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Srebrenica Massacre: As the world pays homage to victims, hypocrisy has become the global norm

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By Gaurav Sharma

Twenty years ago scores of people, mostly young Muslim boys and men from the east Bosnian town of Srebrenica were captured, blindfolded, tied-up and loaded into trucks. Shortly thereafter they were lined up, asked to pray and shot dead with automatic weapons.

Today, the world will fall silent for a few hours to commemorate the anniversary of the systematic killings recognized by the UN war crimes tribunal as the only genocide on European soil since World War 2.

The brutal massacre was part of the Bosnian Wars which occurred during the early 1990’s. The wars were a trickle down effect of the political and economic upheavals that began in Yugoslavia in 1980’s after the fall of the firm communist leadership of Josip Broz Tito.

Following the fall of the communist regime in Yugoslavia, ethnic tensions flared up between Serbs and Croats, leading to the Croatian War of Independence. After the independence of Croatia in 1991, the influence of xenophobia and ethnic hatred burst out in the open. The Serb-dominated Yugoslav army attacked Croat villages and bombarded Dubrovnik with special focus.

The media dubbed the explosion of violence in the area as “a strategy for pursuing the creation of a Greater Serbia”. Following Serbian and Croatian lines, the violence continued unabated in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a newly formed state which comprised a multi-ethnic population of majority Muslim Bosniaks, and minority Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats.

Bosnia and Herzegovina received international recognition on April 6,1992. On the same day, the Serbs laid siege to the capital city of Sarajevo and marked the beginning of the Bosnian Wars.

In July 1995, the self-proclaimed Bosnian Serb Army under the command of General Ratko Mladic swept into the Srebrenica enclave, a UN designated “safe haven” and perpetrated the killings of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys. The bodies were later dumped into pits.

In the bloody aftermath of the genocide, the Serbian wartime leadership dug up the mass graves and reburied the corpses in a bid to conceal the atrocities inflicted on Bosnian Muslims.

While Serbian leaders Radovin Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic await sentences for their role in directing the genocide, the seemingly innocuous Western powers who were well aware, if not active participants in the genocide have remained clear of any criminal charges.

Declassified cables and testimonies in the Hague tribunal have revealed that America, Britain and France supported the contention that Srebrenica, along with two other UN safe havens were “untenable”. To bargain for peace, the Western powers were willing to cede Srebrenica to the Serbs.

What firmly establishes the complicity of the West in the genocide is the revelation that they were well aware of “Directive 7”, a Serbian military order that called for the permanent removal of Bosnian Muslims from the safe area.

After a US diplomat reported to Washington that a peace map would not become a reality unless the safe areas were ceded to the Serbs, the US policy-making Principles Committee urged the soldiers to move away from the fragile land, a reference to the safe areas.

Furthermore, the US cables show that the CIA was watching the mass-killings “live” through satellites.

Dutch troops have also been accused of evicting people from their refuge and watching the Serbian army segregate young children and women from the male assemblage.

As happens with most people who reveal the secret complicity of the dominant powers, Florence Hartmann, the woman behind the shocking disclosures has beenindicted for breach of confidentiality and also convicted of contempt of court by the International Criminal tribunal.

Meanwhile, Serbia and Russia have chosen to turn a blind eye on the massacre with Milorad Dodik, a Bosnian Serb leader, terming the genocide as“one of the biggest shams of the 20th century.” Russia has moved along similar lines by vetoing against a UK-sponsored UN security council resolution declaring the killings as genocide.

At the same time, the two countries acknowledge the killings as a “grave crime” while blaring out resounding calls that they are “not deaf to the sufferings of the victims of Srebrenica”.

As commemorations paying homage to the victims of Srebrenica, including a memorial service in Westminster Abbey and a mass gathering at a huge graveyard near the United Nations base at Potocari start pouring in, one wonders if hypocrisy has become the global political norm.

On the other hand, the families of the victims have been forced to live in a limbo built on foundations of constant fear and hatred where justice has become a far fetched dream.

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Opium Cultivation Goes Down by 20% in Afghanistan: UN

It noted that opium poppy weeding and harvesting provided for the equivalent of up to 354,000 full-time jobs to rural areas in 2017.

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oPIUM CULTIVATION
In this April 11, 2016, photo, farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. VOA

A new United Nations survey finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has decreased by 20 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, citing a severe drought and falling prices of dry opium at the national level.

The total opium-poppy cultivation area decreased to 263,000 hectares, from 328,000 hectares estimated in 2017, but it was
still the second highest measurement for Afghanistan since the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring in 1994.

The potential opium production decreased by 29 percent to 6,400 tons from an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017.

The UNODC country representative, Mark Colhoun, while explaining factors behind the reduction told reporters in Kabul the farm-gate prices of dry opium at the harvest time fell to $94 per kilogram, the lowest since 2004.

Afghanistan, Opium cultivation
FILE – Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2013. VOA

The decreases, in particular in the northern and western Afghan regions, were mainly attributed to the severe drought that hit the country during the course of the last year, he added.

“Despite these decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is still the highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond. It is also a threat to all countries to and through which these drugs are trafficked as well as to Afghanistan itself,” said Colhoun.

He warned that more high-quality low-cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, with increased consumption and related harms as a further likely consequence.

“The significant levels of opium-poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” he said.

 

Afghanistan, Opium cultivation
Raw opium from a poppy head is seen at a poppy farmer’s field on the outskirts of Jalalabad, afghanistan. VOA

A new United Nations survey finds that opium cultivation in Afghanistan has decreased by 20 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year, citing a severe drought and falling prices of dry opium at the national level.

The total opium cultivation area decreased to 263,000 hectares, from 328,000 hectares estimated in 2017, but it was
still the second highest measurement for Afghanistan since the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) began monitoring in 1994.

The potential opium production decreased by 29 percent to 6,400 tons from an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017.

The UNODC country representative, Mark Colhoun, while explaining factors behind the reduction told reporters in Kabul the farm-gate prices of dry opium at the harvest time fell to $94 per kilogram, the lowest since 2004.

The decreases, in particular in the northern and western Afghan regions, were mainly attributed to the severe drought that hit the country during the course of the last year, he added.

Opium cultivation
Afghan security personnel watch as flames and smoke rise after opium and narcotics are burned in a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

“Despite these decreases, the overall area under opium-poppy cultivation is still the highest ever recorded. This is a clear challenge to security and safety for the region and beyond. It is also a threat to all countries to and through which these drugs are trafficked as well as to Afghanistan itself,” said Colhoun.

He warned that more high-quality low-cost heroin will reach consumer markets across the world, with increased consumption and related harms as a further likely consequence.

“The significant levels of opium-poppy cultivation and illicit trafficking of opiates will further fuel instability, insurgency and increase funding to terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” he said.

Colhoun noted that while there is no single explanation for the continuing high levels of opium-poppy cultivation, rule of law-related challenges such as political instability, lack of government control and security as well as corruption have been found to be among the main drivers of illicit cultivation.

The UNODC survey estimated that the total farm-gate value of opium production decreased by 56 percent to $604 million, which is equivalent to three percent of Afghanistan’s GDP, from $1.4 billion in 2017. The lowest prices strongly undermined the income earned from opium cultivation by farmers.

 Afghan security personnel watch as flames and smoke rise after opium and narcotics are burned in a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan
Field Of poppies, Opium. Pixabay

The study finds that 24 out of the 34 Afghan provinces grew the opium-poppy in 2018, the same number as in the previous year.

The survey found that 69 percent of the opium poppy cultivation took place in southern Afghanistan and the largest province of Helmand remained the leading opium-poppy cultivating region followed by neighboring Kandahar and Uruzgan and Nangarhar in the east.

It noted that poppy opium cultivation weeding and harvesting provided for the equivalent of up to 354,000 full-time jobs to rural areas in 2017.

A U.S. government agency, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), has noted in its latest report that as of September 30, Washington’s counternarcotics-related appropriations for the country had reached almost $9 billion.

Also Read: The Elections in Afghanistan

“Despite the importance of the threat narcotics pose to reconstruction and despite massive expenditures for programs including poppy-crop eradication, drug seizures and interdictions, alternative-livelihood support, aviation support, and incentives for provincial governments, the drug trade remains entrenched in Afghanistan, and is growing,” said Sigar, which monitors U.S. civilian and military spendings in the country. (VOA)