“I am here before Your Honours because I wish to express my remorse. I have thought for a long time, and I'm always followed by the same thought - guilt. I find it very hard to say this truth. I am to blame for everything I did at that time. I am trying to erase all this and to be what I was not at that time. I am also to blame for what I did not do, for not trying to protect those prisoners. Regardless of the temporary nature of my then-post…”
Dragan Obrenović, was a senior officer and commander within the Bosnian Serb Army in July 1995. He was convicted for persecutions carried out through the murder of hundreds of Bosnian Muslim civilians, committed in and around Srebrenica. Under the plea agreement, he agreed to testify in other proceedings before the Tribunal, including those trials related to Srebrenica. Obrenović was sentenced to 17 years’ imprisonment.
30 October 2003 (extract from transcript of hearing)
There was no choice. You could be either a soldier or a traitor. At the beginning of the war, it seemed as if the war and all it brought with it was impossible, that this wasn't really happening to us, and that everything would be resolved within a few days, and that finally our generation would have a chance. We didn't even notice how we were drawn into the vortex of inter-ethnic hatred and how neighbours were no longer able to live beside each other, how death moved into the vicinity, and we didn't even notice that we had got used to it. Death became our reality.
Unfortunately, it became everyday reality. Who before that could have believed that the horrors of war would have become everyday reality? Who could have believed that they could become a part of our lives? Surrounded with horrors, we got used to them and went on living like that. Among those horrors, things happened that were done by people who knew each other, people who, until yesterday, had lived almost as family members together. In Bosnia, a neighbour means more than a relative. In Bosnia, having coffee with your neighbour is a ritual, and this is what we trampled on and forgot. We lost ourselves in hatred and brutality. And in this vortex of terrible misfortune and horror, the horror of Srebrenica happened.
I am here before Your Honours because I wish to express my remorse. I have thought for a long time, and I'm always followed by the same thought - guilt. I find it very hard to say this truth. I am to blame for everything I did at that time. I am trying to erase all this and to be what I was not at that time. I am also to blame for what I did not do, for not trying to protect those prisoners. Regardless of the temporary nature of my then-post. I ask myself again and again, what could I have done that I didn't do? Thousands of innocent victims perished. Graves remain behind, refugees, general destruction and misfortune and misery. I bear part of the responsibility for this.
There is misfortune on all sides that stays behind as a warning that this should never happen again. My testimony and admission of guilt will also remove blame from my nation because it is individual guilt, the guilt of a man named Dragan Obrenović. I stand by this. I am responsible for this. The guilt for which I feel remorse and for which I apologise to the victims and to their shadows. I will be happy if this contributed to reconciliation in Bosnia, if neighbours can again shake hands, if our children can again play games together, and if they have the right to a chance.
I will be happy if my testimony helps the families of victims, if I can spare them having to testify again and thus relive the horrors and the pain during their testimony. It is my wish that my testimony should help prevent this ever happening again, not just in Bosnia, but anywhere in the world. It is too late for me now, but for the children living in Bosnia now, it's not too late and I hope that this will be a good warning to them.
In our wartime sufferings, no one has come out as the winner; everybody is suffering now. On all sides, there is still pain. What has won the victory is misfortune and unhappiness, as a consequence of blind hatred. The spirit of this unhappiness still hovers over our Bosnian hills, which have suffered so much, and it will take years to wipe out the traces of this horrible war and to have smoke rise again from people's chimneys, from the hearths, and maybe decades will have to pass before the wounds in people's souls are healed. If my confession, my testimony, and my remorse, if my attempt to face myself contributes to the quicker healing of these wounds, I will have done my duty of a soldier, a fighter, a human being, and a father.
In the end, I wish to thank the Prosecution for their efforts to establish the truth and for their efforts to have justice done. I would like to thank you, Your Honours, for listening to me so attentively throughout my testimony. I tried to answer every question put to me as correctly and truthfully as I could. Thank you. ”