, they proclaim union of "Western Serb lands", etc. Fresh cannon fodder sent to them by the President of Serbia, just makes them stronger in their resistance to peace solutions he, publicly, at least, advocates. There are several presumptions about is.

    According to the first, prevailing, presumption, this is actually a matter of exchanging hostages, members of UN peace forces for "deserters". Considering that the hostages were held and still are held by the Bosnian Serbs, and their "deserters" are hunted down just sporadically, this is hard to believe. The second presumption says that this is in fact a specific type of assistance to the increasingly threatened Serbs across the river Drina: on account of the international community, Serbia is, allegedly, not able to help them in any other way. Many express incredulity about combat readiness of men mobilized in this way and they say that the only way to raise their fighting spirit is to keep "tested units" behind their backs with guns pointed at them. Rumours have started that the hunted down men brought to Krajina, are close-cropped and, lined up, forced to yell "I am a deserter from the Republic of Serb Krajina".

    According to the third, most probable, presumption, this is a specific, intra-Serb cleansing of Serbia. Namely, Milosevic has realized that the only way for him to remain "the unavoidable factor of peace and stability" is to continue to have the Serbs outside Serbia. If the present trend of emigration continue, discussions about "sacred Serb lands" and peace-making will become pointless. Therefore, now when there is no power for serious negotiations, all men from Krajina should be deported, rifles should be shoved in their hands, and let them be killed for some future political bargaining and arrangements. All this not only shows that to the regime in Serbia, neither the Constitution and the laws it itself cut out, nor international conventions it has signed, mean anything, but it also shows its complete political hypocrisy. Because in Serbia, "even the sparrows on the branches know", as Slobodan Milosevic would put it, "that it is clear to everyone that peace has no alternative".

    Philip Schwarm