ANOTHER MORTAR ROUND is fired in the brutal conflict in the former Yugoslavia. It lands in a Sarajevo neighborhood, and the shrapnel tears into three hearts in a small Arizona town.
What happened to Eric Adam, Mirsada Buric-Adam, and her sister, Majda, should be written down and added to the long ledger of tragedies to come out of that war.
But give this one a special place. It's almost too cruel to believe. It's a story about love and murder, and a man's obsession to obtain justice.
It began on Wednesday, July 19, 1995. Eric and wife Mirsada, a Bosnian Muslim, were sitting in their Prescott home. It was the dinner hour, peaceful.
Majda, who lives down the street, was watching the CBS Evening News when a report came on about more shelling in Sarajevo.
She knew all about life in that city. She lived there for 29 months of the Bosnian Serb siege before escaping with her two children to Croatia in September 1994. They came to America last February.
Majda was safe in Arizona, away from the killing and desperation of her homeland. Or so she thought. But on this night the horror reached right into her living room.
AS SHE WATCHED the news, Majda saw on the TV screen the tormented face of her teenage niece, Arna Hadzic. The girl was covered in blood, and she was screaming. Around her was chaos, men frantically pulling a body from rubble.
Majda grabbed the phone and called Eric and Mirsada. "She was hysterical," Eric says. "We were watching the news on ABC and we switched channels right away. But the report was already over. Something terrible had happened, but Majda couldn't tell us what."
Mirsada immediately called a relative in Sarajevo. "It was the middle of the night in Europe, so I apologized for the late hour, and got right to the point," says Mirsada. "I asked, 'Who is dead?' "
The answer went straight to her gut. It was Arna's little brother, Adnan, Mirsada's cousin.
The 12-year-old boy was going to the bathroom when the shell landed. Shrapnel flew about 300 feet and pierced the front door of the family apartment, then tore through the bathroom door and severed his jugular.
Adnan collapsed where he was standing. The CBS crew helped rush him to the hospital. But it was no use.
"Mirsada sat on the floor for a while crying," says Eric of that terrible night. "Afterward we went to Majda's house for coffee. To sort of be with each other. It was a helpless feeling."
But the tears soon gave way to outrage. Adam knew that Adnan's death would be added to a list like thousands of others, and it would end there.
It sickened him to think that no one would stand to speak for this boy. He knew he had to do something. But what? He stewed on it for close to a week, unsure who to call, or how to proceed.
On July 25, less than a week later, Adam heard that the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had indicted Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, two Bosnian Serb leaders, for war crimes.
The many counts against them included orchestrating the sniping and shelling campaign against Muslim civilians in Sarajevo. As soon as he heard that, Adam was on the phone to the Tribunal's office in The Hague, The Netherlands.
It was the start of his crusade, now seven months along, to bring Karadzic and Mladic up on charges of murdering Adnan Hadzic.
Adam is insisting the boy's death be classified a war crime, and his name added to Indictment 7, which contains a list of those killed in the Sarajevo sniping.
If that happens, and Mladic and Karadzic are arrested, Adam says the Tribunal would have to put them on trial for Adnan's murder.
And to make sure they have enough evidence, he's conducting his own investigation under Article 18 of the Tribunal's statues, which allow any individual to present evidence of a war crime.
But how does a soft-spoken 38-year-old audio-visual specialist at the Prescott Veteran's Administration Hospital go about fingering two foreign leaders for a murder that occurred half a world away?
"I know this is crazy, and I'm not really sure what I'm doing," he says. "But I want to get these two guys."
Adam believes he can cobble together a strong case.
Late last year, on a family trip to Sarajevo, he and Mirsada videotaped Adnan's grave and the crime scene. They interviewed Adnan's parents, who pointed out the location from which they believe the fatal shell was fired, and through means they won't specify, Adam and Mirsada worked a local source in the hope of getting the police report on the killing.
"We didn't get it, but we're still trying," he says. "It's pretty delicate. But Adnan's parents are delighted that someone is taking an interest. They know nothing will be done there."
His bag of evidence includes a long statement from Arna, received via e-mail, describing the events of that day; and from a friend at CBS he acquired expanded film footage taken at the time of the killing.
He also is reviewing tapes of a six-part BBC television series, The Death of Yugoslavia. It includes a segment showing Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military commander, standing on a hilltop ordering his gunners to fire on the city below, and to keep firing until he says to stop.
If he can prove the hilltop overlooks Sarajevo, and pinpoint the date of the shelling, Adam believes that will be enough to convince the Tribunal to put Hadzic's name on the indictment.
"If that doesn't work, we'll try something else," says Adam. "I intend to push this to the end."
DETERMINATION IS AN attribute Adam has shown before. How he met and married his wife is an example.
The first time he saw Mirsada Buric was on television. It was the summer of 1992. She was a Bosnian athlete training for the Olympic Games by running under Serb sniper fire through the streets of Sarajevo.
Mirsada had just been released in a prisoner exchange from a Serb concentration camp, where she spent 13 days living on a slice of bread and a cup of water a day.
Her goal was to use the Olympics as a stage to tell the world of the atrocities she'd witnessed. American television picked up her story. Adam, single at the time, was watching in his Prescott apartment.
"I whipped around when I saw this woman running," he remembers. "I was impressed. I knew instantly that I'd meet her some day."
A week later, she was on TV again, this time training on a track in Barcelona. She'd outrun the snipers and made it to the Olympics.
By then Adam was so captivated by the bravery of this unknown woman that he decided he was going marry her. But first he needed to find out her name, which he didn't catch on either broadcast.
He got it by hunting through old newspapers in the library. Then he learned her address by calling the Olympic Village in Barcelona and talking to Mirsada's best friend, who spoke English.
A blizzard of letters followed over several months, and the beginnings of a relationship developed. "I kept thinking, 'Who is this crazy man in America?' " says Mirsada.
In a scene out of Casablanca, the two met for the first time in a grubby bus station in Slovenia, where Mirsada, whose village had been ethnically cleansed, was living as a refugee.
Adam wanted to bring her to America, and after months of phone calls, paperwork and red tape, he succeeded. Mirsada accepted his offer to come to Prescott to live. They were married New Year's Eve, 1993.
In the ensuing two years, the couple worked to tell the world what was happening to Bosnia's Muslims. One of their projects was to line up doctors in this country willing to perform surgery, at no cost, on kids with war wounds.
Mirsada's new goal was to represent her country at this year's Olympic Games in Atlanta. Even though she had set personal, school and Bosnian national records running for Colorado's Adams State in 1994, she was a long shot. She was training without a coach and with no financial support.
A crucial test came last August at the World Track and Field Championships in Goteborg, Sweden. Mirsada was in the best shape of her life, and eager to compete.
But Adnan's death, just two weeks before leaving for the meet, was the last in a series of events that drained her emotionally, and she failed to qualify for the finals in the 5,000 meters.
She decided to abandon her second Olympic quest and return to school. She's now in her final semester at Arizona State University, and spends most of her time studying. But she helps Eric when she can.
"The ones who committed these war crimes have to be prosecuted to have peace in Bosnia," says Mirsada. "I was in Sarajevo and saw how bitter the people are. They have so much revenge. If they don't prosecute, they will go for their own revenge."
Adam's efforts have been costly and frustrating, involving a mountain of faxes from The Hague to Prescott and back.
He won what he considers a small victory when Graham Blewitt, the Tribunal's deputy prosecutor, wrote to say that all reported deaths from the Sarajevo sniping campaign are being thoroughly investigated, including Adnan's.
"I can assure you that the case of Adnan is one of the specific incidents in Sarajevo which are being investigated and where we expect to conclude preparation of evidence shortly."
Blewitt ended his letter this way: "Despite the fact that Adnan's name may not appear on the indictment in the near future, I can assure you that his case has as high a priority as any of the large number of victims in Sarajevo."
But Adam says that if the case really is a priority, it's only because he has made it one.
"There's no doubt in my mind that nothing would've been done about this if I hadn't pressured them," says Adam.
And he wonders about the thoroughness of the Tribunal's investigation.
"How can they be close to concluding when they haven't talked to Adnan's parents, they haven't gone to the crime scene and they haven't asked to see any of the evidence I've gathered?"
Adam isn't satisfied with Blewitt's response. He believes the Tribunal is balking out of fear that what he's doing will open the floodgates to thousands of similar demands, creating more anger and volatility.
But Adam says the opposite is true, and is continuing to press ahead with his goal--getting Adnan's name added to Indictment 7 as a victim of Karadzic and Mladic.
If the case comes to trial, he vows to be there to watch.
"Sure, you can say, so what? So those two guys are going to be charged with another murder. But if I didn't do this, this kid would fall through the cracks. That's not going to happen. It so happens there's going to be justice in Adnan's death, as thousands of others will not have justice."
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