The word Srebrenica

by Azra Nuhefendić, July 11, 2016.

The Potočari Memorial (Photo Nicole Corritore)
As July 11th approaches – the
anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide – anxiety is growing on both
banks of the Drina river. Serbia and the Bosnian Serbs get busy denying,
minimising, splitting the blame, haggling about figures, justifying
themselves, and insisting on their own version of the events.
Muslims (Bosniaks) expect justice, recognition, and human compassion.
And, twenty years later, many are still waiting for the remains of their
loved ones, disappeared in the worst crime of war and against humanity
committed in Europe since World War II.
After wars and atrocities, what remains are names of places, new words. Auschwitz, Katyn, Guernica…

The word Srebrenica

has been among these words for two decades. It brings images of broken
families, people loaded on buses and trucks to unknown destinations,
terror, men blindfolded and led to their death, methodically killed. And
the mourning of about 30,000 Bosnian women – mothers, wives, daughters,
and sisters – who lost many family members in the genocide in
Srebrenica. Over 8,000 Bosnians were killed.
pain greater than ascertained death is the uncertainty about the fate
of the disappeared. Many women of Srebrenica are still looking for the
remains of their sons, fathers, husbands, and cousins. One of them,
Hatidža Hren, waiting to find the remains of her husband Rudolf, screams
desperately: “Bring me his bones, I will know.”
happened in Srebrenica is not under discussion. 
It was named a genocide
by two international courts: the International Court of Justice and the
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY).
Denial will not change the facts.
Bosnian Serb officers have been convicted and two trials are still
ongoing at the ICTY – those of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan
Karadžić and Bosnian Serb general Ratko Mladić, both charged with
genocide as well as other crimes.
Srebrenica massacre is the best documented war crime ever. There are
millions of pages of testimony, audio transcripts, videos, and forensic
evidence. Over a thousand people, including many genocide survivors,
have testified on the events in Srebrenica.
21-year-old told, before the ICTY, how he was just six when he was
brought before the squad that shot Bosnian Muslims. The Serbian driver
who brought the killers food and drinks took pity on him and saved him.
images we see today are genuine television coverage – footage that, at
the time, we watched almost live, sitting in our homes. Some crimes were
documented by the murderers themselves – the Serbian paramilitary unit
of “Scorpions” filmed its murdering of a group of 16 Bosniaks of
For years, you could rent the tape in video clubs in the
Serbian town of Ruma. And when the judge asked them why they had filmed,
they replied that they did it because they believed that, after the
war, they would have been considered heroes.


is not an accidental crime, it is not the result of a fit (even a
collective one). Genocide is not committed by mistake, it is never
unintended. Genocide is not a spontaneous action, it is always and
everywhere a project – well planned, organised, and systematically
carried out.
It took an organisation to kill 8,000 people in
a week, to dig mass graves to bury them, and later exhume the bodies
and bury them again in a second and a third pit. It was not a job for
amateurs, and could not be improvised either.
Serbian driver who saved the child from the firing squad was in charge
of the food and drinks! Everything was planned in this horrible
business. At some point, the soldiers who killed all day long needed a
break to eat and drink.
The fact that Serbs
exhumed corpses from mass graves and moved the remains of the slain
elsewhere means that they were aware of what they had done, and were
trying to hide it.
It was documented how the
buses which carried Bosnian Muslims to the places of execution belonged
to public companies in Serbia and had been brought from Serbia for that
purpose, like the bulldozers and other machinery to dig mass graves.
The bullets that killed Muslims were made in the “Zastava” factory in
Kragujevac, Serbia.
Genocide is a crime of a
State and its institutions, through the apparatus of repression – the
army and the police. The few Bosnian Muslims who tried to escape across
the Drina river in Serbia were captured, put in concentration camps,
tortured, and some killed.
Genocide is not
only Srebrenica, as the Holocaust is not only Auschwitz. Genocide is a
process. As pointed out by Ed Vulliamy, author of “Seasons in Hell”,
Srebrenica of July 11th, 1995, is just “one of the hundreds of small Srebrenica that happened in Bosnia from 1992 to 1995”.
is no genocide without ideology. In the case of Srebrenica, the
ideology of genocide was Serbian nationalism. Many of the people who
killed unarmed, blindfolded Bosnian Muslims would never have committed
such a crime under normal circumstances. Serbian nationalism had
prepared and encouraged them to do so. Ideology had absolved them from
sin and guilt, in advance. The case of the “Scorpions” is a blatant
example of this.
Almost all the perpetrators
tried and convicted (and not only in the case of Srebrenica) justified
themselves before the courts by saying they had defended the “homeland”,
“the people”, “the flag”. Symbols, not facts, are what ideology rests
on. None of them justified himself on the grounds of defending his home,
mother, or children.


the last 20 years, Bosnian Serbs and Serbia have been committed to
denying the genocide, classifying what happened in Srebrenica as one of
many crimes. Denial has become a State strategy.
is possible because many of the current Serbian politicians, on both
banks of the Drina river, are the same people who had been part of
Serbia’s political elite at the time of the genocide. Their ideology is
still nationalism.
This attitude is wrong.
Denying guilt continues to cause pain to the victims. It is not by
chance that denial is regarded as the last stage of genocide.
the long-term, denial is harmful for Serbs themselves. This attitude
has already damaged the image of the people of Serbia, compromised the
country’s international reputation, and hurt its position in various
global institutions.
Acknowledging guilt is also, and perhaps
above all, an issue related to civilisation. Showing compassion for
victims is the least one can do.

SOURCE: Balcanicaucaso