You speak powerfully about the problem of genocide denial. How do the Mothers of Srebrenica experience denial?
Denial is the final stage of genocide. Denial operates at all levels throughout the former Yugoslavia – politics, media, even the judicial system. Even after the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled that Srebrenica was a genocide, this is still denied by Serbia and the political representatives of the Serbs in Bosnia-Herzegovina today.
A key reason for the ongoing denial is that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) did not find Serbia guilty of committing the genocide in Srebrenica, only for failing to prevent it. This failure by the ICJ means that sanctions have not been imposed on those most responsible for Srebrenica. The least that the Court should have done is to make Serbia publicly acknowledge that it is responsible for the crimes committed, to apologise, to acknowledge its crimes for the record. This would have been easier for everyone, even more important than any material reparation. All this is absent.
My experience tells me that the denial of genocide is mostly political. We, the victims, feel the same pain regardless of who we are and our origins. A victim is a victim. Therefore, we, the victims of different nations, religions, and backgrounds can often find common ground. My association cooperates with organisations and individuals from different countries – even those who have different opinions about the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
How have the Mothers of Srebrenica challenged genocide denial?
We are fighting using the truth. The truth and nothing but the truth. For us, the truth means first coping with the fact that we are victims, we have lost our loved ones, and that we still have to survive in today’s world. It means knowing that those who are responsible for the crime of genocide are still out there.
We are fighting by actively pursuing justice. Our main task is to co-operate with the competent institutions to ensure that perpetrators are criminally prosecuted through the courts. We testify before all courts and monitor all judicial processes in Bosnia-Herzegovina, before the ICTY and abroad. Our struggle in the prosecution of war criminals is also our struggle to prevent genocide ever happening again.
We are fighting in the way we have organised our lives – with our companionship, common understanding and action. We are fighting through our support, education and care for young people so that this crime is never repeated. We build mutual understanding, friendships and ties with other victims. We want to keep the momentum – being constantly active is the best guarantee that we will succeed in our struggle.
How can we support the Mothers of Srebrenica in challenging genocide denial?
After the EU Parliament Resolution in 2009, some of the most important countries in the world have commemorated Srebrenica, but not Serbia.
If only there was a “good invisible hand” that could fulfil all wishes. Denial would disappear in minutes. Whatever makes many politicians in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina believe that crime can be state policy, that criminals are national heroes or that celebrating genocide can be patriotism, would disappear. The good invisible hand would ensure that politicians publicly and sincerely acknowledge the genocide and demand justice.
There may be no «good invisible hand», but every person in the world can help us – by taking up our cause, by telling the truth about what happened at Srebrenica, by calling for justice. Above all, we must always remember the victims.