In the absence of accountability for the massacre in Bijeljina, Rolling Stone partnered with the Starling Lab to help archive and authenticate key records.
We are providing access to photos, videos, social media posts, and documents from our reporting.
The Starling Lab is a research center co-founded by Stanford University and USC Shoah Foundation to pursue innovation and education in data integrity.
Rolling Stone obtained hundreds of pages of Serbian State Security Service payroll logs.
The documents cover periods of time in 1994 and 1995, several years after the killings in Bijeljina that Haviv documented. They reveal accounting details behind a war machine that continued to rage into the mid-nineties.
And they include some familiar, and infamous, names.
Dženita wouldn’t see Haviv’s photos again until in the mid-1990s, when Kevin Curtis, an ICTY investigations team leader, showed her the photos from Bijeljina. He wanted to know what she knew.
“We were never after local perpetrators,” says Curtis, now 69. “The information we were getting about local perpetrators was to link them to people like Arkan, or the Serbian President Milošević.”
While he says it would have been nearly impossible–and outside of his mandate–to investigate every “trigger puller” in the war, he wonders what happened to the “masses of information” he and his colleagues passed on to Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian authorities, who were then to investigate lower ranking suspects. “What happened, in reality, is another matter,” he says.
While Curtis and his colleagues at the ICTY built a case against Arkan, Arkan’s Tigers and other units were still committing crimes. According to charges in a later ICTY indictment against Arkan, in September 1995, at the invitation of local Serb leaders, Arkan’s Tigers deployed to Sanski Most in northwstern Bosnia, where they forcibly expelled, tortured, raped, and killed non-Serb civilians.
It is not known whether Golubović was there. But around this time, he was still on payroll—at least on paper—of Serbia’s State Security Service (SDB), which coordinated and funneled payment to state-security combat unit members, including men known to have fought for the Tigers.
Prosecutors at the ICTY spent years working to obtain these documents from Serbia’s State Security Service.
They show the Security Service’s role in the war, specifically the funding and control of well-armed fighting forces deployed to Bosnia.
These pages remained hidden from public view for decades...
Rolling Stone is publishing parts of the ICTY records for accountability purposes, with some names and other information redacted to avoid endangering people.
The records include names, dates “of deployment,” and amounts of money paid to members of a state-security-funded combat unit, which included men known to have fought for Arkan’s Tigers during the Bosnian War.
How we found the document
When we first requested the payroll records from the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, an archivist there claimed they were “confidential.”
However, via a deep search of their own online public archives, we found the mostly unredacted document and its translation.
Rolling Stone and the Starling Lab took proactive steps to preserve and authenticate the records.
Starling Lab used a tool called Webrecorder, which downloads all public files associated with the target document. This includes metadata about the host site's servers, time of capture, and technical protocols.
Similar to a traditional notary, Starling Lab registered the fingerprint of the document so the integrity of the original unredacted file as it was found on the tribunal website can be established.
If challenged in the future, an audit can help prove that the secure fingerprint matches the archived file.
Algorithms were used to redact the names of hundreds of people listed in the payroll records who were not subjects of our investigation.
These zero-knowledge proofs, or ZK proofs, are some of the most innovative methods used by cryptographers today. They provide “mathematical proofs” that the redaction boxes were placed in exact locations by authorized editors and archivists, as the only permissible change to the file.
If challenged, one can compare the ZK proof to the certificate of the original file to audit the changes without seeing the unredacted information.
Our use of ZK proofs was one of the first real-world applications of the technology for redactions. It was designed by Stanford University’s Applied Cryptography Group, specifically for Rolling Stone. The code base is released here for transparency.
THE DOCUMENT LISTS HUNDREDS OF NAMES, BUT NOTABLY INCLUDES:
In our investigation, we found the name ГОЛУБОВИЋ СРЂАН in Cyrillic, which is often spelled Srđan Golubović in Serbian or Srdjan Golubovic in English.
The same individual in the payroll records is mentioned in ICTY testimony and has been accused by members of the Serbian press and by local citizens of being the soldier in Haviv’s famous photo.
According to the payroll records, Golubović was deployed and paid in September 1994, and January, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, and December 1995.
Individuals committing war crimes and acts of violence in conflict rarely act alone. They usually have funders, conspirators, and leaders.
Some identities of alleged members of Arkan’s Tigers have been public for years. But the lack of evidence linking specific crimes to specific men, and an absence of political will, has impeded accountability efforts.
This document showcases a network of men tied to Arkan’s Tigers or other state-funded combat units in Bosnia during a war marked by atrocities against civilians.
Some of the men on the State Security list appear to be alive today.
For example, Golubović is Facebook friends with Svetozar Pejović (otherwise known as “Peja”), a man whose name also appears in the Serbian payroll logs in 1995. Pejović is also named in criminal tribunal testimony as a leading member of the Serbian Volunteer Guard, or Arkan’s Tigers.
Pejović, wearing the uniform of Arkan’s Tigers, carried Arkan’s casket at his funeral in 2000.
Documentation and ICTY testimony points to Pejović playing a leading role in the Tigers.
A former secretary of Arkan’s told the ICTY about connections between Serbian State Security and Arkan’s Tigers. Known as Witness B-129, they testified in 2003 that Pejović was a captain in Arkan’s Tigers and served in the Treskavica Operation.
In that mid-1995 operation, “members of the state security had tortured most of the captured Muslims and then killed them,” Witness B-129 testified.
There are also other notable names that appear on the list with Golubović.
Milorad Ulemek, A.K.A. Legija.
Known as a “Super Tiger” (one of the original members of Arkan’s Tigers), he’s currently serving 40 years in prison for the assassination of former Serbian President Ivan Stambolic and attempted assassination of then-opposition leader Vuk Drašković.
Nebojša Đorđević, a.k.a. Suca
Nebojša Đorđević, a.k.a. Suca, appears in the Serbian State Security payroll log. He was a close ally of Arkan, and was deployed with Arkan’s Tigers in Bijeljina on the day of the massacre. He is pictured (front center) in one of Haviv’s April 2, 1992, images inside the ransacked Bijeljina mosque. An unidentified assailant shot him to death in 1996.
The name Ranko Momić (РАНКО МОМИЋ) is on the State Security payroll list. These days, a man with that same name is also on INTERPOL’s Red Notice list, wanted for charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kosovo. He is believed to have fled to Russian-occupied Ukraine in 2015, according to the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network.
Arkan’s assassin, Dobrosav Gavrić, is also named in the payroll documents.
Gavrić is cited in at least four Serbian state security payroll records from 1995 obtained by Rolling Stone. He was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment for his involvement in Arkan’s death. Gavrić was a 23-year-old policeman when he killed Arkan.
He fled to South Africa, where authorities there later arrested him on other criminal charges associated with local organized crime syndicates. He is awaiting – and fighting – extradition to Serbia.
Decades after Arkan’s Tigers and other combat units allegedly committed war crimes, new digital records show how these wartime connections endured over time.