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Bosnian genocide denial is an act of denying or asserting that the systematic Bosnian genocide against the Bosniak Muslim population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as planned and perpetrated in line with official and academic narratives defined and expressed by part of the Serb intelligentsia and academia, political and military establishment, did not occur, or at least it did not occur in the manner or to the extent that has been established by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) through its proceedings and judgments, and described by subsequent comprehensive scholarship.
These two aforementioned courts have only ruled differently with regard to direct responsibility in perpetrating acts of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ICJ, in a proceeding brought by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia and Montenegro, has only made rulings to the extent in which Serbia was not directly responsible for the perpetration of the crime of genocide, but was responsible under "customary international law" violating obligation to "prevent and punish the crime of genocide".
Nevertheless, in its 2007 judgment the ICJ adopted the ICTY’s conclusion from Radislav Krstić's conviction and concluded that what happened in and around Srebrenica from 13 July 1995 was done by the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) "with the specific intent to destroy in part the group of the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina as such", which constitute acts of genocide committed".
Main article: Bosnian genocide
By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity.
The Bosnian genocide is widely acknowledged by genocide scholars as the biggest war-crime perpetrated on European soil since World War II. The Bosnian genocide refers sometimes to the genocide in Srebrenica, perpetrated by Bosnian Serb forces in summer of 1995, or refers to the wider crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing campaign throughout areas controlled by the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) during the 1992–1995 Bosnian War.
The events in Srebrenica in 1995 included the killing of more than 8,000 Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) men and boys, as well as the mass expulsion of another 25,000–30,000 Bosniak civilians, in and around the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, committed by units of the VRS under the command of General Ratko Mladić.
The ethnic cleansing campaign took place throughout the areas controlled by the Bosnian Serb forces, and targeted Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats. This campaign included extermination, unlawful confinement, mass rape, sexual assault, torture, plunder and destruction of private and public property, inhumane treatment of civilians; the targeting of political leaders, intellectuals, and professionals; the unlawful deportation and transfer of civilians; it also included the unlawful shelling of civilians, the unlawful appropriation and plunder of real and personal property, the destruction of homes and businesses, and systemic destruction of places of worship.
Besides ICTY and ICJ, other international bodies, such as the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations General Assembly, have also passed resolutions acknowledging that genocide occurred in Bosnia. Similarly, the 2005 resolutions of the United States Congress and Senate, declared that "the Serbian policies of aggression and ethnic cleansing meet the terms defining genocide". Also, three convictions for genocide have been reached in courts in Germany, where the convictions were based upon a much wider interpretation of genocide than that used by international courts.
See also: Srebrenica massacre § Denial
The origins of denial lie with a small group of Serbian nationalists, supported by part of the Serb political and media establishment. The post war situation generated a stance within Serb culture that Serbs were the aggrieved side and that certain historical events had curtailed national goals. Sonja Biserko, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia at the time, drew parallels with other examples of negationist historical revisionism and denialism, such as Armenian and Rwandan genocide denial. According to Biserko, the methods range from the "brutal to the deceitful". She noticed that denial, particularly in Serbia, is present most strongly in political discourse, in the media, in the sphere of law, and in the educational system. Investigating "culture of denial in Serbia", Biserko and the University of Sarajevo's criminology professor Edina Bećirević have pointed to this denialism in Serbian society as a "culture of denial", stating in their examination that: "Denial of the Srebrenica genocide takes many forms in Serbia".
See also: Propaganda during the Yugoslav Wars
During the Bosnian war, Slobodan Milošević had effective control of most Serbian media. Following the end of the war, denialism continued to be widespread among Serbians. Revisionism ranges from challenging the judicial recognition of the killings as an act of genocide to the denial of a massacre having taken place, and uses a variety of methods. The finding of genocide by the ICJ and the ICTY has been disputed on evidential and theoretical grounds. The number of the dead has been questioned, as has the nature of their deaths. It has been alleged that considerably fewer than 8,000 were killed and/or that most of those killed died in battle rather than by execution. It has been claimed that the interpretation of "genocide" is refuted by the survival of the women and children.
From approximately 1 August 1995 to 1 November 1995, there was an organized effort, on behalf of the military and political leadership of Republika Srpska, to remove bodies from primary mass gravesites and transport them to secondary and tertiary ones. The reburial was done crudely, using heavy mechanized vehicles such as trenchers and baggers. In the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia court case "Prosecutor v. Blagojević and Jokić", the trial chamber found that this reburial effort was an attempt to conceal evidence of the mass murders. The trial chamber found that the cover up operation was ordered by the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) Main Staff and subsequently carried out by members of the Bratunac and Zvornik Brigades.
The cover-up operation, undertaken in such a crude manner, has had a direct impact on the recovery and identification of the remains. The removal and reburial of the bodies have caused them to become dismembered with parts of different individuals interspersed, making it difficult for forensic investigators to positively identify the remains. For example, in one specific case, the remains of one person were found in two different locations, 30 km apart. In addition to the ligatures and blindfolds found at the mass graves, the effort to hide the bodies has been seen as evidence of the organised nature of the massacres and the non-combatant status of the victims, since if the victims had died in normal combat operations, there would be no need to hide their remains.
Main article: Report about Case Srebrenica
In September 2002, the Republika Srpska government commissioned the "Report about Case Srebrenica. The document, authored by Darko Trifunović, was endorsed by many leading Bosnian Serb politicians. It purported that 1,800 Bosnian Muslim soldiers died during fighting and a further 100 more died as a result of exhaustion. "The number of Muslim soldiers killed by Bosnian Serbs out of personal revenge or lack of knowledge of international law is probably about 100...It is important to uncover the names of the perpetrators in order to accurately and unequivocally establish whether or not these were isolated instances". The report also makes allegations regarding the examinations of the mass graves, purporting that they were made for hygiene reasons, question the legitimacy of the missing person lists and undermine a key witness' mental health and military history. The International Crisis Group and the United Nations condemned the manipulation of their statements in this report, and Humanitarian Law Center thoroughly deconstructed all the reports published by all Republika Srpska commissions, starting with this one whose methods and manipulations were described in their report from February 2019. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia described the report as "one of the worst examples of revisionism in relation to the mass executions of Bosnian Muslims committed in Srebrenica in July 1995". Outrage and condemnation by a wide variety of Balkan and international figures eventually forced the Republika Srpska to disown the report.
On 7 March 2003, the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina issued a decision which ordered the Republika Srpska, among other things, to conduct a full investigation into the Srebrenica July 1995 events, and disclose the results at the latest on 7 September 2003. The Chamber had no coercive power to implement the decision, especially because it ceased to exist in late 2003. The Republika Srpska then published two reports, on 3 June 2003 and 5 September 2003, which the Human Rights Chamber concluded did not fulfill the obligations of the Republika Srpska. On 15 October 2003, The High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, lamented that "getting the truth from the [Bosnian Serb] government is like extracting rotten teeth".
The Srebrenica commission, officially titled the Commission for Investigation of the Events in and around Srebrenica between 10 and 19 July 1995, was established in December 2003, and submitted its final report on 4 June 2004, and then an addendum on 15 October 2004 after delayed information was supplied. The report acknowledged that at least 7,000 men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces, citing a provisional figure of 7,800.
In the report, because of "limited time" and to "maximize resources", the commission "accepted the historical background and the facts stated in the second-instance judgment 'Prosecutor vs. Radislav Krstić', when the ICTY convicted the accused for 'assisting and supporting genocide' committed in Srebrenica".
The findings of the commission remains generally disputed by Serb nationalists, who claim that commission was heavily pressured by the High Representative, given that an earlier RS government report which exonerated the Serbs was dismissed.
Nevertheless, Dragan Čavić, the president of Republika Srpska at the time, acknowledged in a televised address that Serb forces killed several thousand civilians in violation of the international law, and asserted that Srebrenica was a dark chapter in Serb history, and on 10 November 2004, the government of Republika Srpska finally issued an official apology.
On 21 April 2010, the government of Republika Srpska under Milorad Dodik, at the time the prime minister, initiated a revision of the 2004 report saying that the numbers of killed were exaggerated and the report was manipulated by a former peace envoy. The Office of the High Representative responded by saying: "The Republika Srpska government should reconsider its conclusions and align itself with the facts and legal requirements and act accordingly, rather than inflicting emotional distress on the survivors, torture history and denigrate the public image of the country".
On 12 July 2010, at the 15th anniversary of the massacre, Milorad Dodik said that he acknowledged the killings that happened on the site, but denied that what happened at Srebrenica was genocide. In 2021 Dodik continued to claim that there had been no genocide and asserted on Bosnian Serb TV that coffins in the memorial cemetery were empty, with only names.
On 14. August 2018 the People's Assembly of Republika Srpska dismissed the 2004 report and decided for a new commission to be assembled to revise report surrounding events in Srebrenica and area around the town in July 1995. Initiated by Milorad Dodik, then the entity president, and his Alliance of Independent Social Democrats party (SNSD), the move is immediately criticized by international community.
Humanitarian Law Center, in their report signed by 31 high-profile signatories, described this new development as "the culmination of more than a decade of genocide denial and historical revisionism by the SNSD government in the Republika Srpska", adding that the HLC regard this newest initiative to be "illegitimate overall", and that it "represents a flawed response to a legitimate need". The United States State Department issued a communiqué in which they criticized move by Republika Srpska entity officials and institutions, describing it as "(a)ttempts to reject or amend the report on Srebrenica are part of wider efforts to revise the facts of the past war, to deny history, and to politicize tragedy".
Serb 1990s policies in the Yugoslav Wars and its foremost protagonists have been whitewashed and justified by some "anti-war" and "anti-imperialist" public intellectuals and authors abroad, mostly on the "left" side of the ideological spectrum, but also "liberatarian" right-wing, while Serbian late president Milošević is still admired in various circles. This apologia often morphs into attempt to whitewash war crimes perpetrated by Serbian security, military and paramilitary forces, and denial of the nature and extent of these crimes, using variety of revisionist and denialist narratives surroundings break-up of Yugoslavia, often implying a Western conspiracy against Yugoslavia and the Serbs, which culminated with the NATO interventions against Serbia and the Republika Srpska.
Revisionists mainly identifying with the "far-left" of the ideological and political spectrum, such as Michael Parenti, Economist Edward S. Herman, David Peterson, Jared Israel, Tariq Ali, the British journalist Mick Hume, Diana Johnstone, and John Robles of Voice of Russia engaged in revisionism and denial of the Bosnian genocide and its various aspects, while blaming the West, the NATO, Croats, Bosniaks, and Albanians for the Serbians and their forces’ actions, absolving the latter of any responsibility of the atrocities committed.
Herman and Hume alleged a discrepancy of over 8,000 victims between the official number of victims and the number of bodies they "found" and doubted the explanation of the events, while ignoring delays in the locating of mass graves and identification of bodies by DNA analysis. Herman and Peterson engaged in revisionism and denial, in several articles, such as "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre", written by Herman, or "The Srebrenica Massacre was a Gigantic Political Fraud", by Herman and Robles, while repeating claims about political motives by western governments and NATO conspirators from Herman and Peterson book Politics of Genocide, authors, concentrating on the Srebrenica massacre, state that Serbs at Srebrenica were actually "killing Bosnian-Muslim soldiers" and, even, that happened in response to the "killing of over 2,000 Serb civilians, mostly women and children, at the location by Bosnian-Muslim army", and that the numbers of executed Bosnian-Muslim soldiers "were probably in the order of between 500 and 1,000 (...) (i)n other words, less than half of the number of Serb civilians killed before July, 1995". For these claims they[who?] rely on information provided by another writer, Diana Johnstone, who had never set foot in Bosnia. In Politics of Genocide, Herman and Peterson claim that the Serbs only killed men of military age at Srebrenica.
This view is not supported by the findings of the ICJ or the ICTY. What Johnstone, Herman, Peterson, Robles and others omit, but ICTY findings clearly describes, especially in trial judgments of Naser Orić and Radislav Krstić, is that villages surrounding Srebrenica, where alleged killings of Serb women and children, according to this group of revisionists, took place, were in most cases actually Bosnian Muslim villages from where their original inhabitants (Bosnian Muslims) escaped or were driven out by the Bosnian Serb military offensive with subsequent occupation and establishment of the frontlines, and where Bosnian Serb civilians rarely entered. Meanwhile, villages surrounding Srebrenica, which in fact belonged to Serb population, were heavily fortified and militarized, with villages like Kravica being used to store caches of weapons and ammunition, and from which Serbs launched attacks on Bosnian Muslim villages, as well as on the town of Srebrenica itself.
Living Marxism was a British magazine launched in 1988 as the journal of the British Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). It was later rebranded as LM but ceased publication in March 2000 after it lost a libel lawsuit brought by ITN, a British television company.
In the first issue as LM, editor Mick Hume published an article by journalist Thomas Deichmann, which claimed that ITN had deliberately misrepresented the Bosnian war in its 1992 coverage, specifically coverage of Serb-run concentration camps at Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje.
The article "The picture that fooled the world" argued that the report by UK journalists Ed Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, was faked. These ITN reports had followed initial reports on camps (from Bratunac to Prijedor) by Maggie O'Kane and Roy Gutman, which had revealed Serb-run prison camps in Bosanska Krajina in north-western Bosnia. In August 1992 Vulliamy and O'Kane had gained access to the Omarska and Trnopolje camps. Their accounts of the conditions of the prisoners were recorded for the documentary Omarska's survivors: Bosnia 1992. Discovery of the camps was credited with contributing to the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.
Deichmann claimed in his article, published by LM in February 1997, that the ITN footage, created in front of Trnopolje concentration camp, featuring a group of emaciated Bosnian Muslim men prisoners, including Fikret Alić, standing behind a barbed wire fence, was deliberately staged to portray a Nazi-style extermination camp. The article further claimed that the ITN reporters, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, had actually stood inside a compound surrounded by a barbed wire fence and from there filmed their report. The article alleged that the camp: "was not a prison, and certainly not a 'concentration camp', but a collection centre for refugees, many of whom went there seeking safety and could leave again if they wished".
In 1998, the publishers of LM, Informinc (LM) Ltd., were sued for libel by ITN. The case initially caused widespread condemnation of ITN. Among those who supported LM was journalist John Simpson, who in April 2012 publicly apologized for questioning ITN's reporting on the camps and for supporting the magazine.
The journalist George Monbiot, wrote in Prospect magazine that, what he described as "some of the world's leading liberals", including Harold Evans, Doris Lessing, Paul Theroux, Fay Weldon had jumped to the magazine's defense, while others had condemned ITN's "deplorable attack on press freedom". He added: "The Institute of Contemporary Arts, bulwark of progressive liberalism, enhanced LM's heroic profile by co-hosting a three-day conference with the magazine, called "Free Speech Wars". With the blessing of the liberal world, this puny iconoclastic David will go to war with the clanking orthodoxies of the multinational Goliath". Monbiot further argued that LM wished its struggle to be seen as a struggle for liberal values, but that this cause was less liberal than LM's supporters wanted to believe. Monbiot concluded that LM had less in common with the left than with the fanatical right.
The libel case was decided against LM and in March 2000 the magazine was forced to close. Reporters Penny Marshall and Ian Williams were each awarded £150,000 over the LM story and the magazine was ordered to pay £75,000 for libeling ITN in a February 1997 article. In an interview with The Times, on question "would (he) do it again", Hume commented that they could have got out of the case by apologising but that he believes in "freedom to state what you understand to be true, even if it causes offence", and that he would do anything to avoid similar proceedings in court ever again, but that "some things really are more important than a mortgage".
David Campbell summarised his study of the case as follows:
The LM defendants and Thomas Deichmann were properly represented at the trial and were able to lay out all the details of their claim that the ITN reporters had "deliberately misrepresented" the situation at Trnopolje. Having charged 'deliberate misrepresentation', they needed to prove 'deliberate misrepresentation'. To this end, the LM defendants were able to cross-examine Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, as well as every member of the ITN crews who were at the camps, along with other witnesses. (That they didn't take up the opportunity to cross-examine the Bosnian doctor imprisoned at Trnopolje, who featured in the ITN stories and was called to testify on the conditions he and others suffered, was perhaps the moment any remaining shred of credibility for LM's allegations evaporated). They were able to show the ITN reports to the court, including the rushes from which the final TV stories were edited, and conduct a forensic examination of the visuals they alleged were deceitful. And all of this took place in front of a jury of twelve citizens who they needed to convince about the truthfulness of their allegations.
They failed. The jury found unanimously against LM and awarded the maximum possible damages. So it was not ITN that bankrupted LM. It was LM's lies about the ITN reports that bankrupted themselves, morally and financially.
—David Campbell, Visiting Professor in the Northern Centre of Photography at Sunderland University in the UK
On 8 July 2015, Russia vetoed a UK-drafted resolution at the Security Council which would have declared that the Srebrenica massacre was genocide on the 20th anniversary of the said crime. Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin claimed the resolution was "not constructive, confrontational and politically motivated". Russia was the only country at the Council that objected to the resolution.
High-ranking Serbian officials have claimed that no genocide of Bosniak Muslims took place at all:
It is unconscionable and reprehensible for anyone to tell Adisada that the horrors to which her fellow Bosnian Muslims - including quite possibly members of her own family - were subjected at Srebrenica did not constitute a genocide (...)
Menachem Z. Rosensaft publicly confronted the Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi-hunter and Director for Eastern European Affairs, Israeli Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff, (who does not deny the killings, but who claims they did not constitute genocide) arguing that for Zuroff to be able to condemn the perpetrators and mourn victims of the genocide Jewish people suffered during the World War II, he has to condemn the perpetrators and mourn the victims of all other acts of genocide, including the genocide in Srebrenica. He also responded in writing to denialists' arguments, particularly underlining those made by Steven T. Katz, William Schabas, and the aforementioned Efraim Zuroff, in an essay titled "Ratko Mladić’s Genocide Conviction, and Why it Matters", published by Tablet Magazine on the day Ratko Mladić was found guilty of "genocide, extermination, murder, and other crimes against humanity and war crimes" at the ICTY, and sentenced to life imprisonment.
To one of the denialists' arguments - number, intent, and the combination of these depending on occasion and context, Rosensaft pointed out that the ICTY's Krstić Appeals Chamber "unequivocally held that the number of victims was not a determinative factor in concluding whether or not a genocide had occurred", and affirmed the Trial Chamber's conclusion that "the Srebrenica massacre was indeed a genocide because it was an essential element of the intent to destroy the Muslim population of Eastern Bosnia as a whole". Rosensaft noted an assertion by the late Nehemiah Robinson, the Director of the Institute of Jewish Affairs of the World Jewish Congress, and a leading authority on the UN Genocide Convention, who said that the term genocide "applies even if victims constitute only part of a group either within a country or within a region or within a single community, provided the number is substantial ... it will be up to the courts to decide in each case whether the number was sufficiently large". To this, Rosenssaft added that "the courts have spoken clearly and unambiguously".
Salman Rushdie, in a Globe and Mail article, of 7 May 1999, described Handke's apologias for Serbian Milošević's regime and denial of genocide, as idiocy.
After Handke's play "Voyage by Dugout" was staged, Susan Sontag declared him "finished" in New York. Other noted reactions included Alain Finkielkraut saying that Handke became "an ideological monster", while for Slavoj Žižek Handke's "glorification of the Serbs is cynicism".
The Bosnian-American novelist and lecturer of creative writing at Princeton University, Aleksandar Hemon, joined in an international outcry, denouncing the Nobel Committee's decision to award Handke a Nobel Prize in literature, in a piece in The New York Times for their Opinion column, published in print and online in October 15 issue, calling Handke the "Bob Dylan of (g)enocide (a)pologists", while the Berlin-based Serbian novelist, Bora Ćosić, denounced Handke:
This writer, the Austrian, has his very personal style. The very worst crimes get mentioned rather sweetly. And so the reader completely forgets that we're dealing with crimes. The Austrian writer who visited my country found only very proud people there. They proudly put up with everything that happened to them, so much so that in their pride they didn't bother to ask why all this was happening to them.
While coming to Handke's defense, German novelist Martin Walser described the mood surrounding Handke, in relation to his opinions and attitude toward Bosnian Muslims' plight, explaining that Handke "is just being completely dismissed, in every respect morally, politically and professionally" and that all is "part of the war mood which I find a bit frightening".
Serbian historians debates.
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a lobbying group set up to deny the Srebrenica massacre
Genocid je pokušaj totalnog brisanja jedne nacije, dakle holokaust i Ruanda jesu bili genocid. Darfur nije jasan. U BiH nije bilo genocida
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In the battle for the hotly contested title of International Moron of the Year, two heavyweight contenders stand out. One is the Austrian writer Peter Handke, who has astonished even his work’s most fervent admirers by a series of impassioned apologias for the genocidal regime of Slobodan Milosevic, and who, during a recent visit to Belgrade, received the Order of The Serbian Knight for his propaganda services. Mr. Handke’s previous idiocies include the suggestion that Sarajevo’s Muslims regularly massacred themselves and then blamed the Serbs, and his denial of the genocide carried out by Serbs at Srebrenica. Now he likens the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s aerial bombardment to the alien invasion in the movie Mars Attacks! And then, foolishly mixing his metaphors, he compares the Serbs’ sufferings to the Holocaust.
Perhaps the esteemed Nobel Committee is so invested in the preservation of Western civilization that to it a page of Mr. Handke is worth a thousand Muslim lives. Or it could be that in the rarefied chambers in Stockholm, Mr. Handke’s anxious goalie is far more real than a woman from Srebrenica whose family was eradicated in the massacre. The choice of Mr. Handke implies a concept of literature safe from the infelicities of history and actualities of human life and death. War and genocide, Milosevic and Srebrenica, the value of the writer’s words and actions at this moment in history, might be of interest to the unsophisticated plebs once subjected to murder and displacement, but not to those who can appreciate “linguistic ingenuity” that “has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience". For them, genocide comes and goes, but literature is forever.