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In her recent Balkan Insight piece, “Bosnian Serbs Funnel Taxes to Genocide-denying NGO”, Valerie Hopkins makes a number of dubious and misleading allegations. She also violated a fundamental precept of responsible journalism by not providing her subjects an opportunity to explain or make any comments, while giving that opportunity to their critics.
Ms. Hopkins writes her article from the standpoint of a Republika Srpska taxpayer, scolding RS authorities for disbursements that she disapproves of.
While we are not concerned with her actual taxpayer status, we note that she creates the misleading impression that the sum of money that displeases her was some sort of government handout to our NGO.
In fact, it was voted publicly by the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska which represents all citizens, and she omits to mention that important clarifying detail.
From the headline on she sets the stage for denigrating our NGO and its activities by labeling us “genocide-denying.” In the US, of which I am a citizen, it is everyone’s right to deny anything that they do not believe in.
It so happens that we have not “denied” that genocide occurred in Srebrenica; we insist that the present state of the evidence does not support such a conclusion. Ms. Hopkins seems to have missed that subtle distinction.
She portrays my assertions as an expert witness before the BH State Court in Sarajevo that the Srebrenica safe zone was “not demilitarized” in July of 1995 and that one third to one half of the members of the 28th Division mixed military/civilian column were armed as matters that invite incredulity. But these are not my inventions.
These are positions taken by Jean-Rene Ruez, chief investigator ICTY Office of the prosecutor [1995-2001] and Richard Butler, ICTY Prosecution military expert who has testified in several Srebrenica trials.
Ms. Hopkins might note that nobody has been prosecuted either at the Hague or in Sarajevo for inflicting casualties on the column. As a seasoned investigative journalist she should get the message: the column was a legitimate military target and shooting at it (unlike shooting war prisoners) is not a criminal act.
At least, that is what Prosecution military expert Butler maintained in his testimony at the Popovic trial on January 23, 2008. He also estimated that the column suffered up to 2,000 legitimate casualties.
Ms. Hopkins refers disapprovingly to a text posted on our website alleging that “Srebrenica was an inside job” and attributing to Alija Izetbegovic a role in setting up what ultimately transpired there.
That also happens to be the fundamental position of Norwegian investigative journalist Ola Flyum in his recent documentary “Srebrenica: A Town Betrayed.”
But that is not a figment either of my or Mr. Flyum’s imagination. It is based on first-hand testimony of Mr. Hakija Meholjic, wartime chief of police in Srebrenica, who is extensively interviewed in Flyum’s documentary and makes those points in damning detail. Like Mr. Muhamed Durakovic, whom Ms. Hopkins interviewed, Mr. Meholjic, whom she failed to talk to, is just as easily accessible in Srebrenica.
Mr. Durakovic is entitled to disagree with the way the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska chooses to spend its money. But Ms. Hopkins might have asked him to comment about the huge (and many times greater) quantities of public funds that the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina has expended for legal assistance to accused war criminals, Mr. Ganic and Mr. Divjak, to which its citizens of Serbian and other ethnicities have been obliged to contribute.
As for Mr. Durakovic’s criticisms concerning our alleged failure to take part the search for missing persons in Srebrenica, perhaps that is because such tasks are better left to forensic agencies which have the necessary personnel and equipment. We also have not participated in any of NASA’s space missions, for similar reasons.
We share Mr. Oleg Milisic’s view that “Bosnian Serb political leaders ha[ve] a continuing obligation to deal with the legacy of the crime committed in Srebrenica.” The same obligation applies to all the actors in relation to all the crimes that may have been committed by their subordinates.
The mission of our NGO is to clarify critically the factual basis of that legacy in relation to Srebrenica so that the truth (not propaganda) prevails and justice is done.
A Dutch-based organization set up to deny that the 1995 massacre in Srebrenica was an act of genocide is a significant beneficiary of taxpayers money from the Republika Srpska.