Tensions rise ahead of UN debate on Srebrenica resolution

Tensions rise ahead of UN debate on Srebrenica resolution
In July 1995, more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in Srebrenica by Serb troops and Serbian paramilitary groups. / OHR
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia May 19, 2024

The UN General Assembly will discuss a draft resolution on the Srebrenica genocide on May 23 with the final text with amendments proposed by Montenegro already being completed. 

In July 1995, more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed in Srebrenica by Serb troops and Serbian paramilitary groups. The resolution will declare July 11 the International Day of Remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide. 

The initiators of the proposed text were Germany and Rwanda, while Montenegro submitted amendments clarifying that the responsibility for the genocide is personal and not of all Serbs.

Despite that, the resolution is fiercely opposed by Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska and pro-Serbian politicians in Montenegro.

The draft resolution condemns actions that glorify those convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, including those responsible for the genocide in Srebrenica.

It also urges all states to fully comply with their obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and international customary law on the prevention and punishment of genocide, respecting the decisions of the International Court of Justice.

The preamble of the text states that "criminal responsibility under international law for the crime of genocide is individualised and cannot be attributed to any ethnic, religious, or other group or community as a whole" – one of the amendments submitted by Montenegro.

Serbia and Republika Srpska do not recognise the genocide, claiming that the number of victims was much lower and that it was an act by individual people. Russia and Hungary, close allies of Belgrade and Banja Luka, also strongly oppose the resolution.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi and Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjatro said in separate statements that the adoption of the resolution would destabilise the region.

Varhelyi said as quoted by N1 that “stigmatising the Serbian nation with collective guilt is not a viable choice” and that he “did not think that this contributes to get over the horrors of the Balkan wars”. 

Bosnia’s state-level Foreign Minister Elmedin Konakovic reacted strongly to Varhelyi’s statement, sending him an open letter on May 17, accusing him of joining the "shameful propaganda" of Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic.

“I expected from you a more responsible, serious, humane stance on the resolution on the Srebrenica genocide,” Konakovic wrote, according to N1.

He added that Varhelyi’s statement are in conflict with universal human values, moral norms, international law and UN conventions.

“The resolution is essentially aimed at building justice and lasting peace because that is what our region needs. It was written for the victims of the genocide because of the tragedy and horror they have endured, because of their right to that symbolic piece of belated justice. International courts have already convicted the perpetrators and those responsible for the genocide, awarding them a total of 1,500 years in prison,” Konakovic also wrote.

He added that challenging the right of victims of genocide to have their own memorial day was wrong and uncivilised.

“The thesis that the adoption of the resolution will destabilize the region can only be created by those who deny genocide, celebrate war criminals and may have similar intentions in the future. It is precisely because of these things that you should support this resolution, as European Commissioner, as European, as a man," Konakovic noted.

At the same time, Bosnia’s foreign ministry decided to cancel the implementation of an action plan on the transfer of knowledge on the process of accession to the EU between Bosnia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, which included the training of diplomats from Bosnia.

Montenegro proposes resolution on Jasenovac concentration camp

As part of their campaign against the resolution on Srebrenica, Vucic and Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska, claimed that Serbs were also victims of genocide at the Jasenovac concentration and extermination camp. The camp was created by the Croats during the World War II in occupied Yugoslavia.

The majority of victims in the Jasenovac camp were Serbs and, according to data of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, between 45,000 and 52,000 Serbs were murdered there.

In Montenegro, the pro-Serb members of the ruling coalition requested the parliament and the government to adopt a resolution on the genocide committed at the Jsenovac camp as compensation for the support to the UN resolution on Srebrenica.

43 out of 81 MPs from the ruling coalition signed the proposal on a resolution on the Jasenovac camp genocide on May 17. Croatia has sent a protest note against the proposed resolution.

The resolution proposes April 22 – the last day of the camp’s existence in 1945 when the last prisoners were murdered – to be declared a day of remembrance for the camp’s victims.