2011-10-01

LJUBLJANA - From 1991 until 1995, the Yugoslav Wars wreaked havoc on the Balkans. War crimes of all sorts and flavours struck the region with such fierceness and frequency that by the end of the 20th century Yugoslavia had been torn apart. One of the crimes committed was the illegal trade of arms by government officials of the countries involved, acts with which they infringed the UN arms embargo.

Journalists Matej Šurc and Blaž Zgaga spent more than three years investigating and analysing more than 6000 pages of declassified official documents on the illegal trade of arms in Slovenia. They obtained the documents through the Slovene Freedom of Information Act. As the vast majority of arms shipments during the UN embargo was transferred to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, they searched for journalistic colleagues in those countries. At that point, the experienced reporter and journalist trainer Sasa Leković from Croatia joined the team followed by one of the best investigative journalists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Esad Hećimović.

Later also journalists from four other European countries co-operated in the investigation: Lukas Hässig (Switzerland), Beata Biel (Poland), Vlad Lavrov (Ukraine) and Magnus Berglund (Finland).

In total, Zgaga and Šurc wrote 41 chapters with their findings, too much to write into a book, let alone a newspaper article. So they decided to publish them in a trilogy, which they called In the Name of the State. The first volume, published in June 2011, focuses on the sale of arms and ammunition from the former Yugoslav People's Army’s warehouses, which were seized during a ten-day military conflict in Slovenia in 1991. It is called ‘Odprodaja’ or Sell. The second volume, ‘Preprodaja’ or Resell, appeared in October 2011 and deals with the purchase of arms abroad and subsequent resale to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the UN arms embargo. The third and final volume, ‘Prikrivanje’ or Cover-up, describes how the arms smugglers managed to keep their activities largely concealed for the last twenty years. It was published in April 2012. Leković and Hećimović published their own stories based on the cross-border co-operation in Croatian and Bosnian media.

Blaž Zgaga

Blaž Zgaga, Slovenia, is a freelance investigative journalist and co-author of the best-selling trilogy In the Name of the State, which explores arms smuggling in the Balkans during the conflicts of the 1990s.

Matej Šurc

Matej Šurc is a Slovenian journalist.

Saša Leković

Saša Leković is a Croatian journalist.

Esad Hećimović

Esad Hećimović is a Bosnian journalist.

Supported
Grant of €4.000, awarded on 02/02/2010
ID
2010/008
Grant
European Cross-border Grants
Tags
  • Corruption
  • Data Journalism
  • Europe
  • FOI
  • Politics

Trilogy 'V imenu države' (In the Name of the State).
Published by Sanje Publishing in Ljubljana.
1. Odprodaja (Sell) (SI) - published on 16 June, 2011. Summary in EN.
2. Preprodaja (Resell) (SI) - published on 24 October, 2011. Summary in EN.
3. Prikrivanje (Cover-up) (SI) - published on 19 April, 2012. Summary in EN.