News 15 Sep 15

Srebrenica Trial Exhibits Go on Show in Belgrade

An exhibition presenting the most important evidence from the Hague Tribunal’s Srebrenica genocide trials opened in Belgrade as part of events to mark the 20th anniversary of the massacres.

Ivana Nikolic BIRN Belgrade
Exhibition organisers Sandra Orlovic and Mirko Klarin at the opening. Photo BIRN/Filip Avramovic

The audio-visual exhibition entitled ‘The ICTY’s Investigation, Reconstruction and Prosecution of Crimes Committed in Srebrenica in July 1995’ opened at the Centre for Cultural Decontamination in the Serbian capital on Monday evening.

Sandra Orlovic from the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre, one of the organisers, said it was politically important for the evidence from the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to be displayed in Serbia.

“Belgrade and Serbia are important sites on the genocide map because Belgrade and Serbian institutions supported the politics which led to the ethnic cleansing and genocide with political, military and material resources,” Orlovic said.

She added that it was also important that the event is taking place in September because “in September and October 1995 Bosnian Serb forces were moving the [Srebrenica victims’] bodies from primary to secondary mass graves to cover up the crime”.

This year, Srebrenica commemorated 20th anniversary of the genocide by Bosnian Serb forces, which saw more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys killed after Ratko Mladic’s forces overran what was then a UN-declared ‘safe area’.

One of the displays showing a Srebrenica trial at the ICTY. Photo BIRN/Filip Avramovic

But despite the fact that the crimes have been classified by both international and Bosnian court as an act of genocide, the Belgrade government doesn’t agree that the 1995 mass killings of Bosniaks amounted to genocide.

In 2010, the Serbian parliament adopted a resolution condemning the killings in Srebrenica, but stopped short of calling it genocide. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic attended the 20th anniversary commemoration in Srebrenica in July but was forced to flee after being pelted with stones and plastic bottles.

So far, international and Bosnian courts have sentenced a total of 37 people to around 630 years in prison for genocide and other crimes against Bosniaks from Srebrenica. The first case to be prosecuted in Serbia related to the 1995 massacres opened last week with eight former Bosnian Serb policemen being indicted for committing a war crime against civilians near Srebrenica.

Mirko Klarin, from SENSE - Centre for Transitional Justice in Pula, Croatia, which put together the material from the UN-backed court for the exhibition, said the aim was to introduce the local communities to the extensive documentation from the Srebrenica trials.

“As the end of the Hague Tribunal is approaching, we were thinking what to do with the material we have collected in the past 20 years and we decided to give it back to communities and show how it was used in investigations and prosecutions,” Klarin said.

Viewing the presentation in Belgrade. Photo BIRN/Filip Avramovic

The audio-visual presentation is divided into eight segments -investigations, exhumations, survivors, guilty pleas, unwilling witnesses, powerless eyewitnesses, the lasting consequences and the judicial epilogue.

Each of the segments is presented on a display with witnesses’ testimonies from the Hague Tribunal. Some of the witnesses whose testimonies are displayed include genocide survivors, victims’ families, defendants, the Dutch Battalion soldiers who were part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Srebrenica, as well as nurses and military observers who witnessed or were somehow connected to the July 1995 massacres.

A 24-minute video entitle ‘One Week in July’, which explores the events in a week during which the massacres in Srebrenica took place, was also presented.

Munira Subasic, the president of the Mothers of the Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves association, said the time has come to finally face the past and accept that what had happened in Srebrenica 20 years ago was an act of genocide.

“This is one part of the truth concerning what happened in Srebrenica. That is why I, as a mother from this place, call on young people to come and see this and to come to Srebrenica. Six thousand five hundred white [gravestones] with names and surnames will tell them a lot more,” Subasic said.

The exhibition runs until September 19.

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