Denying the genocide that took place in Srebrenica is unacceptable and detrimental to reconciliation in the country, officials and analysts said numerous times, but some still deny what international courts proved numerous times.
A day ahead of the July 11 Commemoration of the 1995 genocide and mass funeral for the 33 newly identified victims who will on Thursday join the 6,610 victims already buried at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial Centre, Srebrenica’s mayor, Serb Mladen Grujicic, said that the number of those killed in Srebrenica is wrong and denied that it was a genocide.
“Every loss is difficult, I know that. But the definition of the crime is wrong,” said Mayor Mladen Grujicic, referring to the ruling of two international courts that labeled the Serb massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosniak men and boys from the eastern town a genocide.
According to Srebrenica’s former mayor, Bosniak Camil Durakovic, Grujicic’s statements are nothing new.
“He does this every year, he gives unnecessary statements which are detrimental to the atmosphere,” he said, arguing that Grujicic has already chased away a lot of people from Srebrenica with his statements.
By denying the genocide, Grujicic “only becomes a follower of some higher policy which does not want life to develop here.”
The Head of the OSCE Mission in Bosnia condemned genocide denial, calling it unacceptable.
He reminded of a Declaration on war criminals signed in 2018 at a Western Balkans leaders summit in London, saying it obligated those who signed it to admit and respect rulings by international and domestic courts regarding war crimes and other grave crimes.
“Politicians should focus on the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, on promoting mutual understanding, tolerance and dialogue, and should refrain from interpreting and manipulating with the past for political gains,” Berton said.
Berton will also attend the commemoration event in Srebrenica.
According to the Council of Congress of Bosniak Intellectuals, Bosnia should finally adopt a law banning the denial of genocide.
The intellectuals on Wednesday welcomed the decision by Bosnia’s Council of Ministers to declare July 11, when the commemoration event is taking place, a day of mourning, but added that it is not nearly enough.
Their statement says that a genocide took place not only in Srebrenica, but also in Zvornik, Milici, Bratunac, Vlasenica, Zepa and other places and that this is a fact which should not be up for discussion, “but represents the starting point for the beginning of the process of integration in Bosnian society and the state, a well as in the relations with neighbouring Serbia.”
“A stain remains in the international community, the collective conscience and the conscience of humanity,” they said in a statement.
The intellectuals criticised, among others, the Office of the High Representative - the foreign diplomat tasked with overseeing the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement which ended Bosnia’s war - because “the results of the genocide, with inaction and silence, are being accepted as a social and political reality.”
According to Fadil Novalic, the Prime Minister of the semi-autonomous entity mainly shared by Bosniaks and Croats, the Federation (FBiH), the international community initiated an attempt for such a law to be adopted, “but it failed.”
“We wanted it with all our heart, not only because of the Bosniaks, but for it to never repeat, but the circumstances in Bosnia and Herzegovina are no different than in the international community which had put the issue on the table and never adopted it,” he said, referring to Russia’s veto against adopting a declaration that would condemn the genocide a few years ago.
“We have to work on having it on the table and solving it in some better time, with sober heads. Not only because of the Bosniaks, but because of all the peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he said.
He said that genocide denial produces a process that “only does a disservice to Bosnia.”
The genocide was confirmed in numerous rulings by international, regional and domestic courts, based on a large number of documents and testimonies.
According to data by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), the International Court of Justice (ICTY), Bosnia’s State Court and courts in Serbia and Croatia have sentenced 47 people to more than 700 years in prison and handed down four life sentences, one of which is being appealed, for crimes against humanity and other crimes committed in Srebrenica in July 1995.
Among them are former President of Republika Srpska (RS), Bosnia’s Serb-majority semi-autonomous entity, Radovan Karadzic, as well as former RS Army commander Ratko Mladic, who received life sentences. Mladic’s sentence is still on appeal.