An article claiming that the 1995 massacre in Tuzla was not perpetrated by those who were convicted of the crime, but rather by “Islamic terrorists” and that 27 of the victims were actually suicide bombers has shaken the northeastern town, whose citizens called the claims “shameful” and “monstrous.”
On May 25, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces fired a shell on the Kapija neighbourhood in Tuzla, killing 71 and wounding more than 200.
Novak Djukic, a former Republika Srpska Army commander, was sentenced to 25 years in prison for ordering the shelling but was released in 2014 after Bosnia’s Constitutional Court annulled the ruling due to procedural errors.
Bosnia’s State Court reduced his sentence later that year to 20 years, but his lawyer informed the court a few days later that his client is in Serbia.
In October that year, Bosnia issued an arrest warrant for Djukic as he did not show up to serve his sentence. Bosnia then asked Serbia to extradite him.
The Higher Court in Belgrade postponed the hearing at which Serbia was to take over the case several times, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) reported.
The youngest victim of the massacre was three-year-old Sandro Kalesic.
His father, Dino Kalesic, told N1 that no conspiracy theories about what happened in Tuzla surprise him anymore.
“We should ask ourselves how come that a convicted war criminal can flee a country as Bosnia without anybody looking for him anymore,” he said, adding that that is a problem for him, “and not some writing in a newspaper.”
“We have enough wisdom and strength to forgive, but we will never forget,” he said.
He added that education will help future citizens of Tuzla “turn toward something positive” instead of reacting to what some Serbian newspapers are writing.
“That is not all of Serbia,” he said.
According to the controversial article, published in Serbia’s Vecernji Novosti, the perpetrator of the massacre is ‘Sheikh Mahmud Abu Abdul Aziz al-Muntesib’, an associate of Osama bin Laden.
“This is the recycling of a lie regarding Kapija which they are repeating for the past three or four years - since the moment when Novak Djukic ran into the arms of mother Serbia,” Sinan Alic, from the ‘Truth, Justice, Reconciliation’ foundation said.
“This is shameful, monstrous, inhumane. This is a direct assault on the wounds of those whose children were killed, and many of them are not alive anymore. This is a direct assault on the institutions of this state,” Edin Huric, from the ‘May 25’ citizen’s association said.
Representatives of the city of Tuzla issued a press statement saying that denying the massacre was dangerous for the stability and peace in the Balkans and called upon Serbia’s authorities to respect Bosnia’s verdict against Djukic and to extradite him.