There was no genocide in Srebrenica, Serbia President Tolmislav Nikolic says, and he will not attend the annual commemoration for the victims.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 05/06/12
The Srebrenica genocide was the worst slaughter of civilians in Europe since World War II. Demonstrators gathered in Belgrade on April 6th. [Reuters]
Serbia President Tomislav Nikolic's public statements denying the genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 that killed 8,000 civilians is reviving tensions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the Balkans.
Nikolic, Serbia's nationalist president who took office on May 31st, made the statements last week in an interview broadcast on Montenegrin state television. He said that ''there was no genocide in Srebrenica'' and that war crimes were committed by some Serbs who, as he said, ''should be found, prosecuted and punished.'' He also said that he would not attend the annual commemoration of the Srebrenica massacre in July.
The killings were declared genocide by the International Court of Justice and the UN. Several Bosnian Serbs were convicted in war crimes court for their roles in the deaths.
EC President Jose Manuel Barroso plans to discuss Nikolic's statements with him when they meet, the EU announced on Monday (June 4th). "The European Union has a clear position and resolutely rejects any attempts at redrawing of history," Barroso's spokesman, Pia Arenkilde Hansen, told reporters.
Slobodan Popovic, vice president of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), said Nikolic is reopening old wounds and could complicate relations between Serbia and BiH.
"The International Court of Justice ruled that genocide happened in this place, and that's it,'' Popovic told SETimes. ''If Nikolic allowed himself to comment on the judgment of the highest court in the world then, it is not good. I think he said it because he wants to pick up political points in his country, because there the government has not yet formed. It is sad that Srebrenica is still used for political purposes."
Bakir Izetbegovic, the Bosniak member of the BiH presidency, said such declarations are insulting to the survivors.
"The denial of genocide in Srebrenica will not pave the way for co-operation and reconciliation in the region, but … may cause fresh misunderstandings and tensions," Izetbegovic told reporters.
Asim Mujkic, a political analyst and professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, said the declaration by Nikolic -- a former deputy prime minister of Yugoslavia under Slobodan Milosevic -- is to be expected.
"I think that his election to the president position will certainly follow the radicalisation of Serbia's attitude to BiH,'' Mujkic told SETimes. ''We all know who Tomislav Nikolic is, and it is nothing strange that such a man denies the biggest crime that occurred in Europe after World War II.''
The town of Srebrenica was declared as a ''safe zone'' by the international community in 1994. The Republika Srpska Army, led by General Ratko Mladic, killed about 8,000 Muslim men and boys after capturing the town in July 1995.
Mladic and the Bosnian Serbs' wartime political leader, Radovan Karadzic, are on trial in The Hague facing charges of, among other things, genocide for the killings.
Marko Helak, 34, of Banja Luka, said he supports Nikolic's position and added that Serbia has finally found the strength to be appropriately determined to BiH.
"Everybody can get angry on Nikolic's statements, but he just called things the real name. It is true that a terrible crime occurred in Srebrenica, but such crimes were happening all over Bosnia; the Serbs were killed with the same methods as the Bosniaks," Helak told SETimes.
Selma Izacic, 40, an economist from Sarajevo, said that Serbia showed its true face by electing Nikolic and that the conciliatory words about BiH by his predecessor, Boris Tadic, was a lie and a cover.
"I don't know how someone can dare to disturb the souls of those 8,000 killed people, and all because of politics. Nikolic should be ashamed, as our local politicians should be ashamed, if they don't say something about these outbursts concerning Srebrenica," Izacic told SETimes.