Monday 26 August 2019

'We'll never forget horrors of Mladic'

Suad Mujkic, now of Clonsilla, Dublin, said Ratko Mladic should have gotten the death penalty
Suad Mujkic, now of Clonsilla, Dublin, said Ratko Mladic should have gotten the death penalty

Shona Murray

Irish-based survivors have welcomed the conviction of warlord Ratko Mladic for the genocide in Serbia - but say they will never forget his evil crimes.

The case against Mladic - the former commander of the Serb army - was indisputable. He was so brazen in his intentions to murder close to 8,400 men and boys in Srebrenica and the slaughter of tens of thousands in the Siege of Sarajevo.

Suad Mujkic was nine years old when he and around 30 family members were forced by the army to move to the supposed "safe" town of Potocari in Srebrenica. They knew Mladic was the military leader who would execute the political plan of Serb president Radovan Karadzic to create an "ethnically pure" Serb-dominated land.

Mr Mujkic now lives in Clonsilla, Dublin, with his wife and two children and he will never forget the horror.

"Serb soldiers warned us anyone trying to escape would pay with blood," he told the Irish Independent. "On the first night, we heard screams and crying from women outside. Then, soldiers came into the factory and started shining torches. They pointed to girls aged 14, 15, and ordered them: 'you have to go with us'. The girls were neighbours of mine; I'll never forget their faces."

All that could be heard was the wailing amid rounds of gun shots.

"Everyone knew they were being raped and killed," Mr Mujkic said: "Potocari is filled with hills, and the sound of their agony echoed."

Hours later a few soldiers returned some of the girls to their families. "They just lay beside their mothers and cried and cried," he said.

After a few days, the prisoners were told they were going to a safe zone in Kladanj and buses and trucks arrived. "They marched us out of the factories and led the women with the children," he said.

They kept the men back.

"I was lucky, as a child I was very small, so I got to go with my mother on the bus."

In 40C heat in the middle of July, the bus took off, but then stopped abruptly after around 5km. It had arrived at the football stadium in the town Nova Kasaba. In the centre of the pitch were "lines of men with their hands behind their heads". It was sons, brothers and fathers who had tried to escape through the woods.

Alongside was another line "of dead bodies covered by sheets". Moments later the Serb army resumed the killing.

Even worse was to come. "One little baby on the bus cried from the moment we got on the bus," he said.

A Serb soldier who was driving told his mother to "make him stop". His mother explained she had "nothing to give to him". The soldier snatched him from his mother. "Around five minutes later he got back on the bus" with a baby covered in blood. He had slit the child's throat. As he handed the body to the mother he said "now he won't cry any more".

Mr Mujkic said he was happy Mladic was found guilty, but said: "There should be the death penalty for a monster like him. They should leave Ratko Mladic in the hands of the mothers of Srebrenica."

Siege

For 44 months Mladic also laid siege on the people of Sarajevo. Fardus Sultan, who lives in Sandyford, Dublin, was 18 when it broke out. Her mother, step-father and brother were on vacation in Serbia and she was left on her own with her grandmother.

She had seven close friends - she was the only Muslim.

But suddenly her friends and some neighbours and doctors turned against her for her religion.

"Mladic said 'bomb them, shell them so that we drive them mad'," she said. "They targeted women and children who were desperate to escape. After the verdict it's so sad to hear some Serbs view Mladic, [ex-Serbia president, Slobodan] Milosevic and [former president of Republika Srpska, Radovan] Karadzic as their heroes.

"Words don't do justice to what we went through."

Irish Independent

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