On July 11, 1995 the Bosnian Serb military, led by General Ratko Mladic initiated the worst atrocity on European land since World War II. The massacre that occurred in Srebrenica lasted three days and left 8,000 men and children murdered in its wake. The victims were targeted simply because they were Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims). The massacre has been referred to as “the triumph of evil” by the United Nations war crimes tribunal. Adding to the disbelief that humans can inflict this level of cruelty is the denial by Russia to allow the world to call this catastrophe a ‘genocide’.
During the Bosnian War, the displacement of 30,000 Bosniaks prompted the United Nations to designate a “safe area” in the small town of Srebrenica. When the massive Bosnian Serb military approached the town the 100 Dutch peacekeepers guarding the camp with little air support or reinforcements could do nothing but stand aside (Jones). Most of the refugees who had been in Srebrenica at this point continued their retreat, however some deemed it safe to remain in the camp because they believed they were protected by the United Nations. General Ratko Mladic enhanced this false sense of security when he offered safekeeping in exchange for all weapons held by refugees. The General told camp members that “Allah can’t help you, but Mladic can.” This turned out to be an empty promise used to disguise his true intentions – ethnic cleansing (PBS).
Upon the military’s arrival in Srebrenica, General Mladic’s men split apart all the men and boys as young as 10 years old from the women in town. The military loaded 60 truckloads full of males under the illusion that they would be reunited with their families at a later time (Jones). These Bosniaks were taken to execution locations where they were systematically bound, blindfold, and shot. Some of the victims were tortured or had to watch their sons be tortured and killed. Over the span of three days 8,000 men and boys were executed. This number does not include the large number of additional refugees who were hunted by the military after fleeing Srebrenica.
After the dust had settled Jean-Rene Reuz was tasked with gathering evidence for war crimes for the prosecution, when he came across one specific story the highlighted the high level of brutality used by General Mladic’s army. He read the testimony of a refugee woman and her baby son. When asked by a soldier why her son way crying, she responded that they baby was simply hungry. In reply the soldier said something that translates loosely to ‘he won’t be hungry anymore’ just before he slit the baby’s throat (Jones). This woman’s story about losing her child was just one of the many horrific events that occurred in Srebrenica in 1995. The international community’s denial of this event as a genocide greatly prohibits the community’s ability to heal and move on.
Despite all indications that these mass-killings were genocidal, Russia vetoed a western-backed UN resolution to globally acknowledge it as one. The fact that Russia took this stance suggests ulterior motives as opposed to theoretical (Nougayrede). Russia has historically been a close ally to Serbia and intends to preserve relations by sheltering the Serbs from global scrutiny. This helps maintain a division between Russia allies and NATO, which ultimately grants more influence from Russia’s current revitalized interest in the Balkans.
It is heartbreaking that these victims will lack the dignity owed to them by their oppressors, but that just does not match up with Russia’s secret agenda. What is even worse is that the United Nations truly dropped the ball on enforcing protection for this “safe area”. While General Ratko Mladic was brought to trial by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Mladic has yet to be charged due to his poor health. This genocide on Bosnian Muslims serves as a reminder to what happens when the international community fails the people it is responsible for protecting.
Jones, Graham. “Srebrenica: Worst European Atrocity since WWII.” CNN. Cable News Network, n.d. Web. 14 July 2015
Nougayrede, Natalie. “Russia Must Not Be Allowed to Rewrite Srebrenica’s History.” The Guardian. N.p., 10 July 2015. Web. 14 July 2015.
PBS. “Srebrenica: A Cry from the Grave.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 14 July 2015.