Almost 26 years after the Srebrenica genocide, perpetrated in July 1995 in said Bosnian city, the denial of the murder of some 8,000 Bosnian men and minors (Bosnians of Muslim religion) at the hands of the Bosnian Serb Army, as well as the glorification of criminals convicted of the Balkan War (1991-2001), gained weight among some of the most prominent leaders in the region. Political leaders in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro reject that an extermination took place in Srebrenica.
And this despite the fact that the genocide has been demonstrated by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which has tried its main perpetrators, and was ratified in 2007 by the UN International Court of Justice. The European Commission condemns the drift of these leaders, which keeps them away from a possible accession to the EU. This conduct also worries Serge Brammertz, chief prosecutor of the Residual Mechanism – the court that was entrusted with the fringes of the Balkan trials after the closure of the ICTY in 2017 – who warns of the dangers of a revisionism that compromises peace and justice. reconciliation in the area.
In full debate on this reinterpretation of history, this Tuesday the appeal ruling in the case of Ratko Mladic is expected to be known. The former Bosnian Serb general was sentenced to life imprisonment for having carried out the orders to exterminate all Muslim men and adolescents in Srebrenica, given to him by his political boss, Radovan Karadzic, with the aim of achieving a Greater Serbia free of other ethnic groups. The latter is already serving that sentence in a British prison on the Isle of Wight.
Last March Vladimir Leposavic, Montenegro’s Minister of Justice, noted that “the Srebrenica genocide has not been credibly proven”, prompting immediate reaction from the European Commission. Its spokespersons recalled that the EU “rejects and condemns the denial, relativization or misinterpretation of the Srebrenica genocide, one of the blackest chapters in the modern history of Europe.” The rejection added that any country that aspires to join the EU, “must comply with the values of democracy, human rights, tolerance and justice, and this includes respecting the victims of genocide.”
For the prosecutor Serge Brammertz, who has been in office for 13 years and has traveled the Balkans, denying a genocide is the last phase of that crime and it hits the survivors again. In his opinion, “the glorification of war criminals occurs in all the communities of the region”, and this hinders the search for the remains of the nearly 8,000 victims of Srebrenica, buried in mass graves and transferred in 1995 with excavators to other places to erase footprints. “There are families forced to exhume their children, parents or grandparents in pieces, because that is how they appear, and their wounds remain open,” he said, this Friday, in a meeting with the foreign press in The Hague, the city that houses the headquarters of the Residual Mechanism. The fact that in Serbia the name of Karadzic has been given to a student residence, and that of Mladic to a veterans association, seems to him “irresponsible and significant, and will not change until there are politicians who accept the judgments of the courts. international ”, he says.
An “emblematic town”
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic is among the advance party of the deniers. She describes what happened in Srebrenica as a “massacre”, but considers that there was no genocide “because not all Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica were annihilated; women and children survived ”. This was stated in 2018, during an interview with the program Conflict Zone, broadcast by the German television channel Deutsche Welle. Brnabic then added that “you cannot blame what happened on Serbia, which has already handed over the main responsible parties.” The judges of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found in 2004 that “the Bosnian Serb army committed genocide because it sought to eliminate the 40,000 Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica, who were an emblematic population of their group.”
According to Brammertz, there are convicted criminals in the Balkans who have recovered their charges. Others are claimed by Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina or Kosovo, but are not extradited between these countries and remain free. “If you steal a bike, you have a criminal record, but if you’ve been a war criminal you can run for election,” he says, while calling for legislation to prevent its glorification. He also calls for the support of the international community, wondering if politicians who deny genocide “are reasonable interlocutors.” On the other hand, and given that all the Balkan communities suffered in the war, he finds it “frustrating that the story is told differently in each one of them, when there are 90 people sentenced [no solo por Srebrenica] whose crimes were proven and the cases can be consulted in the court’s files ”.
Among the most active deniers pointed out by the prosecutor is Milorad Dodik, leader of the Republika Srpska – the Bosnian Serb entity – who has resorted to a kind of joke to disqualify international justice. In 2018, he said in Bosnia Herzegovina that “Bosnian Muslims did not have a myth and they invented the Srebrenica genocide.” Later, he managed to get the entity’s Assembly (equivalent to Parliament) to annul the report published by it in 2004 and which recognized the genocide. Instead, he has proposed new research on the sufferings of all the peoples of the Srebrenica region between 1992-1995, during the Bosnian war.