The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide on July 11, 2019. An estimated 8,373 Bosniaks lost their lives in an event that would come to be recognized as the worst European mass killing since the conclusion of the Second World War. Former Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon has described the event as one that “will forever weigh on the collective conscience of the international community.”
On this day in 1995, elements of the Vojska Republike Srpske (VRS) entered the town of Srebrenica, which had official been designated as a “safe haven” by the United Nations Security Council just two months prior. Upon arrival, the VRS quickly overran the poorly equipped international peacekeeping force put in place to protect Srebrenica’s residents. In the ensuing chaos, thousands of the city’s boys and men were rounded up and systematically executed, with their bodies cruelly deposited into mass graves. For their part, tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly members of the Bosniak community in Srebrenica were forcibly displaced from their homes and communities with many also subjected to a host of other abuses.
On February 26, 2007, the International Court of Justice ruled that the atrocities committed at Srebrenica constituted genocide. The court reasoned that, while other atrocities that occurred during the Bosnian War lacked evidence to prove the existence of the necessary element of intent, the VRS perpetrators of the July 1995 massacre possessed the specific intent required to qualify the event as genocide.
This July 11, as a part of the programming for Artivism: The Atrocity Prevention Pavilion, the Auschwitz Institute’s ongoing exhibition, activist-artist Aida Šehović is constructing her annual nomadic monument entitled ŠTO TE NEMA [lit. “Why are you not here?”] in Venice, Italy. The project, which has commemorated the 8,373 Bosnian Muslims killed in Srebrenica in a new city around the world on July 11 for the past 13 years, features thousands of “fildžani” (traditional Bosnian coffee cups) that are assembled, filled with Bosnian coffee, and left undrunk by members of the public who pass by the site of the monument.
Through its participative methodology and powerful symbolism, ŠTO TE NEMA works to create an inclusive space which allows visitors to honor those who perished at Srebrenica while confronting the universal issues that surround genocide by remembering, mourning, and healing together as a unified community. The Auschwitz Institute is proud to support ŠTO TE NEMA as a powerful and effective transitional justice initiative that foregrounds the preventive capacity of public memorialization. For more information on the nomadic memorial, visit www.stotenema.org.