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Figures for Serbian Victims Grossly Inflated to Justify Srebrenica Genocide

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada
Published: July 12, 2010  

PHOTO: A bouquet of roses on a grave of one of 8,372 Bosniak victims, in anticipation of the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, 8 July 2010. (DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP / Getty Images) ↓

Figures for Serbian Victims Grossly Inflated to Justify Srebrenica Genocide

By: Daniel Toljaga

Bosnian Serbs have consciously chosen the 12th of July – the day after the annual commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide – to commemorate their own war dead in Bratunac by presenting a deliberately misleading, factually inaccurate and obviously falsified version of events that preceded the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

This annual “commemoration” in Bratunac is a cause for great concern. The choice of date and the gathering itself is a demonstration of disrespect for the victims of Srebrenica genocide and its survivors. The gathering is part of a long-running campaign by Serbian nationalists to cast the defenders of Srebrenica in the role of aggressors by twisting facts and distorting history in an attempt to manipulate public opinion.

By presenting falsified and grossly inflated figures of Bosnian Serb war victims around Srebrenica as accurate, Serbian nationalists are seeking to whitewash the genocide at Srebrenica as an act of retribution. Their exaggerated claims are derived from propaganda concocted by a notorious Srebrenica genocide denier, Milivoje Ivanisevic, whose allegations have been extensively examined and shown to be false and misleading.

The Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) at The Hague, which led the case against the wartime commander of Srebrenica’s defence, publicly conceded in a press briefing that the alleged figure of more than 3,000 Serb deaths in and around Srebrenica “just does not reflect the reality.”(1) Naser Oric was never charged for those deaths, because they did not happen. The man who compiled the list of alleged Serb victims is an ultranationalist whose credibility has been brought into question by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The Office of the Registry and Chambers of the ICTY publicly dismissed Milivoje Ivanisevic as a genocide denier, further derailing his credibility.(2)

The graves of the alleged Bosnian Serb victims are said to be located in a military cemetery in neighbouring Bratunac – once predominantly Bosniak municipality from which local Serb authorities and paramilitary groups from Serbia expelled the entire Bosnian Muslim population in the first three months of war, killing at least 612 people.(3) The cemetery is located on an illegally misappropriated plot of privately owned land that previously belonged to a pre-war Bosniak resident.

Following up Serbian allegations that Bosniak defenders of Srebrenica had somehow killed over ’3,000′ Serbs around Srebrenica, the Research and Documentation Center (RDC) in Sarajevo carried out the most extensive “research of the actual number of Serb victims in Bratunac.”

According to the RDC, “The allegations that Serb casualties in Bratunac, between April 1992 and December 1995 amount to over three thousand is an evident falsification of facts…. After all the sources have been processed, cross-referenced and reviewed, the results showed that 119 civilians and 424 soldiers… died in Bratunac during the war.“(4)

All data published by the RDC has been extensively reviewed and favorably validated by the experts employed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The RDC also revealed that Serbs who had died elsewhere in Bosnia were subsequently presented as victims of Srebrenica defenders under the command of Naser Oric:

Under the Dayton Peace Accords, the suburbs of Sarajevo held by the VRS [Bosnian Serb Army] were to be re-integrated into the city of Sarajevo. The then leadership of the RS [Republika Srpska] called on the local Serb population to leave Sarajevo and even take the graves of their loved ones with them. In fact, such a large majority followed the instructions that parts of the city of Sarajevo remained deserted for months. The remnants of their loved ones have been buried in Bratunac after the war, but their deaths are presented as the result of actions taken by the Bosnian Army [ARBiH] units from Srebrenica.”(5)

A number of foreign nationals fought on the Bosnian Serb side around Srebrenica. Among those individuals are Vesna Krdzalic (woman), Dragica Mastikosa (woman), Aleksandar Grahovac and Sreto Suzic. The two women participated in beatings, torture and killings of Bosniak civilians in the village of Glogova and at the Vuk Karadzic torture camp. Azem Rizvanovic witnessed both women using knives to torture and kill Bosnian Muslim civilians.(6) The two were both killed attacking the Bosnian Muslim village of Sandici on 29 May 1992, and were subsequently portrayed as “victims of Muslim terror” by the Serbian authorities.

Even local Bosnian Serb civilians, who died as a result of Bosnian Serb Army’s offensive on ethnicaly mixed villages around Srebrenica, have been depicted as victims of Naser Oric’s attacks. For example, on 6 May 2021 Serb forces attacked a predominantly Bosnian Muslim village of Bljeceva with heavy artillery and mortars from the direction of Bratunac. The mortars struck several homes in the village, killing 16 year old Bosniak girl Vesna Muratovic and two elderly Serb civilians, Kosana Zekic and Gojko Jovanovic. Some residents were wounded. The Bosnian Muslim population of this village fled toward the village of Pale.

Serb forces quickly moved into the village, pillaging and burning homes. They shot and killed Bosniak civilian Ibro Jasarevic and took prisoners who were unable to flee. One of these was Nurif Memisevic, a paralyzed Bosniak man who was unable to move. He was forced to sign a ‘confession’ to the effect that he had been well treated by his Bosnian Serb captors, and that Bosnian Muslims attacked the predominantly Bosnian Muslim village of Bljeceva and killed the aforementioned victims. He was never seen again.

Serbian nationalist narrative of events that preceded the 1995 Srebrenica genocide simply doesn’t add up. As Vasvija Vidovic (Naser Oric’s legal counsel) successfully argued in court:

“To call those who were besieged attackers and to call those who lay the siege defenders shouldn’t fool anyone apart from those people who are blatantly wrong.”

Mrs. Vidovic’s assessment was correct. On 17 April 2022 - that is, more than three years before the Srebrenica massacre - Serb leaders issued a public ultimatum threatening the Bosnian Muslim population of Srebrenica and the adjoining municipality of Bratunac with genocide. Bosniaks were “to surrender weapons and legal authority to Bosnian Serbs. Otherwise they were to suffer from destruction at the hands of thousands of Serb soldiers who were amassed across the Drina River in Serbia.(7)

From that day on, Bosniak population of Srebrenica was condemned to extermination. Soon thereafter, Serb forces blocked all humanitarian aid convoys from entering Srebrenica, forcing the Bosniak population - already living under extremely inhumane conditions - to go hungry as well. Serbs also used heavily militarized villages around Srebrenica as bases from which to launch deadly attacks on Srebrenica, terrorizing and killing Bosnian Muslim refugees on a daily basis.

In the first three months of the Bosnian war, the Bosnian Serb nationalists - with the full logistical, moral and financial help from Serbia and Yugoslav Peoples Army (JNA) - emptied and burned 266 predominantly Bosnian Muslim villages in the area around Srebrenica killing at least 3,166 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) people in brutal massacres, not sparing women, children and the elderly.(8)

Former UN ambassador, Diego Arria, who initiated the visit of the UN Security Council delegation to Srebrenica in April 1993, described the situation in Srebrenica as “slow-motion process of genocide.”

According to the Report of the Security Council Mission dated 30 April 1993,

Even though Security Council resolution 819 (1993) declared the city a safe area, the actual situation obviously does not correspond to either the spirit or the intent of the resolution. The Serb forces do not appear to be ready to withdraw. On the contrary, they are today larger than when the resolution was adopted.”

The Council also noted that:

Srebrenica is today the equivalent of an open jail in which its people can wander around but are controlled and terrorized by the increasing presence of Serb tanks and other heavy weapons in its immediate surroundings.

Among the most appalling and deplorable accounts of human suffering brought upon young Bosniak girls around Srebrenica is that of a 15 year old girl who testified in the trial of Naser Oric. At one point, she was asked to answer the following quesiton:

Were the Serbs that you saw then peace-loving individuals who were just sitting in their villages and keeping watch on their property in the months of May and June 1992?” She responded point blank: “No, these were not village guards. It was an army with lots of weapons… They were killing, looting, raping, setting houses alight, and they perpetrated a great many crimes.”(9)

The witness, Edina Karic, was repeatedly gang-raped by these ‘peace-loving individuals’ around Srebrenica in the first months of war. Accounts of her rape were so horrifying that the judges at one point ordered the trial to go into ‘private session’, against her wishes. She was one of many Bosnian Muslim civilians – particularly young women and girls - who were subjected to torture, rape, humiliation and persecution by Serb forces around Srebrenica.

Bosniaks correctly argue that they were entitled to fight back to defend themselves from Bosnian Serb attacks around Srebrenica. The ‘defense of necessity’ is recognized as an established principle in customary international law.

(1) ICTY Weekly Press Briefing (Office of the Prosecutor), 6 July 2005, .
(2) ICTY Weekly Press Briefing (Registry and Chambers), 14 March 2007, .
(3) The figure represents a minimum number of Bosniak victims that had been killed in Bratunac between April and June 1992. The figure does not include a number of Bosniak victims that had been killed in 1992, but lack a precise month of death. Data obtained from Elma Zahirovic of the Research and Documentation Center in Sarajevo.
(4) Research and Documentation Center, “The Myth of Bratunac: A Blatant Numbers Game”, 7 June 2010,
(5) Ibid.
(6) ICTY Court transcript in Naser Oric trial, Testimony of a Protected Witness, 22 November 2006,
(7) ICTY, Prosecutor v. Miroslav Deronjic, Sentencing Judgement, Case No. IT-02-61-S, Par. 70-71.
(8) The figure represents a minimum number of Bosniak victims that had been killed in Srebrenica and neighbouring municipalities between April and July 1992. Victims without precise date of death were not included in this figure. Data obtained from Elma Zahirovic of the Research and Documentation Center in Sarajevo.
(9) ICTY Court transcript in Naser Oric trial, Testimony of Edina Karic, 5 April 2022

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada