analysis 02 Dec 11

Hague: Srebrenica Film Undermines Judgments

Following showing of ‘A Town Betrayed’ in Sweden, Hague tribunal’s head of outreach says film contradicts past judgments of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia.

Siri Sollie

In a letter to the chief executive and editor-in-chief of Swedish Television of November 24, the Head of Outreach for the Hague Tribunal, Nerma Jelacic, said much of the content of A Town Betrayed “runs counter to rulings made by ICTY”.

Jelacic urged Swedish Television to consult the Tribunal in the future if it planned to broadcast new material related to Srebrenica that potentially contradicts ICTY judgments.

A Town Betrayed was first shown on the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, NRK, in April. It caused controversy for its portrayal of the Srebrenica massacre as “a conventional military operation” that was provoked by previous Bosniak [Muslim] killings of Bosnian Serbs.

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee lodged a complaint on May 3 about the documentary to the Norwegian Press Association, accusing the film of promoting revisionism.

In spite of that, Swedish Television decided to show the documentary in Sweden later on August 28.

Not surprisingly, the documentary also caused controversy in Sweden among Bosniaks and some Swedish intellectuals

The letter from the ICTY states: “The proceedings before the Tribunal have proven beyond reasonable doubt that Srebrenica was a planned killing operation, and not an act of revenge by emotionally agitated Bosnian Serb soldiers.

“Graves continue to be discovered and exhumed to this day, and the number of identified individuals will rise. The Trial Chamber therefore considers that the number could well be as high as 7,826," Jelacic added.

The Norwegian Broadcasting director, Hans-Tore Bjerkaas, on Tuesday said the NRK would “consider how we should handle the case. More than that I cannot say before the content of the letter is more familiar to me”.

Sweden’s broadcasting director, Eva Hamilton, on the other hand, rejected the criticism from the Tribunal.

According to the Swedish newspaper Expressen on November 29 Hamilton responded that: “The signatory of the letter does not show any factual inaccuracies in the film but describes in detail the rulings in the Hague where they concluded that the disaster in Srebrenica was simply a genocide.”

On the Facebook page of the protest group against the broadcast of the documentary, which numbers around 12,000 members, supporters greeted the response from the ICTY as timely.

“It is a big day for us all but the fight does not end here, it has just started”, one member of the group wrote on Tuesday.  

The ICTY says the case against Radislav Krstic established that the 1995 massacre in eastern Bosnia constituted an act of genocide.

In its judgment, the court said it was satisfied that the Bosnian Serb army acted on orders from high command and that the Srebrenica operation was an organized and planned act of ethnic cleansing.

In its 2001 ruling on the Krstic case, the Tribunal applied a new definition, “local genocide”, for what happened in Srebrenica in 1995.

In the letter from the ICTY, Jelacic refuted the portrayal of the massacre in Srebrenica as a conventional military operation and quoted previous judgments:

“Tribunal investigators found 448 blindfolds on or with the victims’ bodies as well as 423 pieces of cloth, string or wire that were used to tie the victims' hands . People who were blindfolded or had their hands tied behind their backs were obviously not killed in combat.”

The Norwegian Press Association presented its ruling on the complaint by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee in October.

It said that the documentary did not tell the whole story about the massacre and the following trials after the war. It also criticized the Norwegian broadcaster of the documentary for not properly evaluating the film’s sources.

“Many controversial sources are presented without having their claims weighed against the conclusions of the legal processes to which these sources run contrary,” the Norwegian Press Association ruling said. It concluded that the makers of the documentary broke the country’s ethical press code in producing the documentary.

The producers of the film, Ola Flyum and David Hebditch, have defended the film.

In their response to the Norwegian Press Association on August 23 they stated:

“Our stand, which is reflected in the program, which we have repeated several times, is that what happened in Srebrenica was a massacre and a genocide. Our program is about the prelude to the Srebrenica massacre.

 “If the programme makers had used the word ‘genocide’ throughout the film, would the NHC have been happy with this documentary? We suspect not,” they added.



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Background

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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