October 7, 2022

Siege of Sarajevo Did rich people pay to kill civilians?

Nedim Hasic and Vesna Bernardic |

Sarajevo, (EFE).- During the Siege of Sarajevo (1992-1995), Western and Russian millionaires are said to have paid Bosnian Serb soldiers to shoot civilians from their positions on the city’s hills, a “safari” in which the game pieces became human.

This is why the documentary “Sarajevo Safari”, by Slovenian director Miran Zupancic, premiered last night at the Al Jazeera Balkan Documentary Film Festival in the Bosnian capital.

The filmmaker has tried to shed light on the rumor of “sniper tourism” that has persisted for decades. However, it has never been confirmed, which is why the documentary offers as many questions as it answers about this alleged practice.

“Sarajevo Safari” tells how Western and Russian millionaires allegedly paid Bosnian Serb soldiers to shoot civilians.

Manhunt in the Siege of Sarajevo
A woman runs in front of a bombed-out building in Sarajevo in 1992. EFE/SIPA PRESS/Tom Haley

“Sarajevo Safari” claims that the “hunters” were millionaires – unidentified – from the United States, Canada, Russia and Italy, who first traveled to Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and later traveled by Yugoslav army helicopters or by road. to be transferred to Bosnia controlled by Bosnian Serb forces.

Zupancic’s film does not identify the Serbian and Serbian military commanders who would have allowed such activities.

The Most Expensive: Killing Children

As with any safari there were more expensive pieces. In it, “the price was higher if the target was a child,” according to one of the witnesses. The documentary does not mention any fees, but says they were huge sums.

That witness, whose face is not shown and whose identity is not revealed, assures that he has worked as a secret agent for Yugoslavia and the United States in the past. He claims to have witnessed at least seven murders by these snipers.
During the siege, some 6,000 civilians, including more than 700 children, were killed in attacks on the city.

Manhunt in the Siege of Sarajevo
1993 photo of Muslim refugees being evacuated in UN trucks from the city of Srebrenica. EFE/Str

“I have seen strangers come and shoot the citizens of besieged Sarajevo for certain sums of money.”

Rumors or anti-Serb propaganda?

The Bosnian capital lies in a valley surrounded by hills, from which Bosnian Serb artillery shelling and sniper fire ravaged the inhabitants during the 1425-day siege.

Zupancic, a documentary filmmaker and screenwriter with a long career behind him, explains to Efe that he decided to investigate this rumor because it presented “an exceptional professional and ethical challenge”, which distorted his “perception of the world and raised questions about a new , disturbing and unpleasant”.

Some Serbian and Bosnian Serb media have presented the documentary as mere anti-Serb propaganda, though Zupancic defends the validity of his testimonies and denies that he wants to “demonize” the Serbs.

“We have included testimonials from people we believe. Any person who sees the documentary will decide whether they can believe it or not,” he emphasized.

Manhunt in the Siege of Sarajevo
Empty streets of Vitez after the fighting between Muslims and Croats in 1993. EFE/SIPA PRESS/Alexandra Boulat

At first he thought it would be easy for him to debunk the “safari” rumors, but he found the testimony of the witnesses convincing and passed all his verifications.

Another witness is Edin Subasic, a former Bosnia and Herzegovina military analyst, who says he heard about human safaris during the interrogation of a prisoner of war, who told him that some Italians had paid to shoot civilians in the city. .

Sarajevo authorities then informed the Italian intelligence services, who after several months confirmed the presence of Italians and promised “it would not happen again”.

According to Zupancic, there are more witnesses, but they all shrank when they spoke to a camera.

Suspicions without evidence in the siege of Sarajevo

Natasa Kandic, head of the Serbian NGO “Fund for Humanitarian Law” in Belgrade, assures Efe that she has never had any information about this type of activity.

Manhunt in the siege of Sasrajevo
Radovan Karadzic (d) and Ratko Mladic (l) in an image from 1993. EFE/EPA/STRINGER

For his part, the director of the Sarajevo Documentation Center (IDC), Mirsad Tokaca, says he knows only rumors of this kind of ‘safari’, although he mentions the case of Russian writer Eduard Limonov.

In the 1992 documentary “Serbian Epic” by Pole Pawel Pawlikowski, Limonov (1943-2020) sees a heavy machine gun firing at Sarajevo. Nearby was the then Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, now in prison for war crimes.

Despite having no evidence, Fikret Grabovica, president of the “Association of Parents of Children Murdered in Besieged Sarajevo”, says he has no doubts that something so “horrific” could have happened during the siege.

In addition to Karadzic, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has also sentenced Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity during the siege of Sarajevo.

Web editor: Nuria Santesteban

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