The genocide occurred over a couple of days during the scorching July 1995 summer when Bosnian Serb forces along with special forces belonging to the Serbian Ministry of Interior and the Yugoslav People's Army (which de facto and de jure belonged to neighboring Serbia) brutally slaughtered an estimated 9,000 Bosniak men and young boys at the UN-declared “safe haven” of Srebrenica and forcefully expelled the remaining 30,000 Bosniak women, children and elderly people. The UN-established International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has so far convicted three Bosnian Serb military leaders for genocide against Bosniaks in Srebrenica.
A more recent unfolding of events in Greece, however, sheds light on the less talked about role of Greek volunteers who in the name of Orthodox Christianity (along with Russian volunteers) flocked to help their Serb brothers-in-faith in their efforts to eliminate some of the last remnants of autochthonous European Muslims.
Takis Michas, a contributor to The Wall Street Journal and author of “Unholy Alliance: Greece and Milosevic's Serbia,” a book that deals with Serbian-Greek relations and the role of Greek volunteers in the Bosnian war, is being sued by a Stavros Vitalis, a former Greek volunteer who along with other Greek volunteers in Bosnia and Herzegovina made up the Greek Voluntary Guard which was under the direct command of Serb Gen. Ratko Mladic, currently wanted for genocide by the ICTY. Vitalis, who is now a spokesman for the ultranationalist Panhellenic Macedonian Front, is suing Michas for referring to Greek volunteers in Bosnia and Herzegovina as “paramilitaries who took part in the slaughter of Srebrenica.”
While Vitalis does not deny taking part in Srebrenica, he rebukes Michas for referring to him and his comrades as “paramilitaries” while claiming that Greek volunteers were in fact members of the regular Army of the Serb Republic who simply took part in the “re-occupation” of Srebrenica, as he puts it. Furthermore, Vitalis claims that the recruitment of Greek volunteers such as himself for the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina occurred with the implicit knowledge and approval of leading Greek politicians such as Andreas Papandreou and, to a lesser extent, Constantine Mitsotakis.
As Vitalis put it: “The whole of Greece knows that the Greek volunteers had the broad support of Greek society as a whole as well as the support of politicians, mainly belonging to PASOK [the Panhellenic Socialist Movement], because of the warm friendship between Andreas Papandreou and Radovan Karadzic. They also enjoyed the support of New Democracy, through the friendly diplomatic initiatives of Constantine Mitsotakis.”
But this outright evidence of Greek participation and tacit approval of top Greek politicians did not seem to trigger any interest within the European Union or the “international community.” On the contrary, the entire attention in the post-war years has been and continues to be on the presence of Muslim mujahedeen fighters who came from Arab countries. And while Bosniak military leaders have been sentenced by the ICTY for petty individual crimes committed by undisciplined mujahedeen fighters, no single member of the Greek Voluntary Guard has been prosecuted by the ICTY or by Greek courts. Instead, four of them have been awarded medals of honor by former Bosnian Serb leader Karadzic, currently facing charges of genocide at the ICTY.
Bearing in mind the power of the Greek “deep state” and the strong support of the Greek church and state for Serbs and for all that they have done in the past, it seems unlikely that any action will be taken against the volunteers anytime soon. After all, what is to be expected from a state which supported the genocidal campaigns of Milosevic, Karadzic, and Mladic and whose people continue to consider these war criminals as heroes?
In the meantime, instead of Greek volunteers taking their seat on the court bench, brave journalists such as Michas will be tried instead.
*Harun Karcic is researching Islamic revival in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the “Roberto Ruffilli” Faculty of Political Science, University of Bologna and is a member of the Sarajevo-based ISEEF group. The views expressed here do not reflect the views of the institutions the author is affiliated with.