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Srebrenica 20 years after: From commemorations to interpretations

Tuesday 21 July 2015, by Catherine Samary

All the diplomatic posturing surrounding the commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre (whether they are for or against the resolution proposed by London characterizing the massacre as genocide), fail to question the essence: what were the causes and authors of these crimes, in the area and on the ground where the conflicts took place and on the international level where they were “settled”? Homage to the victims of Srebrenica and the full respect of their memory means not mitigating the condemnation of what were certainly war crimes and crimes against humanity, but also giving them a political meaning.

On July 11-13, 1995, 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were separated from women and small children, and then murdered and thrown into mass graves. This reality is not challenged in Moscow or Belgrade whose leaders will be present at the commemorations. These crimes were condemned by the Serbian parliament and, according to a recent poll by 54% of persons interviewed in Serbia - although 70% reject, like their leaders, the characterization as genocide. Such a refusal is without doubt still more radical within the Republika Srpska - the Bosnian Serb entity where the massacre itself occurred: here, it is still likely that the political leader Radovan Karadzic as well as the commander of the Bosnian Serb armed forces General Ratko Mladic, who are waiting in the Hague for the verdict of their trial for genocide, are still perceived as “heroes”. 

We are therefore on this 11 July 2015, very far from a common “truth” and a clear denunciation of responsibilities. But what responsibilities? Contrary to what the dominant commentaries say, it is not the term of genocide which is the real test of “the facts”, without omission and on a scale allowing their full interpretation. The tree of the “word” (genocide) risks hiding a dark forest with two components - that of the dismemberment of the former Yugoslavia on “ethnic” bases, and that of international realpolitik as the background to the signing of the Dayton agreement, a few weeks after the massacre in Srebrenica. It is to establish the obvious links between this massacre and the set of “conditions” that allowed US diplomacy to have signed, a few weeks later, the Dayton accords proclaiming “one” Bosnia-Herzegovina, deeply traumatized and divided, “sovereign” and under a de facto international protectorate. [1] Strangely, the Guardian does not include Franjo Tudjman among the major actors of Dayton and forgets to mention the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Serbs from the Krajina, as one of the pre-conditions of Daytona]]. 

What “truth”?

The United Kingdom, by presenting to the United Nations a resolution strongly supported by the United States (masterminds of the Dayton agreements) claims, by adopting the term used by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to characterize the massacre of Srebrenica, to implement the truth. But it is far from being demonstrated that the ICTY - dependent on the funding and political pressures of the major powers, which have put it in place in an ad hoc manner - has been able itself to exercise any authority of “truth” on the international responsibilities of such a tragedy; it has also not allowed any analysis of how it fits into the wars of “ethnic cleansing” which ravaged Bosnia for three years, with about 100,000 deaths (70% Muslims, who are only 43% of the total population) and several hundred thousan