Bosnian war

War in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Part of the Yugoslav Wars

The parliament building burns after being hit by artillery fire in Sarajevo May 1992.; Ratko Mladić with Bosnian Serb soldiers; a UN soldier in Sarajevo. Photos by Mikhail Evstafiev
DateApril 1 1992December 14 1995
LocationBosnia and Herzegovina
The independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina
ResultDayton Accords
 Bosnia and Herzegovina Volunteers from Islamic countries Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia
 Croatia Volunteers from Western Europe
 Republika Srpska

Various paramilitary units from Serbia and Montenegro Volunteers from Eastern Europe
Alija Izetbegović (President of Bosnia and Herzegovina) Sefer Halilović (Army chief of staff 1992-1993)
Rasim Delić (Army chief of Staff 1993-1995)

Franjo Tuđman (President of Croatia) Mate Boban (President of the Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia)
Milivoj Petković (HVO Chief of staff) Dario Kordić (political leader of Croats in Central Bosnia) Valentin Ćorić (commander of the military police in the HVO)
Dobrica Ćosić (President of FR Yugoslavia) (1992-1993) Zoran Lilić (President of FR Yugoslavia) (1993-1997)
Slobodan Milošević(President of Serbia) (1989-1997)
Radovan Karadžić (President of the Republika Srpska)
Ratko Mladić (Commander of the Army of Republika Srpska)
The War in Bosnia and Herzegovina, commonly known as the Bosnian War, was an international armed conflict that took place between March 1992 and November 1995. The war involved several sides. According to numerous ICTY judgments the conflict involved Bosnia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (later Serbia and Montenegro) [1] as well as Croatia.[2] According to ICJ judgment, Serbia gave military and financial support to Serb forces which consisted of the Yugoslav People's Army (later Army of Serbia and Montenegro), the Army of Republika Srpska, the Serbian Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of the Interior of Republika Srpska and Serb Territorial Defense Forces. Croatia gave military support to Croat forces of self-proclaimed Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia. Bosnian government forces were led by the Army of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.[3] These factions changed objectives and allegiances several times at various stages of the war (see Parties Involved).

Because the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina was a consequence of instability in the wider region of the former Yugoslavia, and due to the involvement of neighboring countries Croatia and Serbia and Montenegro, there was long-standing debate as to whether the conflict was a civil war or a war of aggression. Most Bosniaks and many Croats claimed that the war was a war of Serbian and Croatian aggression, while Serbs often considered it a civil war. A trial took place before the International Court of Justice, following a 1993 suit by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia and Montenegro alleging genocide (see Bosnian genocide case at the International Court of Justice). The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling of 26 February 2007 effectively determined the war's nature to be international, thus exonerating Serbia of responsibility for the genocide committed by Serb forces of Republika Srpska. The ICJ concluded, however, that Serbia failed to prevent genocide committed by Serb forces and failed to punish those who carried out the genocide, especially general Ratko Mladić, and bring them to justice.

Despite the evidence of widespread killings, the siege of Sarajevo, mass rapes, ethnic cleansing and torture conducted by different Serb forces which also included JNA (VJ), elsewhere in Bosnia, especially in Prijedor, Banja Luka and Foča, as well as camps and detention centers, the judges ruled that the criteria for genocide with the specific intent (dolus specialis) to destroy Bosnian Muslims were met only in Srebrenica or Eastern Bosnia.[4] The court concluded that the crimes, including mass killings, rapes, detentions, destruction and deportation, committed during the 1992-1995 war, were "acts of genocide" according to the Genocide Convention, but that these acts did not, in themselves, constitute genocide per se.[5] The Court further decided that, following Montenegro's declaration of independence in May 2006, Serbia was the only respondent party in the case, but that "any responsibility for past events involved at the relevant time the composite State of Serbia and Montenegro".[6]

The involvement of NATO, during the 1995 Operation Deliberate Force against the positions of the Army of Republika Srpska internationalized the conflict, but only in its final stages.

The war was brought to an end after the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina in Paris on 14 December 1995.[7] Peace negotiations were held in Dayton, Ohio, and were finalized on 21 December 1995. The accords are known as the Dayton Agreement.

While wartime figures were propagandized to reflect current political interests of involved parties, the most recent research places the number of victims at around 100,000–110,000 killed (civilians and military), and 1.8 million displaced (see Casualties).[8][9][10] Recent research have shown that most of the killed people (soldiers and civilians) during Bosnian War were Bosniaks (65%), with Serbs in second (25%) and Croats (8%) in third place.[11] Of the 97,207 documented casualties, 83 percent of civilian victims were Bosniaks, 10 percent were Serbs and more than 5 percent were Croats, followed by a small number of others such as Albanians or Romani people. The percentage of Bosniak victims would be higher had survivors of Srebrenica not reported 1,800 of their loved-ones as soldiers to access social services and other government benefits. The total figure of dead could rise by a maximum of another 10,000 for the entire country due to ongoing research. [12] [13] [14] [15]

Political situation before the war

Breakup of Yugoslavia

Main article: Breakup of Yugoslavia

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina came about as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Crisis emerged in Yugoslavia with the weakening of the Communist system at the end of the Cold War. In Yugoslavia, the national Communist party, officially called Alliance or League of Communists of Yugoslavia, was losing its ideological potency, while the nationalist and separatist ideologies were on the rise in the late 1980s. This was particularly noticeable in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to a lesser extent in Slovenia and Macedonia.

In March 1989, the crisis in Yugoslavia deepened after adoption of amendments to the Serbian constitution. This allowed the Serbian republic's government to re-assert effective power over the autonomous provinces of Kosovo and Vojvodina. Until that point, their decision-making had been independent. Each also had a vote on the Yugoslav federal level. Serbia, under president Slobodan Milošević, thus gained control over three out of eight votes in the Yugoslav presidency. With additional votes from Montenegro and, occasionally, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia was thus able to heavily influence decisions of the federal government. This situation led to objections in other republics and calls for reform of the Yugoslav Federation.

At the 14th Extraordinary Congress of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, on 20 January 1990, the delegations of the republics could not agree on the main issues in the Yugoslav federation. As a result, the Slovenian and Croatian delegates left the Congress. The Slovenian delegation, headed by Milan Kučan demanded democratic changes and a looser federation, while the Serbian delegation, headed by Milošević, opposed this. This is considered the beginning of the end of Yugoslavia.

Moreover, nationalist parties attained power in other republics. Among them, the Croatian Franjo Tuđman's Croatian Democratic Union was the most prominent. On December 22, 1990, the Parliament of Croatia adopted the new Constitution, taking away some of the rights from the Serbs granted by the previous Socialist constitution. This created ground for nationalist action among the indigenous Serbs of Croatia. Furthermore, Slovenia and Croatia shortly after began the process towards independence, which led to a short armed conflict in Slovenia, and all-out war in Croatia, in the areas that had a substantial Serb population.

The pre-war situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Muslims]]      Croats      others      unknown or uninhabited      no majority
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The distribution of the three main ethnic groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1991 by municipalities. Bosnian Serbs are shown in red, Bosniaks in green, and Bosnian Croats in blue. The post-Dayton Inter-Entity Boundary Line is shown in white.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has historically been a multi-ethnic state. In 1990, its population included approximately 43% of Bosniaks, 31% of Serbs, and 17% of Croats.

On the first multi-party elections that took place in November 1990 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the three largest ethnic parties in the country won: the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action, the Serbian Democratic Party and the Croatian Democratic Union.

After the elections, they formed a coalition government. The primary motivation behind this union was to maintain an atmosphere of harmony and tolerance and further their common goal to rule as a democratic alternative to the Socialist government that preceded them .

Parties divided the power along the ethnic lines so that the President of the Presidency of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was a Bosniak, president of the Parliament was a Bosnian Serb and the prime minister a Croat.

Establishment of the "Serb Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina"

The Serb members of parliament, consisting mainly of the Serb Democratic Party members, but also including some other party representatives (which would form the "Independent Members of Parliament Caucus"), abandoned the central parliament in Sarajevo, and formed the Assembly of the Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina on October 24, 1991, which marked the end of the tri-ethnic coalition that governed after the elections in 1990. This Assembly established the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on January 9, 1992, which became Republika Srpska in August 1992. The official aim of this act, stated in the original text of the Constitution of Republika Srpska, later amended, was to preserve the Yugoslav federation.

Establishment of the "Croat Community of Herzeg-Bosnia"

During the Yugoslav wars, the objectives of nationalists from Croatia were shared by Croat nationalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina. [16] The ruling party in the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), organized and controlled the branch of the party in Bosnia and Herzegovina. By the latter part of 1991, the more extreme elements of the party, under the leadership of Mate Boban, Dario Kordić, Jadranko Prlić, Ignac Koštroman and local leaders such as Anto Valenta[16], and with the support of Franjo Tuđman and Gojko Šušak, had taken effective control of the party. On November 18, 1991, the party branch in Bosnia and Herzegovina, proclaimed the existence of the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia, as a separate "political, cultural, economic and territorial whole," on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. [18]

Independence referendum in Bosnia and Herzegovina

After Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991, Bosnia and Herzegovina organized a referendum on independence as well. The decision of the Parliament of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on holding the referendum was taken after the majority of Serb members had left the assembly in protest.

These Bosnian Serb assembly members invited the Serb population to boycott the referendum held on February 29 and March 1, 1992. The turnout in the referendum was 67% and the vote was 99.43% in favor of independence. [19] Independence was declared on March 5, 1992 by the parliament. The referendum and the murder of a member of a wedding procession on the day before the referendum were utilized by the Serb political leadership as a reason to start road blockades in protest.

Cutileiro-Carrington Plan

The Carrington-Cutileiro peace plan, named for its creators Lord Peter Carrington and Portuguese Ambassador José Cutileiro, resulted from the EEC-hosted peace conference held in September 1991 in an attempt to prevent Bosnia and Herzegovina sliding into war. It proposed ethnic power-sharing on all administrative levels and the devolution of central government to local ethnic communities. However, all Bosnia and Herzegovina's districts would be classified as Bosniak, Serb or Croat under the plan, even where ethnic majority was not evident. Initially the plan was accepted by all three sides but eventually Alija Izetbegović (Bosnian Muslim leader and President of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the majority Bosniak Party of Democratic Action) withdrew his consent.

Arms Embargo

On September 25, 1991 the United Nations Security Council passed UNSC Resolution 713 imposing an arms embargo on all of former Yugoslavia. The embargo hurt the Army of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina the most because Serbia inherited the lion's share of the former JNA arsenal and the Croatian army could smuggle weapons through its coast. Over 55% of the armories and barracks of the former Yugoslavia were located in Bosnia owing to its mountainous terrain, in anticipation of a guerrilla war, but many of those factories were under Serbian control (such as the UNIS PRETIS factory in Vogošća, and others were inoperable due to a lack of electricity and raw materials. The Bosnian government lobbied to have the embargo lifted but that was opposed by the United Kingdom, France and Russia. The US congress passed two resolutions calling for the embargo to be lifted but both were vetoed by President Bill Clinton for fear of creating a rift between the US and the aforementioned countries. Nonetheless, America used both "black" C-130 transports and back channels including radical Islamist groups to smuggle weapons to the Bosnian government forces via Croatia. [20]

The War

General information

The Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) officially left Bosnia and Herzegovina on May 12 1992 briefly after independence was declared in April 1992. However, most of the command chain, weaponry, and higher ranked military personnel, including general Ratko Mladić, remained in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the Army of Republika Srpska. The Croats organized a defensive military formation of their own called the Croatian Defense Council (Hrvatsko Vijeće Obrane, HVO) as the armed forces of the Herzeg-Bosnia, the Bosniaks mostly organized into the Army of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Armija Republike Bosne i Hercegovine, later Armija BiH). This army had a number of non-Bosniaks (around 25%), especially in the 1st Corps in Sarajevo that was commanded by general Jovan Divjak.

Various paramilitary units were operating in Bosnian war: the Serb "White Eagles" (Beli Orlovi), Arkan's "Tigers", "Serbian Volunteer Guard" (Srpska Dobrovoljačka Garda), Bosniak "Patriotic League" (Patriotska Liga) and "Green Berets" (Zelene Beretke), and Croatian "Croatian Defense Forces" (Hrvatske Obrambene Snage), etc. The Serb and Croat paramilitaries involved a lot of volunteers from Serbia and Croatia, and were supported by right-wing political parties in those countries. Allegations exist about the involvement of the Serbian and Croatian secret police in the conflict. Forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina were divided in 5 corps'. 1st Corps operated at the region of Sarajevo and Gorazde while a stronger 5th Corps held out in western Bosanska Krajina pocket which cooperated with the HVO units in and around the city of Bihac. The Serbs received support from radical Christian Slavic fighters from countries including Russia. Greek volunteers are also reported to have taken part in the Srebrenica Massacre, with the Greek flag being hoisted in Srebrenica when the town fell to the Serbs.[21] Bosniaks received support from Islamic groups commonly known as "holy warriors" (Mujahideen).[22]

Initially the Serb forces attacked the non-Serb civilian population in Eastern Bosnia. Once towns and villages were securely in their hands, the Serb forces - military, police, the paramilitaries and, sometimes, even Serb villagers – applied the same pattern: Bosniak houses and apartments were systematically ransacked or burnt down, Bosniak civilians were rounded up or captured, and sometimes beaten or killed in the process. Men and women were separated, with many of the men detained in the camps. The women were kept in various detention centres where they had to live in intolerably unhygienic conditions, where they were mistreated in many ways including being raped repeatedly. Serb soldiers or policemen would come to these detention centres, select one or more women, take them out and rape them.[23] The Serbs had the upper hand due to heavier weaponry (despite less manpower) that was given to them by the Yugoslav People's Army and established control over most areas where Serbs had relative majority but also in areas where they were a significant minority in both rural and urban regions excluding the larger towns of Sarajevo and Mostar. The Serb military and political leaders, from ICTY received the most accusations of war crimes many of which have been confirmed after the war in ICTY trials.

Most of the capital Sarajevo was predominantly held by the Bosniaks although the official Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina government continued to function in its relative multiethnic capacity. In the 44 months of the siege, the terror against Sarajevo and its residents varied in its intensity, but the purpose remained the same: to inflict the greatest possible suffering on the civilians in order to force the Bosnian authorities to accept the Serb demands.[24] The Army of Republika Srpska surrounded it (alternatively, the Serb forces situated themselves in the areas surrounding Sarajevo the so-called Ring around Sarajevo), deploying troops and artillery in the surrounding hills in what would become the longest siege in the history of modern warfare lasting nearly 4 years. See Siege of Sarajevo.

Numerous cease-fire agreements were signed, and breached again when one of the sides felt it was to their advantage. The United Nations repeatedly, but unsuccessfully attempted to stop the war and the much-touted Vance-Owen Peace Plan made little impact.



The first casualty in Bosnia is a point of contention between Serbs and Bosniaks. Serbs consider Nikola Gardović, a groom's father who was killed at a Serb wedding procession on the second day of the referendum, on March 1, 1992 in Sarajevo's old town Baščaršija, to be the first victim of the war. Bosniaks and Croats meanwhile consider the first casualties of the war before the independence to be Croat civilians massacred by JNA (later transformed in Army of Republika Srpska and Army of Serbia and Montenegro) in Ravno village in September 1991. Bosniaks also consider the first individual casualty of the war after the independence of Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to be Suada Dilberović, who was shot during a peace march by unidentified gunmen on April 5 from a Serb sniper nest in a Holiday Inn hotel.

Note that this was not actually the start of the war-related activities on the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina. On September 30, 1991, the Yugoslav People's Army destroyed a small village of Ravno located in Herzegovina, inhabited by Croats, during the course of its siege of the city of Dubrovnik (which was on the territory of Croatia itself). On September 19, the JNA moved some extra troops to the area around the city of Mostar, which was publicly protested by the local government.

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Vedran Smailovic playing in the destroyed building of the National Library in Sarajevo, 1992. Photo by Mikhail Evstafiev
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Manjača camp detainees in 1992

During the months of March-April-May 1992 fierce attacks raged in eastern Bosnia as well as the northwestern part of the country. In March attacks by the SDS leaders, together with field officers of the Second Military Command of former JNA, were conducted in eastern part of the country with the objective to take strategically relevant positions and carry out a communication and information blockade. Attacks carried out resulted in a large number of dead and wounded civilians.[25]

JNA under control of Serbia was able to take over 70% of the country during these months. Much of this is due to the fact that they were much better armed and organized than the Bosniak and Bosnian Croat forces. Attacks also included areas of mixed ethnic composition. Doboj, Foča, Rogatica, Vlasenica, Bratunac, Zvornik, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Kljuc, Brcko, Derventa, Modrica, Bosanska Krupa, Bosanski Brod, Bosanski Novi,Glamoc, Bosanski Petrovac, Cajnice, Bijeljina, Višegrad, and parts of Sarajevo are all areas where Serbs established control and expelled Bosniaks and Croats. Also areas in which were more ethnically homogeneous and were spared from major fighting such as Banja Luka, Bosanska Dubica, Bosanska Gradiska, Bileca, Gacko, Han Pijesak, Kalinovik, Nevesinje, Trebinje, Rudo saw their non-Serb populations expelled. Similarly, the regions of central Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo, Zenica, Maglaj, Zavidovici, Bugojno, Mostar, Konjic, etc.) saw the flight of its Serb population, migrating to the Serb-held areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In June 1992, the United Nations Protection Force which had originally been deployed in Croatia had its mandate extended into Bosnia and Herzegovina, initially to protect the Sarajevo International Airport. In September, the role of the UNPROFOR was expanded in order to protect humanitarian aid and assist in the delivery of the relief in the whole Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as aid in the protection of civilian refugees when required by the Red Cross.

Gornji Vakuf and Novi Travnik were initially attacked by Croats on June 20, 1992, but the attack failed. The Graz agreement caused deep division inside the Croat community and strengthened the separation group, which led to the conflict with Bosniaks. One of the primary pro-union Croat leaders, Blaž Kraljević (leader of the HOS armed group) was killed by HVO soldiers in August 1992, which severely weakened the moderate group who hoped to keep the Bosnian Croat alliance alive[26].

In October of 1992 the Serbs captured the city of Jajce and expelled the Croat and Bosniak population. The fall of the city was largely due to a lack of Bosniak-Croat cooperation and rising tensions, especially over the past four months.


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Vance-Owen Peace Plan
Serb - red
Croat - blue
Bosniak - green
Split control - white
On January 8, 1993 the Serbs killed the deputy prime minister of Bosnia Hakija Turajlić after stopping the UN convoy which was taking him from the airport. On May 15-16 96% of Serbs voted to reject the Vance-Owen plan. After the failure of the Vance-Owen peace plan, which practically intended to divide the country into three ethnic parts, an armed conflict sprung between Bosniaks and Croats over the 30 percent of Bosnia they held. The peace plan was one of the factors leading to the escalation of the conflict, as Lord Owen avoided moderate Croat authorities (pro-unified Bosnia) and negotiated directly with more extreme elements (which were for separation).[27]

Much of 1993 was dominated by the Croat-Bosniak war that became more serious in October 1992 when Croat forces attacked Bosniak civilian population in Prozor burning their homes and killing civilians. On January 1993 Croat forces attacked Gornji Vakuf again in order to connect Herzegovina with Central Bosnia.

The Lašva Valley ethnic cleansing campaign against Bosniak civilians planned by the Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia's political and military leadership from May 1992 to March 1993 and erupting the following April, was meant to implement objectives set forth by Croat nationalists in November of 1991.[16] The Lašva Valley's Bosniaks were subjected to persecution on political, racial and religious grounds[29], deliberately discriminated against in the context of a widespread attack on the region's civilian population[30] and suffered mass murder, rape, imprisonment in camps, as well as the destruction of cultural sites and private property. This was often followed by anti-Bosniak propaganda, particularly in the municipalities of Vitez, Busovača, Novi Travnik and Kiseljak.

The Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia took control of many municipal governments and services in Herzegovina as well, removing or marginalising local Bosniak leaders. Herzeg-Bosnia took control of the media and imposed Croatian ideas and propaganda. Croatian symbols and currency were introduced, and Croatian curricula and the Croatian language were introduced in schools. Many Bosniaks and Serbs were removed from positions in government and private business; humanitarian aid was managed and distributed to the Bosniaks' and Serbs' disadvantage; and Bosniaks in general were increasingly harassed. Many of them were deported into concentration camps: Heliodrom, Dretelj, Gabela, Vojno and Šunje.

The Croat-Bosniak alliance held in some areas of Bosnia, notably Bihać pocket (northwest Bosnia) and the Bosanska Posavina (north), where both were heavily outmatched by Serb forces. This conflict caused the creation of more ethnic enclaves and further bloodshed.

Mostar was also surrounded by the Croat forces for nine months, and much of its historic city was severely destroyed in shelling including the famous Stari Most bridge.

Bosnian Army launched an operation known as Neretva 93 against the Croatian Defence Council and Croatian Army in September 1993 in order to end the siege of Mostar and to recapture areas of Herzegovina, which were included in self-proclaimed Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia. The operation was stopped by Bosnian authorities after it received the information about the incidents against Croat civilians and POWs in villages of Grabovica and Uzdol.

The Croat leadership (Jadranko Prlić, Bruno Stojić, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petković, Valentin Ćorić and Berislav Pušić) is presently on trial at the ICTY on charges including crimes against humanity, grave breaches of the Geneva conventions and violations of the laws or customs of war. Dario Kordić, political leader of Croats in Central Bosnia was convicted of the crimes against humanity in Central Bosnia i.e. ethnic cleansing and sentenced to 25 years in prison. [31] Bosnian commander Sefer Halilović was charged with one count of violation of the laws and customs of war on the basis of superior criminal responsibility of the incidents during Neretva 93 and found not guilty.

In an attempt to protect the civilians, UNPROFOR's role was further extended in 1993 to protect the "safe havens" that it had declared around a number of towns including Sarajevo, Goražde and Srebrenica.


In 1994, NATO became actively involved, when its jets shot down four Serb aircraft over central Bosnia on February 28 1994 violating the UN no-fly zone.

The Croat-Bosniak war officially ended on February 23, 1994 when the Commander of HVO, general Ante Roso and commander of Bosnian Army, general Rasim Delić, signed a ceasefire agreement in Zagreb. In March 1994 a peace agreement mediated by the USA between the warring Croats (represented by Republic of Croatia) and Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was signed in Washington and Vienna which is known as the Washington Agreement. Under the agreement, the combined territory held by the Croat and Bosnian government forces was divided into ten autonomous cantons, establishing the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This effectively ended the war between Croats and Bosniaks, and narrowed the warring parties down to two.


The war continued through most of 1995.

In July 1995. Serb troops under general Ratko Mladić, occupied the UN "safe area" of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia where around 8,000 men were killed (most women were transported to Bosnian-held territory and some of them were killed and raped).[32] The ICTY ruled this event as genocide in the case Prosecutor vs. Krstić.

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Standing, from left to right: Felipe Gonzalez, Bill Clinton, Jacques Chirac, Helmut Kohl, John Major, Viktor Chernomyrdin. Seated from left to right: Slobodan Milošević, Franjo Tuđman, Alija Izetbegovic signing the final peace agreement in Paris on December 14, 1995.
In line with the Croat-Bosniak agreement, Croatian forces operated in western Bosnia (Operation Summer '95) and in early August launched Operation Storm, taking over the Serb Krajina in Croatia. With this, the Bosniak-Croat alliance gained the initiative in the war, taking much of western Bosnia from the Serbs in several operations, including: Mistral and Sana. These forces now came to threaten the Bosnian Serb capital Banja Luka with direct ground attack.

The second Markale massacre occurred and NATO responded by opening wide air strikes against Bosnian Serb infrastructure and units in September.

At that point, the international community pressured Milošević, Tuđman and Izetbegović to the negotiation table and finally the war ended with the Dayton Peace Agreement signed on November 21, 1995. The final version of the peace agreement was signed December 14, 1995 in Paris.


The death toll after the war was originally estimated at around 200,000 by the Bosnian government. They also recorded around 1,326,000 refugees and exiles.

Research done by Tibeau and Bijak in 2004 determined a number of 102,000 deaths and estimated the following breakdown: 55,261 were civilians and 47,360 were soldiers. Of the civilians: 16,700 were Serbs while 38,000 were Bosniaks and Croats. Of the soldiers, 14,000 were Serbs, 6,000 were Croats, and 28,000 were Bosniaks.[33]

Another research was conducted by the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center (RDC) that was based on creating lists and databases, rather than providing estimates. ICTY's Demographic Unit in the Hague, provide a similar total death toll, but a somewhat different ethnic distribution.[34] As of October 2006 the count of the number of casualties has reached 97,884.[35] Further research is ongoing.

On June 21 2007, the Research and Documentation Center in Sarajevo published the most extensive research on Bosnia-Herzegovina's war casualties titled: The Bosnian Book of the Dead - a database that reveals 97,207 names of Bosnia and Herzegovina's citizens killed and missing during the 1992-1995 war. An international team of experts evaluated the findings before they were released. More than 240,000 pieces of data have been collected, processed, checked, compared and evaluated by international team of experts in order to get the final number of more than 97,000 of names of victims, belonging to all nationalities. Of the 97,207 documented casualties in Bosnia-Herzegovina, 83 percent of civilian victims were Bosniaks, 10 percent of civilian victims were Serbs and more than 5 percent of civilian victims were Croats, followed by a small number of others such as Albanians or Romani people. The percentage of Bosniak victims would be higher had survivors of Srebrenica not reported their loved-ones as 'soldiers' to access social services and other government benefits. The total figure of dead could rise by a maximum of another 10,000 for the entire country due to ongoing research. [36] [37]

Large discrepancies in all these estimates are generally due to the inconsistent definitions of who can be considered victims of the war. Some research calculated only direct casualties of the military activity while other also calculated indirect casualties, such as those who died from harsh living conditions, hunger, cold, illnesses or other accidents indirectly caused by the war conditions. Original higher numbers were also used as many victims were listed twice or three times both in civilian and military columns as little or no communication and systematic coordination of these lists could take place in wartime conditions. Manipulation with numbers is today most often used by historical revisionist to change the character and the scope of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, most of above independent studies have not been accredited by either government involved in the conflict and there are no single official results that are acceptable to all sides.

It should not be discounted that there were also significant casualties on the part of International Troops in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Some 320 soldiers of UNPROFOR were killed during this conflict in Bosnia.

Casualty figures according to the Demographic Unit at the ICTY
Bosniaks & Croatsc. 72,000
Serbsc. 30,700
Total civilians
Bosniaks & Croatsc. 38,000
Serbsc. 16,700
Total soldiers
Bosniaksc. 28,000
Serbsc. 14,000
Croatsc. 6,000
Casualty figures according to RDC
(as reported in March 2006)
Total civilians
Total soldiers

Ethnic cleansing

Ethnic cleansing was a common phenomenon in the war. This typically entailed intimidation, forced expulsion and/or killing of the undesired ethnic group as well as the destruction or removal of the physical vestiges of the ethnic group, such as places of worship, cemeteries and cultural and historical buildings. According to numerous ICTY verdicts, Serb[38] and Croat[31] forces performed ethnic cleansing of their territories planned by their political leadership in order to create ethnically pure states (Republika Srpska and Herzeg-Bosnia). Furthermore, Serb forces committed genocide in Srebrenica at the end of the war.[40]

Based on the evidence of numerous HVO attacks, the ICTY Trial Chamber concluded in the Kordić and Čerkez case that by April 1993 Croat leadership had a common design or plan conceived and executed to ethnically cleanse Bosniaks from the Lašva Valley in Central Bosnia. Dario Kordić, as the local political leader, was found to be the planner and instigator of this plan. [41]


Gallery of maps

Former Yugoslavia during war

Ethnic Composition of towns/regional centers in 1991

Ethnic composition in 1991

Estimated ethnic composition in 2005

The front lines in 1993, while HVO (blue) was still allied with the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) (green)

The front lines in 1994, at the end of the Bosniak-Croat war and after the signing of the Washington Agreement

The front lines in 1995, before Operation Storm

The front lines in 1995, before the Dayton Agreement

Territories controlled by ABiH during the war

Territories controlled by HVO/Croatian Army during the war

Territories controlled by BSA during the war

Animation of the various republics control


1. ^ ICTY: Conflict between Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
2. ^ ICTY: Conflict between Bosnia and Croatia.
3. ^ ICJ: The genocide case: Bosnia v. Serbia - See Part VI (2) - Entities involved in the events 235-241.
4. ^ Courte: Serbia failed to prevent genocide, UN court rules. Associated Press (2007-02-26).
6. ^ Statement of the President of the Court
7. ^ Dayton Peace Accords on Bosnia. US Department of State (1996-03-30). Retrieved on 2006-03-19.
8. ^ "War-related Deaths in the 1992–1995 Armed Conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A Critique of Previous Estimates and Recent Results", European Journal of Population, June 2005. 
9. ^ "Research halves Bosnia war death toll to 100,000", Reuters, November 23, 2005. 
10. ^ "Review of European Security Issues", U.S. Department of State, 28 April 2006. 
11. ^ Bosnia’s “Book of the Dead”, Institute for War and Peace Reporting, June 23, 2007
12. ^ Research shows estimates of B&H death toll inflated - IHT: The Bosnian Book of Dead
13. ^ Bosnia's Book of Dead - BIRN Report
14. ^ [1] - RFE: Svaka žrvat ima svoje ime
15. ^ Bosnia's Book of Dead - BIRN Report
16. ^ ICTY: Blaškić verdict - A. The Lasva Valley: May 1992 – January 1993t|.
17. ^ ICTY: Blaškić verdict - A. The Lasva Valley: May 1992 – January 1993|.
18. ^ ICTY: Prlić et al. (IT-04-74)|.
19. ^ VOA: U Federaciji BiH obilježen Dan nezavisnosti BiH|.
20. ^ UK Guardian: America used Islamists to arm the Bosnian Muslims
21. ^ Helena Smith, Greece faces shame of role in Serb massacre, The Observer, 5 January 2003, accessed 25 November 2006
22. ^ Alix Kroeger, Bosnia eviction battle looms, BBC News, 23 July 2000, accessed 3 October 2006
23. ^ ICTY: The attack against the civilian population and related requirements|.
24. ^ ICTY: Greatest suffering at least risk|.
25. ^ CCPR Human Rights Committee. "Bosnia and Herzegovina Report". United Nations. 30 October 1992 [2]
26. ^ Sarajevo, i poslije, Erich Rathfelder, München 1998 [3]
27. ^ Angus Macqueen and Paul Mitchell, The Death of Yugoslavia, [4]
28. ^ ICTY: Blaškić verdict - A. The Lasva Valley: May 1992 – January 1993|.
29. ^ ICTY (1995): Initial indictment for the ethnic cleansing of the Lasva Valley area - Part II|.
30. ^ ICTY: Summary of sentencing judgement for Miroslav Bralo|.
31. ^ ICTY: Kordić and Čerkez verdict|.
32. ^ ICTY: Krstić verdict|.
33. ^ Nilsen, Av Kjell Arild; "Death toll in Bosnian war was 102,000"; Free Republic - Norwegian News Agency, [5]
34. ^ Krsman, Natasa; "Mirsad Tokača: Samo fizički me mogu spriječiti da radim" (Bosnian only); Nezavisne novine; 18 March 2006 [6]
35. ^ Research and Documentation Center; "The Status of Database by the Centers"; current [7]
36. ^ Research shows estimates of B&H death toll inflated - IHT: The Bosnian Book of Dead
37. ^ Bosnia's Book of Dead - BIRN Report
38. ^
39. ^ ICTY: Kordić and Čerkez verdict|.
40. ^ ICTY; "Address by ICTY President Theodor Meron, at Potočari Memorial Cemetery" The Hague, 23 June 2004 [8]
41. ^ ICTY: Kordić and Čerkez verdict - IV. Attacks on towns and villages: killings - C. The April 1993 Conflagration in Vitez and the Lašva Valley - 3. The Attack on Ahmići (Paragraph 642)|.


  • Shrader, Charles R. The Muslim-Croat Civil War in Central Bosnia Texas A&M University Press, 2003 ISBN 1-58544-261-5
  • Simms, Brendan. Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia. Penguin, 2003. ISBN 0-14-028983-6
  • Raguz, Vitomir Miles. Who Saved Bosnia Naklada Stih, 2005 ISBN 953-6959-28-3
  • Beloff, Nora. Yugoslavia: An Avoidable War. New European Publications, 1997. ISBN 1-872410-08-1
  • Loyd, Anthony. "My War Gone By, I Miss It So." Penguin, 1999. ISBN 0-14-029854-1
  • Maas, Peter. Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. Vintage Books, 1996. ISBN 0-679-76389-9
  • Dr. R. Craig Nation. "War in the Balkans 1991-2002." Strategic Studies Institute, 2002, ISBN 1-58487-134-2

See also

External links