UN designates annual day to commemorate Srebrenica genocide

United Nations — The United Nations General Assembly voted Thursday to designate July 11 annually as an international day of reflection and commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men by Bosnian Serb forces. Serbia and Bosnian Serbs strongly opposed its adoption.

“Perpetrated amidst the Bosnian War, this act of genocide led to the tragic death of the victims and to unimaginable suffering for survivors and their families,” German Ambassador Antje Leendertse said, introducing the resolution. “Our initiative is about honoring the memory of the victims and supporting the survivors who continue to live with the scars of that fateful time.”

Germany and Rwanda co-led the negotiations on the resolution’s text over more than a month.

The resolution received 84 votes in favor, 19 against and 68 abstentions. Only a simple majority of those countries present and voting “yes” or “no” was needed for the motion to pass. It was co-sponsored by more than 40 countries, including the western Balkan nations of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia and Slovenia, along with the United States.

Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Denis Becirovic welcomed the resolution, saying it is an important step for the promotion of peace and reconciliation in the region and beyond.

“Truth and justice won today in the U.N. General Assembly,” he told VOA after the vote.

In addition to designating the annual international day of reflection and commemoration, which would start next year on the 30th anniversary of the massacres, the resolution also condemns genocide denial and the glorification of perpetrators.

The U.N.-backed International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia concluded in 2004 that genocide had been committed in the small mountain town in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995. In 2007, the International Court of Justice also ruled that the massacres constituted genocide.

Regional opposition

The president of Bosnia’s Serb-controlled Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, has threatened to secede from the country if the resolution is adopted.

Serbia’s government has also vigorously campaigned against the resolution, urging its co-sponsors to withdraw it, saying it unfairly targets Serbia and attributes moral responsibility for genocide collectively to its people and will hurt the fragile reconciliation process, a claim the authors deny.

Montenegro suggested language that was added to the final text, clarifying that “criminal accountability under international law for the crime of genocide is individualized and cannot be attributed to any ethnic, religious, or other group or community as a whole.”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic traveled to New York for the vote. He urged the General Assembly to vote against the resolution, saying it was highly politicized and would only sow deeper divisions in the region.

“This is not about reconciliation; this is not about memories,” he said. “This is something that will just open an old wound and that will create a complete political havoc — and not only in our region, but here in this hall.”

On July 11, 1995, the U.N.-designated “safe area” of Srebrenica fell to Bosnian Serb forces. Over the next several days, at least 8,372 Bosnian Muslim boys and men were separated from their families, put on buses and taken to several locations including warehouses, schools and fields, where they were executed.

Their bodies were dumped in several mass graves. Investigators said their remains were later exhumed and moved to secondary graves in an extensive cover up. Experts used DNA samples from relatives to identify thousands of the murdered men.

The Hague-based tribunal for the former Yugoslavia convicted 16 people for crimes committed in Srebrenica, including eight men for the crime of genocide.

The General Assembly resolution adopted Thursday is partly modeled on a 2003 resolution that established the international day of reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. It has been observed at the United Nations every April 7 since 2004.

Some countries that abstained or voted against Thursday’s Srebrenica resolution noted that there is also a day of remembrance for all victims of genocide, which the United Nations marks every December 9.

Others noted that there was no consensus in the region on the resolution and that they did not want to contribute to tensions.

Both the U.N. high commissioner for human rights and the special adviser on the prevention of genocide welcomed the resolution.

“This resolution is further recognition of the victims and survivors and their pursuit of justice, truth and guarantees of non-recurrence,” human rights chief Volker Türk said in a statement.

Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide Alice Nderitu said the resolution is important in light of the trend toward genocide denial in the region.

“Questioning the tragic reality of what happened in Srebrenica is not acceptable,” she said, adding it would only hurt peace and reconciliation efforts.

leave a reply: