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A Statement by the Institute for Research of Genocide of Canada (IRGC) marking the 16th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide
THE VICTIMS OF GENOCIDE IN BOSNIA REMEMBER AND WILL CONTINUE TO REMIND THE WORLD OF WHAT HAPPENED IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
BOSNIAN / BOSANSKI
The Srebrenica Genocide was the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. July 11th 2011 marks the 16th anniversary of the fall of the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Bosnian Serb Army and the subsequent massacre of approximately 8,000 people who lived or had sought refuge in the United Nations-designated “safe area”.
On July 11th 1995, Bosnian Serb forces seized control of the Srebrenica enclave and proceeded to deport the women, children, and the elderly in buses while holding Bosniak males over 16 years of age at collection points and other locations in northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina. They then killed their captives and buried them in mass graves. In subsequent attempt to conceal the evidence of the massacre at Srebrenica, the Bosnian Serbs disinterred, dismembered and moved bodies and body parts away from the original burial sites to secondary mass graves scattered throughout parts of northeastern Bosnia and Herzegovina under their control.
The International Commission on Missing Persons has developed advanced techniques of DNA testing which it uses to identify recovered remains of the Bosnian Serbs' victims at Srebrenica and those killed elsewhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina between April 1992 and November 1995, as well as in the wider conflict that overtook the western Balkans during the 1990s. Having positively identified over 6,490 Srebrenica victims using DNA-led scientific methods, the ICMP currently estimates that almost 8,100 persons were killed during and after the fall of Srebrenica.
In 2004, in its unanimous ruling in the "Prosecutor v. Krstic" case, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague ruled that the massacre of Srebrenica's male inhabitants was a crime of genocide. Theodor Meron, the presiding judge, stated:
“By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the 40,000 Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity”.
In February 2007 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) concurred with the ICTY's judgment that the atrocities committed at Srebrenica constituted genocide, stating: “The Court concludes that the acts committed at Srebrenica falling within Article II (a) and (b) of the Convention were committed with the specific intent to destroy in part the group of the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina as such; and accordingly that these were acts of genocide, committed by members of the VRS in and around Srebrenica from about 13 July 1995.”
The genocide perpetrated more widely across Bosnia and Herzegovina was characterized above all by a campaign of terror directed against the non-Serb and in particular the Bosniak population. This included a systematic campaign of rape directed against Bosniak women and girls, prolonged sieges and shelling of Bosnian cities, the starvation and terrorization of besieged Bosniak enclaves and the targeted destruction of Bosniak culture and history.
It is clear who the aggressor was and who was the victim in this campaign. During the war, not a single predominantly Serb town or city was besieged by the Bosnian defence forces (which included many non-nationalist Bosnian Serbs and Croats). In fact, the majority of Serb civilian casualties were killed by the Serbian army commanded by Gen. Ratko Mladic as they sniped at and shelled the multiethnic population of Bosnian cities such as Sarajevo and Tuzla. The Serb population and Serb culture were not deliberately targeted for ethnic cleansing, rape, siege, shelling, and destruction in Bosnia; it was the Serb project of a "Greater Serbia", embodying a fascist policy of ethnic purification that inflicted tremendous suffering on the Bosniak people between 1992 and 1995.
Four international judgments have confirmed that genocide took place in Bosnia outside the genocide confirmed by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at Srebrenica These cases - Prosecutor v Nikola Jorgic (Doboj region), Prosecutor v Novislav Dzajic (Foča region), Prosecutor v Djuradj Kusljic (Kotor Varos) and Prosecutor v Maksim Sokolovic (Kalesija, Zvornik region) - were all tried in Germany at the request of the ICTY concomitantly with trials at The Hague. Courts in the United States have also determined that Radovan Karadzic is culpable of acts of genocide as well as rape and torture.
The Bosnian War was an international armed conflict that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina between April 1992 and December 1995, involving several sides. The main belligerents were the forces of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and those of the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb and Bosnian Croat entities within Bosnia and Herzegovina -- the 'Republika Srpska' and 'Herzeg-Bosnia'. Both 'para-states' enjoyed substantial political and military backing (and overall control) from Serbia and Croatia respectively.
NATO forces were subsequently involved in air-strikes against the Serbs. The Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal at the Hague has determined – on at least five separate occasions -- that the Bosnian War was not a “civil war” but an international armed conflict involving Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, and NATO.
There are many different sources that confirm the two essential features of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Firstly, it was a classic case, at the end of the 20th century, of an armed aggression against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the most basic definition of an international armed conflict it was a crime against the peace and safety of humanity. And
secondly, the worst of all crimes under international law, the crime of genocide, was committed on the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina against the Bosniak population.
The arrest of Ratko Mladic after sixteen years will not significantly change the situation of his Bosniak victims. Though his arrest brings them some small degree of satisfaction, it is part of a game being played out between the international community and Serbia, which past experience has taught Bosniaks not to take at face value. Ultimate justice for the victims is a matter of legal judgments based on the scientifically researched truth about the crimes of aggression committed against the single internationally recognized independent sovereign state of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the crimes of genocide, including culturecide, ecocide, ethnocide, urbicide and elitocide, torture and killing in concentration camps, rape, violent expulsion and territorial expropriation, perpetrated against the Bosniak population.
So, ultimately justice for the Bosniak victims means an end to the entity that was the result of aggression and genocide. Justice for the victims means conserving the statehood and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina in an organized and systematic way. Sovereignty is indivisible, non-transferable and unchallengeable. These three attributes of sovereignty are the justification for legitimate action by Bosniaks to annul the achievements of aggression and genocide in order to defend and reinvigorate a single unified Bosnian-Herzegovinian state and society and within it the full national, civic and territorial equality of the Bosniak population.
For the victims, Republika Srpska exists only because of the illegal Dayton agreement which rewarded aggression and genocide with the involuntary, illegal and unjustified division of Bosnia and Herzegovina into two territorial “entities”, imposing an unjust and paralyzing constitutional system that has given rise to a dysfunctional structure of government. The goal of the aggression and genocide against Bosniaks and other civilians of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was to create an ethnically cleansed Greater Serbia at the expense of their country. Justice and the rule of law cannot be achieved until the achievements of aggression and genocide have been reversed. Neither international law or national law can make the effects of illegal action legal.
The International Court of Justice on February 26th 2007 ruled that the Bosnian Serb entity is the result of genocide under the terms of the UN Genocide Convention, which not only prohibits genocide, but also condemns its outcome and renders the results of aggression and genocide null and void. [Implicitly of course, but not specifically?] The accused party is not
entitled to question the constitution and the legal system when it has been tried and found guilty of aggression and genocide. The opinions of individuals from Republika Srpska concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina are irrelevant, all that matters is how they now view Bosnia and Herzegovina’s future.
Despite promises of “Never Again” more than 8,000 men and boys were murdered in Srebrenica. They were brothers, sons, husbands, and fathers, and they all became victims of genocide. IRGC honors their memories and grieves with their families. These were individuals who wished to live in peace and had relied on the promise of international protection but in their hour of greatest need were left to fend for themselves. The horror of Srebrenica was a stain on the world's collective conscience. This atrocity galvanized the international community to take action to end the slaughter of civilians, since when the name of Srebrenica has served as a stark reminder to the world of the need to act resolutely in the face of evil.
The IRGC recognizes that there can be no lasting peace without justice. Justice must include full accountability for the crimes committed, the complete identification and return of all those who were lost, and the prosecution and punishment of those responsible for carrying out the genocide. This includes Ratko Mladic, who presided over the killings. The IRGC calls on all governments to redouble their efforts to find all of those responsible, arrest them, and bring them to justice.
That is how we will honor the victims of Srebrenica and fulfill our moral and legal commitments to end impunity for crimes of such awful magnitude. It is our duty to remember the cruelty that expressed itself here, and prevent such atrocities from ever happening again. We owe an obligation to the victims and to their surviving family members. And we also have a responsibility to future generations worldwide to refuse to be bystanders to evil; whenever and wherever it occurs, we must be prepared to stand up for human dignity.
We need to comprehend the moral depravity of the perpetrators of genocide and the indifference of the bystanders. We need to educate ourselves about the orchestrators of genocide. We need to learn about genocide not merely as episodes of history but as lessons warning our children of the dangers of intolerance, now and in the future. We need to teach future generations to respect democracy and human rights and encourage them to reject hatred, intolerance and racism. We need to unite in condemning genocide. The IRGC insists that efforts must be made both domestically and at the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia to secure justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Aggression against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the genocide of Bosniaks were at the heart of the joint criminal enterprise of which the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (today Serbia and Montenegro) was part from September 1991 to the end of 1995, and the Republic of Croatia, from the end of 1991 to the 18th March 1994 - involving their political, military, and police leadership(s) and their fifth column of collaborationists and mercenaries in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The intention was to conquer and divide the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and destroy it as a sovereign and independent state and to create a “final solution” for the “Muslim issue”, through the extermination and ethnic cleansing of Bosniaks. All the reliable sources confirm premeditated intent to commit all of these acts preceding the aggression against the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the genocide against its Bosniak population.
The state of Bosnia and Herzegovina established by the Dayton Peace Accord comprises two entities--one of them the Serb entity of Republika Srpska (RS), a genocidal creation of Greater Serbian ultra-nationalism and fascism. The RS came into being through grave violations of international human rights law, the attempted extermination of the Bosniak (and Croat) communities and mass graves and concentration camps that mimicked the practices of earlier fascist regimes. Through the Dayton Accords, the international community has conferred legality and legitimacy on this genocidal entity.
The other entity created by Dayton, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with its origins in the Washington Agreement of 18th March 1994, is crippled by similar obstructionist politics on the part of the remnants of the so-called “Croatian Community of Herzeg-Bosnia”, itself
responsible for human rights crimes against Bosniaks and other non-nationalist Bosnian Croats. Even with significant elements of the "Community"'s leadership currently awaiting trial before the ICTY (for participation in “joint criminal enterprises” in Bosnia), its members have been colluding openly with the Republika Srpska leadership in pursuit of their chauvinist and ultra-nationalist politics—to the detriment of all Bosnians.
As representatives of the academic community and intellectuals from around the world, the members of the IRGC are seeking to increase awareness of the long-term negative consequences of the artificial and undemocratic settlement imposed by the Dayton Accords and to draw attention to the gravity of the current situation, impelled by nationalist forces within Bosnia in the direction of further distress and suffering. Republika Srpska appears set on declaring war on Bosnia-Herzegovina. Aggressive propagandizing against Bosnia and Herzegovina by official figures, television media and journalists who support the Republika Srpska regime has reached the levels seen in Belgrade two years before the launch of the Greater Serbian campaign to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina and exterminate the non-Serb population. We must not allow history to repeat itself.
It is easy to empathise with victims. But if we want to prevent future genocides, something more than an occasional symbolic demonstration of solidarity with the victims of genocide is required. We need to educate ourselves about the Bosnian Genocide not only as a historical event, but also as a way of teaching our children about the dangers of intolerance. We need to teach all students, of all ages, to value and defend democracy and human rights and encourage them to reject intolerance, hatred and racism.
Canadian Institute for Research of Genocide