Bosnian genocide denial

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Bosnian genocide denial is an act of denying or asserting that the systemic Bosnian genocide against the Bosniak Muslim population of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as planned and perpetrated by a part of the Serb academia,[1] political and military establishment, did not occur, or at least it did not occur in the manner or to the extent that has been established by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) through its proceedings and judgments, and described by subsequent comprehensive scholarship.[2][3]

These two aforementioned courts have only ruled differently with regard to direct responsibility in perpetrating acts of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ICJ, in a proceeding brought by Bosnia and Herzegovina against Serbia and Montenegro, has only made controversial rulings to the extent in which Serbia was not directly responsible for the perpetration of the crime of genocide, but was responsible under "customary international law" violating obligation to "prevent and punish the crime of genocide".[4][5]

Nevertheless, in its 2007 judgment the ICJ adopted the ICTY’s conclusion from Krstić conviction and concluded that:

“the acts committed at Srebrenica… were committed with the specific intent to destroy in part the group of the Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina as such; and accordingly these were acts of genocide, committed by members of the VRS in and around Srebrenica from about 13 July 1995.”[2]


Potocari Memorial Stone

The Bosnian genocide is widely acknowledged and regarded by genocide scholars as the biggest and worst war-crime perpetrated on European soil since World War II.[2][6]

By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity.[7] - the Presiding Judge Theodor Meron

Culture and politics of denial[edit]

Sonja Biserko, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia at the time, draw parallels from other examples of negationist historical revisionism and denialism, such as Armenian and Rwandan genocide denial. According to Biserko, the methods range from the "brutal to the deceitful". She noticed that denial, particularly in Serbia, is present most strongly in political discourse, in the media, in the sphere of law, and in the educational system.[3][8] Investigating "culture of denial in Serbia", Biserko and Edina Bećirević of faculty of criminology and security studies of the University of Sarajevo,, have pointed to this denialism in Serbian society as a "culture of denial", stating in their examination that: "Denial of the Srebrenica genocide takes many forms in Serbia".[9][8]

Tactics and methods[edit]

The debate among revisionist ranges from challenging the judicial recognition of the killings as an act of genocide to the denial of a massacre having taken place, and uses variety of methods.[10] The finding of genocide by the ICJ and the ICTY, has been disputed on evidential and theoretical grounds. The number of the dead has been questioned as has the nature of their deaths. It has been alleged that considerably fewer than 8,000 were killed and/or that most of those killed died in battle rather than by execution. It has been claimed that the interpretation of "genocide" is refuted by the survival of the women and children.[11]

Attempted cover-up by mean of reburials to secondary and tertiary mass graves[edit]

Exhumed Grave of Victims - Potocari 2007

From approximately 1 August 1995 to 1 November 1995, there was an organized effort, on behalf of military and political leadership of Republika Srpska, to remove the bodies from primary mass gravesites and transport them to secondary and tertiary ones. The reburial was done crudely, using heavy mechanized vehicles such as trenchers and baggers.[12] In the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia court case "Prosecutor v. Blagojević and Jokić", the trial chamber found that this reburial effort was an attempt to conceal evidence of the mass murders.[13] The trial chamber found that the cover up operation was ordered by the Bosnian Serb Army (BSA) Main Staff and subsequently carried out by members of the Bratunac and Zvornik Brigades.[14]

The cover-up operation, undertaken in such a crude manner, has had a direct impact on the recovery and identification of the remains. The removal and reburial of the bodies have caused them to become dismembered and co-mingled, making it difficult for forensic investigators to positively identify the remains.[15] For example, in one specific case, the remains of one person were found in two different locations, 30 km apart.[16] In addition to the ligatures and blindfolds found at the mass graves, the effort to hide the bodies has been seen as evidence of the organised nature of the massacres and the non-combatant status of the victims, since had the victims died in normal combat operations, there would be no need to hide their remains.[15][17]

Official Republika Srpska reports[edit]

First Republika Srpska report (2002)[edit]

In September 2002, the Republika Srpska Office of Relations with the ICTY issued the "Report about Case Srebrenica". The document, authored by Darko Trifunović, was endorsed by many leading Bosnian Serb politicians. It purported that 1,800 Bosnian Muslim soldiers died during fighting and a further 100 more died as a result of exhaustion. "The number of Muslim soldiers killed by Bosnian Serbs out of personal revenge or lack of knowledge of international law is probably about 100...It is important to uncover the names of the perpetrators in order to accurately and unequivocally establish whether or not these were isolated instances." The report also alleges examinations of the mass graves, purporting that they were made for hygiene reasons, question the legitimacy of the missing person lists and undermine a key witness' mental health and military history.[18] The International Crisis Group and the United Nations condemned the manipulation of their statements in this report,[19] and Humanitarian Law Center thoroughly deconstructed all the reports published by all Republika Srpska commissions, starting with this one whose methods and manipulations were described in their report from February 2019.[10]

Second Republika Srpska report and apology (2004)[edit]

On 7 March 2003, the Human Rights Chamber for Bosnia and Herzegovina issued a decision which ordered the Republika Srpska, among other things, to conduct a full investigation into the Srebrenica July 1995 events, and disclose the results at the latest on 7 September 2003.[20] The Chamber had no coercive power to implement the decision, especially because it ceased to exist in late 2003.[21] The RS then published two reports, on 3 June 2003 and 5 September 2003, which the Human Rights Chamber concluded did not fulfill the obligations of the Republika Srpska.[21] On 15 October 2003, The High Representative, Paddy Ashdown, lamented that "getting the truth from the [Bosnian Serb] government is like extracting rotten teeth".[22] The Srebrenica commission, officially titled the Commission for Investigation of the Events in and around Srebrenica between 10 and 19 July 1995, was established in December 2003, and submitted its final report[23] on 4 June 2004, and then an addendum[24] on 15 October 2004 after delayed information was supplied.[21][25] The report acknowledged that at least 7,000 men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces, citing a provisional figure of 7,800.[26]
In the report, because of "limited time" and to "maximize resources", the commission "accepted the historical background and the facts stated in the second-instance judgment 'Prosecutor vs. Radislav Krstić', when the ICTY convicted the accused for 'assisting and supporting genocide' committed in Srebrenica".[23]

The findings of the commission remains generally disputed by Serb nationalists, who claim that commission was heavily pressured by the High Representative, given that an earlier RS government report which exonerated the Serbs was dismissed.
Nevertheless, Dragan Čavić, the president of Republika Srpska at the time, acknowledged in a televised address that Serb forces killed several thousand civilians in violation of the international law, and asserted that Srebrenica was a dark chapter in Serb history,[27] and on 10 November 2004, the government of Republika Srpska finally issued an official apology.[28]

Second Republika Srpska report revision (2010)[edit]

On 21 April 2010, the government of Republika Srpska under Milorad Dodik, at the time the prime minister, initiated a revision of the 2004 report saying that the numbers of killed were exaggerated and the report was manipulated by a former peace envoy.[29] The Office of the High Representative responded by saying: "The Republika Srpska government should reconsider its conclusions and align itself with the facts and legal requirements and act accordingly, rather than inflicting emotional distress on the survivors, torture history and denigrate the public image of the country".[30]

On 12 July 2010, at the 15th anniversary of the massacre, Milorad Dodik said that he acknowledged the killings that happened on the site, but denied that what happened at Srebrenica is genocide.[31]

Republika Srpska rejection of 2004 report and new commission (2018-19)[edit]

On 14. August 2018 the People's Assembly of Republika Srpska dismissed the 2004 report and decided for a new commission to be assembled to revise report surrounding events in Srebrenica and area around the town in July 1995. Initiated by Milorad Dodik, then the entity president, and his Alliance of Independent Social Democrats party (SNSD), the move is immediately criticized by international community.
Humanitarian Law Center, in their report signed by 31 high-profile signatories, described this new development as "the culmination of more than a decade of genocide denial and historical revisionism by the SNSD government in the Republika Srpska", adding that the HLC regard this newest initiative to be "illegitimate overall", and that it "represents a flawed response to a legitimate need".[10] The United States State Department issued a communique in which they criticized move by Republika Srpska entity officials and institutions, describing it as "(a)ttempts to reject or amend the report on Srebrenica are part of wider efforts to revise the facts of the past war, to deny history, and to politicize tragedy".[32]

Revisionist-denialist claims[edit]

During the Bosnian war, Slobodan Milošević had effective control of most Serbian media.[33][34][35][36] Following the end of the war, denialism continued to be widespread among Serbians.[37]

"Left" revisionists[edit]

Grave of a 13-year-old boy Sadik Huseinović - Herman & Peterson claim "only military age men were targeted"

Revisionists mainly identifying with the "far left" of the ideological and political spectrum, such as Michael Parenti, Edward S. Herman, David Peterson, Jared Israel, Tariq Ali,[38] the British journalist Mick Hume, Diana Johnstone, and John Robles of Voice of Russia were engaging in revisionism and denial of the Bosnian genocide and its various aspects, while blaming the West, the NATO, Croats, Bosniaks, Albanians, for the Serb and their forces actions, absolving the later of any responsibility of the atrocities carried out, war crimes and genocide.[39][40][41]

Edward S. Herman and Mick Hume, alleged a discrepancy between a figure of over 8,000 victims and the number of bodies found and attempted to cast doubt over the explanation of the events, while ignoring the long delays in locating mass graves and identifying the bodies by processing DNA. Similarly to their writing on Rwandan genocide, economist Edward S. Herman and David Peterson were engaging in revisionism and denial. In several articles, such as "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre",[42] written by Herman, or "The Srebrenica Massacre was a Gigantic Political Fraud", by Herman and Robles, while repeating claims about political motives by western government and NATO conspirators from Herman and Peterson book Politics of Genocide, authors, concentrating on the Srebrenica massacre, state that Serbs at Srebrenica were actually "killing Bosnian-Muslim soldiers" and, even, that happened in response to the "killing of over 2,000 Serb civilians, mostly women and children, at the location by Bosnian-Muslim army", and that the numbers of executed Bosnian-Muslim soldiers "were probably in the order of between 500 and 1,000 (...) (i)n other words, less than half of the number of Serbs civilians killed before July, 1995".

For this complete reversal of reality they rely on and cite informations provided by another self-styled independent researcher Diana Johnstone, who herself never set foot in Bosnia, without a shadow of a doubt or critical examination into evidence and sources provided.[43][40][41] They cite that women and children were largely spared and that only military age men were targeted.[42][44]

This view is not supported by the findings of the ICJ or the ICTY. What Johnstone, Herman, Peterson, Robles and others omit, but ICTY findings clearly describes, especially in trial judgments of Naser Orić and Radislav Krstić, is that villages surrounding Srebrenica, where alleged killings of Serb women and children, according to this group of revisionists, took place, were in most cases actually Bosnian Muslim villages from where their original inhabitants (Bosnian Muslims) escaped or were driven out by the Bosnian Serb military offensive with subsequent occupation and establishment of the frontlines, and where Bosnian Serb civilians rarely entered. Meanwhile, villages surrounding Srebrenica, which in fact belonged to Serb population, were heavily fortified and militarized, with villages like Kravica being used to store caches of weapons and ammunition, and from which Serbs launched brutal attacks on Bosnian Muslim villages, as well as on the town of Srebrenica itself.[45][46][47][48]

Living Marxism[edit]

Living Marxism was a British magazine originally launched in 1988 as the journal of the British Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). It was later rebranded as LM in 1992 and ceased publication in March 2000 following a successful libel lawsuit brought by ITN,[49][50] and resurrected as Spiked online magazine.

Ed Vulliamy speaking at the 2006 Omarska camp commemoration

In the first issue under new name LM, editor Mick Hume published an article by journalist Thomas Deichmann, who claimed that ITN had deliberately misrepresented the Bosnian war in its coverage in 1992, specifically Serb run concentration camps Omarska, Keraterm and Trnopolje.[51][52] The article "The picture that fooled the world" argued that the report by UK journalists Ed Vulliamy, with Penny Marshall and Ian Williams,[52] following initial reports on camps by Maggie O'Kane (from Bratunac to Prijedor) and Roy Gutman,[53] while working as correspondent crew for ITN, covered the Yugoslav Wars and revealed a gulag of concentration camps in Bosanska Krajina (northwestern Bosnia), was faked.[54][55] In August 1992 Vulliamy and O'Kane managed to gain access to the notorious Omarska and Trnopolje camps.[56] Their graphic accounts on the conditions of the prisoners were recorded for the documentary Omarska's survivors: Bosnia 1992.[57] Discovery of the camps was credited with contributing to the establishment of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague.

Deichmann claimed in his article, published by LM in int first issue in February 1997, that the ITN footage, created in front of Trnopolje concentration camp, featuring prominently a group of emaciated Bosnian Muslim men prisoners, and among them Fikret Alić, standing behind a barbed wire fence,[58] was deliberately staged to portray a Nazi-style extermination camp, that the British reporters from ITN, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, had actually stood inside a compound surrounded by a barbed wire fence and from there filmed their famous pictures, and went on to allege: "It was not a prison, and certainly not a 'concentration camp', but a collection center for refugees, many of whom went there seeking safety and could leave again if they wished".[59]
However, an examination of the substance of this case by David Campbell, professor of cultural and political geography at Durham University, showed that the key claims made by Deichmann and LM are "erroneous and flawed".[60]

The publishers of LM, Informinc (LM) Ltd., were sued for libel by ITN. The case initially caused international condemnation of ITN. Among those who supported LM was journalist John Simpson, who in April 2012 publicly apologized for questioning ITN's reporting on the camps and for supporting the magazine.[61]

As one of LM's critics, the journalist George Monbiot, who wrote in Prospect magazine, said that some of the world's leading liberals, such as Harold Evans, Doris Lessing, Paul Theroux, Fay Weldon jumped to the magazine's defense, while others condemned ITN's "deplorable attack on press freedom". He added: "The Institute of Contemporary Arts, bulwark of progressive liberalism, enhanced LM's heroic profile by co-hosting a three-day conference with the magazine, called "Free Speech Wars". With the blessing of the liberal world, this puny iconoclastic David will go to war with the clanking orthodoxies of the multinational Goliath."[62]

Monbiot continued:

This, at least, is how LM would like its struggle to be seen. But there is more to this David than first meets the eye. His may be less of the great liberal cause that his supporters would like to believe. For the closer one looks at LM, the weaker its link to the oppressed appears, and the stronger its links to the oppressor. It has, in other words, less in common with the left than with the fanatical right.[62]

The libel case went against LM and in March 2000 the magazine was forced to close, after defendants failed to present any evidence in their defense.[54] Reporters Penny Marshall and Ian Williams were each awarded £150,000 over the LM story and the magazine was ordered to pay £75,000 for libelling ITN in a February 1997 article.[49]

Looking back Hume commented in The Times:

Would I do it again? We could have got out of the case by apologising, which seems to be the fashionable thing to do. But I believe in the unfashionable freedom to state what you understand to be true, even if it causes offence. I would do almost anything to avoid ever again setting foot in Court 14. But some things really are more important than a mortgage.[63]

In contrast, professor David Campbell of Durham University summarised his study of the case as follows:

[A]s strange as existing British libel law is, it had an important and surprisingly beneficial effect in the case of ITN vs LM. The LM defendants and Thomas Deichmann were properly represented at the trial and were able to lay out all the details of their claim that the ITN reporters had "deliberately misrepresented" the situation at Trnopolje. Having charged 'deliberate misrepresentation', they needed to prove 'deliberate misrepresentation'. To this end, the LM defendants were able to cross-examine Penny Marshall and Ian Williams, as well as every member of the ITN crews who were at the camps, along with other witnesses. (That they didn't take up the opportunity to cross-examine the Bosnian doctor imprisoned at Trnopolje, who featured in the ITN stories and was called to testify on the conditions he and others suffered, was perhaps the moment any remaining shred of credibility for LM's allegations evaporated). They were able to show the ITN reports to the court, including the rushes from which the final TV stories were edited, and conduct a forensic examination of the visuals they alleged were deceitful. And all of this took place in front of a jury of twelve citizens who they needed to convince about the truthfulness of their allegations. They failed. The jury found unanimously against LM and awarded the maximum possible damages. So it was not ITN that bankrupted LM. It was LM's lies about the ITN reports that bankrupted themselves, morally and financially. Despite their failure, those who lied about the ITN reports have had no trouble obtaining regular access to the mainstream media in Britain, where they continue to make their case as though the 2000 court verdict simply didn't exist. Their freedom of speech has thus not been permanently infringed.[64]

Denial by officials[edit]

Similar to Rwandan genocide denial, Nanjing Massacre denial, Holocaust denial or Armenian genocide denial, revisionist and denialist often claim that genocide is result of international political conspiracy, which invoked violence in the first place, which is than further exaggerated or completely invented. This mentality is best illustrated by statements such as Roger Booboh's, who declared that "to claim that a genocide occurred is closer to the politics of surrealism than to the truth".[65]

High-ranking local officials[edit]

Milorad Dodik (left), former president of Republika Srpska and former president of Bosnia, and Tomislav Nikolić (right), at the time President of Serbia, are among most prominent ethnic Serb politician who repeatedly denied Bosnian genocide as well as universally accepted interpretation of events leading to break-up of Yugoslavia and subsequent violence.

A high-ranking Serb and a UN official have claimed that no genocide on Bosniak Muslims the took place at all:

  • Milorad Dodik and his Alliance of Independent Social Democrats party (SNSD) initated revision of the 2004 Srebrenica report twice, in 2010 and recently in 2018/2019, the moves which prompted criticism by international community, describing it as "the culmination of more than a decade of genocide denial and historical revisionism" by the party, Dodik as its leader, and the government in the Republika Srpska.[10] As a president of Republika Srpska (at the time), Dodik labeled Srebrenica massacre a "fabricated myth".[66] He stated in an interview with the Belgrade newspaper Večernje Novosti in April 2010 that "we cannot and will never accept qualifying that event as a genocide". Dodik disowned the 2004 Republika Srpska report acknowledging the scale of the killing and apologising to the relatives of the victims, alleging that the report had been adopted because of pressure from the international community. Without substantiating the figure, he claimed that the number of victims was 3,500 rather than the 7,000 accepted by the report, alleging that 500 listed victims were alive and over 250 people buried in the Potocari memorial centre died elsewhere.[67] In July 2010, on the 15th anniversary of the massacre, Dodik declared that he did not regard the killings at Srebrenica as genocide, and maintained that "If a genocide happened then it was committed against Serb people of this region where women, children and the elderly were killed en masse" (referring to eastern Bosnia).[31] In December 2010, Dodik condemned the Peace Implementation Council, an international community of 55 countries, for referring to the Srebrenica massacre as genocide.[68]
  • Tomislav Nikolić, President of Serbia (at the time), stated on 2 June 2012 that "there was no genocide in Srebrenica. In Srebrenica, grave war crimes were committed by some Serbs who should be found, prosecuted and punished. […] It is very difficult to indict someone and prove before the court that an event qualifies as genocide."[2][69]
  • Vojislav Šešelj[70]
  • Ivica Dačić[71]
  • Aleksandar Vulin[72]
  • Miloš Milovanović, a former commander of the Serb paramilitary unit Serbian Guard who represents the Serbian Democratic Party in the Srebrenica Municipal Assembly, said in March 2005 that "the massacre is a lie; it is propaganda to paint a bad picture of the Serbian people. The Muslims are lying; they are manipulating the numbers; they are exaggerating what happened. Far more Serbs died at Srebrenica than Muslims."[73][74]

UN officials and commanders[edit]

  • Phillip Corwin, former UN Civilian Affairs Coordinator in Bosnia, advisor and contributor to the work of the Srebrenica Research Group[75] said "What happened in Srebrenica was not a single large massacre of Muslims by Serbs, but rather a series of very bloody attacks and counterattacks over a three-year period."[76]
  • Lewis MacKenzie, former commander of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in Bosnia, in an article titled "The real story behind Srebrenica"[44] resorted to the usual denialist method of underestimating the genocide death toll by playing with numbers.[11] He continually challenged the description of genocide in 2009 on the grounds that the number of men and boys killed had been exaggerated by a factor of 4 and secondly that transfer of the women and children by bus contradicted the notion of genocide – the women would have been killed first if there had been an intent to destroy the group. Writing in the Journal of Military and Strategic Studies (Vol. 12, Issue 1, Fall 2009), MacKenzie expressed his opinion without reference to the detailed arguments published by the ICTY Trial and Appeal Chambers in the Krstic case judgements published several years earlier and confirmed by the ICJ since.[77][78]
  • Portuguese retired general Carlos Martins Branco denies genocide ever happened in published "Was Srebrenica a Hoax? Eyewitness Account of a Former UN Military Observer in Bosnia" in 1998, and his memoirs "A Guerra nos Balcãs, jihadismo, geopolítica e desinformação" (War in the Balkans, Jihadism, Geopolitics, and Disinformation) in November 2016. He claims "Srebrenica was portrayed – and continues to be – as a premeditated massacre of innocent Muslim civilians. As a genocide! But was it really so?".[79]

Other individuals and groups engaging in denial[edit]

The description of Srebrenica as a genocidal massacre, as ruled by ICJ & ICTY in numerous convictions, has been denied by Yehuda Bauer (left), and Efraim Zuroff (right)
  • Peter Handke, Austrian writer who received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2019, and who offered to testify on behalf of late Slobodan Milošević at ICTY trials, denied Serb run concentration camps, Srebrenica massacre, reiterated myths that the Bosnian Muslims staged their own massacres in Sarajevo, and compared Serbia's situation during 1990's to the faith of European Jewry during the Holocaust. He offered his opinions in his numerous writings, plays and books dealing with the subject, such as "A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia".[80] Handke lauded Milošević and held eulogy for him at the funeral of the Serbian president.[81] In the opinion of British journalist Ed Vulliamy: "(Handke) went out of his way to give credence to mass murder and, in this context, as importantly, to lies."[82] Handke reacted on numerous criticism by threatening to withdraw his latest play about Bosnian war, entitled "The Journey To The Dug-Out, Or The Play About The War Film", from Vienna's Burgtheater, unless media and peer criticism stop.[80]
  • Srđa Trifković, notably discussed on Scorpions, one of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Serbia) units at the time, lead by the head of the State Security Service, Jovica Stanišić, and the video shot by unit's members who were filming themselves executing six Bosniak teenagers in a woods surrounding Srebrenica.[83] Trifoković interpreted video as a "manipulation", insisting it was produced on the tenth anniversary of Srebrenica with a specific political purpose of retroactively justifying Western policies and actions in Bosnia, whose aim was also to "inflict a collective responsibility upon the Serbian people", "revise" the Dayton Agreement, and "abolish" Serb entity in Bosnia. His other claims range from denial of an evidences of genocide, and number of people killed in Srebrenica, to denial that the Skorpions were under control of Serbian officials and institutions.[8]
  • Darko Trifunović, who teaches at the Faculty of Security in Novi Sad, has participated in writing of a Srebrenica report, insisted that fewer than one hundred were actually executed at Srebrenica, and denied the validity of the genocide verdict passed by the ICJ in case against Serbia, as well as the genocide verdict handed down by the ICTY in general Radislav Krstić case. He has written stories alleging existence of "Islamic radicalism" and "terrorism" in Bosnia-Herzegovina, which he used as justification in order to deny the validity of courts verdicts.[8]
  • La Nation, a bi-monthly Swiss newspaper, published a series of articles claiming that 2,000 soldiers were killed in the "pseudo-massacre" in Srebrenica. The Society for Threatened Peoples and Swiss Association Against Impunity filed a joint suit against La Nation for genocide denial. Swiss law prohibits genocide denial.[84]
  • The Srebrenica Research Group, known for its genocide denial, is a group (formerly) led by Edward S. Herman, and include two former UN officials. The group published Srebrenica And the Politics of War Crimes (2005), in which they claimed how "contention that as many as 8,000 Muslims were killed has no basis in available evidence and is essentially a political construct".
  • Genocide scholar William Schabas in his 2009 book Genocide in International Law: The Crime of Crimes summarizes the legal opinions regarding the status of the atrocities committed in Srebrenica and throughout the Bosnian war, deeming them ethnic cleansing and not genocide, stating that "Ethnic cleansing is also a warning sign of genocide to come. Genocide is the last resort of the frustrated ethnic cleanser."[85]
  • Israeli Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer described Srebrenica as "an act of mass murder", but "not a genocide" and stated that he could see no evidence that Serb forces intended, in whole or in part, to exterminate the Bosniaks.[86] He claimed this despite a numerous ICTY convictions pointing to the contrary.
  • Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center office in Israel, with a close ties to Serbia and its political establishment,[87][88][89][90] also denies that Serb forces had genocidal intent. He tried to explain that "as far as I know what happened in Srebrenica" doesn't fit definition of genocide. He went on and also tried to explain how he believes that the decision to call it genocide was made for political reasons.[91] Furthermore, he talked about what he called "Srebrenica's comparation with Holocaust", insinuating as if that was a something which happens often, and than claiming "absurdity" of such analogy.[92]

Reaction to prominent figures' denialism[edit]

Menachem Z. Rosensaft publicly confronted the Simon Wiesenthal Center's chief Nazi-hunter and Director for Eastern European Affairs, Israeli Holocaust historian Dr. Efraim Zuroff, for his denial arguing that:

I cannot in good conscience condemn the perpetrators of the genocide in which my brother and my grandparents perished unless I also condemn the perpetrators of all other acts of genocide, including the genocide that took place at Srebrenica.

I cannot in good conscience mourn my brother as a victim of genocide unless I similarly mourn all other victims of genocide, including the victims at Srebrenica.
It is unconscionable and reprehensible for anyone to tell Adisada that the horrors to which her fellow Bosnian Muslims - including quite possibly members of her own family - were subjected at Srebrenica did not constitute a genocide, just as it is unconscionable and reprehensible for anyone to deny the genocide in which my brother, my grandparents, and millions of other European Jews were annihilated.[93]

He also criticized and responded in writing to denialists' arguments, particularly underlining those made by Steven T. Katz, Yehuda Bauer, William Schabas, and the aforementioned Efraim Zuroff, in a long essay titled "Ratko Mladić’s Genocide Conviction, and Why it Matters", written by Rosensaft and published by Tablet Magazine on a day Ratko Mladić was found guilty for "genocide, extermination, murder, and other crimes against humanity and war crimes" at the ICTY, and sentenced to life imprisonment.[2][91]

To one of the most important and the most often repeated denialists' arguments - number, intent, and combination of these two, depending on occasion and context - Rosensaft responded with meticulous deconstruction of judicial activity, and analysis of key convictions. He pointed that the ICTY's Krstić Appeals Chamber "unequivocally held that the number of victims was not a determinative factor in concluding whether or not a genocide had occurred", and affirmed the Trial Chamber's conclusion that "the Srebrenica massacre was indeed a genocide because it was an essential element of the intent to destroy the Muslim population of Eastern Bosnia as a whole."[2][91]

Rosensaft remarked an assertion made by the late Nehemiah Robinson, the Director of the Institute of Jewish Affairs of the World Jewish Congress, and a leading authority on the UN Genocide Convention, who said:

"(T)he term applies even if victims constitute only part of a group either within a country or within a region or within a single community, provided the number is substantial… It will be up to the courts to decide in each case whether the number was sufficiently large."

To this, Rosenssaft added that "the courts have spoken clearly and unambiguously."[91]

Alain Finkielkraut (left), and Slavoj Žižek (right) reacted to Handke's denial

In case of Handke, Susan Sontag, after his play "Voyage by Dugout" was staged, declared him "finished" in New York.[94] Other reaction were noted as Alain Finkielkraut saying that Handke became "an ideological monster", while for Slavoj Žižek Handke's "glorification of the Serbs is cynicism".[80] A Berlin-based Serbian novelist, Bora Ćosić, has denounced Handke in following words:

This writer, the Austrian, has his very personal style. The very worst crimes get mentioned rather sweetly. And so the reader completely forgets that we're dealing with crimes. The Austrian writer who visited my country found only very proud people there. They proudly put up with everything that happened to them, so much so that in their pride they didn't bother to ask why all this was happening to them.[80]

Although coming forth in Handke defense, Martin Walser, a German novelist, confirms general public and media mood around Handke's opinions and attitude toward Bosnian Muslims' plight: "Handke is just being completely dismissed, in every respect morally, politically and professionally. It's all part of the war mood which I find a bit frightening."[80]

See also[edit]

Readings and presentations[edit]


  1. ^ Philip J. Cohen (1996). "The Complicity of Serbian Intellectuals in Genocide in the 1990s". This Time We Knew by Thomas Cushman & Stjepan G. Meštrović. NYU Press. pp. 39–64. JSTOR j.ctt9qfngn.5.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Menachem Z. Rosensaft (22 November 2017). "Essay: Ratko Mladić's Genocide Conviction, and Why it Matters". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved 2 February 2019.
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