Bosnia and the region are far from achieving reconciliation, since there is still rampant denial of the crimes that were committed during the 1992-1995 war in the country by political and academic elites, analysts told N1 on Wednesday, a day ahead of the annual commemoration and burial of the newly identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide.
According to data by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), the International Court of Justice (ICTY), Bosnia’s State Court and courts in Serbia and Croatia have sentenced 47 people to more than 700 years in prison and handed down four life sentences, one of which is being appealed, for crimes against humanity and other crimes committed in Srebrenica in July 1995.
According to the head of the Post-Conflict Research Centre, Velma Saric, genocide denial is the final phase of committing it.
“We truly need a transgenerational change in order to face genocide denial. We need new young generations, and the experience of Germany shows that some 50 years are needed for a change to take place,” she said.
Saric and her organisation have been working on promoting reconciliation and lasting peace for years in the country.
Bosnia is “very far from the goal of reconciliation,” Saric said, arguing that this is because there is a lack of political will for it.
Until certain politicians admit that it happened, and until they attend the event commemorating the genocide, “we cannot speak of reconciliation,” she said.
“A big problem is that we cannot talk about genocide and war crimes in schools,” she said, adding that there are three narratives on it.
“There is the constant denial coming from the Government of Republika Srpska (RS, Bosnia’s Serb-majority semi-autonomous part), which recently formed a commission that will examine what the Hague-based tribunal, as well as local courts, have already proven,” she said, adding that it is nothing more than an attempt of “systematic denial.”
“That is very bad because that mysterious commission will begin creating a quasi-narrative or a false narrative in which people will begin believing,” she said.
“When you have an uneducated population which is hit with a bad economic situation, it begins to believe such a narrative and pass it on to coming generations,” she said.
According to Emir Suljagic, a politician and professor at the International University in Sarajevo who survived the massacre in Srebrenica when he was about 20 years old, a fitting response to genocide denial is a “production of knowledge” based on facts that were established by courts.
He named several reasons for why he believes the Serb political and academic elites deny the genocide.
“The rule is that the largest possible number of those involved in a crime then spread that denial and make the wall of silence stronger. And, according to publically available data, the number of those involved in the Srebrenica genocide is about 18.000,” he said.
“Facing Srebrenica, the crimes that were committed there in the name of the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995, means establishing or setting up a discontinuity in Serbian history,” he said, arguing that this is why the Serb academic and political elites need “Srebrenica to be portrayed as a heroic act.”