Bosnians condemn Serbian PM's Srebrenica genocide denial

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Source: N1

The Srebrenica genocide denial of Serbia’s PM Ana Brnabic on Thursday sparked an outrage among victims' associations and government officials in Bosnia, with a number of political analysts commenting that as long as Serbia keeps that stance, it will not be ready to engage in reconciliation.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle’s journalist Tim Sebastian for the Conflict Zone programme, Brnabic was asked to comment on the issues of Kosovo, media freedom in Serbia, 1990s war crimes, and the Srebrenica genocide.

When Sebastian pointed out that Serbia never officially recognised that the Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide, even though the continental human rights watchdog Council of Europe had urged it to do so, Brnabic replied by saying that what had happened in Srebrenica was a grave crime, rather than genocide.

“I don’t think it was an act of genocide… I think it was a terrible, terrible crime. But genocide is basically when you kill the entire population, women, children… and this was not the case,” Brnabic said.

Her statement sparked an outrage among Srebrenica survivors and Bosnian officials, with the Bosnia’s Prime Minister, Denis Zvizdic, issuing a written statement saying that Brnabic’s claim was an attempt to minimise “the planned killing of more than eight thousand innocent civilians,” with this “uncivilised denial of the genocide.”

Zvizdic said that Brnabic was disputing rulings made by international courts, and promoted genocide denial, which he called “the final phase of its complete execution.”

In July 1995, during the closing stages of the 1992-95 Bosnian War, Bosnian Serb forces overran the eastern Bosnian enclave which had previously been declared a UN safe zone, and proceeded to round up the town’s Muslim Bosniaks, separated men from women and little children, and systematically executed some 8,000 men and boys.

Two international courts, The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) later ruled that the massacre was an act of genocide.

“Serbia far from confronting its past”

Bosniak survivors’ groups have also condemned Brnabic’s statement.

“She is sending us a clear message that she supports the goals of it (Srebrenica massacre), and that she is glorifying war criminals. As long as this is the case, there can be no reconciliation or coexistence in this region,” the head of the Association of Women Victims of War, Bakira Hasecic, told Deutsche Welle.

“Serbia is far from confronting the past, and with that, also far from the reconciliation process. Those who lost their loved ones in the genocide, mothers who are still searching through mass graves for the remains of their children, are those most affected by genocide denial,” said the head of the Society for Threatened Peoples, Fadila Memisevic.

“International courts have determined that there was a genocide committed in Srebrenica and Serbian officials cannot erase that,” said the head of the Movement of Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa enclaves, Munira Subasic.

“But they can do something that will outlive me and Ana Brnabic – they can tell the truth, without which there is no trust or reconciliation,” Subasic said, adding that “we must create a better future” for children, and that this cannot be done with lies and denial of historical facts.

“There would have never been reconciliation between Jews and Germans if Germans had not accepted the truth and punished their war criminals,” Subasic added.

The Congress of North American Bosniaks even called for Bosnian officials and the international community with presence in the country to ban Brnabic from visiting Bosnia until she withdraws her “scandalous statement” and apologises to the victims.

“Falsifying history”

Former German MEP, Doris Pack, also reacted on social media.

“Unbelievable, and falsifying history,” Pack tweeted.

According to Luka Misetic, the lawyer of former Croatian general Ante Gotovina, Serbia cannot hope for EU membership with this attitude.

“I am happy that the journalist (Tim Sebastian) asked something which I have been talking about for years: until Serbia admits that a genocide was committed in Srebrenica, it cannot be accepted in the European Union,” he tweeted.

Eli Tauber, a Sarajevan historian and author of a book on the Holocaust in Bosnia and Herzegovina, said genocide denial constitutes a phase in achieving its purpose.

“The genocide in Srebrenica is not something that happened by accident,” Tauber told Deutsche Welle, and added that “it was planned and committed so that a part of the Bosniak population could be destroyed” in the Srebrenica area.

“One of the phases of the execution of genocide is denying that it ever happened… We can see that the PM (Brnabic)’s definition of genocide is completely wrong, as if she does not know what she is talking about,” Tauber added.

The 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defined the crime as any number of crimes done with intent “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

It goes on to list examples such as “killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

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