In July 1995, the international community stood aside as the Bosnian Serb army massacred 8,000 Bosniaks in the enclave of Srebrenica. The area was under UN protection.
‘What Bosnia doesn’t need is another set of resolutions, empty promises of a “European perspective”‘.
By Dejan Anastasijevic via euobserver
Twenty years after the massacre, Srebrenica still triggers dispute, and an endless stream of resolutions.
In the first week of July, the European Parliment will vote on a resolution on Srebrenica, the only proven case of genocide in Europe after World War II.
The draft, proposed by Croatian liberal MEP Ivan Jakovcic contains the usual honours for the victims, condemnation of the crime, and vows that such brutal slaughter must never be repeated.
It is expected to sail through, just like an earlier EP resolution, passed in 2009, which established July 17 as Europe’s Day of Remembering the Victims of Srebrenica.
So why do it again?
Jakovcic told Serbian news agency Tanjug that his proposal also contains a call for EU institutions to speed up the enlargement process of the Western Balkan countries.
Again, something the EP has already done on numerous other occasions. But let it be.
Meanwhile, in Bosnia, the parliament failed to adopt a similar resolution on Srebrenica when MPs from Republika Srpska (the Serbian entity in Bosnia) blocked the vote.
This was hardly surprising. It was the military of RS, led by general Ratko Mladic, who slaughtered some 8,000 Muslim men and boys and deported about 25,000 women and children in 1995.
Milorad Dodik, the prime minister of RS, claims it was just a simple war crime, not a genocide, and wants to name boulevards in the Bosnian Serb capital of Banja Luka after Mladic, and after wartime RS president Radovan Karadzic.
Yet another resolution, spearheaded by the UK and supported by Netherlands and the US, is underway in the UN Security Council.
It is also to be ready in July, but this one may not pass so easily, considering the possibility of a Russian veto.
Dodik has already announced that he intends to ask his friend, Russian president Vladimir Putin, to block it, because he sees the resolution as an attempt to dismantle the RS, demonise Bosnian Serbs, and put them under Muslim domination.
Serbia also feels queasy.
It fears that the UN resolution on Srebrenica will pave the way for Western powers to exert pressure on Serbia, to make it cut financial and diplomatic support for Dodik and his band of nationalists.
“I wish we were consulted in drafting that resolution,” Serbian PM Alexander Vucic sighed in a recent interview for Serbian media. He added: “Unfortunately, we were not”.
As a former fan of general Mladic, who only recently reinvented himself as a pro-Western reformist, Vucic has to maintain a balancing act between his Western friends and his voting base, which hasn’t evolved as rapidly as he did.
What happened in Srebrenica is hardly a matter of dispute.
It was branded as genocide by two independent international courts, The International Court of Justice, and the International Criminal Tribunal for War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY),
Five Bosnian Serb officers have been convicted, with the trials of Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, another Serb general, ongoing.
It is also the best-documented war crime ever. ICTY investigators, over 15 years, assembled millions of pages of witness statements, audio and video transcripts, and detailed forensic evidence.
It gives a granular picture of the events leading to the massacre.
The only missing piece is the role of the Western powers.
They disregarded warnings that Serbia was preparing an offensive against the UN-protected area. Then they rejected pleas for air support from the hapless Dutch UN peacekeepers, who were swept aside by Mladic’s army.
Maybe it’s hidden guilt that drives this stream of resolutions and “never again” pledges.
Maybe it stems from a feeling of impotence at being unable to pull Bosnia out of the constitutional strait jacket imposed by the (US-authored) Dayton Peace Accords.
Just this week, EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn had to cancel his visit to Sarajevo after yet another failure by the main political players to deliver reforms, which they solemnly promised to undertake six months ago.
What Bosnia doesn’t need is another set of resolutions, empty promises of a “European perspective”, and haphazard appeals to political scoundrels to reform themselves.
It needs a concentrated and serious international (not just EU) plan, coupled with hefty financial investment, to pull it out of its misery.
Saying “we’re all doing what we can” doesn’t cut it, and everything is not going to be alright.
Dejan Anastasijevic is an award-winning Serb journalist, currently with the Tanjug news agency