In addition to the shock and trauma, most perpetrators are yet to be prosecuted for the well-documented genocide.
Every year on July 11, Bosniaks mark the anniversary of the attack on the UN safe area of Srebrenica by the Bosnian Serb Army in 1995.
The ensuing genocide was the most brutal phase of the three-and-a-half-year genocide perpetrated in this part of Europe at the close of the 20th century.
Twenty-seven years later, Srebrenica remains an open wound for Bosniaks. This genocide has marked the generations of Bosniaks that lived through the 1990s. The trauma is felt by generations born after 1995, and transgenerational trauma is passed on to the next generations.
In addition to the shock and trauma of genocide, two other factors are felt.
First, while the Srebrenica genocide is well-documented, most perpetrators have yet to be prosecuted. Thousands of genocidaires took part in the worst crime in Europe since the Holocaust. The top Bosnian Serb leaders – Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić – were guilty of genocide and sentenced to life terms, but countless others evaded responsibility.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) indicted 161 individuals and convicted 90 for crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
This fact indicates that only a symbolic number has faced justice among thousands of genocidaires in Srebrenica. Furthermore, the sentences handed down were relatively lenient compared to the crimes committed.
The absence of a death penalty for the perpetrators was a significant deficiency of the international judicial institutions. At the domestic level, the courts in Bosnia have also prosecuted perpetrators but fallen far short of bringing a majority of them to justice.
Besides that, what about the responsibility of bus and truck companies that transported Bosniaks to their deaths? Where is the responsibility of bus drivers? What about the responsibility of cooks that prepared the meals for executioners?
In other words, apart from direct executioners, there is a set of other actors who facilitated the process of genocide who did not face accountability for their role in the genocide.
In addition to that, the reason why Srebrenica is still an open wound is the rampant denial.
A critical aspect of the ICTY’s legacy – with its shortcomings notwithstanding - is the extensive documentation of the genocidal campaign in Srebrenica, which is being denied, especially in Republika Srpska.
The denial takes many forms, from outright rejection of facts to using euphemisms such as massacre to avoid the use of the term genocide. Another frequent denial is the localisation of the 1992-1995 Bosnian Genocide committed across the country to only Srebrenica in July 1995. It is disturbing that denial is practised not only by the current authorities in Republika Srpska but also by their supposedly moderate opposition.
The situation is not any better at the non-governmental level too. For the past decade and a half, western NGOs have pushed various initiatives to promote “reconciliation” and “dialogue”.
Several local NGOs joined the bandwagon and promoted “dialogue” to keep up with the latest funding trends. But, talks over facts about the genocide are neither needed nor justified.
The starting point for any dialogue is accepting the facts about what happened in 1992-1995.
Furthermore, there is no basis for specious “reconciliation”. The genocide was not a quarrel between two sides that needed to be papered over. Therefore, western NGOs should bypass genocide-denying individuals, institutions, and organisations rather than advocate and finance dubious projects.
Genocide denial is here to stay and is more pervasive now than a decade ago. The marginalisation of genocide-deniers should be the way forward.
The best way to ensure that the memory and facts of the Bosnian Genocide and Srebrenica are preserved is to keep working on its continuous international remembrance.
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