On this day, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) marks the twenty-seventh anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide. The United Nations has described it as ‘the worst atrocity crime on European soil since the Second World War.’
In 1992, the Bosnian War erupted between three ethnic factions: Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Bosnian Serbs, and Croats. Facilitated by a declaration of independence by Bosnia and Herzegovina, which effectively ended the state of Yugoslavia, the ensuing conflict left over 100,000 people dead before a peace deal was brokered in 1995. Former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan has described the event as a failure that will “haunt our history forever.”
On July 11, 1995, elements of the Vojska Republike Srpske (VRS; also known as the Army of Republika Srpska) entered the town of Srebrenica, which the United Nations Security Council had officially designated as a “safe haven” just two months prior. Upon arrival, the VRS quickly overran the poorly equipped international peacekeeping force and attacked Srebrenica’s residents. In the ensuing chaos, members of the VRS rounded up and systematically executed thousands of the city’s Muslim boys and men, depositing their bodies in mass graves. Tens of thousands of women, children, and elderly members of the Bosniak community in Srebrenica were forcibly displaced from their homes and communities, and many were 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 committed during the Bosnian War lacked sufficient evidence to prove intent, the evidence against the VRS perpetrators of the July 1995 massacre proved the intent required to qualify the event as a genocide. In 2017, the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) convicted General Ratko Mladić of the VRS of genocide, crimes against humanity, and violations of the laws or customs of war for his role in the Srebrenica Genocide and other events during the armed conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 through 1995.
Last year, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals rejected Ratko Mladić’s appeal against the convictions and upheld his sentence of life imprisonment. To date, Mladić is one of the highest-ranking officials to be tried by the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and by the Residual Mechanism.
Secretary-General António Guterres emphasized the importance of committing to “never again” and called on those in positions of power worldwide to refrain from denying the seriousness of mass atrocity crimes.
A quarter-century ago, the United Nations and the international community failed the people of Srebrenica. As former Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, this failure will “haunt our history forever”.
That is why I call on everyone in the region and beyond to counter hate speech and the rhetoric of division and narratives of mistrust and fear. All communities, all leaders and all organizations — including the media — must make this pledge.
All citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve the unwavering commitment of their leaders to work towards an environment of mutual respect without discrimination, hatred, or incitement to violence.
On this somber anniversary, we are reminded that peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina is still fragile. We cannot let up in working towards genuine reconciliation. We owe this to the victims of the Srebrenica genocide, the survivors, the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and to all humanity.
This year the Mechanism Information Programme for Affected Communities (MIP), presented the online exhibition “Srebrenica: Timeline of a Genocide” at the Holocaust Memorial Centre in Skopje, North Macedonia. The exhibition presents an overview of the events that occurred during the Genocide in Srebrenica in July 1995, based on facts that were judicially established in cases before the ICTY and the Mechanism. For more information on “Srebrenica: Timeline of a Genocide”, please visit the exhibition’s website here.
Today, the Auschwitz Institute commemorates the 27th anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide amidst a climate of unprecedented global volatility and proliferation of hate speech, genocide denial, and the glorification of war criminals. During these challenging times, full of division and historical revisionism, we remember and honor the victims of Srebrenica and their families. In recognizing that prevention is a continued responsibility, AIPG reaffirms its commitment to them by using the legacy of the Srebrenica Genocide to fight mass atrocities around the world and continue to seek justice for those affected.