Muslim genocide of Srebrenica; a failure of world order
Twenty-five years ago, in the month of July 1995, Bosnian Muslims became the victim of genocide at Srebrenica.
The atrocity crime claimed the lives of over 8000 Muslim men and boys from 11–22 July 1995. Furthermore, over 20,000 Muslims were forcibly evicted from their homes as an exercise of ethnic cleansing.
The genocide happened two years after the UN designation of Srebrenica as “safe zone” for civilians fleeing armed conflict between Bosnian government and separatist Serb forces, during the breakup of Yugoslavia. Kofi Annan the 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations described it as the worst crime on the soil of the continent of Europe since World War Two.
After the second world war the allied forces setup a six states’ federation in the Balkan Peninsula asYugoslaviacomprising of Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.
At the beginning of 1992, violent clashes broke out between Bosnian Muslims and Serbs in Bosnia which later took a shape of a full-fledged armed conflict by April 1992.
Bosnian Serbs started targeting the Muslim population of Srebrenica to take control of the region in eastern Bosnia and to eventually seize this territory to bordering the Republic of Serbia. The atrocities against the Bosnian Muslims including the burning of their household and businesses, forceable eviction, massive rapes and concentration camps were in the knowledge of the international community well before the genocide of Srebrenica.
However, Bosnia was treated as a ‘foreign entity’ being a Muslim majority of European territory. The European attitude was that it was not their conflict as Bosnia was not part of Christian Europe.
The west had let Bosnia die a slow death in the name of “keeping peace” in Balkan. At that time when the west was playing a diabolical role in the favour of Serbs, the UN Security Council played the role of a second fiddle.
Through its resolution 713, The UN Security Council established an arms embargos applicable to all regions of the former federation of Yugoslavia.
On 23rd April 1993, at a news conference President Clinton argued that: ‘the United States should lead’…. ‘we must have a clearly defined objective that can be met, we must be able to understand it, and its limitations must be clear’….. ‘we should not become involved as a partisan in war”.
Partisanism was inevitable when the UN imposed an arms embargo on Bosnia in 1991, and when both the August 1992, London Conference and the September 1992 Geneva Conference legitimized territorial partition of the former state of Bosnia along the new boundaries imposed by Serbian and Croatian aggression.
Taylor Branch in his book, The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President has quoted the remarks of the then British Prime Minister and the French President that “Bosnia did not belong and that a peaceful but necessary restoration of a Christion Europe needed to be basically enacted.” This approach of the world powers left Bosnian Muslims completely defenceless as they had no trained army and no supplies of weapons to resist against the Serbian aggression.
Radovan Karadžić, head of the self-proclaimed independent Bosnian Serb Republic, instructed his armed forces in the spring of 1995 to “create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope of further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica”. The Serb army besieged and blocked the food and life-essential supplies to the area.
In late June, after few clashes with handful Muslim fighters, the command of Serb army formally ordered the operation, code-named Krivaja 95, that resulted into Muslim genocide at Srebrenica. On 11th July 1995, Serb army commander Ratko Mladić rambled through Srebrenica saying, “the time has come to take revenge on the Muslims”.
Nearly 10 thousand Muslims fled from the town of Srebrenica to find shelter in the thick forest. Serb army used UN gears and tricked the Muslim men to capitulate.
Thousands surrounded on the false assurance of safety were subsequently put to death and dumped into mass graves unceremoniously.
Muslim pogrom continued till 22nd July 1995 at different locations in the region. Over eight thousand Muslim men and boys were murdered in the massacre and thousands of Muslim women and girls were raped.
The Muslim genocide at Srebrenica was a tragic experiment in the re-structuring of international mechanisms for a new era.
The Muslim genocide of Srebrenica became a damaging symbol of the UN failure at peacekeeping in the age of civil wars.
It proved the failure of a system that allowed political sensitivities to colour military choices when troops were under the command of the UN.
In Bosnia, the international community favoured the aggressors while invoking the principles of human rights, democracy, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, international law and order.
Genocide at Srebrenica directly exposed the flimsy pretensions of the world powers. It has also provided the most meaningful lesson of all that might still make right. It also exhibited that at UN – collective security and multilateralism will fail more often than they will succeed if the “national security” interests of the member states and global Security interests remain primarily competitive and divisible.
On 24 March 2016, Radovan Karadžić was sentenced to 40 years on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Likewise, on 22 November 2017, Ratko Mladićwas imprisoned for life on similar charges.
Although the pogroms of Muslims are still continuing in different parts of the world but remembering the genocide at Srebrenica 25 years later may make the world willing to resist against the crimes against humanity.