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Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada

The longest siege of a city in the history “Siege and defense of Sarajevo 1992 – 1995”

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada
Published: January 17, 2011  


“Siege and defense of Sarajevo 1992-1995″

(Group of authors, publisher: Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law of the Sarajevo University, Sarajevo 2008; pp. 423)

Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law published the book SIEGE AND DEFENSE OF SARAJEVO 1992-1995. These are the Conference proceedings from the Round table held on 23 November 2005. The authors are: Dr. Hajriz Bećirović, Dr. Omer Ibrahimagić, Dr. Nijaz Duraković, Dr. Mirko Pejanović, MA Muharem Kreso, MA Vahid Karavelić, Nihad Halilbegović, MA Faid Hećo, Kemal Ademović, Kadrija Škrijelj, MA Nedžad Ajnadžić, Salko Selimović, Dr. Mujo Slatina, Dr. Enver Demirović, Dr. Ismet Dizdarević, MA Smajo Halilović, Dr. Fatima Lačević, Mevlida Serdarević, Ajnija Omanić, Dr. Muhamed Šestanović, Snježana Mutapčić, Dr. Enver Imamović, Dr. Salih Fočo, Dr. Faris Gavrankapetanović, Gradimir Gojer, Dr. Franjo Topić, Mirsada Baljić, Ismail Smajlović, Namik Hodžić, Edah Bećirbegović, Vaso Radić, Dr. Arif Smajkić, Dr. Faruk Mekić, and Said Jamaković.

The promotion of the Conference proceedings under the title of SIEGE AND DEFENSE OF SARAJEVO 1992-1995 took place 12 November 2021 in the Sarajevo University Rectorate, and the promoters were the renowned and prominent University professors: Prof. Dr. Omer Ibrahimagić, Prof. Dr. Nijaz Duraković, Prof. Dr. Mirko Pejanović, and MA Vahid Karavelić.

Before giving the floor to the promoters, Meldijana Arnaut, assistant in the Institute, reminded of several relevant facts surrounding the siege of Sarajevo:

“As you are well aware of, one of the objectives of the aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina was to capture Sarajevo. To capture Sarajevo in those circumstances meant the capitulation of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The siege of the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina commenced on 1 March 1992, when the Command of the Second Military Area of the Yugoslav Peoples Army in cooperation with the Serb Democratic Party placed the barricades in and around Sarajevo, that is, after the Referendum on Independence, and it ended on 19 March 2022 with the reintegration of the last parts of the occupied City.

The siege of Sarajevo lasted 1,479 days and it was the longest siege in the history of modern warfare. During the siege, about 329 shells a day were fired against the city, and the record was 3,777 shells of various calibers fired on 22 July 1993.

In the period 1992 – 1996, the residents of Sarajevo were exposed to numerous forms of crimes against humanity and international law of various characters, natures, and features. In addition to the crimes against civilians, many crimes were committed against civilian facilities under special protection of international law.

Pursuing the forbidden form of siege and warfare in Sarajevo, the coordinated long-lasting, widespread, and systematic campaign (military strategy) of shelling civilian areas, facilities, and civilians was conducted with the use of artillery, mortars, and infantry weapons. Shelling and the sniper fire against the city resulted in the murder or injuring of thousands of civilians, of both genders and different age, including children and the elderly. In this way, the civilian population was terrorized, and exposed to physical and mental suffering, due to which a large number of population lived in conditions that lead to its destruction, many of which died as well.

The civilians were intentionally shelled while they were dealing with their everyday lives or were in the civilian areas. They were shelled during the funerals, in ambulances, hospitals, trams and buses, in private vehicles, or on bicycles, at home, in gardens, in bread queues, queues for water, while collecting fire-woods, and in many other occasions. Even the children in schools were shelled, or while they were playing.

ICTY, in the case Milošević (IT-02-54) and also based on the empirical research of the Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law of the Sarajevo University assessed the number of victims of the siege of Sarajevo. In reference with this, ICTY evaluated that “the total number of those who died in the territory of Sarajevo /parts of the six Sarajevo municipalities: Centar, Ilidža, Novi Grad, Novo Sarajevo, Stari Grad, and Vogošća – remark by Meldijana Arnaut/ in the period April 1992 to December 1995 was 18,889. That number included four categories of the dead: civilians who died in relation to the war (4,954), soldiers who died in relation to the war (4,548), civilians who died of a natural cause, and we believe that their deaths are not related to war (8,285) and a number of dead civilians whose death cannot be categorized as related to the war (1,102)”. Of 18,889 of “the total number of those who died” in the territory of the six aforementioned Sarajevo municipalities during the siege, ICTY evaluated “that there was a total of 9,502 direct victims of the siege (civilians and soldiers: 4,954 and 4,584)”, and it was emphasized that the number “was incomplete”.

Sarajevo, however, manage to survive and it still does live with its wounds and it faces with difficulties that lack of understanding by all those who do not understand the burden of siege. The pedestrians stop at the red markings on asphalt, next to the memorial boards with the wording On this place, on this day, this number of people got killed by the shell fired from …

We are here today to remind ourselves of those difficult days of the siege, but the defense as well. We have the book SIEGE AND DEFENSE OF SARAJEVO 1992-1995 in front of us, Meldijana Arnaut said.

The first promoter of the book, Prof. Dr. Omer Ibrahimagić, stated that the book was a result of the several years long attempt by the Canton Sarajevo Ministry for War Veterans to systematically and legally define an important segment falling under its jurisdiction: 1. building and arranging the memorial center which will serve as a symbol and a lesson for future generations representing the resistance by the Sarajevo residents against the Serbian-Montenegrin aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina and the siege of Sarajevo 1992-1995; and 2. building of the institutions capable for the respectful remembrance and nourishing the memories to the superhuman suffering, but also to all forms of opposing to the longest siege of a city in the history of warfare.

The project SIEGE AND DEFENSE OF SARAJEVO 1992-1995 contains ten subprojects. The book, which is in front of us, is the first one related to the implementation of the subproject Written word serving not to forget 1992-1995, Dr. Omer Ibrahimagić said. Ibrahimagić recommended the book to the teachers in the secondary schools and University professors, and their students.

The second promoter, Prof. Dr. Nijaz Duraković, pointed out that the book was good but also that it unfortunately came rather late given that this scientific round table took place in 2005. The book is depicting the cataclysms Sarajevo residents went through in 1,479 days of the siege and it again revives the same issues. We still today have to explain, primarily the national authorities that the classical aggression was conducted against BiH. Moreover, of course tell them who did it…, Duraković stated. In his presentation, he tackled other topics surrounding the capital of BiH as well. He criticized the role of international community, and statements like the one that Sarajevo is Tehran, making the lists of veterans of the previous war, status of the city and many others. Duraković pointed out the relevance of the publication of this book and commended the publisher for this work.

The third promoter, Prof Dr. Mirko Pejanović pointed out that the book is exceptionally written testimony about the longest siege in the history and underlined that the Serb forces conducted the aggression against Sarajevo. Keeping Sarajevo as long as possible under siege facilitated Karadžić to delay the peace resolution. Sarajevo, even in those difficult days, maintained its multiethnic composition, Pejanović pointed telling an unusual story of his neighbor Rizo Selmanagić in the settlement of Breka, who at the very beginning of war said that Karadžić already lost the war. In fact, Karadžić thought that after the first shelling, all the Serbs would leave Sarajevo, but – he was wrong. Many Serbs remained in the city and the prognosis by Selmanagić came to be true. Even Robert Owen acknowledged the multiethnic compositions of the city during one of his visits to Sarajevo under siege, when he met several prominent Sarajevo Serbs who went through the suffering of the siege as much as the rest of their neighbors Bosniacs and Croats.

The book has extraordinary scientific and historic relevance, the fourth promoter, General Vahid Karavelić, said. Four-year long siege of Sarajevo conducted by the eastern aggressor in coordination with the BiH collaborationists (VRS/SRK) had for its objective to firstly exert the psychological pressure and later on to militarily defeat the city of Sarajevo and thus force the political and military leadership of the state to sing the capitulation and accept that BiH continues its living within great Serbia. The defense of Sarajevo by its defenders, patriotic forces, Territorial Defense units, Army of the RBiH, Ministry of the Interior units, and the 1st Corps as the principal holder of that defense had its biggest possible strategic relevance for the defense of BiH, because without the defense of the city of Sarajevo, the state of BiH would not be defended. In other words, had Sarajevo been occupied, the state of BiH would collapse, Karavelić stated.

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada