News 24 Nov 15

US-Published Documents Show West’s Srebrenica Failure

The US National Security Archive published documents detailing how the UN and international community failed to take action to prevent the Srebrenica massacres in July 1995.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
UN peacekeepers and refugees in Srebrenica.

The National Security Archive said that the documents released on Monday showed that “international passivity [and] lack of support for peacekeepers doomed Srebrenica 20 years ago”.

It said the documents showed that the lack of response from the UN and international community to the Bosnian Serb Army’s initial attack on the UN-declared ‘safe area’ of Srebrenica was one of the key factors which enabled the killings of thousands of Bosniak men and boys in the days after the enclave fell on July 11, 1995.

“The documents show the Srebrenica genocide represented a debacle for international peacekeeping and a turning point towards more forceful intervention, culminating in the Dayton accords that ended the Balkan wars,” it said.

The documents indicate that although the commander of Bosnian Serb Army commander Ratko Mladic on July 2 only wanted to “squeeze” the UN peacekeepers and Bosniaks out of Srebrenica, within a week, an order was given to seize the enclave because no opposition was met, according to the National Security Archive.

It also said that they prove that UN officials, such as the secretary-general’s special representative Yasushi Akashi and generals from UN member states, refused to confront the Bosnian Serb attacks and resisted using air strikes for more than a year prior to Srebrenica.

The documents show that the UN command also refused Dutch peacekeepers’ requests for air strikes on July 6, 1995, before the enclave was overrun, and only approved a small attack on July 11 which did not stop the Bosnian Serb Army.

Part of the reason for the inaction, the document suggest, is that there were clear strategic divisions between the US, Britain and France over what to do about the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The documents mostly come from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, although some are from the National Defence University in the US, the Clinton Library and French parliamentary reports.

There are also Bosnian Serb plans, as well as UN documents which show communication from the ground to command centres.

They form part of a briefing book compiled for a conference that was held by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and The Hague Institute for Global Justice in June.

This year journalist Florence Hartmann also published a book in which she alleged that the US and European governments knew that Bosnian Serb forces planned to seize Srebrenica, but did nothing to prevent it.

Hartmann told BIRN in an interview in July that her research showed that French, British and American officials knew several weeks before the Srebrenica massacres that Bosnian Serb troops planned to attack the ‘safe area’.

Western governments decided not to stop the Bosnian Serb attack, but to use it to gather momentum for peace efforts which had up to that point failed to end the three-year war, she alleged.

“Srebrenica paid the price for peace,” she said.

After Bosnian Serb forces attacked Srebrenica in July 1995, they subsequently killed more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys and expelled more than 40,000 women, children and elderly people. The crimes have been defined as genocide by both international and domestic courts.

Ratko Mladic is currently standing trial in The Hague for alleged genocide and other crimes.

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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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