Twenty years ago, Srebrenica became the scene of the worst war crime after World War II. Victims of the genocide are still subject to derision and continue to be exploited for political ends, writes Benjamin Pargan.
Like others before it, the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide has been overshadowed by cynical games played out on the stage of the so-called international community. In the United Nations Security Council, Russia vetoed a resolution that would have condemned the atrocious mass killings of more than 8,000 men and boys of Srebrenica as genocide. Hypocritical attempts at explanation provided by Russia's UN ambassador perfectly complemented the derision of the victims that continues to this day, as did the proud announcement by Serbia's president, Tomislav Nikolic, according to which the Russian veto represented a "great day for Serbia," as Russia had proved to be a true friend of his country.
It's impossible to be any more cynical than that. After all, the proposed resolution had been weakened a number of times to accommodate both Russia and Serbia. Yet it was rejected all the same. The Russian veto, by the way, was the only dissenting vote at the Security Council, making it an officially approved denial of a crime that has, in legal terms, long since been handled: Back in 2007, the International Court of Justice had ruled that the Srebrenica massacre was a genocide - one that was meticulously planned and systematically executed by the political and military leadership of the Bosnian Serbs.
Still, Srebrenica was just the bloody climax of a criminal war of annihilation in Bosnia-Herzegovina, fought with the utmost conviction by those then leading the Bosnian Serbs. With the same determination, the rulers in Belgrade of the day gave their military, logistical and political support to the war.
Recent days prove that this network still exists, though its primary concern has shifted. Nowadays, the collective denial of a well-documented crime committed in murderous frenzy appears to be the most important task. This, however, amounts to actively hindering a honest reconciliation between Bosnians and Serbs.
While Muslim Bosniaks mourned the majority of the victims of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, they consider themselves - not just because of Srebrenica - to be the moral winners. Tenacious denying and diminishing of the genocide - done either consciously or unconsciously - serves to deprive them of that victory. Many Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia - including those who do not deny the barbaric Srebrenica crime - are at odds with the term "genocide," because they fear it implies recognition of collective guilt. Srebrenica, to them, is a moral club that too often has been used and exploited for political ends by the Bosniaks. Even those moderate circles of the Serbian public frequently articulate their desire for a clean break and impatiently call for forgiveness.
All too often it goes unnoticed that new mass graves are still being discovered in eastern Bosnia. There are still mothers who are unable to bury their sons because their bodies have never been found. Any appeal to these mothers for forgiveness is pure mockery. How can forgiveness be forthcoming if the perpetrators themselves don't ask for it? To this day, Serbian youths sing old Chetnik songs and celebrate Ratko Mladic on school parties - even in Srebrenica. To this day, in some places images of Ratko Mladic und Radovan Karadzic are brandished at Serbian weddings. Such people don't want forgiveness and reconciliation. And they are both unwilling and unable to bear the facts of the Srebrenica case.
This is one of the reasons why the small country in the Balkans will continue to be a vivid reminder of the horrible failure of the international community. It represents the nadir of civilization in recent European history and will remind us for a long time to come of how fragile peace in Europe can be - even if the Russian veto to the UN resolution impressively proves that some haven't learned anything from it thus far.