A man prays at the Potocari Memorial Centre, where Srebrenica victims are buried. Photo: Jasmin Brutus/EPA.
Thirty-one international experts on the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia have written an open letter saying that the commissions set up by Republika Srpska to investigate war crimes in Srebrenica and abuses against Serbs in Sarajevo during the 1990s conflict resemble revisionism rather than a genuine effort to establish the truth.
“There are already existing frameworks for reaching truth and reconciliation, both globally and in the Yugoslav region, and the newly announced RS commissions fit into a pattern of deliberate revision of established truths,” says the letter.
Among the signatories are Eric Gordy, professor at University College London, Jasmin Mujanovic of Elon University, Edin Hajdarpasic from the Loyola University Chicago and Florian Bieber from the University of Graz.
The Republika Srpska government announced the establishment of the two commissions earlier this month.
One will probe crimes against both Serbs and Bosniaks in and around Srebrenica from 1992 to 1995, sparking fears that it will try to downplay the seriousness of the 1995 genocide of more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys.
Republika Srpska leaders do not accept that the massacres by Bosnian Serb forces constituted genocide, despite the verdicts of international and domestic courts.
The academics’ letter alleges that the commission is composed of “fringe elements, individuals who do not represent either the consensus views of the academic or legal communities, and who appear handpicked to produce narratives that will advance the revisionist politics of the current RS government”.
The second Republika Srpska commission is to investigate the suffering of Serbs in Sarajevo during the war.
The academics’ letter claims this is part of a “strategy to turn legitimate grievances into material for trivialising grievances suffered by others”.
In their letter, the academics said that the experience of commissions in the post-Yugoslav space is mixed, with top-down initiatives failing in Serbia and Croatia due to partiality, obvious political motivation, and an overall approach that sought to justify abuses through relativisation.
“[The] newly created commissions represent the culmination of more than a decade of genocide denial and historical revisionism by the [Party of Independent Social Democrats-led] government in the RS, a period which has coincided with a dramatic decline in the overall democratic legitimacy and transparency of the government in Banja Luka,” the letter says.