The demons of Serbian nationalism unleashed in former Yugoslavia had their greatest feast in Srebrenica. Exactly a year ago, before the very eyes of the so-called United Nations peacekeeping forces, the Serbs, led by general Ratko Mladic, slaughtered tens of thousands of innocent Muslims in coldblood, among them many children and babies. July 11 will go down in history as a day of infamy.
On this date, the Serbian terrorists entered the eastern Bosnian town and perpetrated the greatest genocide in Europe since the second world war. That Bosnia has been soaked in the blood of the innocents is well-known. In Srebrenica, genocide was perpetrated while those who were supposed to prevent just such an eventuality - the UN `peacekeepers’- stood there and watched. The few thousand defenders of Srebrenica and a number of other towns - Zepa, Gorazde and Tuzla in eastern Bosnia - were first disarmed under a `deal’ brokered by the UN a year before the massacre was carried out. This was the first deal in history in which the victims were asked to surrender their weapons while the aggressors were allowed to keep theirs.
If it is true that the genocide in Bosnia could not have been perpetrated without help from the UN, then it is even more so concerning the slaughter in Srebrenica. Top UN officials, including Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the Coptic secretary general of the UN, actively laid the groundwork for the Serbs to perpetrate the genocide of innocents in Srebrenica. As early as May 31, 1995, Boutros-Ghali had submitted a secret memorandum to the security council accusing the Bosnian government of infiltrating soldiers into Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde. The anti-Muslim Copt did not mention the fact that in March, Mladic had met his top commanders at his command centre in Mount Jahorina, near Sarajevo. During that meeting Mladic expressed concern that 20,000 Serbian troops were tied down besieging the eastern Bosnian enclaves. This situation had to be changed.
The town could not be invaded directly because they had been declared UN `safe areas’. Any violation would have resulted in Nato air strikes. Mladic decided to create a crisis whereby he could secure a promise from the UN commanders in the field for no air strikes. Following the UN air strikes at Serb ammunition dumps outside Pale on May 25-26, 1995, the Serbs took 370 UN troops hostage. A Canadian major was also chained to a post and shown on television cameras to get the message across that further air strikes could result in his death. Instead of confronting the Serb terrorists, the UN caved in to them.
It was Zagreb-based French general, Bernard Janvier, who secretly met Mladic and assured him of no more air strikes if the UN troops, the majority of whom were French, were released. That is all that Mladic needed even if the security council in New York continued to issue hypocritical statements that it would not negotiate with hostage-takers. The security council could not have been oblivious of Janvier’s meeting with Mladic.
When the Serbs invaded Srebrenica in violation of the `safe havens’ agreement, no Nato air strikes followed. The Dutch battalion `defending’ the enclave simply handed their weapons over to the Serbs and facilitated the separation of men and women. The world learnt about the genocide when thousands of distraught women streamed into Tuzla after walking tens of miles with their meagre belongings. On the first anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, the women organised an informal memorial in Tuzla. It turned into an emotional scene when hundreds of men, who had escape the massacre, also joined them.
Mladic and his political boss, Radovan Karadzic, as well as Slobodan Milosevic and a host of other war criminals are still at large. The war crimes tribunal at the Hague continues to issue largely symbolic pronouncements. The tribunal has no military power; the 60,000 western troops now occupying Bosnia-Herzegovina say that it is not their mandate to hunt and capture the war criminals.
Much noise will be made about war crimes until the US presidential elections in November. Then, even the rhetoric is likely to subside. It is the responsibility of the global Islamic Movement to document the crimes and seek the perpetrators so that they are brought to justice. In the meantime, Srebrenica must not be forgotten.
Muslimedia - April 1996-August 1996