Officials are struggling with limited funds and archaic records to make sure America is not a haven for Bosnian war criminals. They’ve already identified 300 people believed to have committed war crimes in the Bosnian war, some of which are already U.S. citizens. Officials have made plans to deport at least 150 of the identified men, with further efforts to deport the rest in the future. They arrived in the U.S. by slipping in with the massive flood of immigrants fleeing the violence, but now some of them will finally face justice.
In July 1995, the army of the Bosnian Serb Republic killed at least 8,000 Muslim Bosnians in the town of Srebrenica. To this day, the massacre remains Europe’s largest single mass murder since World War 2. Immigration officials now know that as many as 150 men who perpetrated that killing live right here in the U.S.
According to the New York Times, the men that will be deported live seemingly ordinary lives in the U.S. One is a soccer coach in Virginia, another a metal worker in Ohio. They’ve learned to blend in well as the memories of their war crimes fade.
Luckily, in 2008, the immigration department opened a war crimes section to seek out criminals within U.S. borders. The section’s investigators have looked into immigrants connected to atrocities in El Salvador, Guatemala, Rwanda, and other global hot spots, but the Bosnian War has generated the most attention.
Michael McQueen is a historian on immigration enforcement and has led many of the investigations.
He told the New York Times, “The more we dig, the more documents we find.”
“The idea that the people who did all this damage in Bosnia should have a free pass and a new shot at life is just obscene to me.”
U.S. officials and Human Rights’ activists have asked locals on the Balkan peninsula to come forward with any information that could help.
With the immigration department’s limited resources, the deportations are an uphill battle. The war crimes section funding has been severely cut, and many of the immigrants have U.S. citizenship and strong legal representation. Not to mention the scrubbing that’s taken place in Bosnia. Hamdija Custovic, leader of the Congress of North American Bosniaks, explained to the Times that it’s a tragedy that so many got away with their crimes against humanity.
“There’s been a lot of covering up of what happened in Bosnia, and a lot of these people who were involved are still walking around. Whatever has been done to find these people is not enough. It’s tragic.”
Of course, the Bosnians are hardly America’s first experience with war criminals slipping through the country’s complicated bureaucracies. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, the U.S. federal government just recently got around to cutting off social security payments to former Nazis from World War 2.
The bill to cut off the Nazi war criminals passed with unanimous support, a rare bipartisan effort from Congress.
The BBC reports that about 120,000 Bosnians applied for visas in the mid-1990s, overwhelming the system and creating an environment where very few were thoroughly investigated. They were forced to the U.S. by the intense violence of the Bosnian War, which killed 100,000 people and displaced millions more.
[Image Credit: Getty Images, Gun hole marks in Srebrenica]