Russia review: UN on Srebrenica anniversary

The 30th anniversary of the massacre will be commemorated for the first time in 2025. The UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) defined the Srebrenica massacre as genocide in 2004. In 2007, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Serbia was not directly involved in genocide.

However, according to the ICJ, the Belgrade authorities at the time did nothing to prevent the genocide. Serbia’s parliament condemned the Srebrenica massacre in 2010 without using the term genocide. At the same time, it also referred to the ICTY and its judgments.

AP/Staton R. Winter

Workers digging a mass grave near Srebrenica in July 1996

Then-Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and his army chief Miladic were sentenced to life imprisonment by a UN tribunal for the massacre. The EU Parliament had already declared July 11 as a day of remembrance for those who died in Srebrenica in 2009.

Republika Srpska: Denial of Genocide

Since the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995, Bosnia has been divided into a Bosniak-Croat federation and a Republika Srpska. Genocide denial is allowed again in Republika Srpska, the country’s small Bosnian region, from October 2021. Shortly before his term ends at the end of July 2021, the former international envoy to Bosnia, Austrian diplomat Valentin Insko, has made genocide denial illegal and punishable by supplementing the criminal law across Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In the preamble to the resolution, as recommended by Montenegro, it is expressly stated that it is individual responsibility for genocide, which cannot be attributed to any ethnic, religious or other group.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic

APA/AFP/Sarah Meyssonnier

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic

Vucic is fueling anti-resolution sentiment

Although Serbia and Republika Srpska are nowhere mentioned by name in the resolution, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has repeatedly said that his country would face claims for war damages after adopting it, while Republika Srpska would be dissolved. However, experts’ opinions that this was not true were only reported in media critical of the government in Serbia and were not known to the wider public. Vucic received public support from Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Porphyry.

A Bosnian Muslim prays at a memorial plaque in Srebrenica

AP/Armin Durgut

A look at the Srebrenica Memorial Center

UN A day before the session, the Republican Congress objected. According to Bosnian Serb media, the opposition came with 65 MPs voting – against or not voting. If the UN adopts the resolution, peace, security and coexistence in Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as the legal status of Bosnia-Herzegovina, could be at risk, said Parliament Speaker Nenad Stevantic. Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Todic has repeatedly denied that the UN resolution was unacceptable and that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide.

Russia sees the resolution as a “threat to peace”.

Russia, which is friendly with Serbia, strongly criticized the UN draft resolution. “We consider this provocative speech a threat to peace and security in Bosnia and the entire region,” Russian UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said last week. He accused Western sponsors of the draft resolution of “reopening old wounds of the civil war.” The resolution will be voted on in the General Assembly. Apart from the UN

UN headquarters in New York City on February 23, 2024

APA/AFP/Angela Weiss

The UN General Assembly meets in this hall

Srebrenica: A fiercely contested area

Srebrenica represents the greatest crime of the Bosnian war. Immediately after the outbreak of war in the spring of 1992, the area around Srebrenica was fiercely contested. Bosniak militias stationed there repeatedly attacked Serb villages in the area. Serbian sources reported that 79 villages and settlements were attacked.

Thousands of residents were forced to flee, and several hundred civilians – according to documents from the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (NIOD), the number may be at least 1,000 – were killed. On January 7, 1993, the Serbian Orthodox Christmas Day, approximately 46 residents of the village of Kravis were killed by Bosniak militia. These murders are classified as particularly serious. After that, the military situation around Srebrenica changed. This small town was declared a UN Protected Area in April 1993.

Blue helmets offer no resistance

Before the end of the war, the town of about 42,000 people – most of them Bosniak refugees from the area – was surrounded by about 15,000 Serb soldiers. Before its capture by Bosnian Serb troops, the city itself probably had the same number of men of combat age. Many of them, including the warlord Nasser Orik, left for Tuzla shortly before the city was captured.

In 1995, the Dutch UN met with thousands of refugees in Podokari


In 1995, the Dutch UN met with thousands of refugees in Podgorica

When the decisive Bosnian Serb assault on Srebrenica began, the roughly 300 Dutch peacekeepers offered no resistance. Their commander, Thomas Karremans, had asked NATO for air support. A NATO airstrike on Bosnian Serb positions above the small town, nestled in a narrow valley between mountains, was soon called off by bad weather. In addition, the Dutch captured Bosnian Serb troops at the UN. They threatened to kill the soldiers.

The capture of Srebrenica had been long in the making. Bosnian Serb troops separated Bosniak men from the rest of the population. They were mainly killed by mass executions. After the war ended, the bodies of the victims were found in about two dozen mass graves. Many of these were secondary mass graves, bodies moved from primary graves to hide traces of the crime.

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