20,000 Bosnian refugees fled to the quaint, idyllic mountain town of Srebrenica months before the end of the Bosnian war.They should have been safe protected in an area declared ‘peaceful’ by the UN. Instead in July 1995, in the space of three days, 8,000 boys and men, all Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), were rounded up and murdered.
Srebrenica is a small mountain town in the eastern part of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the massive idyllic spa made it popular, buzzing with tourists. This was all to change in 1992 when the Bosnian war broke out after Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence.
In July 1995 Srebrenica became the stage for a catastrophic event comparable to the horrors of Nazi Germany. The slaying of more than 8,000 Bosniakmen and boys devastated the world. As the only act to be labelled genocide by the United Nations since World War Two, there is no denying the severity of the events that occurred. Nevertheless, there has been no justice for the victim’s families.
Within days, Serbian forces began their mission to cover-up the massacre. Years of analysis later, it was only in 2010 that a non-governmental organisation, International Commission on Missing Persons, managed to use DNA samples from 1995 to identify over 6,400 individual victims. All the while, those responsible for the atrocious act retained their powers and privilege within the Bosnian-Serb government.
UN criminal tribunals have managed to convict an embarrassingly low number of those responsible, RadislavKrstić in 2001, MomirNikolić in 2003 and VujadinPopović, LjubišaBeara, and DragoNikolić, in 2010. Few others were ever held accountable and it was only in 2013 that the Serbian president apologised for the “crime” that had been committed at Srebrenica, refusing to acknowledge it as a massacre.
It is fascinating that in July 2011 a Dutch court decided that the Netherlands, who under the directive of the UN, forced Bosniak men out of the camps into Srebrenica, were responsible for their deaths. This was followed by the Dutch government, in 2014, being instructed to pay compensation to relatives as they were responsible for the deaths of 300 Bosniaks. Although countries are forced to finally take some accountability, those pulling the trigger are rarely held accountable.
The UN’s responsibility over the lives of the 7,000 boys and men has been questioned. Although Kofi Anan has profusely apologised, declaring his shock at the actions of the despicable men, a “sorry” cannot negate the fact he failed to protect them. Nevertheless, the UN did mean to protect the 20,000 Bosnian refugees, attempting to find them a safe haven. Human rights violations were evidently violated by both the UN and individual countries who should have done more to protect the Bonsiak refugees. Nevertheless, it is naïve to allow them to take all the blame.
Going forward to the 18thMarch 2015, the BBC covers a story on the Srebrenica massacre:
“Serbian police have arrested seven men accused of taking part in the slaughter of over 1,000 Muslims at a warehouse on the outskirts of Srebrenica.” (BBC news)
The headlines on the BBC reflect the recent drive to find and hold responsible the men who masterminded and carried out the attack on unarmed Bosniaks. The additional 7 men seem meagre compared to the number of victims; it is not possible that only a handful of people were aware of what happened in Srebrenica.
The arrest of Ratko Mladic in 2011 was undoubtedly a massive breakthrough. Mladic is thought to be the mastermind who orchestrated the massacre in Srebrenica, managing to survive capture for 16 years. Upon his arrest Tony Blair exclaimed:“This is a huge moment for the principle that people who engage in genocide will eventually be brought to justice, but also for Serbia.”But how long does this process take, why should those responsible for taking lives, live their lives without consequence for such a long period of time?
With a 93 year old former Nazi being arrested last year, finally being held accountable for the massacres that he organised at Auschwitz, the idea that men responsible for taking the lives of innocent victims are able to hide for many years demonstrates the gross miscarriage of justice that the democratic world faces. Two decades after the events at Srebrenica,the victims’ relatives deserve answers, they deserve an apology and more importantly they deserve to find justice and hold those who stole their loved ones too accountable.