|The debate at Belgrade’s Centre for Cultural Decontamination. Photo: Twitter/FHP|
Despite international court rulings, ignorance and denial of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide is still widespread in Serbia, a debate at Belgrade’s Centre for Cultural Decontamination was told on Monday evening.
Nemanja Stjepanovic from the Belgrade-based Humanitarian Law Centre said that 21 years after the genocide took place, all the facts about the massacres have been established in detail thanks to court testimonies and evidence.
But many people either don’t know or don’t want to know what truly happened, Stjepanovic told the debate entitled ‘School of Knowledge: Srebrenica, Mapping of the Genocide and Post-Genocidal Society’.
“Ignorance and a lack of information could have been the excuse for not accepting the crimes back then. Today, there are no more excuses. Every denial of the Srebrenica crime means approval for it,” Stjepanovic said.
Although the UN declared Srebrenica a ‘safe area’, the town was overrun by Bosnian Serb forces in July 1995, and more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in the days that followed.
The massacres have been defined as genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice and the Bosnian state court. But this definition is strongly contested by Serbian and Bosnian Serb officials, who claim that the crime did not amount to genocide.
In March 2010, Serbia’s parliament adopted a resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacres, but failed to call the crime a genocide.
Last July, a resolution condemning the 1995 Srebrenica massacres as genocide failed to pass in the UN after Serbia’s ally Russia, which has a Security Council veto, voted against it.
Dubravka Stojanovic, a Belgrade-based historian, said that accepting the Srebrenica crimes as an act of genocide would represent a move away from the stance that only Serbs were victims.
“Accepting the Srebrenica genocide touches the deepest layers of [Serbian] identity,” Stojanovic said.
“If that crime was be recognised, the whole historical perspective would be changed. That is why I think that learning about Srebrenica is a key lesson in history,” she added.
The 20th anniversary commemoration last July caused tensions both in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Serbia. Serbia’s Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic attended the ceremony, but was attacked by some of the mourners.
A planned event called #sedamhiljada, which aimed to symbolically gather 7,000 people – representing the approximate number of Srebrenica deaths – outside the parliament building in Belgrade last year, did not happen after the interior ministry banned rallies scheduled for the 20th anniversary of the massacres on July 11, citing security risks.
But around 200 people defied the ban and held a candle-lit commemoration the evening before, sparking a counter-protest by right-wingers.
Anita Mitic of the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, one of the organisers of the commemoration, was charged with a misdemeanour by the interior ministry, which alleged that she broke the law by organising a public gathering without previously alerting the authorities.
Mitic claimed that the case against her was another example of the authorities’ policy of Srebrenica genocide denial.