News 28 Sep 12

Bosnia Warns Syria May Become 'New Srebrenica'

Bosnia Presidency member Bakir Izetbegovic tells UN General Assembly that international inaction over Syria has increased the danger of Srebrenica-style carnage.

Denis Dzidic

Izetbegovic, Bosniak [Muslim] member of the country's tripartite presidency, told the UN General Assembly that the international community “failed” to handle the crisis in eastern Bosnia in July 1995 - and was in danger of repeating the same error in Syria.

“The best way to honour the victims of Srebrenica is to learn from the mistakes. Unfortunately, the UN has failed to do that," he said.

"The international community has once again chosen the ‘trial and error’ policy, which failed in Bosnia,” Izetbegovic added.

“[The use of] resolutions, statements of concern, ineffectual sanctions, observers and lack of a clear mandate to protect civilians – which result in deaths – was demonstrated in my country," he recalled.

"Do not make this mistake. If we don't act now, decisively, to help the Syrian people and stop the bloodshed, this tragedy will haunt us, just like Srebrenica,” he continued.
Izetbegovic was referring to the mass slaughter of Bosniaks that occured under the noses of the UN in the besieged eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995.

Although the town was a UN-declared demilitarized zone, Bosnian Serb forces under General Ratko Mladic attacked and overran the town and killed more than 7,000 people.

The International Court of Justice in a ruling in 2007 qualified the massacre as an act of genocide.

At the time of the Bosnian Serb attack, a UN Dutch battalion was stationed in Srebrenica, but it did not stop the slaughter.  

Izetbegovic said that all UN member states were obliged to help the Syrian people in their quest for freedom.

“Once more we stand idly by while a human tragedy is going on. We must save the Syrian people from tyranny. We must, but we do not," he said.

"The images we are seeing from Syria remind us of the Bosnian tragedy. We in Bosnia and Herzegovina feel the pain the Syrian people as our own, because we too went through the same horrors,” Izetbegovic added.

The Bosnian presidency member recalled that the former and current UN General Secretaries, Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon, had visited Srebrenica to pay homage to the victims, and both men had said that such events should never be permitted in future.  

“Today, these words ring with the sounds of the failure of this organization [the UN] to respond to the Syrian tragedy,” he maintained.

Speaking about the future of his own country, Izetbegovic stated that it was “vital to protect the mosaic of ethnicities and cultures” in Bosnia.

“There is a great fight on now between the forces of reconciliation and division in my country today... [and] if the idea of reconciliation does not prevail in Bosnia, then it will have a hard time doing so anywhere else,” he concluded.

There is no settled international consensus on the desirability of direct intervention in the crisis in Syria.

While some Gulf states openly support rebel forces, the government in Damascus has retained strong support from China, Russia and Iran.

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Srebrenica: Genocide Reconstructed

In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.

Ratko Mladic: The Force Behind the Srebrenica Killings

The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.

The Indictment Against Ratko Mladic

Indictments in 1995 and 2000, further amended in 2002 and 2010, charge the former commander of the Republika Srpska Army with genocide and other crimes.

Ratko Mladic: From Promising Officer to Bloodstained Warlord

When Mladic ordered his army to bomb the people of Sarajevo until they ‘go insane’, he revealed the murderous intentions that would culminate in the Srebrenica massacre.

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