News 08 Jul 15

West Accused of Allowing Serbs’ Srebrenica Attack

In a new book, journalist Florence Hartmann alleges that the US and European governments knew Bosnian Serb forces planned to seize Srebrenica 20 years ago, but did nothing to prevent it.

Denis Dzidic
BIRN
Sarajevo
Florance Hartmann. Photo: ICTY.

Hartmann told BIRN in an interview that research for her new book showed that French, British and American officials knew several weeks before the Srebrenica massacres in July 1995 that Bosnian Serb troops planned to attack the UN-declared ‘safe area’.

“At that time in the spring of 1995, the French and British – who had the most peacekeepers in Bosnia and Herzegovina – were threatening to withdraw all their soldiers from the field if there was no peace agreement signed soon, because they felt they cannot honour resolutions to protect the safe areas, like Srebrenica,” Hartmann said.

“This would leave the US in a situation to have to send 20,000 additional soldiers, which they did not want,” she said.

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

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

In order to “use bombs and NATO attacks” to apply pressure on the Bosnian Serb leadership to sign a peace agreement, Hartmann continued, UN peacekeepers needed to be evacuated from enclaves such as Srebrenica, where they were exposed.

“So Srebrenica was sacrificed. As soon as that was done, [international forces] stopped the [Bosnian Serb] operation in [nearby UN-declared ‘safe area’] Zepa,” she said.

She alleged that the original plan was to allow the “emptying” of the Zepa and Gorazde enclaves, as well as Srebrenica, but that British and French stopped this at the last minute, “because they didn’t want to be shamed like the Dutch peacekeepers in Srebrenica”.

One of the most important aspects of her research, Hartmann said, was to challenge the “official story that the United Nations failed Srebrenica”.

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said last week that the “the UN Secretariat, the Security Council and member states share the blame” for the massacres because they did not prevent them.

But Hartmann said that declassified US documents prove that from May 28 to July 20, 1995, during the period of the Bosnian Serb takeover of Srebrenica and the subsequent massacres, UN generals did not have the authority to order air strikes.

The approval of air strikes could only be ordered by the civilian head of the UN, Jasushi Akashi, who was in Dubrovnik in Croatia on July 9 and 10, and only signed the approval on July 11, when he came to work. By the time that the air strikes began that day, Bosnian Serb forces had already attacked Srebrenica.

“I think the best description of these air strikes is that they were a smokescreen for the public, when it was too late. The enclave had fallen. We had a situation in place which facilitated the commission of genocide,” Hartmann said.

She said that she is certain that Western powers did not foresee the massacres of Srebrenica’s Bosniaks or take part in them, but their political machinations “put a situation in place which enabled something like this to take place”.

“I think this is important for people primarily outside the region to show how diplomatic decisions which do not put people human beings in the centre of their preoccupation can cause problems. We cannot look at human lives as expendable. We have to learn the lessons,” she added.

There has been no official reaction so far from the UN or the French, British and US governments to her allegations.

Hartmann reported for French newspaper Le Monde during the Bosnian war and subsequently worked for the Hague Tribunal prosecution in the 2000s.

Her new book about the 1995 massacres, which was published on Tuesday, is called ‘The Blood of Realpolitik: The Srebrenica Affair’.

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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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