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Speaking Out videos: MSF and the war in the former Yugoslavia 1991-2003

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13 November 1991 – France 3 – Florence Villagi, MSF. 

TV presenter: Médecins Sans Frontières is celebrating its 20th anniversary today with the launch of its appeal "1 franc a day" to help save lives. In a few minutes I’ll tell you about Jean-Marie Cavada’s La Marche du Siècle on at 8.30 tonight on France 3. But before that, I would like us to take a look at a story broadcast a few weeks ago on the news on France 3 Lorraine. It’s the story told by a nurse from east France who works for MSF. She was travelling in the convoy that hit an anti-tank mine last October in former Yugoslavia. Jean Roussart reports.

Commentary: Florence Villagi will remember Saturday 19 October for the rest of her life, as this was the day when around fifteen Médecins Sans Frontières vehicles left the base camp in Djakovo to go to Vukovar. The towns are only about twenty kilometres apart but it took over four hours to get to the hospital in Vukovar where around one hundred wounded people were waiting for them. Florence recalls arriving in the town.

Florence: None of us will ever forget it. The civilians were waiting for us, as had been planned. I think they were astounded we’d been able to get through. They were crying; they were so hopeful. It was really important to them.

Commentary: At midday, the MSF vehicles left the town with 108 injured passengers on board. 20 minutes later, a line of Serb armoured vehicles blocked the road and diverted the convoy. One of the vehicles then struck a mine, and two nurses were badly injured. Florence was hit by shrapnel and passed out.

Florence: My colleagues and I were thrown to the back of the truck and we landed on top of the wounded. We passed out for a few seconds and were fairly dazed for quite a while. When I came round I saw two of my colleagues lying on the ground in front of their truck. The wounded held me back to stop me going to them. I understood it was not a pretty sight.

29 May 1992 – RTL – Rony Brauman, MSF France President

21 December 1992 – France 3 – Rony Brauman, MSF (French)

TV presenter: This programme is almost over so we should give you some figures that demonstrate all too tragically the reality, and the tragedy playing out in the country. 50,000 dead, tens of thousands injured, 2 and a half million displaced, towns razed, concentration camps – a catalogue that sums up only too well the savagery of the what’s called “ethnic cleansing" Serb militias have been carrying out since March 1991. On 7 December, Médecins Sans Frontières made public a report on this process of ethnic cleansing. The report is based on a survey of 60 former Bosnian prisoners and their families who are now in France. Rony Brauman, president of MSF, thank you for coming in to talk to us. How did you conduct the survey?

Rony Brauman: We wanted to reach out to these refugees and prisoners who, after surviving a horrific ordeal, are rather lost in France. So we assigned four doctors – one a psychiatrist – to interview and talk to them, like a kind of psychotherapy. What we found out shook us to the core, and that’s when we decided to go public with the report. We discovered that behind the term ethnic cleansing, which has almost become part of everyday language, behind this image of a kind of war where tribes indiscriminately cut each other’s throats, ultra-nationalist Serbs are implementing an actual process. With a total denial of humanity, they’re committing in their territorial conquests horrific crimes – unmitigated assembly-line murder – in places nothing short of concentration camps.

TV presenter: Reading the accounts in MSF’s report provokes rage and indignation; we’ve chosen to tell that of a 40-year old man who speaks without anger. You’re about to hear his story, in which he recounts the hell he endured.
Former prisoner: It wasn’t so much a camp as a slaughterhouse or a bloodbath. The camp guards took pleasure in doing the most terrible things. What I saw was really not a pretty sight.

Journalist: What did they do?

Former prisoner: I saw them hang up a man by his feet from a beam. They took a knife and skinned him alive, like a sheep. When I think of it… It was horrible… The way that man screamed and cried.
In 11 days, I ate four bits of bread and I’m not sure they weighed even 20 grams.

Journalist: And how many of you were there sleeping in the room?

Former prisoner: I don’t know how many exactly, but there were between 270 and 300 of us. The room was 80 metres square.

TV presenter: That was a statement taken from the report MSF made public on 7 December. Rony Brauman, do you not feel that this war is not so much to impose Serb domination, but rather to eliminate a whole people, through genocide or enforced exile?

Rony Brauman: Yes, absolutely. The aim of this war is to create refugees, and to create them they’re using all possible strategies of terror, intimidation and denial of humanity. I must say that the paramount feeling I have is one of shame, shame of the lie that consists in calling the United Nations force a ‘protection force’. We’re not protecting these Bosnians from being massacred, from being terrorised, driven from their land while powerless soldiers are forced to look on, weapons at the ready, and as you just said, impatient to step in, but also mortified. I’m ashamed that an outstanding journalist like Zlatko Dizdarevic, who should be being afforded hero status in Europe, isn’t with us here tonight, because getting him out of the cellar where he’s holed up is seen by the United Nations as a political gesture. It’s a disgrace, an unspeakable disgrace. So leaving him holed up in a cellar isn’t a political gesture? How can that be acceptable? It’s shameful and despicable. I have to confess that what I feel most tonight is shame. And the humanitarian aid we send in, the aid MSF, Equilibre and AICF all contribute to, is useful and indeed vital, but that the governments opposing this process of crimes against humanity are only sending in blankets which, let’s face it, will be used as shrouds within a few days, is nothing short of contemptible.

TV presenter: What can the international community do now?

Rony Brauman: It must outlaw ethnic cleansing and territorial conquest, then make it known and implement the means required to ensure it’s respected.

27 December 1992 – France 2 – Rony Brauman, MSF (French)

TV presenter: But first of all, let’s hear what Rony Brauman, president of Médecins Sans Frontières, has to say. He is incensed, as you’re going to see, at the powerlessness of the UN forces. Listen to him.

Rony Brauman: I heard yesterday that it’s being acknowledged for the first time that the Serbs are using helicopters to pound Bosnian towns. It’s quite extraordinary, because it’s been going on for months and, all of a sudden, people have got the message. You know, in theory, helicopters aren’t authorised to take off and the United Nations have helicopter bases under surveillance. So what have the Serb army or the Serb-Yugoslav army been doing? Taking off, landing 5 kilometres away, loading missile launch rails and taking off again to bomb all the towns they’ve laid siege to. It just shows the extent to which the United Nations Protection force protects nothing at all; they’re simply observers to ethnic cleansing. In fact, I propose that this force no longer be called the "United Nations Protection Force" because, frankly, that’s a sham, but be re-named the "ethnic cleansing observation force," which corresponds to the strict reality of its mission.

29 December 1992 – Interviews of Jean Porrini, MDM and Rony Brauman, MSF on ethnic cleansing

Interview sur l'épuration ethnique - Interview de Jean Porrini (MDM) et de Rony Brauman (MSF) sur l'épuration ethnique (French)

TV presenter: Good evening. In a move that is significant of the current climate, and in a departure from their usual political neutrality, France’s leading humanitarian organisations – Médecins du Monde and Médecins Sans Frontières – have each launched campaigns to heighten public awareness to the ethnic cleansing waged by Serb leaders.

Commentary: Milosevic in unfortunate company. This poster that has appeared on the streets of Paris is intended to raise awareness to the ethnic cleansing that Médecins du Monde holds Serb nationalists responsible for. Reference to Hitler.

Jean Porrini, MDM: The campaign isn’t supposed to make an analogy, but it is intended to show that these crimes are crimes against humanity and the only reference we have are the Nazis.

Commentary: Médecins du Monde’s campaign includes video clips featuring Jane Birkin and Michel Piccolo expressing their revulsion.

Michel Piccoli: Purification of what, which ethnic group? Yours, ours? New concentration camps, torture, rape, deaths, refugees, slaves in Bosnia. Our duty is to fight, to combat this new dictatorship. Serbs – put a stop to this abomination.

Commentary: And there’s another campaign, the one run by Médecins Sans Frontières. Yet another historical reference, with the definition of a crime against humanity as established by the Nuremberg tribunal. Here we hear the victims.

Victims: They took away little girls. It was horrendous to watch mothers holding on to their daughters as the Serbs tried to tear them away. We were forced to watch it all. Why did it happen?

Rony Brauman: Words are not enough; action is needed. I hope that in the current climate – at last we’re seeing people beginning to wake-up –, the politicians will continue to assume their responsibilities to the end.

Journalist: Take action, assume responsibility. What does that mean for today’s politicians?

Rony Brauman: It means that ethnic cleansing and the way it’s being executed on the ground, the atrocities committed and the ethnic cleansing programme are unlawful and that unlawful acts must be punished. That’s what we’re looking for.

December 1992 – MSF (French)

1st clip:

Commentary: The Nuremberg tribunal defined crimes against humanity as follows: "murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation or any other inhumane act that is committed against any civilian.” This man survived the concentration camp in Omarska.

Survivor: I’d seen films about Auschwitz, I never imagined that it could happen to me or anyone else but the same happened in Omarska and Keratern. In Omarska, we were subjected to the same bad treatment, the same physical torture, the same executions. They kill with knives, beat people to death but they rarely use bullets. The same is happening now as 40 years ago.

Commentary: The Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina are committing a crime against humanity under our very eyes. Now we know.

13 March 1993 – France 2 (French)

TV presenter: But first we’re going to Srebrenica in east Bosnia, where French General Philippe Morillon still is. We thought he was being held by the town’s Muslim population, as that’s what was reported in the first news we received. But this afternoon General Morillon has supposedly said he’s staying of his own free will to protect the inhabitants.

Commentary: The voice picked up this afternoon by an amateur radio enthusiast in Zagreb has been analysed by military wiretapping specialists at UNPROFOR headquarters in the Croatian capital. It’s being processed now and its authenticity checked. The message – apparently sent from the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica in east Bosnia that has been besieged for the past 11 months by the Serbs – has already been authenticated by General Morillon’s aides in Sarajevo and is indeed from the commander of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia. Its message is clear. Philippe Morillon denies being held against his will in Srebrenica, he is remaining voluntarily. But several UNPROFOR and UNHCR sources stated this morning that civilian Muslims had been forcibly detaining him since last Friday. General Morillon, who we see here filmed on Thursday evening in Zvornik, had said he was going to Srebrenica to negotiate with the Serb forces the evacuation of casualties from the blockaded town. His mission was also to get humanitarian convoys blocked for several days by the Serbs into Srebrenica. It would appear that General Morillon failed in the negotiations and Srebrenica’s 75,000 inhabitants have not been provided with supplies from the convoy. The Serb offensive on the Muslim enclave has intensified. Morillon indicated in his message that he was staying to help allay people’s fears. Confirmed by a UNPROFOR officer in Sarajevo.

UNPROFOR officer: He’s in good health and doesn’t feel threatened. He has chosen to stay put in Srebrenica.

TV presenter: So, Gérard Sebag, this leaves us somewhat intrigued. Major Robert C. has just told us live from Zagreb that he’s being detained.

Gérard Sebag: You’re right. The situation is rather muddled and indeed odd as the first information out of Srebrenica suggested that General Morillon had been detained (not to say taken hostage) by some of the population who were pressuring him to give guarantees on three points. First, a ceasefire, second, the deployment of United Nations observers, and third, that airdrops of food and drugs would continue. Prevented from leaving the town, General Morillon is apparently trying to make the best of things. Those are the words of a Western diplomat we were able to contact by telephone. So it looks as if he’s decided to stay in Srebrenica and attempt the impossible – meaning, continuing negotiations on lifting the siege of the town with the Serb militias and the town’s authorities, but they haven’t come to anything yet. What is certain is that this latest development in Bosnia is a severe blow to the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations – credibility because it is very hard to cross a starved town and then leave behind wounded people, women and children with nothing achieved. And effectiveness, because the United Nations forces in former Yugoslavia find themselves once again in an impasse that General Morillon may well find difficult to get out of.

17 April 1993 – France 2 – Rony Brauman, MSF (French)

TV presenter: So, Rony Brauman, let me first remind viewers that you are president of Médecins Sans Frontières. You and your organisation were in Croatia at the beginning of the conflict, then former Yugoslavia and now Bosnia. Let’s start with how did we allow this to this happen?

Rony Brauman: I think it was an attempt to replace a kind of fundamental political responsibility with a strategy of the lesser evil. It was allowed to happen because we were following on the heels of the Serb nationalists, picking up the pieces, bandaging wounds and patching up some of the casualties. That’s it. Our responsibilities were readily abdicated, probably by invoking a whole slew of pertinent historical, diplomatic and political reasons, but the facts are there and, as the report shows only too well, we European citizens, our governments, our Western countries, have totally abdicated the responsibility that was ours to prevent the deployment of a strategy of racial domination and territorial conquest right at the heart of Europe. This failure, as we are now witnessing, is barbaric.

TV presenter: Do you consider that the entire Western political establishment has given itself a good conscience by leaving it to humanitarian organisations to take action on the ground?

Rony Brauman: Yes, never in my life have I been as struck by what could be called the ‘humanitarian alibi’ in Bosnia. Seeing in Bosnia all the armoured vehicles and the tanks, all the soldiers, all the aid organisations, all these worthy sentiments in a kind of hellish whirl to make it look like something’s being done. But nothing’s being done. We manage to get to a few towns and enclaves, but not very many, while the war continues to rage relentlessly in 90% of the country. That’s what’s happening in Srebrenica now, exactly like what happened in other towns in east Bosnia, and nobody’s saying a word.

TV presenter: And Croatia…

Rony Brauman: And Croatia, like in Vukovar and Osijek. We had teams in Vukovar who were attacked by Serb nationalists when they were evacuating casualties. We’ve got a surgical team in Srebrenica operating as we speak. Well, I don’t know what’s going to become of them in the next few hours, or tomorrow or the next day. Perhaps they’ll be forced to flee in a panic, probably along with tens of thousands of people who have sought refuge in Srebrenica. You should know that Srebrenica’s population is 6,000, and that now more like 30 or 50,000 people are there, refugees from other towns in the vicinity who’ve ended up there.

TV presenter: So seen from the ground, does that mean Srebrenica is going to fall in a few hours, that the Serbs aren’t necessarily going to exterminate the people in the town, but are going to ask humanitarian organisations to evacuate them?

Rony Brauman: I believe there are two reasons why they won’t exterminate them. Firstly, it’s not in their strategy. Serb nationalism isn’t a Hitlerian enterprise; it’s not a strategy of extermination. It’s a strategy of terror, of expulsion. What they want is to drive out all the non-Serbs from all the places they lay claim to. That’s the first reason why they’re not going to exterminate them. But the fact remains that when people wanting to show their determination are prepared to kill, if that means killing several hundreds or thousand of people, they’ll do it. We saw it happen in Vukovar. The second reason why they’re not going to do it is because we’re going to do it; Western governments, the United Nations will do the job for them. Humanitarian organisations are really valuable to ethnic cleansing, and that’s why we feel like the world has gone crazy, that all sense of values has been over-turned. To be inhuman, cowardly, adopt the guise of a big shot, well, here’s the answer – the humanitarian worker, the perfect mask for our abdication and our cowardice.

1993 – A Year in Focus, MSF France

7 February 1994 – France Inter – Rony Brauman, MSF (French)

Rony Brauman: Nothing’s changed in Sarajevo. The siege has already lasted 22 months. A few weeks after it began, timid voices were heard saying that what mattered most was loosening the murderous stranglehold that was throttling Sarajevo. Nothing has been done since, apart from delivering food to people who are being asphyxiated little by little. On Friday, we saw a particularly big explosion but basically, there’s nothing new. After 22 months, you get a bit cynical and disillusioned, so I’m ready to bet that there’ll be nothing new in the reactions that emerge during the next few days.

Journalist: But, Rony Brauman, as a humanitarian worker, what needs to be done there? Should there be more humanitarian aid? Should we help Sarajevo? Is military intervention required?

Rony Brauman: Listen, it’s not up to a humanitarian organisation to dictate political strategy, and definitely not on military issues, to governments who have a fundamental responsibility in these kinds of situations. A Médecins Sans Frontières team stepped up because we have a permanent team there. All they and the other organisations could do was pick up the pieces. It was so depressing, we emptied our stocks, we took everything to Kosovo hospital so that local surgeons could operate. They’re excellent surgeons but they never have enough resources, so we’ve been delivering drugs and equipment and more are on their way. All this is indispensable, but at the same time, derisory. Because it’s indispensable, we do what we’re supposed to do, and derisory, because we know how ludicrous it is treating people who are gong to be bombed all over again tomorrow. So what I’m calling for… In fact, we’ve been talking with all the humanitarian aid agencies on the ground and this year Médecins du Monde, Handicap International and other such organisations have sent an ironic greetings card to the great and good in Europe and the world telling them we’re expecting them to assume their responsibilities and not to conduct themselves like humanitarian organisations.

Journalist: Rony Brauman, if it’s not your responsibility and not up to you to take the decisions, what exactly are you hoping for from government leaders?

Rony Brauman: What I want is from them is that they take the necessary measures to release the stranglehold. These measures will of course be gesticulation (in the noble sense of the term), a show of determination while ensuring that any action undertaken reflects the rhetoric. Regrettably, the Serbs, like the rest of us, see that every time a decisive measure is announced, nothing concrete happens because nothing is done to enforce it – whether it be an issue of over-flights, movement of humanitarian convoys, evacuating refugees or safe areas. Two months ago I was in Srebrenica, one of the six safe areas established by the UN several months ago, and there’s nothing safe about it. On a daily basis our surgeons perform surgery on the wounded and bury the dead because the airstrikes are continuing there and on all the other safe areas. In case anyone’s forgotten, Sarajevo’s also a safe area – as we’ve seen in the past few days. So, in the face of this masquerade, all that’s left to us is to yell and scream our outrage and denounce the hypocrisy. Just tell us if there’s something to be done in Bosnia and, if there is, do it. But, if there’s nothing to be done, we’ll draw the appropriate conclusions regarding political capability – as much as at the international as at the European level.

Journalist: Does the government have a position on the issue? Well, position is perhaps not the right word. Is there any particular line of thought among the political establishment that strikes a cord with you?

Rony Brauman: No, because there’s some quite extraordinary manoeuvring going on. No sooner does yesterday’s warmongering opposition get into government than they declare they’re unable to do anything whatsoever as apparently none of the requisite conditions are satisfied. This may be the case but I’m not in a position to judge. And all those who were in power before could talk about was humanitarian action and large-scale deployment of aid. They very clearly did not want to get involved politically. Well, now they’re saying they’ve had it with this humanitarian approach and the order of the day has become political intervention and the means to achieve it. So, basically, in power or in opposition, the rhetoric and the viewpoints switch but the end result stays the same. […]

Journalist: There’s talk of aerial intervention and mention was made several days ago of pulling out all the peacekeepers over the next few weeks. Do you consider this to be the worst-case scenario for the people on the ground?

Rony Brauman: Yes, pulling out the peacekeepers, especially from Sarajevo but from some of the other towns too, would be an absolute disaster. Because if Sarajevo is continuing to survive (and the international community can at least take credit for that), it’s due solely to the presence of the peacekeepers and the UN airlift that delivers several hundred tons of food a day. So we’re trapped in a kind of spiral, from which, in my opinion, we don’t want to extricate ourselves. Humanly speaking, you can’t pull the peacekeepers out of Sarajevo; it’s just not possible.

10 April 1994 – France 3 – Eric Stobbaerts, MSF (French)

TV presenter: The situation for the thousands of Muslims in Gorazde in east Bosnia is worsening. The Serbs, who have been surrounding the town for months, finally entered today. Given the seriousness of the situation, the French and the Americans have declared that, if asked to do so by the United Nations, they are ready to carry out airstrikes. Jean-François Gringoire.

Commentary: This afternoon we received the first images filmed by a Serb television crew of the defeat of the Bosnians defending Gorazde. At this very moment, they are at the gates of this martyred town confronting the relentless firepower of the Bosnian Serb army. So here are the victors, Serb combatants who couldn’t care less about UN resolutions. Other Serb soldiers, who have considerable back-up from their artillery, have taken two Muslim villages near Gorazde and completely smashed Bosnian defences in the south of the enclave.

Eric Stobbaerts: People in the south of the zone started moving out last night. Over 2,000 people have arrived in the town; they’re desperate. They were forced to leave their villages because they’d been bombed. It was totally indiscriminate, affecting the entire town. It was nerve-racking. It caused a state of general panic and terror, because it was so random. Panic set in among the population.

Journalist: Do you think it will be possible to evacuate the civilian population from Gorazde?

Éric Stobbaerts: I have to admit this is the first time I’ve heard mention of that possibility. We haven’t dared even envisage it because it would mean the very notion of protecting an enclave has ended in failure. If it were to happen, I’d find it quite terrifying.

Commentary: Asked about the possibility of an aerial response by NATO, General Michael Rose declared: "It might come to that". Washington, which has an aircraft carrier in the Adriatic, says they’re ready to provide close air support, as is Paris. Gorazde is under UN protection.

11 April 1994 – France Inter – Rony Brauman, MSF (French)

Annette Ardisson: Hello Rony Brauman. You have teams in Gorazde and in Kigali, the world’s biggest hot spots this morning. In Gorazde, NATO has executed its threat of airstrikes against the Serb forces. Isn’t this yet again a case of too little, too late?

Rony Brauman: As Bernard Guetta commented, it has to be said that they’re life-savers. The airstrikes were launched just when we, especially our team on the ground, feared a massacre comparable to the one in Vukovar, the town in Croatia. In November 1990, it was literally crushed and flattened after a siege that had lasted several weeks. That’s exactly what’s happening now and the NATO planes that have turned up, I think, have averted a massacre. But obviously it’s late in the day as it’s been two weeks now that, day in, day out, the Serb forces have been advancing, taking positions, flattening villages while terrified refugees have been pouring into Gorazde in search of sanctuary.

Annette Ardisson: Can this show of force, well this willingness to make a show of force, be effective in the medium or long-term?

Rony Brauman: I don’t know, but what I do know is that the latest news I got really early this morning was sent from the region at midnight. The fighting has started up again, and there’s as much bombing as there was during the day yesterday. So we really get the impression that, as Bernard Guetta was saying, there’s a test at stake, but it isn’t over yet.

Annette Ardisson: So an extra push might be needed.

Rony Brauman: It feels like an extra push might be what’s needed. But it’s not my job to call for a war or for airstrikes. I simply want this first strike, that’s been justified strangely enough not by the collapse of an agreement on the safe areas but by the risk facing the UN forces – the eight poor UN guys who are also getting bombed in Gorazde.

Annette Ardisson: Although it’s an area under UN protection and so they’re entitled to retaliate?

Rony Brauman: It’s a safe area, but the point of law UNPROFOR invoked to explain its airstrikes is not the collapse of the safe area or the attack against the civilian population but the threat facing the eight UNPROFOR people there. Well, they’re more UN people because they aren’t really with UNPROFOR. So I’m speculating and wondering if it’s going to be enough for the Serb forces and the forces in general, to spare the UN people and be satisfied with, so to speak, “massacring civilians in order to advance like a knife cutting through butter.” That’s what UNPROFOR seems to be saying; that’s the incitement being floated in Bosnia.

Annette Ardisson: Listening to you, aren’t you concerned that the airstrikes are compromising the safety of your teams?

Rony Brauman: Of course I am. I remember Vukovar when we evacuated in extremis around one hundred casualties. The people we left behind and the local medical teams were massacred mercilessly, so yes, I think anything is possible.

Annette Ardisson: We misunderstand each other. I meant the airstrikes. Isn’t there a risk of revenge?

Rony Brauman: No, I don’t think so.

Annette Ardisson: I’ve just been handed a dispatch. It would seem Boris Eltsine is calling for a meeting of the Security Council. He explains that issues such as the bombing of Serb positions cannot be resolved without first consulting the United States and Russia. What do you think of that? You’re not a politician but you are hands-on. Does it mean that NATO will be prompted to more caution?

Rony Brauman: You’re quite right when you say I’m not a political analyst so I don’t really want to comment. I just remember that, when the ultimatum was presented, we saw similar posturing so I’m wondering if it’s just for show.

Annette Ardisson: Are there other towns in the same position as Gorazde at the moment?

Rony Brauman: No, Gorazde is the town facing the biggest threat. What is certain is that, should by any misfortune Gorazde fall to the Serb forces tomorrow, the status of all the safe areas would be compromised. Not Sarajevo of course, which is one of the six, because while its fate is not completely decided, the town is relatively well protected. But we can well imagine how all the enclaves are about to fall like a house of cards. Indeed, the road connecting east Bosnia to the various enclaves is already under Serb control and the wounded are mostly in K pocket. Again, it’s not just Gorazde, there are several villages in the south and east of the pocket that have been pounded for days on end. We think, but don’t actually know because we haven’t been to get to them, that there are many casualties. But because of the situation nobody can get to them, so the wounded are dying because they don’t dare go to Gorazde. The road is too dangerous, it’s under a constant barrage of Serb fire. In other words, small pockets are being established, tiny Bantustans, small Muslim reservations in this totally Serb area and I have no idea, whatever the outcome of what’s going on now, of the fate awaiting these enclaves.

Annette Ardisson: That’s political acceptance of the situation.

Rony Brauman: Indeed it is.

18 April 1994 – France 2 (French)

TV journalist: Given the tragedy, the gloves are off for Médecins Sans Frontières. Rony Brauman expresses his disgust as he condemns the attitude of the UN.

Commentary: The shortwave antennas at Médecins Sans Frontières’ head office are the only way of communicating with the martyred town of Gorazde where two French and Belgian anaesthetists have been working for weeks. Their latest message arrived at 13.00 – a dramatic and desperate account of a hospital under siege.

Rony Brauman: The emergency room is overflowing with casualties, corpses, civilians and soldiers. The screams and the crying accompany the whistle of bullets, the ferocious shrieks made by automatic weapons, the harrowing thud of canons while the blood of the wounded and the hospital staff’s tears mingle on the stained floor. The courage of the people here surprises me more each day. The town is lost; everyone knows it and it’s obvious that the world has abandoned them. The choice is easy. Die or start a life elsewhere, but who knows where.

Commentary: One of the doctors was wounded on Saturday. He was shot in the leg and so he operates sitting down in a makeshift clinic. Rony Brauman expresses his fury at this abandonment and at the absence in Gorazde on Sunday of what is still being called the United Nations Protection Force.

Rony Brauman: Hundreds of people were being massacred while we were being told live that everything was fine. That’s real-time revisionism, an absolutely monstrous lie that we can no longer accept, that we can no longer tolerate, because there can be no relationship of trust with people peddling such deceit. I insist, they really are peddling deceit. We’re calling for the immediate resignation of Mr Akashi because what’s at stake now is not only the survival of the inhabitants left in this pocket and Gorazde, but also the fate of other so-called “safe areas.”

Commentary: Call for resignation in Paris while the Médecins Sans Frontières clinic in Gorazde continues to be shelled.

18 April 1994 – France 3 –  Rony Brauman, MSF (French)

V journalist: Good evening. After months of harassment, the Muslim enclave in Gorazde is now under Serb control. The bombing continues, the UN and the Russians are admitting their powerlessness, and this evening the European Union turns yet again to the United Nations Security Council.

Commentary: Serb tanks are 500 metres from the town centre and the frontline is now only 200 metres away from the hospital. "We’re at the mercy of Serb fire on all sides,” is the desperate appeal made by an inhabitant in Gorazde intercepted by an amateur radio enthusiast in Sarajevo. After 19 days of offensive, the Serbs are posing a direct threat to Gorazde and the 65,000 people left there. Casualties aren’t being cared for and corpses are everywhere. In the face of this tragedy, it’s the Muslims in Sarajevo who are protesting. This afternoon they demonstrated against the inability of the UN to stop the Serb bombing of Gorazde, an impotence made plain by the 346 peacekeepers waiting to leave for Gorazde and that the head of Médecins Sans Frontières denounces in no uncertain terms.

Rony Brauman: What’s totally unacceptable is that Mr Akashi, the representative of the international community who represents you and me on the ground, has been lying to us for the past 10 days while all these atrocities were being committed.

Commentary: But diplomatic efforts are continuing and European ministers of foreign affairs have met in Luxemburg. Alain Juppé has proposed unifying the positions of the United States, Russia, the UN and the European Union.

Alain Juppé: We have called for this Security Council resolution to get the Serbs, who are the aggressors, to capitulate through a collective representation by the Americans, Russians and Europeans and to bring the three parties to the conflict to the negotiating table. I hope this will be despatched without delay and that a plan will be imposed to settle the conflict.

Commentary: Vitaly Tchourkine, the Russian envoy to Bosnia, is calling for an end to the discussions with the Serbs; he’s accusing them of abusing Russia’s support. In Washington, US President Bill Clinton has defended the lack of reaction from the UN and NATO and says he wants to avoid the war spreading in Bosnia.

18 April 1994 - Associated Press (English)

21 April 1994 – France 3 (French)

1994 - MSF France (French)

12 July 1995 – France 2 – Stephan Oberreit, MSF (French)

TV journalist: The main news tonight is the liberation of Srebrenica. Proclaimed solely by the Serbs, this is one more defeat for the UN and the international community. The peacekeepers had to pull back from the area declared “safe” by the United Nations in 1993 and this morning tens of thousands of people fled from the zone. Combining tones of threat and victory, a Bosnian-Serb general declared earlier today that he would have the Muslim refugees bombed if the UN asked NATO to carry out airstrikes. However, people in Pale, the capital of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbia, are saying quite the opposite.

Commentary: Here are the victors, Serb soldiers, filmed a few weeks ago as they surrounded Srebrenica. According to their leader General Mladic and I quote, “the town was liberated last night,” and, I’m still quoting, “we can no longer tolerate the Muslims committing acts of terror against the Serb people.” But the people living in terror are the Muslims who have assembled around the Dutch peacekeepers’ headquarters in the village of Potocari 15 kilometres further north. Our journalist has managed to contact the Médecins Sans Frontières team who are with them.

MSF: Over 20,000 people have assembled in a razed village. There is no shelter and distraught people are subjected to appalling sanitary conditions. The children, their faces haunted, sit on the ground. There are no shelters, little water, no food for them to eat and we have a big problem due to the shortage of drugs in the small makeshift hospital set up in the UNPROFOR compound.

Commentary: This morning, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic stated that the refugees are free to stay or leave. They won’t be hurt but the Serbs aren’t going to leave Srebrenica. UN General Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali has proclaimed that this is not a failure on the part of the UN and that the peacekeepers’ priority is now on looking after the refugees. But who are we to believe? The Serbs captured 20 more Dutch peacekeepers this morning and now it’s the turn of the enclave in Zepa to be attacked. Cynicism rules supreme in this war.

12 July 1995 – France Inter (radio) – Prise de Srebrenica - Stephan Oberreit, MSF (French)

Journalist: Our journalist has managed to get hold of Stephan Oberreit, MSF’s coordinator in Belgrade. This is what he had to say.

Stephan Oberreit: “On one side, women and children being loaded onto busses, and on the other, men separated from their families. Obviously, people were in a state of panic. There were tears, there was crying and, when they left, it was to an unknown destination. They were given no assurances about where they were being taken. Otherwise, the situation in Potocari is the same and there are still lots of people there. Their situation is dire because they don’t know what’s going to happen to them. This has to be put into context – three years spent in an enclave, several days of brutal violence and now very little water or food and abysmal sanitary conditions. It’s a very small area, with absolutely no sewage. Humanitarian organisations must be given access to these people urgently.”

12 July 1995 – France 2 – Stephan Oberreit, MSF (French)

TV presenter: First, and most important, the worrying deterioration in the situation in Bosnia. The NATO Council, which met in Brussels today, limited itself to a vigorous condemnation of the Bosnian-Serb militias’ taking of the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica. Their leader, Radovan Karadzic, has ruled out any retreat of his forces. Quite the contrary in fact, as the Serbs appear to be preparing for yet another ethnic cleansing among the thousands and thousands of refugees now under their control.

Commentary: The honour of the UNPROFOR was General Morillon’s grand gesture. In March 1993, at the depth of the despair as the Serb army was threatening to take Srebrenica at any moment, he climbed onto a tank and shouted, "we will not abandon you.” His words saved Srebrenica and the concept of UN protected area was born – a status accorded to Zepa, Gorazde, Bihac, Tuzla and Sarajevo. But Morillon’s gesture was appreciated neither by military officials nor the politicians who said the enclaves were too remote and too difficult to supply and the peacekeepers defending them were potential hostages. In a nutshell, the fall of Srebrenica is not only a horrific symbol but the international community could have predicted it. A tragedy, the consequences of which now have to be dealt with – starting with the 20,000 refugees amassed around the Dutch peacekeepers’ base in the small village of Potocari. The Serbs took control of their evacuation this afternoon, separating the men from the women and children and loading them onto buses in full view of the Médecins Sans Frontières teams who were with them.

Stephan Oberreit: Apparently it was a horrific scene. People were crying, screaming, panicking, as they were loaded onto buses leaving for an unknown, unconfirmed destination. Tuzla was mentioned but nobody substantiated it.

Commentary: According to the Serbs, the women and children are being evacuated whereas the men are going to be interrogated. We don’t know what’s going to happen to the 7,000 people still in Srebrenica and who are out of the sight of any witnesses.

TV presenter: Let’s go back to Gilles Rabine in Sarajevo. Hello, Gilles. Do have you any more details about the fate of the thousands of refugees living in the Muslim enclave?

Gilles Rabine: Listen, the first information I can give you is that this evening the Serbs authorised an UNHCR convoy to go to Potocari, where there are apparently 30,000 refugees, not 20,000. The convoy is transporting 23 tons of food, drugs, tents, blankets and mattresses. As for the refugees who have been taken by the Serbs, we know that the men have been separated from the women and children and taken to Bratunac, the Serb command post nearest the Srebrenica enclave. The women and children have been taken to a destination still unknown this evening. I want to add a little detail to what Stéphane Manier said. The Dutch from the UN have asked that one peacekeeper be allowed on each bus and truck. General Mladic, who’s been managing the operation, has refused.

TV presenter: Gilles, a really simple question that many of our viewers must be asking. Why didn’t the Bosnians defend the town?
Gilles Rabine: Listen, it’s hardly surprising. They didn’t defend it because they weren’t able to. After what happened with General Morillon in March 1993, when the Bosnians in Srebrenica accepted to be demilitarised and give up their weapons, they played the game. That’s why placing themselves under UN protection with practically no weapons, they feel very strongly this evening they’ve been betrayed by the UN in Srebrenica.

11-13 July 1995 – France 2 – Srebrenica: Epuration ethnique (French)

TV journalist: Good evening. According to the NATO Secretary General, the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica is definitively lost, a view not shared by Paris. We’ll go back to that in a minute. In any event, the leaders of the Serbs militias on the ground are methodically carrying out what the UNHCR spokesperson has called one of the biggest ethnic cleansing operations in the history of this tragic war. Stéphane Manier reports on exclusively Serb images.

Commentary: These people are safe, at least for the time being. They’re being held in concrete hangars intended for military planes near Tuzla airport, one of the five remaining Muslim enclaves. Their faces are anxious, exhausted, stunned, not even the smallest sign of relief at being still alive. They’re suffering from dehydration and malnutrition, and some are passing out. There are only women, children and elderly people, and a few casualties being looked after by the peacekeepers. The Serbs got the ones capable of walking through the tunnel that marks the frontline off the buses a few hundred metres before and told them to “run for it.” That’s ethnic cleansing. From now on, you’ll only be seeing images filmed by Serb cameras, the only ones authorised in the small village of Potocari where the refugees left from. General Mladic, the Serb military commander, is shown as a sensitive man, handing out chocolate and reassuring people as he himself organises the exodus. "Get on the buses, nobody will hurt you,” he says. But you won’t see the tearing apart of families as they’re separated, or the money that Serb soldiers demand before allowing them to leave, or the men over the age of 16 who are taken to a stadium for interrogation. The Serbs consider anyone suspected of carrying a weapon a war criminal. Some are exchanged for prisoners, others don’t come back, we’ll never know how many, there were no records kept in Srebrenica. That’s ethnic cleansing too. But these images also show peacekeepers becoming auxiliaries to this ethnic cleansing in an effort to avoid panic. Mladic spares them no humiliation and refuses their timid request to put one UN worker on each bus. We also see General Mladic making his triumphant entrance into Srebrenica two days before and his embracing of the victors. "Srebrenica will never be a UN protected area ever again; the town is Serb now," proclaims Radovan Karadzic. The camera films several burning houses but no corpses, no people, nor the seriously injured the Serbs have brought back to Srebrenica and forbidden to leave. This is ethnic cleansing, and it is on this that Greater Serbia is being inexorably and ruthlessly founded.

TV journalist: A demonstration is being held at 3 pm tomorrow at the Communards’ Wall in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris to condemn this latest ethnic cleansing. Now over to Gilles Rabine, live from Sarajevo. Gilles, a simple question, how is the fall of Srebrenica perceived by the Muslim population in Sarajevo?

Gilles Rabine: You know, the fall of Srebrenica is perceived with much bitterness and a feeling of having been betrayed by the UN, because the Bosnians in Srebrenica played the game, they let themselves be disarmed and put themselves under the protection of the UN. As for the rest, the diplomatic posturing beginning to take shape, people stopped commenting on it a long time ago. You know, the inhabitants of Sarajevo have been in a state of siege for 39 months, 39 months during which they’ve heard and expected it all, hoped in vain that their fate would improve. Nobody in Europe has been subjected to such a siege or nightmare in over 150 years. Tomorrow or the next day it’ll be Zepa that’ll fall into Serb hands and then Gorazde perhaps; it’s hard to see the UN preventing the Serbs from trying to take Zepa. So the inhabitants of Sarajevo have had it with all the questions, they’ve had it with being filmed, being photographed, they’re tired of being watched as they die live on TV with nothing being done to rescue them. What do you want them to say? Other than they’re right?

MSF Unlimited - Interview with Christina Schmitz, MSF Belgium (English)

12 August 1995 - Christophe Picart/EUP/MSF (English)

12-13 October 1995 – France 2 – Pierre Salignon, MSF (French)

TV journalist: Good evening Pierre Salignon. You are responsible for former Yugoslavia at Médecins Sans Frontières. I would first like to ask you how these accounts were recorded.

Pierre Salignon: These accounts were recorded in the Tuzla region, at the time of the fall of Srebrenica, during the month of August. We met these people after they left the enclave. Most were refugees. We knew a lot of them because we worked with them for over two years in the hospital in the enclave in Srebrenica, or we’d come across them in our operations we had in Srebrenica. The stories they told us are so dire and shocking that we decided to make them public to try and set the record straight about what happened in Srebrenica.

TV journalist: So the proof of their credibility is that you knew them and because around ten of the survivors told similar stories?

Pierre Salignon: Exactly.

TV journalist: How many people are missing?

Pierre Salignon: The numbers put about vary between 5,000 and 8,000, mainly men separated from their families in Potocari or who fled through the forest and of whom we have no news. The ICRC has only been able to see 200 of them so far, which is really making us concerned about what could have happened to them.

TV journalist: And we shouldn’t forget there have been massacres – on both sides.

Pierre Salignon: Yes, and MSF condemns acts committed against civilians, regardless of who perpetrates them. On this subject, I want to make something really clear. In the case of the fall of Srebrenica, it’s the logical conclusion of a process of ethnic cleansing begun in 1993 and now ending with the deportation of more than 30,000 people to Tuzla and 6,000 to 8,000 missing men.

TV journalist: Meaning, you have to compare what’s comparable?

Pierre Salignon: Right, yes.

TV journalist: One last question. You’re obviously continuing your work in former Yugoslavia and in other places in the world, and to bear witness. What do you need to be able to carry on?

Pierre Salignon: What we need is the public’s support, so that we can take action on the ground, care for people and carry on bearing witness like we did for Srebrenica. It’s the public that gives us the means to do it.

14 August 1995 – France 2 – Les quatre vérités – Pierre Salignon, MSF (French)

TV journalist: Hello. Pierre Salignon from Médecins Sans Frontières is with us. Thank you for coming in. You were there not long ago. A Médecins Sans Frontières plane left on Friday; where is it now and what is it doing?

Pierre Salignon: It’s at the airport in Banja Luka. It has delivered 30 tonnes of supplies, mainly sanitation logistics. This is on top of the equipment we’ve managed to bring in by road – drugs and medical supplies for the 150,000 people on the roads around Banja Luka.

TV journalist: There are 150,000 people? There’s talk they may be 200,000. How can so many people be helped in such a small area?

Pierre Salignon: This is a whole group of people who left in a panic. They’re advancing towards Banja Luka, the main town in the region. A column of refugees very quickly went in the direction of Serbia, mostly because people didn’t want to stay in Bosnia as the men among them are scared of being forcibly conscripted or because they wanted to get away from what they’d been subjected to. They’re on their way to Serbia, which we know is blocked. As for what we can do for them, we have prepared health posts along the road so that our mobile teams can treat and provide people with assistance and give them water, food and drugs.

TV journalist: I suppose the closure of the border we saw on the early morning news poses a very serious problem?

Pierre Salignon: A very serious problem indeed. These people have been on the road for several days already and the longer the situation lasts, the greater the risk of a humanitarian emergency. It’s humanly urgent to do something, not only to assist these people but also to find a solution. The solution is re-opening the border with Serbia, but it’s not up to us to say, given that it’s ethnic partitioning that’s causing the population displacements we’re witnessing. So we’re seeing people being re-settled in Kosovo, in Voïvodine, in east Bosnia in areas that have been cleansed; I’m referring here to Srebrenica. All we can do is acknowledge the unacceptable.

TV journalist: We’re seeing a real partitioning. Each camp is positioning its pawns, and these pawns are human beings.

Pierre Salignon: Exactly. And we’re not hearing much about the non-Serb community around Banja Luka. There are 30,000 of them in a zone that was cleansed in 1992; we haven’t forgotten the Omarska concentration camps. These people are the victims now with the arrival of these refugees. They’re returning with quite a lot of hate against them. They’re showing up at their houses, making them leave and forcing them to take to the road. There’s been some brutality. All we can do is acknowledge that the ethnic partition – in effect sought by the international community because it didn’t assume its responsibilities and in 1991 accepted this method for restabilising borders in Europe – is happening now and is almost over.

TV journalist: Ultimately, should this partitioning, which is visibly happening really fast as we’re seeing with these very substantial population movements, be concluded before winter?

Pierre Salignon: It’s obvious that a fourth or fifth winter is going to be problematic for the region. I think that’s why diplomatic efforts are being deployed so quickly. I’m thinking more particularly of the enclaves – Gorazde, Sarajevo, Tuzla. Another winter in these areas is going to be a major problem and the international community needs to find solutions, and fast.

TV journalist: Three weeks ago you were in Srebrenica, which hardly gets a mention anymore. It looks like the latest emergency pushes the previous one onto the back burner.

Pierre Salignon: Yes, you’re right. But on the human level, it’s clear that Srebrenica is nothing like what’s happening in Krajina. People are suffering, so I have no wish to enter into a hierarchy of horror, but Srebrenica was an enclave, which isn’t the case for the people in Krajina who are in areas taken and cleansed by the Serbs in 1991. Srebrenica was an enclave besieged for three years. We know how that ended – with the forced deportation of almost 30,000 people and up to 10,000 still unaccounted for.

TV journalist: The Americans are saying there are mass graves near Srebrenica. We must exercise extreme caution, but we’ve seen pictures in some of our newspapers this weekend. Do you think there’s any truth in it? There are said to be 3,000 bodies buried in different locations.

Pierre Salignon: All I can say is that our team stayed right up to the end, until all the people they had access to in Srebrenica were evacuated. They weren’t witness to actual massacres, but they did see civilians being bombed, forcibly displaced and men being separated from women and children. It’s plain that 2,000 or 3,000 or 4,000 people – the figures are relatively high and rising –, as many as 10,000 are missing. We even have men missing from among our staff. We know that our team heard automatic gunfire long after the population was assembled in Potocari. There’s serious concern about what happened to these people, especially as the ICRC has still no access. They’ve visited some of the detention centres but not all of them. So we’re seriously worried about the fate of these 12 to 60 year-old men.

30 September 1995 – Campagne MSF: «ne laissons pas l'histoire se répéter à Gorazde» (French)

Commentary: 11 July 1995, fall of the Srebrenica enclave. 42,000 defenceless people are at the mercy of the Bosnian Serb forces. Thousands of them would not survive.

Women: They said to my mother, "You, you’re staying here with us.” My mother was holding my little brother and they tore him out of her arms. She started begging them, crying that he was her child. She said she would stay with us, that she wouldn’t leave without us. But Mama had to stay for them to let us go.

Commentary: May history not be repeated in Gorazde

16 December 1995 – France Inter – Accords de Dayton - Rony Brauman, MSF (French)

29 March 2001 – Hearing of Christina Schmitz and Daniel O’Brien, MSF by French Parliamentary Fact-Finding Commission on Srebrenica. 

22 June 2001 – MSF France (French)

29 November 2001 – France 3 – Jean-Hervé Bradol, MSF (French)

TV journalist: Collective responsibility for a massacre. It is estimated that in 1995 Serb troops executed at least 7,000 civilians in three days in Bosnian town Srebrenica. The parliamentary fact-finding mission has now submitted its report – a conclusion that is also an admission of failure. Julien Colombani explains.

Commentary: He triumphed, Ratko Mladic, as his troops entered the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica on July 11 1995. The Commanding General of the Bosnian Serbs ordered that the men be separated from the women, children and the elderly who were deported. The men were executed. 8,000 deaths, the worst massacre committed in Europe since World War II. The 300 Dutch UN peacekeepers in Srebrenica could do nothing. But, during the first hours of the attack, they had asked General Bernard Janvier, the French head of the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia, to order airstrikes to stop the Serbs. A vain effort. Why? Years later, at the request of Médecins Sans Frontières, a parliamentary fact-finding mission tried to probe the extent of France’s responsibility. This morning it presented its report and emphasised the errors committed by all the countries represented in the UN force.

François Loncle: We have exonerated no one, but we are not accusing anyone in particular, except the two major war criminals.

Commentary: But some of the parliamentarians still have doubts. A few days before the fall of Srebrenica, 376 French peacekeepers who were Serb hostages, were freed. Did France make a trade-off – the hostages in exchange for no military intervention?

Pierre Brana: The minority, and I’m one of them, are saying we have no proof of a deal so we can’t be sure. There may or may not have been a deal. General Janvier or the civilian authorities may have made one. We have no proof either way.

Jean-Hervé Bradol: There are two parts to the conclusions in the report. It highlights the military responsibility while shrouding the political responsibility.

Commentary: Everyone acknowledges that this responsibility is far from being elucidated. It’s going to take a lot more will and time to understand, "Why Srebrenica?"

31 March 2010 – France 3 

TV journalist: Serbia is confronting its past. The Serb Parliament has, for the first time, officially condemned the 1995 Srebrenica massacre that left 8,000 dead. The survivors regret that the term ‘genocide’ hasn’t been used but the gesture is appreciated by Europe, which will now examine Serbia’s application.

Commentary: Portraits of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian-Serb army, which perpetrated the massacre in 1995. The Serb far-right wants to stage a demonstration in front of the parliament.

Serb extremist: These war crimes were committed by individuals, not a nation. Individuals should be judged, not a nation.

Commentary: This not the opinion of the majority of the parliament. After 13 hours of debate, the Serb parliament voted a resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacre and presented its apologies to the families of the victims.

Nenead Canak: This is only the beginning. It’s just the tip of the iceberg of a past that we must confront as these war crimes are not a legacy we should leave to future generations.

Commentary: July 1995, as war raged in former Yugoslavia and the Serbs in Bosnia began ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian Muslims, Srebrenica was declared a safe area. The peacekeepers were there, as was General Ratko Mladic. After evacuating the women and children, the Serb militias massacred over 8,000 people. In 2004, this slaughter was found to constitute genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia. In Sarajevo, Bosnia, this belated recognition by the Serb state was deemed insufficient.

Woman: I’m disappointed. 15 years on, and the Serbs are still not calling a spade a spade. Genocide is far more than a crime.

Commentary: This is a major step for Serbia on its path to Europe, which is still waiting for Belgrade’s full cooperation regarding the arrest of Ratko Mladic.