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Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada

Facts About Srebrenica Genocide – A Multitude of Evidence

Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada
Published: October 21, 2005  

Serb forces “targeted for extinction the 40,000 Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica.” – Judge Theodor Meron [Polish-American Jew], Krstic Appeal judgement.

WHAT HAPPENED? In the first months of war (April – June 1992), Serbs destroyed 296 Bosniak villages and killed at least 3,166 Bosniaks around Srebrenica. In 1993, the UN described the situation in Srebrenica as a “slow-motion process of genocide.” In July 1995, Serbs forcibly expelled 25,000-30,000 Bosniaks, brutally raped many women and girls, and systematically killed 8,000+ men and boys (DNA confirmed).

ADDRESS BY PRESIDING JUDGE THEODOR MERON

It is with honour and humility that I stand today at the Potocari Memorial Cemetery. This place is a daily reminder of the horrors that visited the town of Srebrenica during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The crimes committed there have been well documented and have been recognized – and roundly and appropriately condemned – by the United Nations, the international community in general, and by the people of the region of former Yugoslavia. These crimes have also been described in detail and consigned to infamy in the decisions rendered by the court over which I preside, the International Criminal Tribunal of the Former Yugoslavia.

I have had a special wish to visit the Potocari Memorial Cemetery because earlier this year I had the privilege of sitting as the Presiding Judge in the appeal which, for the first time, judicially recognized the crimes committed against the Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 as genocide. In that case, named Prosecutor versus Radislav Krstic, the Appeals Chamber of our Tribunal convicted one of the leaders of the Bosnian Serb assault on Srebrenica, General Radislav Krstic, for aiding and abetting genocide. The Appeals Chamber also found that some members of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army harboured genocidal intent against the Bosnian Muslim people who sought safety in the enclave of Srebrenica, and that these officials acted upon that intent to carry out a deliberate and massive massacre of the Muslims in Srebrenica.

The judgment which the Appeals Chamber has pronounced will be of importance not only in acknowledging the crime committed in Srebrenica for what it is, but also in developing and enhancing the international criminal law’s understanding of genocide. By discussing and elaborating the legal requirement of genocide, and by explaining how they applied it in the circumstances of Srebrenica, the Appeals Chamber has facilitated the recognition – and, I hope, the prevention – of this horrible crime.

Many victims of this crime lie here, in this cemetery. In honour of their memory, I would like to read a brief passage from the judgment in Krstic, the passage which discusses the gravity and the horrific nature of the crime of genocide, and states unhesitantly that its perpetrators will unfailingly face justice.

“Among the grievous crimes this Tribunal has the duty to punish, the crime of genocide is singled out for special condemnation and opprobrium. The crime is horrific in its scope; its perpetrators identify entire human groups for extinction. Those who devise and implement genocide seek to deprive humanity of the manifold richness its nationalities, races, ethnicities and religions provide. This is a crime against all of humankind, its harm being felt not only by the group targeted for destruction, but by all of humanity.

The gravity of genocide is reflected in the stringent requirements which must be satisfied before this conviction is imposed. These requirements – the demanding proof of specific intent and the showing that the group was targeted for destruction in its entirety or in substantial part – guard against a danger that convictions for this crime will be imposed lightly. Where these requirements are satisfied, however, the law must not shy away from referring to the crime committed by its proper name. By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity. The Bosnian Serb forces were aware, when they embarked on this genocidal venture, that the harm they caused would continue to plague the Bosnian Muslims. The Appeals Chamber states unequivocally that the law condemns, in appropriate terms, the deep and lasting injury inflicted, and calls the massacre at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide. Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act.”

Those who drafted, on the heels of the Second World War and the Holocaust, the Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of genocide, were animated by the desire to ensure that the horror of a state-organized deliberate and massive murder of a group of people purely because of their identity will never recur in the history of humankind. The authors of the Convention hoped that by encapsulating the crime of genocide, by declaring unambiguously that it will not go unpunished, and by requiring the international community to do the utmost to prevent it, they will forestall forever attempts to annihilate any national, ethnic or religious group in the world. As the graves in this cemetery testify, the struggle to make the world free of genocide is not easy and is not one of uninterrupted victories. But I would like to think that by recognizing the crimes committed here as genocide, and by condemning them with the utmost force at our command, we have helped to make the hope of those who drafted the Genocide Convention into an expectation and perhaps even a reality. As I stand here today, I can do little better than to repeat the solemn warning sounded by the Appeals Chamber of our Tribunal that those who commit this inhumane crime will not escape justice before the courts of law and the court of history.

Finally, I take this opportunity to call, once again, for the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet their obligations under international law to cooperate fully with the ICTY. It is simply unacceptable that the authorities in the Republika Srpska have yet to arrest and transfer any individual on their territory who has been indicted by the Tribunal. This situation cannot be allowed to continue and I would like to see a dramatic change in the Republika Srpska’s level of compliance with its legal obligations. It is hightime that the RS break with its tradition of non-cooperation and obstruction of the Rule of Law.

In this regard, I take note of the findings in the Republika Srpska Srebrenica Commission’s preliminary report, which I see as a step in the right direction. It indicates a new readiness to come to terms with painful events of the past and to constrain revisionist tendencies. However, the process is far from complete.

SOURCE: The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at the Hague, Netherlands http://www.icty.org/sid/8409.


The images of Serbian soldiers tormenting and then shooting the Bosnian Muslim prisoners, whose hands were tied behind their backs and who offered no resistance before being shot, broke through the wall of silence and denial about the subject of Srebrenica in Serbia and Montenegro. The Serbian Government condemned the killings, and the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor acted swiftly to detain a number of suspects allegedly complicit in the murders of these six men.

There is a multitude of evidence publicly available that proves that Bosnian Serb and other forces executed 7,000 to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim prisoners from Srebrenica in one week in July 1995. Despite this, there are still many people in Serbia and Montenegro who try to deny the full enormity of the crime that Bosnian Serb military, police and other forces (including, allegedly, forces from Serbia) committed. They argue that the actual number of dead is exaggerated, that ‘only’ around 2,000 died. They also argue that most of these 2,000 dead were casualties of war—Bosnian Muslim soldiers killed in battle. Some who are even bolder, claim that it was a ‘crime of passion’—revenge for all those Serbs killed in the villages around Srebrenica. Still others claim that what happened at Srebrenica was not genocide. The Tribunal has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that each of these claims is wrong.

The massacre that occurred in Srebrenica in July 1995 was the single worst atrocity committed in the former Yugoslavia during the wars of the 1990s and the worst massacre that occurred in Europe since the months after World War II. This is why the ICTY, which was established in 1993 to try those most responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the former Yugoslavia since 1991,(2) has invested a great deal of time and effort in investigating what happened in Srebrenica and bringing those responsible to justice. The ICTY has issued indictments against 19 individuals for crimes committed in Srebrenica, all but one of which are against high-level perpetrators—those who planned and ordered the killing operation. So far, the Tribunal has completed trials and appeals against three accused:

General Radislav Krstić, commander of the Republika Srpska Army (VRS) Drina Corps, Dražen Erdemović, a VRS soldier with the 10th Sabotage Detachment and Dragan Obrenović, deputy commander of the VRS Zvornik Brigade. Erdemović and Obrenović admitted their participation in the Srebrenica killings. The facts about Srebrenica contained in the judgements against Krstić,(3) Erdemović(4) and Obrenović(5) have been established beyond a reasonable doubt.(6)

In particular, in its proceedings against these three accused, the Tribunal has found beyond a reasonable doubt that Bosnian Serb and other forces killed between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys between approximately 11 and 19 July 1995. The Tribunal has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the vast majority of those killed were not killed in combat, but were victims of executions. The Tribunal has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the killings did not occur in a moment of passion, but were the product of a well-planned and coordinated operation. Finally, the Tribunal has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing of 7,000 to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim prisoners was genocide.

In particular, in its proceedings against these three accused, the Tribunal has found beyond a reasonable doubt that Bosnian Serb and other forces killed between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys between approximately 11 and 19 July 1995. The Tribunal has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the vast majority of those killed were not killed in combat, but were victims of executions. The Tribunal has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the killings did not occur in a moment of passion, but were the product of a well-planned and coordinated operation. Finally, the Tribunal has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the killing of 7,000 to 8,000 Bosnian Muslim prisoners was genocide.

The international legal system accepts Srebrenica massacre  as genocide

The elimination of the Bosnian Muslim /Bosniak population of Srebrenica (that began in 1992, not 1995) was part of a project that was intended to achieve the permanent removal of the non-Serb population from a unified Serb territory extending from Serbia, through an arc of Bosnia and eastern Croatia as far as the Croatian Krajina. The killings at Srebrenica in 1995 were so horrendous that it was impossible to overlook them in the way that other systematic measures aimed at ensuring that a viable non-Serb community could ever reconstitute itself in that territory had been ignored – for example the operation of the Prijedor camp system and the Visegrad rapes and killings. The crucial element in the crime of genocide is intent. Mladic intended to destroy the Bosniaks of the prospective Greater Serbia and he was determined to destroy the Bosniaks of Srebrenica. His awareness that the eyes of the international media were on him deprived him of what might have been the most effective means of accomplishing that end, slaughtering the women and children as well (not to mention the logistical considerations). But Mladic physically removed the women and children with the intent that the putatively leaderless survivors of Srebrenica should never be capable of reforming the group and returning it to the location from which Mladic had expelled them with no legitimate excuse for removing them other than to help them escape the terror that he himself controlled. The ICTY found the removal of the women and children confirmatory evidence of the genocidal intent of the Bosnian Serb Army.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel accepts that Srebrenica was genocide

It is the judges at the International Criminal Court and International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia who, after carefully considering the case and the evidence, concluded that what happened at Srebrenica was consistent with the international legal definition of genocide.

Judge Theodor Meron (Holocaust survivor) presided over the Krstić appeal when the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia unanimously agreed:

“Among the grievous crimes this Tribunal has the duty to punish, the crime of genocide is singled out for special condemnation and opprobrium… The gravity of genocide is reflected in the stringent requirements which must be satisfied before this conviction is imposed. These requirements – the demanding proof of specific intent and the showing that the group was targeted for destruction in its entirety or in substantial part – guard against a danger that convictions for this crime will be imposed lightly. Where these requirements are satisfied, however, the law must not shy away from referring to the crime committed by its proper name. By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand [40,000] Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity. The Bosnian Serb forces were aware, when they embarked on this genocidal venture, that the harm they caused would continue to plague the Bosnian Muslims. The Appeals Chamber states unequivocally that the law condemns, in appropriate terms, the deep and lasting injury inflicted, and calls the massacre at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide. Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act.”

Srebrenica Genocide is judicial fact recognized first by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia {ICTY} and subsequently by the International Court of Justice {ICJ}

After the horrors of the Holocaust, the international community drafted the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and pledged ”never again” should such evil strike humanity. The pledge proved empty; numerous cases of genocidal violence followed. Bosnia (1992- 1995) and Rwanda (1994) are particularly relevant. In both cases we could not justify our inactivity by lack of knowledge or experience. This time we knew. How could all this nonetheless happen?

Srebrenica Genocide is judicial fact recognized first by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia {ICTY} and subsequently by the International Court of Justice {ICJ}.

1. The Srebrenica Genocide is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II.

2. In 2004, in a unanimous ruling on the “Prosecutor v. Krstić” case, ICTY ruled that the massacre of the enclave’s male inhabitants constituted a crime of genocide.

3. Theodor Meron, the presiding judge, stated: “By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the 40,000 Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity”.

4. In February 2007 ICJ concurred with the ICTY judgement that the atrocities committed at Srebrenica constituted a genocide, stating: The ICJ concludes that the acts committed at Srebrenica falling within Article II (a) and (b) of the Convention were committed with the specific intent to destroy in part the group of the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina as such; and accordingly that these were acts of genocide, committed by members of the VRS in and around Srebrenica from about 13 July 1995.

Prof. Dr. Smail Cekic, Professor at the Faculty of political science and Director of the Institute for Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law, University of Sarajevo

Genocide against Bosniacs of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the safe area Srebrenica, July 1995, Case reconstruction,

http://www.instituteforgenocide.ca/genocide-against-bosniacs-of-bosnia-and-herzegovina-in-the-un-safe-area-srebrenica-july-1995/

More about Srebrenica Genocide

http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/


Institute for the Research of Genocide Canada