High Representative Valentin Inzko. Photo: EPA.
The decision by Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska to establish a commission to probe wartime crimes in Srebrenica will not aid attempts to achieve truth and reconciliation, the US embassy in Sarajevo and the Office of the High Representative, which oversees the implementation of Bosnia’s peace deal, said in separate statements on Friday.
Fears have been expressed by Bosniaks that the commission will attempt to rewrite history to deny that the 1995 Srebrenica massacres by Bosnian Serb forces were genocide.
“The International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, have both concluded that what happened in Srebrenica, in July 1995, was genocide. Everyone should respect court decisions and bravely face and accept the truth, regardless of how painful it was,” the US embassy said.
“The OHR [Office of the High Representative] reiterated that both international and local courts characterised the events from July 1995 as genocide,” said the High Representative’s office.
The Republika Srpska government announced on Thursday that it has set up the commission to “determine the truth about the suffering of all peoples in and around Srebrenica between 1992 and 1995”.
The commission will focus on crimes against Serbs as well as against Bosniaks, sparking fears that it will try to downplay the seriousness of the 1995 Srebrenica massacres, in which more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed.
Bosnian Serb leaders do not accept that the massacres constituted genocide, despite the verdicts of international and domestic courts.
The Srebrenica commission will be headed by Gideon Greif, a professor of Jewish and Israeli History at the University of Texas who has been working at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial for more than 30 years. He is also a leading researcher at the Israeli Holocaust Institute, Shem Olam.
“The aim of the commission is to establish the truth, of which there can be only one, and it is the commission’s moral obligation to be loyal to facts, the truth and the victims,” Greif told Bosnian Serb public broadcaster RTRS on Thursday.
The establishment of the new commission is highly controversial and comes after the Bosnian Serb parliament last August annulled a report on the 1995 Srebrenica massacres that accused Serb forces of committing crimes and ordered the Serb-dominated entity’s government to draw up a new one.
The original report acknowledged that Bosnian Serb forces killed thousands of Bosniaks from Srebrenica in July 1995, and said the executions represented a serious violation of humanitarian law.
Republika Srpska has also set up a second commission to probe wartime crimes in Sarajevo, which it said will focus on how Serbs suffered in the city.