Last Updated: Friday, 27 May 2016, 08:49 GMT

Serbia and Montenegro: The Serb Volunteer Guard (SDG or Arkan's Tigers); their treatment of Muslims; current activities; whether former members were active in the district of Sandzak or surrounding area in June 2001

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 24 October 2003
Citation / Document Symbol YUG42093.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Serbia and Montenegro: The Serb Volunteer Guard (SDG or Arkan's Tigers); their treatment of Muslims; current activities; whether former members were active in the district of Sandzak or surrounding area in June 2001, 24 October 2003, YUG42093.E, available at: [accessed 29 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

The Serb Volunteer Guard (1991-1999)

The Serb Volunteer Guard (Srpska Dobrovoljačka Garda, SDG) is also referred to as the Tigrovi (Tigers) (Jane's Sentinel 1 Mar. 1999), Arkanovci (New York Post 31 Mar. 1999) and Arkan's Tigers (ibid; FAS 1 Feb. 2000). Formed by Zeljko "Arkan" Raznatovic and numbering as many as 400 units (Jane's Sentinel 1 Mar. 1999), the SDG was described as a "fanatic camouflage-clad, crew-cut thugs with telltale Tiger patches on their sleeves" (New York Post 31 Mar. 1999). The report described the unit's actions as "systematic, cold-blooded and brutally effective" and quoted a Human Rights Watch representative as stating that they were very dangerous (ibid.).

The SDG was active in Eastern Bosnia in 1992 and Erdut, Croatia between May 1992 and April 1996 (FAS 1 Feb. 2000). In 1999, Jane's Sentinel was of the opinion that the SDG was dormant (1 Mar. 1999) and the BBC reported in 2000 that the SDG was disbanded in 1995 (20 Jan. 2000). However, reports from 1998, 1999 and 2000 allege that Arkan-led forces were active in Kosovo (BBC 20 Jan. 2000; New York Post 31 Mar. 1999; LPA 14 Apr. 1999; ibid. 16 June 1999; FAS 1 Feb. 2000; AFP 18 Apr. 1999; ibid. 5 Apr. 1999).

Reports frequently linked the SDG to atrocities committed during the Bosnian war (FAS 1 Jan. 2000; New York Post 31 Mar. 1999; AFP 4 June 1997; Jane's Sentinel 1 Mar. 1999; BETA 19 Jan. 2000; Salon 17 Jan. 2000). The unit was reportedly complicit in the death of 1,400 Bosnian Muslims in the municipality of Foca in the Srbinje District of Bosnia between April and May 1992 (FAS 1 Feb. 2000). In Kosovo, according to the New York Post, the SDG would enter Albanian villages, "cart the men away and sometimes execute them, rape the women and loot the houses before burning them to the ground" (31 Mar. 1999).

Current Activities of the SDG

In early 1999, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY) indicted Raznatovic for war crimes (BETA 19 Jan. 2000; ibid. 7 Apr. 1999; LPA 14 Apr. 1999) perpetrated in Vukovar, Croatia in 1991 (AFP 15 June 1999). However, before he could be brought before the criminal tribunal, Raznatovic was murdered on 15 January 2000 in Belgrade (FAS 1 Feb. 2000; AFP 11 Feb. 2000; BETA 19 Jan. 2000). The Research Directorate was unable to find subsequent reports of organized units of the SDG conducting operations in the territory of Serbia and Montenegro among the sources consulted.

The SDG in Sandzak, Montenegro

Sandzak is a district of Montenegro straddling the Serbian and Montenegrin borders where ethnic Muslims make up a slight majority (RFE/RL 7 July 1999). While the New York Post mentioned in passing that there were reports of SDG operations in Sandzak in March 1999 (New York Post 31 Mar. 1999), the Research Directorate did not find similar reports referring to actions in June 2001 among the sources consulted. On 25 July 2001, the head of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Mission in Belgrade described the political situation in Sandzak as "good" (Tanjug 25 July 2001).

Montenegro reportedly hosted a number of former members of Arkan's paramilitary unit as part of the 7th Battalion of the Yugoslav Military Police, a "shadowy group" composed of other former paramilitary soldiers, former criminals and veterans of the Kosovo war (Times of London 23 Sept. 2000). A 7th Battalion member stated in a BBC interview that there was no exact data on the size of the battalion and it was decentralized such that only the commander of a specific unit would know of its membership (BBC 4 Aug. 2000). The International Crisis Group (ICG), citing the Serbian newspaper Vijesti, noted that Montenegrins believed there were to be "some 2,000 'paramilitaries' stationed in Montenegro" in 2000 (21 Mar. 2000, 14n. 24). Units the 7th Battalion began withdrawing from Montenegro to southern Serbia in early 2001 (BETA 5 Mar. 2001), while others remained in Macedonia as evidenced by an April 2001 report of their activity in the municipality of Bijelo Polje (ibid. 5 Apr. 2001). The latter were reportedly not engaging in activities that contravened public order (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France Presse [Paris]. 11 February 2000. "Former Member of Arkan's Paramilitary 'Tigers' Says Serbian Gangster Killed Arkan, Now in Hiding in Germany." (FBIS-EEU-2000-0211 14 Feb. 2000/Dialog)
_____. 15 June 1999. "Arkan Denies Witness Evidence of Involvement in Massacre." (FBIS-EEU-1999-0615 16 June 1999/Dialog)
_____. 18 April 1999. "NATO: Arkan's 'Tigers' Active in Kosovo Around Pec." (FBIS-EEU-1999-0418 19 Apr. 1999/Dialog)
_____. 5 April 1999. "Arkan Vows to Fight NATO 'To the Last Man' Over Kosovo." (FBIS-EEU-1999-0405 7 Apr. 1999/Dialog)
_____. 4 June 1997. "Serbia: Arkan Says Hague-Indicted Serbs 'Defending their Country.'" (FBIS-EEU-97-155 6 June 1997/Dialog)

BBC. 4 August 2000. Phil Rees. "Brinkmanship in Montenegro." [Accessed 17 Oct. 2003]
_____. 20 January 2000. "Thousands Bid Farwell to Arkan." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2003]

BETA News Agency [Belgrade, in Serbo-Croatian]. 5 April 2001. "Sources Report Continuous Presence of the 7th Battalion Members in Bejelo Polje." (FBIS-EEU-2001-0405 6 Apr. 2001/Dialog)
_____. 5 March 2001. "'Some' Units of FRY Army's 7th Battalion Transferred to Serbia and Montenegro." (FBIS-EEU-2001-0305 6 Mar. 2001/WNC)
_____. 19 January 2000. "BETA Assesses 'Career' of Slain Arkan." (FBIS-EEU-2000-0120 24 Jan. 2000/Dialog)
_____. 7 April 1999. "Arkan's Lawyer Contacts Hague Tribunal, Receives Warrant." (FBIS-EEU-1999-0407 8 Apr. 1999/Dialog)

Federation of American Scientists (FAS). 1 February 2000. "Serb Volunteer Guard [SDG/SSJ] "Arkan's Tigers." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2003]

International Crisis Group (ICG). 21 March 2000. Montenegro: In the Shadow of the Volcano. (ICG Balks Report No. 89). [Accessed 17 Oct. 2003]

Jane's Sentinel [London]. 1 March 1999. "Recent Background to Current Crisis in Kosovo." [Accessed 15 Oct. 2003]

London Press Association (LPA). 16 June 1999. Alex Richardson. "UK Forensic Team in Kosovo Find 'Chilling Evidence.'" (FBIS-EEU-1999-0616 17 June 1999/Dialog)
_____. 14 April 1999. Cahal Milmo. "UK: Arkan Finds Criminals for 'Bloodthirsty Commando." (FBIS-WEU-1999-0414 15 Apr. 1999/Dialog)

New York Post. 31 March 1999. Niles Lathem. "Baby-Faced Killer Does Milosevic's Dirty Work." (NEXIS)

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 7 July 1999. Newsline. "Sandzak Muslim to Seek Autonomy, Troop Exit." [Accessed 17 Oct. 2003]

Salon [New York]. 17 January 2000. Laura Rozen. "Who Killed Arkan?" [Accessed 16 Oct. 2003]

Tanjug News Agency [Belgrade]. 25 July 2001. "OSCE Mission in Belgrade Announces Plans to Boost Presence in Sandzak Region." (FBIS-EEU-2001-0725 26 July 2001/Dialog)

Times of London. 23 September 2000. Janine Di Giovanni. "Serb Battalion Ready to Strike in Montenegro." (BalkanNews List Service 22 Sept. 2000) [Accessed 16 Oct. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted


IRB Databases


Internet sites, including:

AIM Press

International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTFY)

Media Club

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

United Nations

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld