UN Srebrenica Resolution Sparks New Wave of Genocide Denial in Media

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The announcement of a UN debate on a resolution to condemn genocide denial in Srebrenica and declare July 11 as an international day of remembrance sparked widespread media coverage in the region, much of which denied the classification of the crime.

Photo: United Nations Photo/Flickr

On April 17, 2024, informal consultations were held at the United Nations regarding a draft resolution to declare July 11 as the international day of remembrance for genocide, as stated on the organization’s website. The meeting, convened by the permanent missions of Germany and Rwanda, also included representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, New Zealand, Slovenia, Turkey, and the United States. The resolution is slated for discussion at the UN General Assembly in early May.

On March 29, 2024, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic briefed the media about the anticipated adoption of the resolution. Following the announcement, some politicians from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, particularly from Republika Srpska, used this as an opportunity to deny the Srebrenica genocide (123) and claim that the resolution would lead to the ‘abolition of Republika Srpska’ and label the entire nation as genocidal (123).

The day following informal consultations on the draft resolution at the UN, the protest rally “Srpska te zove” (“(Republika) Srpska is calling you”) took place in Banja Luka, triggered by the impending adoption of the resolution. Organized by the municipal organization of families of deceased and missing civilians from Srebrenica and supported by major political parties in Republika Srpska (RS), speakers at the event openly denied the genocide and portrayed the resolution as an attempt to “abolish the RS” or brand the Serbs as a “genocidal nation.”

Numerous media outlets covered the statements made by these politicians, frequently reporting their interpretations of the resolution without questioning their accuracy. Additionally, some media platforms provided a voice to non-political individuals who echoed similar sentiments.

Claims of the ‘Abolition of RS’

Using direct and indirect claims that the resolution labels Serbs as ‘genocidal,’ the web portal Novosti published five articles concerning the resolution’s alleged objectives (12345). On March 7, 2024, one article alleged that the UN was secretly preparing a resolution concerning the ‘genocide in Srebrenica,’ aiming to ‘demonize’ and ultimately dismantle Republika Srpska.

The UN is secretly preparing a resolution on Srebrenica, “Novosti” finds out

The Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina, without the knowledge of the Presidency, is working on the text of the resolution, which will be presented in April.

The aim of the document is to demonize Republika Srpska in order to abolish it.

The article was shared by the web portal Info puls.

Subsequent articles on Novosti, dated April 123, and 15, 2024, suggested that the resolution was orchestrated by ‘Bosnian Muslims in collaboration with the West,’ portraying it as a campaign to brand Serbs as ‘genocidal and evil.’ These allegations were also disseminated by 11 other web portals.

On April 4, 2024, the Radio Television of Republika Srpska (RTRS) web portal published an article titled “What connects the Resolution on Srebrenica and Schmidt’s moves? (VIDEO).” The article alleges that preparations are underway for a resolution on Srebrenica, which purportedly aims to “impose the thesis that Republika Srpska is allegedly based on genocide,” potentially leading to its “abolition.” Additionally, it claims that actions by Christian Schmidt, the high representative of the international community in BiH, are targeted at “politically eliminating Republika Srpska’s President, Milorad Dodik.”

Another article from Sputnik, dated April 14, 2024, asserts that the resolution will “characterize the Serbs as a genocidal nation,” a claim that was echoed by three other web portals (123). Earlier articles from Sputnik, published on April 8 and April 2, 2024, described the resolution as a plan and intention to “satanize the Serbs.”

Similarly, in a statement by Zivadin Jovanovic, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Yugoslavia, the resolution was portrayed in a Russia Today Balkan article published on April 15, 2024. This article, which described the resolution similarly, was also shared across four other web portals (1234).

Additionally, another article on Russia Today Balkan published on April 10, 2024, titled “Natasa Kandic supported the resolution on Srebrenica,” claimed that the resolution “declares the Serbian people genocidal.” In this article, it is stated that Natasa Kandic, founder of the Fund for Humanitarian Law, “once again supported the anti-Serb resolution.” This piece was subsequently published on the web portal IN4S.

Selective Presentation of Sources

Claims that the adoption of a resolution would lead to “a nation being declared genocidal” and that its approval would result in the “abolition of the RS” were made by speakers in several media outlets. For example, on April 14, 2024, the Srna news agency’s web portal published an article quoting Drago Mastilovic, the director of the Institute of Historical Sciences at the University of East Sarajevo. Mastilovic stated that there were efforts to “label the Serbian people as genocidal at the UN” in the context of the potential resolution adoption. This article was also featured on five other web portals (12345).

The following day, April 15, 2024, the Sputnik web portal published an article highlighting accusations that the resolution seeks to “anathematize the people.” It quoted Bojan Solaja, identified as the director of the Center for International and Security Studies in Banja Luka.

The goal of Bosniak politicians is to anathematize the Serbs

It is a historical fact that a terrible crime was committed by individuals in Srebrenica, but an entire nation cannot be anathematized on that basis, Solaja says. According to him, the goal of Bosniak politicians is exactly that.

The article was also published on the web portal Iskra.

In addition to the interviewees who propagated claims of collective guilt in the resolution, the media also featured speakers who denied or downplayed the severity of the committed crimes, as well as the number of victims. For instance, on April 16, 2024, the web portal Politika published an article featuring statements from Efraim Zurof, described as “one of the world’s leading Holocaust experts.” Zurof stated:

Genocide did not take place in Srebrenica, but a war crime, said one of the world’s greatest experts on the Holocaust, Efraim Zurof, and pointed out that today, without any doubt, this term is misused for political purposes, but also that the UN General Assembly cannot determine what genocide is. “The original definition of the word genocide is an attempt to destroy an entire people, that’s not what happened in Srebrenica, what happened there is a war crime”, said Zurof, who is the director of the “Simon Wiesental” Center.

This statement was subsequently reproduced by 40 other web portals without any significant editorial changes.

A similar example is the statement of the director of the Institute for the Research of Serbian Suffering in the 20th Century, Milivoj Ivanisevic, found in an article published by Srna on April 15, 2024.

He emphasized that the facts that neither genocide nor “mega crime” took place in Srebrenica are eye-popping to anyone who wants to see them.

“Factual truths have been neglected for years, as Kosta Cavoski would say. When I start with the facts, I first point to that sign at the entrance to Potocari where eight thousand and something victims are listed. What no one mentions is that there are 14 municipalities. That it means that 300 to 400 people died in the municipality, so is it a mega crime?” Ivanisevic asked.

The article was published without significant changes on five other web portals (12345).

Numerous reports included citations from the findings of the Independent International Commission for the Investigation of the Suffering of All Peoples in the Srebrenica Region from 1992 to 1995, established by the Government of Republika Srpska. For example, on March 11, 2024, Srna published an article highlighting the perspectives of Israeli historian Gideon Greif, who led the Commission. According to the article, the Commission “concluded that neither an individual crime of genocide nor genocide in general took place in Srebrenica.”

The Independent International Commission to Investigate the Suffering of All Peoples in the Srebrenica Region from 1992 to 1995, headed by Greif, concluded that neither an individual crime of genocide nor genocide, in general, took place in Srebrenica.

Greif previously clarified the meaning of the term “genocide”, stating that it refers to “the intention of one group to completely destroy another nation”, and the Commission of 10 world experts concluded that the Serbs never had such a plan either in Srebrenica or in any other place.

This article was published on five other web portals (12345).

The Commission’s conclusions are also mentioned in the RTRS article, published on March 31, 2024, which quoted Branimir Kojic, president of the Assembly of the Republic Organization of Families of Captured and Killed Fighters and Missing Civilians. The conclusions are also mentioned in the article about the statements of Milorad Dodik, the President of the RS, regarding the Resolution, published by Srna on April 16, 2024. The article was then published on another web portal. Another mention appeared on April 17, 2024, in Srna’s coverage of statements by Marko Djuric, the Serbian Ambassador to the USA, with the same conclusions reported on the RTRS web portal without alterations.

Facts from the Courts

In its analysis published on July 6, 2023, as part of the prebunking series named “Rasvjetljavanje,” Raskrinkavanje provided an overview of the established facts about the events in Srebrenica in 1995.

In July 1995, more than 8,000 Bosniaks, mostly men and boys, were killed in the vicinity of Srebrenica after the Army of the Republika Srpska (VRS) took control of the town. In the publication “Chronology of Genocide” issued by the International Residual Mechanism for UN Criminal Courts, it was stated that the VRS took control of Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, in the operation codenamed “Krivaja 95”. The operation was carried out on the order of Radovan Karadzic, the then-president of Republika Srpska and supreme commander of the VRS. Evidence from the exhumations of the remains showed that most of the victims were killed in mass executions.

The crime in Srebrenica was classified as genocide by the International Criminal Court for the former Yugoslavia, the International Court of Justice, and the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

To date, 50 individuals have been sentenced for crimes committed in Srebrenica. Among the 20 judgments from the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia relating to these crimes, seven specifically include convictions for genocide.

What Does the UN Resolution Entail?

The text of the resolution declaring July 11 as an international day of remembrance has not yet been officially released. However, media outlets like Radio Free Europe and Voice of America report that the draft resolution “unequivocally condemns any denial of the Srebrenica genocide and any glorification of those convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, including those responsible for the genocide in Srebrenica.”

These sources also indicate that the resolution “calls on the member states of the United Nations to preserve established facts, including through their educational systems, by developing appropriate programs, in order to prevent revisionism and the occurrence of genocide in the future”.

The proposal also emphasizes “the importance of completing the process of searching for and identifying the remaining victims of the genocide in Srebrenica and enabling their dignified burial” and “calls for the continuation of the prosecution of the perpetrators of the genocide in Srebrenica”. The Secretary General of the UN is requested to “establish an informational program titled ‘Genocide in Srebrenica and the United Nations’”, in preparation for the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the genocide, as well as to draw attention to this resolution to all member states, organizations of the United Nations nations and organizations of civil society, with the aim of appropriate respect.”

Based on media reports of the draftUN resolution, it is clear that it does not assign collective guilt, that it condemns the denial of genocide and states the need to continue prosecuting the perpetrators of genocide, that is, the responsible individuals.

In 2015, media reports discussed accusations of collective guilt associated with a UN Security Council resolution that condemned the genocide in Srebrenica. This proposal was ultimately vetoed by Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who argued that “adopting the resolution would be counterproductive and would lead to additional tensions.”

Raskrinkavanje’s 2022 analysis of the resolution proposal highlighted that the draft does not use terms like “people” or “nation” in relation to Serbs or any other group. The draft resolution is primarily based on judicial decisions regarding the genocide in Srebrenica, focusing on the guilt of individuals rather than collective responsibility. This approach emphasizes accountability for specific war crimes and genocide without attributing guilt to entire populations.

“Independent commission”

In February 2019, the Government of RS appointed members to a commission tasked with “investigating the suffering of all communities in the Srebrenica region from 1992 to 1995.” The commission’s report was published in 2021 and was officially adopted by the National Assembly of the RS during a session on April 18, 2024.

On July 15, 2022, Raskrinkavanje analyzed media claims suggesting that the court in The Hague and international experts in the Commission confirmed that genocide was not committed in Srebrenica. In the analysis, we wrote about the fact that the Commission’s report is not internationally recognized and that it contains conclusions that contradict the conclusions of several judgments of the Hague Tribunal.

BIRN pointed out that the report claims a large number of Bosniaks killed in July 1995 in Srebrenica were soldiers, although the courts found that the majority of those killed were civilians. Additionally, the report contends that the total number of victims was 3,715, conflicting with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s findings that the death toll was between seven and eight thousand Bosnian Muslims.

We assess the claims denying the genocide in Srebrenica, as presented through media statements and the conclusions of the “independent international commission,” as manipulation of facts. These claims contradict established facts which confirm their inaccuracy. Furthermore, the assertions that the resolution for July 11 as a UN day of remembrance aims to impose collective guilt or dismantle Republika Srpska are unfounded and we assess them as a conspiracy theory.

(Author: Mladen Lakić, Raskrinkavanje.ba)