Paramilitaries led by notorious Serbian warlord Zeljko Raznatovic, alias Arkan, fought their way through Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo – so why were none of them jailed for his unit’s crimes?
Jusuf Trbic remembers the first time he saw Arkan, sitting in an army truck loaded with weapons in Bijeljina in eastern Bosnia. It was around 4pm on April 2, 1992, after Serb forces had taken over the town. Trbic recognized Zeljko Raznatovic’s face from television reports; he was already known as a man to be feared.
Trbic had just been captured by Arkan’s Serbian Volunteer Guard, the ‘Tigers’. Over the next few hours, through the night until dawn, he was beaten and tortured, sometimes in the presence of Arkan himself. “They knew what they were doing,” Trbic told BIRN. “I didn’t have a millimeter of white skin; all of it was black and blue.”
He was ultimately released because Arkan had seized him for a reason – he was a local journalist, and the paramilitary boss wanted him to broadcast an appeal to Bosniaks on Radio Bijeljina to give up their weapons, he said. Others were not so fortunate.
A woman from Bijeljina, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was 19 years old when Arkan’s men knocked on her family’s door one night in April 1992. “They were masked, so we could only see their eyes,” she recalled.
Read More: Balkan Insight