Saturday, 24 July 2010

Srebrenica Genocide Day: A Black Spot on Human Conscience

Srebrenica Genocide Day
A Black Spot on Human Conscience

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The world simply looked away on 11 July, 1995, when the Bosnian Serb forces and Serb paramilitary unit known as “the Scorpions” executed between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys in the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, even though the UN had declared it a “safe area”. This was the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II which will remain as a black spot in the human conscience for eternity. Those war criminals that commanded and executed the Genocide in Bosnia are still at large. The excuses are simply not credible.

Why the cry “never again” raised by so many in the years after 1945 has increasingly become hollow with the passing decades? Why Holocaust? Why Genocide? Where does evil begin? Why the most wanted remains at large? Why the evil doers are not brought to justice? All these questions were raised by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Dr. Mustafa Ceric on the 15th anniversary of the genocide of Muslims in Bosnia-Srebrenica. “What happened in Srebrenica requires justice as well as memorialisation,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia Director at Human Rights Watch. “Ratko Mladic’s liberty is an affront to both.”

In Bosnia, the three-day commemoration of the 15th anniversary of Srebrenica started on 9th of July 9 and ended on 11th of July 2010 with a ceremony during which the remains of 800 Srebrenica victims was buried. “Fifteen years after the genocide, at least 10,000 people are still missing in Bosnia, including at least 1,000 from the Srebrenica area,” Cartner said. “For the sake of their relatives, and for the sake of justice, the Bosnian and Serbian authorities need to do more to establish what happened to them.”

In 1993, Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL) published a book entitled “Genocide of Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina” by Dr. Mozammel Haque, documenting the events unfolded during 1992-1993. (BOSNIACA: A Bibliography of the University of Michigan Holdings, Supplement II, Ann Arbor, 2001).

“On July 11, 1995, during the war in Bosnia,” Human Rights Watch reported, “the United Nations and NATO allowed Bosnian Serb forces and Serb paramilitary unit known as "the Scorpions" to seize the Muslim enclave of Srebrenica, even though the UN had declared it a "safe area." The Serb forces executed between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosnian men and boys in the week after the fall of the town, the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II.”

At last the European Union has proclaimed 11th July as a day of Remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide and the European Parliament’s resolution of January 2009, marking the Srebrenica Genocide, called upon the Council and the Commission to commemorate appropriately the anniversary of the Srebrenica – Potocari act of genocide by supporting Parliament’s recognition of 11 July as the day of commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide all over the European Union.

World leaders attended the event
The world leaders gathered together at a ceremony at the Srebrenica Memorial Cemetery in Potocari to commemorate the massacre of nearly 8,000 Bosniak Muslims in Srebrenica, Bosnia by Bosnian Serbs. Andrew Gilmour, the special representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Bosnia, represented the UN at the event, and other UN Officials also attended.

Other guests included Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Slovenian President Danilo Tuerk, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic, Austrian diplomat and Bosnia's administrator, Valentin Inzko, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and representatives of the European Union.

The US ambassador to Bosnia, Charles English, read a message from President Barack Obama that urged “governments to redouble their efforts” and arrest those responsible for the war crimes at Srebrenica.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Minister Without Portfolio and Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, represented the British Government at the ceremony in Srebrenica to commemorate the genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

11 July 1995: A Black spot on Human Conscience
Human Rights Watch under the caption “The Legacy of Srebrenica” reported in 10 July, 2005: “The 1995 massacre in Srebrenica occurred because Bosnian Serb leaders, intoxicated by hatred and an illusory sense of omnipotence, lashed out savagely against the country’s Muslim population. But the international community also bears responsibility for the worst crime in Europe since World War Two. After promising protection to the inhabitants of Srebrenica, the United Nations and NATO allowed the “safe area” to fall. That responsibility is compounded by the continuing failure to bring to justice Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, the two men indicted as the principal architects of the Srebrenica genocide.

“The Dutch United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) battalion based in Srebrenica failed to take the military action necessary to save the town. Robust NATO air strikes that could have stopped the Serb onslaught were never authorized, despite repeated requests from Dutch peacekeepers on the ground,” the report added.

The report also continued, “The fall of the Srebrenica safe area was the foreseeable consequence of U.N. and NATO policies on the use of force during the Bosnian conflict. The U.N. Security Council had authorized air strikes by NATO if U.N.-designated “safe areas” in Bosnia – Sarajevo, Bihac, Srebrenica, Tuzla, Zepa, and Gorazde – were attacked. But throughout the war the U.N. adopted a position of “neutrality” that in practice meant inaction, even when Bosnian Serb forces attacked “safe areas” or the warring parties otherwise violated ceasefire agreements. Key NATO countries—including the United States, France and Britain—conveniently hid behind the U.N. position.

“Isolated air strikes in 1994 were too limited in scope and number to deter further offensives. In May 1995, when NATO targeted Serb heavy weapons around Sarajevo in response to continuing attacks against the capital, Serb forces responded by taking hundreds of U.N. peacekeepers hostage. The Bosnian Serb leadership announced that their threats to U.N. soldiers would end only if the international community stopped air strikes. NATO never formally renounced the use of air strikes, but by June 18, 1995, the U.N. hostages had been released.

“Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic and under overall command of Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic began the attack on Srebrenica on July 6. The U.N. command declined to call in NATO air strikes on the positions of the advancing Serbs despite repeated requests by the Dutch battalion in Srebrenica. The four hundred lightly armed Dutch soldiers in and around Srebrenica had neither the authorization nor the capacity to repulse the Serb offensive. The Netherlands later launched an investigation into the shattering failures of that time: but the responsibility was much broader than that. The world simply looked away. The limited NATO air strikes launched on July 11 came too late to have any impact. The rest is tragically well known: the Serbs entered Srebrenica, and in the following week killed between 7,000 and 8,000 Muslim men and boys,” the Human Right Watch reported.

World leader’s statement
The US ambassador to Bosnia, Charles English, read a message from President Barack Obama that urged “governments to redouble their efforts” and arrest those responsible for the war crimes at Srebrenica. President Obama urged governments to redouble their efforts to track down key suspect Ratko Mladic. “On the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the genocide at Srebrenica, and on behalf of the United States, I join my voice with those who are gathered to mourn a great loss and to reflect on an unimaginable tragedy,” Obama said.

“I have said, and I believe, that the horror of Srebrenica was a stain on our collective conscience,” he said in a statement issued in Washington but also read out a graveyard ceremony near Srebrenica.

“Justice must include a full accounting of the crimes that occurred, full identification and return of all those who were lost, and prosecution and punishment of those who carried out the genocide. This includes Ratko Mladic, who presided over the killings and remains at large.”

Obama called the Srebrenica genocide a “stain on our collective consciousness” that occurred even after decades of pledges of “never again” after Nazi atrocities during World War II.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron said, “We must never forget the act of genocide that happened at Srebrenica. It was a crime that shamed Europe.”

“We owe it to the victims to learn the lesson of Srebrenica: that evil must be confronted if humanity is to be protected. We owe it to the victims to ensure that those indicted for this appalling crime are pursued relentlessly until they are brought to justice,” Cameron said and added, “As we look to the future, we pledge never to forget the past, and to do all in our power to ensure that sure an atrocity can never be repeated.”

Prime Minister Cameron said the government “will not rest” in its efforts to make sure that Ratko Mladic is brought to the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague, alongside other fugitives such as Goran Hadzic. The Prime Minister also insisted that everything possible should be done to ensure that “such an atrocity can never be repeated”.

Baroness Warsi, who represented the UK government in Srebrenica, said: “It will be a heart-wrenching event, but this will not simply be about commemorating the dead. This will be a sign of our support, our sympathy, and our unstinting solidarity with the population of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It will also reaffirm a fundamental point: such evil acts must never be allowed to happen again.”

Khutba by Grand Mufti of Bosnia
The 15th anniversary of Genocide in Bosnia is the occasion that poses more hard questions than offers easy answers. Why the cry “never again”, raised by so many in the years after 1945, has rung increasingly hollow with the passing decades? Indeed, the evil of Holocaust remains a unique crime against humanity but instances of genocide have continued to reoccur – from Bosnia to Chechnya from Rwanda to Sri Lanka, from the Congo to Cambodia,” said the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Dr. Mustafa Ceric, in his Khutba, on the occasion of 15th Anniversary of Genocide in Bosnia – Srebrenica, on 11th of July, 2010.

Grand Mufti of Bosnia has prepared this European Khutba which was read out at Mosques in London during the Friday Jummah Prayer (Friday 9th July 2010). Bosnia’s Grand Mufti said in his Khutba, “the definitions of Evil do not provide answers to the questions: Why Holocaust? Why Genocide? Why was an infant girl of Bosnia raped? Why was an innocent boy of Srebrenica killed? Why the Bosnian Muslims were betrayed by the United Nations protection Force on 11th of July 1995 in Srebrenica where thousand of men and boys who had sought safety were massacred? Why Europe has allowed to be deceived by the evil of Serbian army? Where does evil begin? What makes evil so fascinating?”

Muslim Council of Britain
On the occasion of the commemoration of the Genocide in Bosnia - Srebrenica, The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), while encouraging Imams in Mosques and Islamic Centres to read the above Khutba prepared by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, wants to ensure that Muslims, indeed humanity, never forget such barbarity, said Farooq Murad, Secretary General of MCB.

On this occasion, MCB urged the Government to put pressure on the Balkan states “to honour their commitments, and the requirements of the EU accession process. The EU must continue to insist on the full support by Balkan states of the work of the ICTY to apprehend wanted war criminals and to facilitate reconciliation through the tracing of those still unaccounted for.”

The MCB press release also said, “The Khutbah and the Day of Remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide is a reminder to all Europeans; Muslims, Christians, Jews and others, that Islam has deep European roots. It has an illustrious history of coexistence with Christian and Jewish communities in the Balkans, the Iberian peninsula, and in the present day, across Europe.”

The Day of Remembrance is a timely reminder to us all of where festering hate and intolerance can lead. As Muslims in Europe offer prayers for the victims of the atrocities committed in Srebrenica and lay to rest those whose bodies have only just been recovered, let us also work together to ensure that these crimes are never forgotten and never again return to our Continent – mentioned the MCB press release.

There has been progress toward justice for the Srebrenica genocide in recent years. The Bosnian Serb wartime President, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic were indicted for genocide in Srebrenica in 1995. Karadzic is on trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, facing charges that include genocide at Srebrenica.

Mladic, the Bosnian Serb military leader, is accused of masterminding the 44-month siege of Sarajevo that left 10,000 people dead and the July 1995 massacre of around 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica is still at large. His continuing freedom is a “profound moral failure for NATO and the international community”.

“The EU’s softening resolve on Mladic’s arrest sends the wrong message to Serbia,” Cartner said. “The EU has an obligation to use its leverage to help deliver justice for the victims of Srebrenica.” The EU should not engage in any further progress toward membership for Serbia, such as asking the European Commission to study Serbia's application, until Serbia fully cooperates with the tribunal, including on the arrest of the last two fugitives, Human Rights Watch said.

I would like to conclude with the prayer of the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, Dr. Mustafa Ceric, which he did in the European Khutba:

European Khutba
The Grand Mufti of Bosnia in his European Khutba made the following prayers:
“This prayer is our hope that our future shall be better than our past and our children shall not have fear of genocide.

“O Man, whoever you are and wherever you might be, remember God created us all in the same sway so that we all might say honest prayer:

Oh God
Do not let success deceive us
Nor failure takes us to despair!
Always remind us that failure is a temptation
That precedes success!

Oh God
Teach us that tolerance
Is the highest degree of power
And the desire for revenge
The first sign of weakness!

Oh God
If you deprive us of our property,
Give us hope!
If you grant us success,
Give us also the will to overcome defeat!
If you take from us the blessing of health,
Provide us with the blessing of faith!

Oh God
If we sin against people,
Give us the strength of apology!
And if people sin against us,
Give us the strength of forgiveness!

Oh God
If we forget ye
Do not forget us!

Oh God
May grief becomes hope!
May mother’s tears become prayers!
That Srebrenica never happens again!

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