Arkan: Part 2 - From Bijeljina to Infamy
7 June 1997
Date Submitted: 5/24/97
Correspondent: Christiane Amanpour
Senior Producer: John Fielding
Producer: Steve Daly
Editor: Cliff Hackel
Air Date: 1 June 1997
Total running time: 12:12
SHAW ON CAMERA
Arkan's ethnic cleansing of Vukovar was a market-testing exercise.
... to see if it could be done ... to see if the world would do anything to stop it ... to create an aura of terror around Arkan's Tigers.
But it was not until the Spring of 1992 , when Arkan and his men crossed from Croatia into Bosnia, that Belgrade's bloody plans for expansion began in earnest.
What you're about to see is the graphic record of what happened that Spring.
Here, again, Christiane Amanpour
ARKAN NAT VO AND SOT
"I BELIEVE IN GOD. AND OF COURSE I RESPECT ANYONE WHO IS FROM THE ORTHODOX CHURCH.
" I CAN SHOW YOU THAT I BELIEVE IN GOD. YOU CAN SEE. IT IS FROM JERUSALEM.
Five years ago this April, Arkan brought ethnic cleansing to Bosnia.
UN Commission of Experts
" IN BIJELJINA I WAS GIVEN A PICTURE OF AN OLD WOMAN WHOSE EYES WERE GOUGED. AND IT WAS LEFT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET SO THAT PEOPLE WOULD WALK BY AND SEE THIS OLD WOMAN WITH THE EYES GOUGED OUT.
AGAIN IN BIJELJINA WAS ANOTHER INSTANCE OF A SOLDIER... LEFT OUT IN PUBLIC TO BE SEEN. THESE ARE INTENDED TO PRODUCE A TERROR-INSPIRING EFFECT."
FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS THE BOSNIAN CITY OF BIJELJINA HAD BEEN HOME TO MUSLIMS AND CHRISTIANS ALIKE.
THEY HAD LIVED SIDE BY SIDE. THEY HAD INTERMARRIED.
AND THEN, ON THE MUSLIM FEAST OF BAIRAM AT THE BEGINNING OF APRIL 1992, ARKAN AND HIS MEN MOVED INTO BOSNIA.
WITHIN TWO WEEKS 20,000 MUSLIMS HAD EITHER FLED, BEEN TRANSPORTED TO CAMPS, OR SIMPLY SLAUGHTERED.
"IF I HADN'T LEFT BIJELJINA, ARKAN WOULD HAVE SLIT MY THROAT.
Ahmed Salihbegovic and his wife Kiza are back in Bosnia for the first time in five years. Before he fled, Salihbegovic managed to get his son out of Bijeljina a week after Arkan rolled into town.
"ARKAN CAME IN WITH HIS CANNON, AND HE WAS SHOOTING AT ANYONE AND EVERYONE HE COULD"
" I WAS IN THE SQUARE WHEN THE FIREMEN WERE WASHING THE BLOOD OFF THE STREETS WITH THEIR HOSES.
"THAT WHOLE DAY, THAT WHOLE NIGHT, WE JUST WAITED TO SEE IF SOMEONE WAS GOING TO COME BY OR KNOCK ON OUR DOOR AND WE WOULD BE FINISHED AS WELL.
Former Bijeljina Resident
"THAT WAS JUST TERRIBLE TO SURVIVE THAT DAY......
.........."TO HEAR THAT MY SON WAS IN SAFE TERRITORY.........
Belgrade Political Analyst
"IN BOSNIA MUCH MORE THAN CROATIA, ARKAN AND HIS UNIT WERE A PRETTY TERRIFYING TOOL, I MUST SAY.
"THEY WOULD KILL AS MANY PEOPLE AS NEEDED. I MEAN, TO TAKE BIJELJINA WAS NOTHING ACTUALLY. BIJELJINA WAS DEFENDED BY SOMETHING LIKE 35 OR 38 BOSNIAN POLICE OFFICERS.
BIJELJINA WAS AN UNDEFENDED CITY."
There was no war here. Just a blood bath. Arkan's victims in Bijeljina were the same as those he left dead in Croatia. Defenseless men, women and children who were non-Serbs.
In the twisted logic of ethnic cleansing, they had become a deadly enemy --- with Arkan casting himself as a white knight.
ARKAN IN ENGLISH
"THE SERBIAN PEOPLE WAS IN A VERY BAD POSITION HERE FROM THE PART OF THE MUSLIM POPULATION, AND WE, SERBIAN VOLUNTEER GUARD, WE CAME HERE TO HELP THESE PEOPLE...
"...AND ABOUT THE STORIES THAT WE ARE LOOTING AND BAD-TREATING THE PEOPLE HERE,
"THAT'S SIMPLY NOT TRUE, BECAUSE WE ARE SERBIAN GUARDS, SERBIAN GENTLEMEN OFFICERS....
Bijeljina Muslim Leader
"ARKAN'S MEN SLIT THREE PEOPLE'S THROATS RIGHT BY THE CHECKPOINT. THREE POOR SOULS THAT WERE NOT OF ANY SIGNIFICANCE. THEY WERE JUST MUSLIMS, NOT SERBS."
" IN A ROOM SMALLER THAN THIS ONE WE FOUND THREE OLD WOMEN, SHOT TO DEATH WHILE EATING CHEESE PASTRIES.
I REALIZED THEN THE KIND OF PEOPLE WE WERE DEALING WITH."
Seval Begic, a city sanitation manager and local Muslim leader, was ordered to the Bijeljina radio station by Arkan himself.
"ARKAN WAS THE GUY, BECAUSE I SAW WITH MY OWN EYES THAT WHEN HE WAS ISSUING ORDERS, YOU GET ON YOUR KNEES AND CALL HIM "DADDY".
"HE WANTED ME TO SAY THAT BIJELJINA WAS IN DANGER OF ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS AND THAT THE SERBS WERE THE ONES IN DANGER"
"ARKAN BEAT ME FOR TWO AND A HALF HOURS. HE AND THREE OF HIS DEPUTIES, ON APRIL 3RD 1992.
Begic got off lightly. Next morning, Arkan gave him more orders - and this time Begic was forced to comply at gunpoint.
"THEY ORDERED ME TO ORGANIZE A DETAIL FOR COLLECTING DEAD BODIES THROUGHOUT BIJELJINA...
"...AND THEN WE STARTED TO COLLECT THE DEAD MUSLIM BODIES ON THE STREETS.
"WE DID THAT UNTIL DARK."
Once the first truckloads of corpses were off the streets, Arkan was ready to accept the gratitude of his Bosnian Serb sponsors.
...and spin a soothing tale in English for the TV cameras.
"WE CAN GUARANTEE TO THE MUSLIM POPULATION THAT THEY CAN LIVE NORMALLY WITH US...
Two days later, with house to house cleansing of Muslims continuing and the death toll rising, Arkan came up with yet another story-line for the watching world.
"THOSE EXTREME MUSLIMS ARE AS WILD DOGS.
"THIS IS WAR -- US AGAINST THE WILD DOGS WHICH ONLY WANT TO KILL THE PEOPLE AROUND HERE. THAT'S WHAT I WANT TO SAY FOR YOUR TELEVISION.."
ARKAN'S ETHNIC CLEANSING OF BIJELJINA WAS EXTREMELY SIGNIFICANT.
IT WAS A SUCCESSFUL FIRST STEP IN SERBIAN PRESIDENT MILOSEVIC'S PLANS TO CREATE A GREATER SERBIA.
IT SET A PATTERN OF MURDER AND BRUTALITY THAT WAS IMMEDIATELY APPLIED ACROSS EASTERN BOSNIA, GENERATING A DEVASTATING LIST OF WAR CRIMES
AND AS IT ALL PLAYED OUT, NEITHER EUROPE NOR THE UNITED STATES WAS WILLING TO INTERVENE.
"WE HAVE ACCOUNTS AND REPORTS THAT DEAL WITH CIVILIANS BEING SLAUGHTERED, BEING KILLED. THIS IS A CLEAR VIOLATION OF THE GENEVA CONVENTIONS AND THE RULES AND CUSTOMS OF WAR.
"YOU DO NOT FORCEFULLY REMOVE POPULATION. YOU DO NOT INCARCERATE CIVILIAN POPULATION. YOU DO NOT TORTURE PEOPLE.
UN Commission of Experts
"ALL OF THESE ARE WAR CRIMES AND ALL OF THESE OCCURRED IN BIJELJINA AS WELL AS MANY OTHER AREAS."
Bijeljina was just the beginning. For Arkan, the larger blood bath in eastern Bosnia in the Spring and Summer of 1992 was a personal triumph. A madness of murder, looting and torture from which Arkan emerged a Serbian hero --while the outside world sat and watched.
October 1992. The court in Osijek, Croatia, which had begun hearing evidence of Arkan's atrocities in January, orders his arrest.
At Croatia's request another Interpol warrant is issued - the seventh against Arkan. He pays no attention. He is too busy running for national office from the Serbian province of Kosovo.
December 1992. Just one year after bringing ethnic cleansing to Croatia, Arkan is elected to the Serbian parliament.
Once in Belgrade, Arkan's votes for the ruling Socialist party cement his relationship with his mentor - Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic...
..and in pursuit of Milosevic's greater Serbia, Arkan's men roam the battlefields of Bosnia unchecked for three more years.
In the fall of 1995, at the Bosnian peace conference in Dayton Ohio, Richard Holbrooke, the man who brokered the peace deal, confronted Serbian president Milosevic with an intelligence file on Arkan.
Bosnia Peace Negotiator
"THAT ARKAN AND MILOSEVIC HAVE A DIRECT RELATIONSHIP SEEMS CLEAR....."
"I CONTINUALLY TOLD MILOSEVIC THAT ARKAN WAS A MAJOR PROBLEM AND THAT HIS CLOSE ASSOCIATIONS WITH MILOSEVIC WERE A DIRECT CHALLENGE TO MILOSEVIC'S INTERNATIONAL CREDIBILITY. MY ARGUMENTS WITH MILOSEVIC OVER ARKAN WERE CONTINUOUS. IT AGITATED HIM. HE DIDN'T WANT TO DISCUSS IT."
Arkan routinely says he doesn't give a damn. These days he's a family man with a dark suit, a celebrity wife, and a baby son in a tiny tuxedo.
True believers note that the Arkan ethos lives on. The three month old infant wears the badge of the Serbian Volunteer Guard...
..and so do these adults. Arkan's Tigers. Still armed, still ready. Parading only last year, on the fifth anniversary of the fall of Vukovar.
"IT MAKES ME ANGRY. BUT IT'S HAPPENING IN SERBIA, NOT IN BOSNIA, SO IT'S OUT OF THE REACH OF THE NATO FORCES, AND ARKAN HAS NOT BEEN INDICTED. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND WHY, BUT ARKAN HAS NOT BEEN INDICTED.
AMANPOUR - BELGRADE BRIDGE
HERE IN BELGRADE, WHERE ARKAN NOW OPERATES A STRING OF BUSINESSES, PROMOTES HIS FOLK-SINGING WIFE AND TRAVELS EVERYWHERE WITH A CORPS OF BODYGUARDS, HIS NAME STILL EVOKES FEAR
MANY FEEL HE SIMPLY REPRESENTS THE WORST OF SERBIA. OTHERS ARE AFRAID OF HIS BRUTALITY .
And only the foolish ask out loud why Arkan has not been indicted by the War Crimes Tribunal.
Outside Yugoslavia however, the question persists, and Arkan - who declined to appear on this program - made this statement to the British newspaper The Guardian last September.
"I have been investigated by the prosecutor's office of the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. The result is that I have not been indicted for any war crime, nor as I understand it, is it the intention of the prosecutor that I should be so indicted. This is perhaps the best indication of the lack of evidence against me in this regard."
Arkan is misinformed. A full nine months earlier, the War Crimes Tribunal sent this letter to the Croatian authorities, detailing its plans to investigate the 1991 slaughter of non-Serbs in Vukovar.
"In particular we will be focusing on the activities and crimes perpetrated by the paramilitary group now calling themselves the "Serbian Volunteer Guard" and commonly referred to as "Arkan's Tigers"
As of last week, the tribunal's investigation was still incomplete.
"HE SHOULD BE INDICTED AND HE SHOULD HAVE BEEN INDICTED..... BECAUSE THERE IS AMPLE EVIDENCE."