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"Seven question and one answer: Yes - Never again"

dr Zlatko Lagumdžija

Hague Conference; June 28 - July 1, 2015

"Seven question and one answer: Yes - Never again"


Three days closed sessions Hague Conference "International Decision Making in the Age of Genocide: Srebrenica 1993-1995" organized by "US Holocaust Memorial Museum" and "The Hague Institute for Global Justice" with participation of almost 50 key decision makers of that time, survivors and experts, ended with public panel "International Decision making and the Srebrenica Genocide".

July 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of killings of around 8,000 Bosnian Muslims trapped in the United Nations "safe area" of Srebrenica. Termed a "genocide" by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, the Srebrenica massacre was the worst atrocity against civilians in Europe since the end of World War II.

On 1 July 2015, The Hague Institute and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum hosted a public panel on "International Decision Making and the Srebrenica Genocide". The panel featured key policymakers and officials who discussed and reflected on the lessons-learned from the role of the international community in events leading up to the July 1995 massacre.

Issues addressed during the panel included the establishment of UN "safe areas", the UN mandate, the Dutch peacekeeping mission, and the role of the media.

After welcoming remarks of Dr Abiodun Williams, President, The Hague Institute, David Rohde, moderated Panel in which I participated as a deputy Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina 1992-1994 together with Mr. Yasushi Akashi, UN Secretary-General Special Representative in former Yugoslavia, 1993-1997; Dr. Joris Voorhoeve, Minister of Defense of the Netherlands 1994-1998; General Rupert Smith, UNPROFOR commander in Bosnia 1995, Assistant Chief of Defense Operations 1992-1994; Mr. Carl Bildt, European Union Special Envoy to former Yugoslavia 1995; Mr. Muhamed Duraković, Srebrenica survivor who worked with international aid organizations inside the Srebrenica enclave during the war.

In closing remarks I posted 7 questions that motivated me to be participant in this event. I got and gave one clear answer.

Srebrenica genocide, the last crime of that scale, at the end of 20th century in Europe, was the final battlefield not of clashes between Civilizations but the war against Civilization.

Civilization was, and hope still is, defined through the concept of Shared Societies and Values on one side and Segregated, Exclusive, greed driven society on another.

First question, was it possible to protect victims or even to prevent crimes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and ultimately in Srebrenica?

Second, do we know not only who is guilty, but who is responsible for massacres, because of not protecting victims, and at least who could be circumstantially named for end result?

Third, regardless of heroic presence of individuals and organizations in saving human lifes can we qualify overall behavior of International community and its stakeholders as a " Bankruptcy" in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as in Srebrenica, because of failures and mismanagement of certain processes?

Fourth, was it legally clear and necessary to military strike perpetuators on time, based on UN Secretary Council Resolution 819 and 836 from first half of 1993, and was it the case that resolutions were politically practically suspended on a ground regardless of clear legal responsibility of UN to protect victims?

Fifth, regardless of the failure of International community in this respect, did we need "safe areas" and "rapid reaction forces" to be implemented as an alternative for inefficiencies of peace keeping missions?

Sixth, do we have enough elements, experience and expertise for creating new paradigm and tools for Responsibility to Protect as well as to redefine notion of neutrality - being neutral is where values of our civilization are, and not being where geometrical middle in between innocent victims and brutal butchers is?

Seventh, final question so far, were the Bosnian war crimes, which culminated in Srebrenica, part of comprehensive vision and strategy that was planed and brutally executed in contract to the theories that this was simple 4M Model of crime - Mad Man Milošević and Mladić did it on their own under certain circumstances that just happened out of blue?

After three days Conference, having for the first time some of unclassified documents from that time, listening and interacting with some key decision makers, survivors and experts, I can clearly give a simplest and valid answers for all these seven questions.

Yes. Seven times - yes!

And - Never again!

For the sake of historical truth, as a precondition for justice and reconciliation, I will briefly elaborate only last question and answer: Srebrenica was just a final stage of strategically planed project of segregated exclusive society based on ethnic cleansing. That could of being envisioned and stopped back in 1992. By only possible means that were used first and only time in late August, and early September, 1995. By military force.

These days we are witnessing, discovering and opening of the mass graves in Prijedor area. Tomašica and Jakarina Kosa, just to name few as a symbol, are discovered and there were about 400 identified victims in first and about 700 in second scene of crime.

June 1992, all non Serbs, mainly Bosniac, were first forced to wear white ribbon around their arm, in order to be clearly identified in every occasion as being "different".

Some weeks later they ended in mass graves out of witch some of them we are identifying today.

World was watching it and preparing for "humanitarian" peace keeping mission. No one stopped and punished war criminals.

Omarska and Keraterm Concentrations Camps were discovered by brave journalist in the same area and World was shocked with pictures that looked like color reprints from World War II time.

No one stopped and punished war criminals.

January 1993, Hakija Turajlić, acting Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina Government, was brutally executed in UNPROFOR armed protection car while going to Sarajevo airport to deal with humanitarian aid and being "protected" by French solders under UN flag.

No one stopped and punished war criminals.  

March 1993, General Morion declared besieged Srebrenica to be "under the protection of UN". About that time Karadžić accepted and then refused Vance-Owen peace plan which was after long internal debate accepted by Bosnia and Herzegovina Government. Despite being promised that arms embargo will be lifted to Bosnian Government in order to defend the country and people, if Karadžić refuses the plane, it did not happened. Milošević, Mladić and Karadžić (MMK) Troika very clearly read the message by International community: Do not worry - be happy, International community will not stop you by force as threatened if you do not follow international obligations!

April 16, 1993 acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, UN Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 819, calling of warring parties to treat Srebrenica as "a safe area..free from any armed attack".

Week later UNSC delegation led by Venezuelan Ambassador Diego Arria visits Srebrenica calling it and warring publicly that this is "Slow Motion Genocide".                      

May 6, 1993 UNSC adopted Resolution 824 recalling Sarajevo, Tuzla, Žepa, Goražde and Bihać as a safe areas in addition to Srebrenica. France, Russia, Spain, UK and US adopts "Joint Action Program" supporting "safe areas" in Bosnia. International community expected that MMK Troika got the message about finally being serious.

May 22, 1993 international negotiator David Owen named safe area concept "complete madness" and a "Muslim ploy to drag us in to conflict". MMK Troika red all that as a clear message that they can continue with their plan. Heavy shelling of Sarajevo center of the city only that day killed 3 civilians and dozens were heavily wounded. I was lucky not being among killed but wounded one. 12 months and 12 heavy surgeries later, I was back to among survivors to my Sarajevo working days.

June 4, 1993 UNSC adopts Resolution 836 extending mandate of UNPROFOR "to deter attacks against the safe areas". Resolution calls for withdrawal of military units" other than those of Bosnian Government". Few days later NATO agreed to be providing air support to UNPROFOR to enforce safe area regime.

Legal ground and military force was ready to punish anyone who continues with attacking civilians in safe areas: from Srebrenica and Tuzla, over Žepa and Goražde, to Sarajevo and Bihać.

February 5, 1994 Markale xafs place shelling in Sarajevo, killed 68 people. International community force stayed calm. MMK Troika read the message: To be continued.

During 1994 MMK Troika Armed forces kept attacking safe areas, from Goražde to Bihać, and taking hundreds of UN personal in different occasions as a hostages.

May 24, 1995 General Janvier urges UN to consider withdrawing from safe areas. MMK Troika read the message their way.

May 25, 1995, later at night, shrapnel shell fired by Mladić army killed 71 and wounded 240 civilians, majority of them were between ages of 18-25, in a Tuzla main square. Shelling of Tuzla region kept going on for 3 days.

May 25-26, 1995 NATO carries out air strikes against Mladić Army ammunition dump in response to violations of Sarajevo weapons exclusion zone. Mladić Army, besides Tuzla massacre, responding by shelling safe areas and taking nearly 400 UNPROFOR personal as hostages to deter further air strikers.

Next three steps, on May 29, June 4 and June 9, 1995, MMK Troika read the same way as usual: To be continued.

May 29, 1995 UN Secretary General approved new guideline for use of air power, striping general Smith of authority to approve close air support, while saying that "execution of the mandate is secondary to the security of UN personal".

June 4, 1995 generals Janvier and Mladić holds secret meeting in Zvornik on hostage crises when Janvier agreed to drop threat of air strikes in return for release of hostages. That way UN Resolutions 819 and 836 were actually illegally suspended on the ground.

June 9, 1995 Akashi announce that UN will abide by "strictly peace keeping principles" while warning that UNPROFOR should not cross the "Mogadishu line". UN hostages got released.

MMK Troika again read this in the same way they were used to be treating international community: A weak player who is leaving, again and again, opened door to finish their job started in 1992 by marking "different" people with white ribbons around their arms.

No one did and no one will stop and punish war criminals. To be continued.     

July 1995 "Slow Motion Genocide" came to an end by organized killing around 8000 captured Bosniacs at several different locations. It was happening in front of the eyes of the whole World and full documentation about it is there. Regardless of everything, this short lists of events, clearly showing that every normal person had right to be surprised and shocked with what happened. But at the same time this clearly shows that MMK Troika knew, from the very beginning to an end, what they were planning, managing and executing.

During that project surely they were not always alone and not being the only one who knew what was going on.  

August 30 until the mid September, 1995 General Smith was approved to give an order to execute "Operation Deliberate Force", an air campaign conducted by 400 NATO airplanes in concert with UNPROFOR ground operations related to "safe areas".

What should of being morally and politically done from 1992, what had to be legally done since mid 1993 and then any time 1994 and 1995, before Srebrenica - was done after Srebrenica.

MMK Troika understood and read the message: (finally) Big gays said "enough is enough".

September 15, 1995 Mladić agree to withdrawal of heavy weapons from around Sarajevo.

November 1, 1995 Dayton peace talks began.

After Dayton Peace Agreement being signed  not one single international soldier was killed, wounded or even humiliated as part of any combat activities.

After August - September, 1995 bombing, MMK Troika understood what they would understand any time if it happened before.

Final conclusions for key stakeholders in this events?

Former American Secretary of Defense during Vietnam times, and later director of World Bank, Robert McNamara wrote that when he had analyzed his decisions one by one, there were all right ones - but the final result was wrong one.

For Bosnian war which consequently led to Srebrenica Genocide we can not apply same principle.

When we analyze certain decisions, one by one, lots of them were simply wrong ones, and final result was consequently the worst one.

One of the key organizers and experts of Hague Conference positively quoted Karl Marx which was, for me, one of few surprises in a three days event.

In this context I paraphrased the same Marx. Since now it is all known about Srebrenica our role in this event was no more to explain the World but to help to create one that is in front of us.

After Srebrenica we have chance to finally say "Never again".        

For over five hundred years in Bosnia and Herzegovina under Otoman empire, and with their religions and ethnical differences, people lived in Shared Societies, united in diversities, under those historical circumstances. Right for life, freedom, prosperity, religion and dignity was guaranteed by laws of that time.

Than for over century they lived together under two kingdoms: Austro Hungarian and Yugoslav, under fascist regime and finally in Tito's communist system. 

They keep being together.

Then democracy came. Berlin Wall failed down. Those "bricks failed" in Sarajevo. Nationalistic forces of segregated, exclusive and divided societies decided by all means, including terror, war crimes and genocide, to prove that we can not live in Shared Societies with democracy and European values.

Bosnia and Herzegovina went through the worst times of our recent history and survived despite small odds given to it.

Pope Francis recent visit to Sarajevo, which he named European Jerusalem, was another proof and support to differences being united.

If we all don't learn the lessons of importance of Shared Societies and Values wining over Segregated Societies then Europe may get future that we don't wish to anyone.

In that case we could have General Janviers and special representatives Akashis running humanitarian peace keeping missions in different parts of Europe including surrounding of International Court of Justice in Hague.

To be continued?

"Never again!"   


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