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.