The Srebrenica MassacreII

The Srebrenica
Massacre, July 1995


Who is responsible?

Chuck Sudetic writes of the Srebrenica massacre that "the men who carried out the executions were reportedly under orders handed down by General [Ratko] Mladic and Radislav Krstic, a colonel in the Bosnian army who was promoted to general and named commander of the army’s Drina corps by Mladic within a few days of the killings. Among the units that took part in the killings was the Tenth Commando squad, which answered directly to Mladic’s headquarters … Men from Srebrenica, Bratunac, Kravica, Milii, Visegrad, Bajina Basta, Loznica, Zvornik, and other towns also participated." (Sudetic, Blood and Vengeance, pp. 317-18.)

In 1996, the International Criminal Tribunal indicted Mladic and Krstic for crimes of humanity committed at Srebrenica. Joining them on the list of indicted war-criminals was Radovan Karadzic, leader of the self-styled "Republika Srpska" or Serb-controlled territories in Bosnia. Karadzic was intimately involved in planning the "endgame" in the Bosnian war, for which Srebrenica was to serve as a centerpiece. In July 1999, the Tribunal found that these mass murderers had been operating under "a direct chain of military command" from Belgrade and the Serbian President, Slobodan Milosevic. For the first time, the Tribunal defined the Bosnian war as "an international conflict," recognizing both Bosnian independence and Serbian aggression . As yet, however, Milosevic remains unindicted for the atrocities he directed in Bosnia.

The United Nations must shoulder a large share of responsibility for allowing the massacre to take place under the noses of its troops. In November 1999, the UN released a highly self-critical report on its performance, stating that "Through error, misjudgment and the inability to recognize the scope of evil confronting us, we failed to do our part to save the people of Srebrenica from the Serb campaign of mass murder." (See Barbara Crossette, "U.N. Details Its Failure to Stop ’95 Bosnian Massacre", The New York Times, November 16 1999.)

The blame surely extends to the member states of the United Nations — perhaps especially to its most powerful member, the United States. As The Economist magazine has noted,

The received version [of events] … is that Bill Clinton and Al Gore vowed to "bomb the Serbs" and end the war when they were shocked to learn that thousands of Muslims had been massacred at Srebrenica. But, the reader cannot help asking, was news of this impending massacre — the worst in Europe since 1945 — really not available to America’s two most powerful figures beforehand?

At earlier stages in Bosnia’s war, when Muslim strongholds like Gorazde or Bihac had been on the verge of falling, America had worked (without the promise of ground troops) to galvanise its allies — insisting that battle-plans be drawn up, and threats of bombing be issued, so as to warn off the Serbs. Yet in the final days and hours of the advance on Srebrenica, which American intelligence could monitor closely, Washington fell strangely silent. Srebrenica duly fell, with consequences which were unspeakable in human terms, but not inconvenient diplomatically.

Perhaps it is conspiratorial to assume that America’s tardy reaction to Srebrenica reflected calculation rather than negligence. But the question needs asking … ("Inside Out," The Economist, September 8, 2001).

The aftermath

Extensive forensic investigations of the Srebrenica massacre sites has so far turned up some 3,000 bodies. Only a few have been successfully identified. They are held at a combined memorial and mortuary in Tuzla (see photo at the top of this page). The forensics teams who worked on the Srebrenica and Vukovar sites gathered vital experience in their exhumation of the graves, and were able to employ their skills anew in the Kosovo gendercide four years later. (See Stover and Peress, The Graves: Srebrenica and Vukovar.)

The memory of Srebrenica’s men was kept alive by their womenfolk. They stormed Red Cross offices in Tuzla in early 1996 to protest the stalled investigations into the fate of their missing men, and did so again on the fourth anniversary of the massacre in 1999. Organized as "The Women of Srebrenica," they have recently launched their own website (www.srebrenica.org). The group’s list of primary demands reads as follows:

  • The full facts of Srebrenica should be revealed and publicised.
  • All graves should be exhumed and bodies identified without delay.
  • Any survivors of Srebrenica held prisoner in Republika Srpska [Bosnian Serb territories] or the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia should be released immediately.
  • The people of Srebrenica should be enabled to return to their homes.
  • There should be a full & open international investigation into the failure of the UN to protect the Safe Area of Srebrenica.
  • All indicted and suspected war criminals, including Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic and Slobodan Milosevic, and all those complicit with genocide, should be arrested and brought to trial.

In Spring 2000, General Radislav Krstic, "the highest-ranking Bosnian Serb commander before the UN War Crimes tribunal in The Hague," stood trial for the genocidal atrocities at Srebrenica. (See "Peacekeeper Tells of Serb Massacre", The Sydney Morning Herald, April 8, 2000.) In August 2001, Krstic was convicted and sentenced to 46 years in prison.

In March 2003, the first 600 identified victims of the Srebrenica massacre were returned to the town and buried in a powerful ceremony (see "Srebrenica Finally Buries Its Dead", BBC Online, March 31, 2003.)
…………to be continued……..

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