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Bosnian women react to Ratko Mladic's sentence at the memorial center in Potocari, near Srebrenica, yesterday. AP/PA Images
Bosnia War

'Old men and children were taken out and never came back': Dublin based survivor recalls genocide

Suad Mujkić, who lives in Blanchardsown, was nine years old when the Bosnian Serb Army, led my Ratko Mladic, invaded Srebrenica in 1995.

AS HE WATCHED former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic sentenced to life imprisonment yesterday Suad Mujkić was filled with sadness. The former general, who led the massacre of his town, deserved greater justice.

Srebrenica lies in eastern Bosnia less than a dozen miles from the Serbian border. During the bitter Bosnian War, which was waged from 1992 to 1995, the town housed thousands of Bosnian Muslims from surrounding areas. Among these were Suad and his family.

In April 1993, as the Bosnian Serb Army surrounded Srebrenica, the town was declared a “safe area” by the UN. This meant a 30sq-mile area encompassing the town was demilitarised. However the Serb army consistently refused to decommission its weapons in the area.

Conditions in the enclave rapidly deteriorated as the war raged on with only a trickle of supplies reaching the town’s 60,000 inhabitants. People quickly started to die from starvation and disease.

Bosnia and Herzegovina - Common grave near Zvornik The excavation of a common grave in Snagovo near Srebrenica. DPA / PA Images DPA / PA Images / PA Images

The crisis mutated into an atrocity in July 1995 when the Bosnian Serb Army invaded the “safe area” and quickly began summary executions.

Suad, his mother and his one-year-old brother were among over 23,000 women and children who were hastily deported on buses and trucks. Witnesses to the mass movement reported numerous beatings and rapes carried out by Bosnian Serb troops.

The 30-year-old, who has lived in Ireland for the past five years, describes the following two days as the worst of his life.

“It was very hot, 35-40 degrees,” Suad recalls. “We had no water. We were not allowed to talk.”

On the bus there was a mother with a child who was only one or two weeks old. The baby cried all the time. It had no food. It was thirsty. The bus driver stopped the bus and said ‘Is the baby hungry?’. The mother replied, ‘Yes, I have no food.

“The driver said ‘I will make him quiet. He will not cry anymore.’ He cut the baby’s throat. I find it hard to talk about. I was nine years old and it was 22 years ago. But it is still hard.”

Suad and his mother and brother were taken to the nearby village of Potocari where they were housed in a factory with hundreds of others. His grandmother and two aunts were also in the building. They spent two nights in the factory with no light, food or water.

Bosnia Mladic Victims Photo Gallery A woman touches grave stones at the memorial center of Potocari near Srebrenica, AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

“You have to wait and see what’s going to happen,” Suad explained. “The first night a soldier announced ‘No one will come out of the factory until they pay with blood!’”

That night old men and children were taken out and they never came back. Nobody knew what happened to those people. If you were family to someone they were interested in you were killed.

Meanwhile his father was attempting to escape by fleeing through the woods. Over the course of the following month he survived by eating grass, leaves and small animals. After 31 days on the run he managed to escape the area and reunite the family in the town of Kladanj, 70 kilometers from Srebrenica.

In the town he left behind the men who couldn’t escape met with a hideous fate as they fell victim to the worst mass killing in Europe since World War II.

During an eleven-day period in mid-July 1995 the Bosnian Serb Army, under the command of Ratko Mladic, executed up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

Their bodies were dumped in numerous mass graves. Grave sites continued to be uncovered over the course of the following two decades.

Bosnia Mladic Verdict International War Crimes Tribunal investigators clearing away soil and debris from dozens of Srebrenica victims buried in a mass grave near the village of Pilica. AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

After the war ended Mladic fled and spent 15 years in hiding before being arrested in northern Serbia in May 2011.

Yesterday, at a UN backed tribunal in The Hague, the so-called “Butcher of Bosnia” was sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

His trial lasted 530 days over the course of more than four years.

For Suad the punishment is too little, too late. “I was not happy,” he said.

“I’m happy because he is guilty but he’s too old now. He is nearly dead. There should be the death penalty for a monster like him. But at least it’s some justice. Nothing will bring 8,373 victims back.

They should leave Ratko Mladic in the hands of the mothers of Srebrenica.

Mladic wasn’t in court to hear his sentence being read as he was forcibly removed from the courtroom after an aggressive outburst. The 74-year-old shouted “this is all lies” and “I’ll fuck your mother” after the judges refused his defence lawyers’ request that proceedings be halted or shortened because of his high blood pressure.

Netherlands War Crimes Mladic Mladic was forcibly removed from the courtroom following an angry outburst. AP / PA Images AP / PA Images / PA Images

He will continue to be detained in a UN detention centre near The Hague until he has exhausted the appeals process. After that he will be transferred to a prison in one of the countries that has signed up to the tribunal’s agreement on the enforcement of sentences where he will remain for the rest of his life.

suad-pic Suad Mujkić lives in Dublin with his family.

Suad works in HP in Leixlip and lives in Blanchardstown with his wife, his four-year-old daughter and his three-week-old son. Every year they visit their remaining family who now live in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo. No one from the family ever goes back to Srebrenica.

READ: ‘Butcher of Bosnia’ Mladic imprisoned for life after being found guilty of genocide>

READ: Justice for those massacred in a ‘safe area’: what happened in Srebrenica?>

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