No justice for Srebrenica. Russia vetoed the genocide resolution

Jul 10 2015

Russia vetoed the UN resolution calling to recognize Srebrenica massacre as a genocide.

Between July 11 and July 13 of 1995, Europe witnessed a horrific event in its Balkans region, the worst since the Second World War.

It happened in a pretty little town called Srebrenica, in the eastern part of what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska (Serb Republic). As war raged all around Bosnia and what was once socialist Yugoslavia, United Nations troops declared Srebrenica, then held by Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) troops, a “safe area” in April 1993.

Two years later, Bosnian Serb nationalist troops under the control of General Ratko Mladic overran the town. And that July, some eight thousand Bosniak men and boys were massacred by the Serb troops.

This event, which will be commemorated in Bosnia on the 11th of July, is known as the Srebrenica Massacre or Srebrenica Genocide. Dozens of recently identified victims will be remembered and buried at the memorial to the genocide.

What happened in Srebrenica in the summer of 1995 has been widely referred to as a genocidal act by both national governments and international organizations as the Bosnian Serbs committing the massacre were Orthodox Christian and the Bosniak victims were Muslims. However, not everyone agrees that the atrocities qualify as genocide.

Russia, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, has vetoed a resolution calling the events at Srebrenica a genocide, angering many across Europe.

Genocide naming has unfortunately become a politicized and subjective squabble in many places even when evidence points to genocide being committed. The United States has quietly not recognized the Armenian Genocide due to the fear that recognition will hurt the important relationship with Turkey, as does Israel. Even though France recognizes the Rwandan Genocide, Paris has waffled on its own role in the genocide.

And Russia refuses to acknowledge that Srebrenica (and the Holodomor) was a genocidal act.

The reasons for this are numerous. Russia has historically enjoyed close ties with Serbia. The two countries are predominantly Orthodox Christian. The Cyrillic alphabet is used in both Serbian and Russian. The countries share the same national colors and both use the Orthodox two-headed eagle as a national symbol.

Serbia is a divided country. While many Serbians believe their country should become a member of the European Union, others, particularly Serb nationalists, believe Serbia should look to its more traditional allies, namely, Russia. Serbian nationalism championed by Slobodan Milosevic was one of many catalysts that drove the Balkans into the hell of the Yugoslav Wars in the early 1990s. Yet a Serbian with nationalist credentials ousted Milosevic from power in 2000, when he lost the 2000 General Election to Vojislav Kostunica.

Another argument stems from numbers. The massacre at Srebrenica killed some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys. By comparison, somewhere between half a million and 1.5 million Armenians perished in the Armenian Genocide, and six million Jews met their death in the Holocaust. Some argue that the massacre in Srebrenica was not big enough to be considered a genocide, merely an atrocity of war. Yet the definition of genocide only vaguely considers size

Though international organizations claim that Serbia herself was not responsible for the massacre at Srebrenica, it did assert that Serbia did not do enough to prevent the atrocities from happening.

This is not to say Serbians outright deny what happened at Srebrenica. President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic have both admitted and apologized for the massacre, and Vucic plans to attend the commemoration in Srebrenica on July 11. Yet neither consider what happened at Srebrenica a genocide, and Russia’s recent decision to veto the UN resolution was looked upon favorably in Serbia.

It’s important to remember that Serbia and her nationalist forces were far from the only forces responsible for atrocities during the Yugoslav Wars. Croatian nationalists committed numerous atrocities, matching their Serb counterparts tit-for-tat in vileness. Once Bosnia entered the fold, the multi-ethnic country was torn apart by Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks alike. The Yugoslav Wars made the lives of Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs hell-only the Slovenes and Macedonians managed to get out relatively unscathed as they did not possess ethnic minorities of interest to Croatia, Serbia, or Bosnia.

Russia walks an odd line when it comes to genocide. The Holocaust is remembered as a genocide in Russia, and the Armenian Genocide is also recognized in Russia, and has been since 1995. Yet the Holodomor and Srebrenica do not make the cut in the Kremlin.

The Kremlin’s decision to veto this UN resolution is not a prudent decision. Srebrenica has been analyzed by international organizations at the Hague as well as at the United Nations, and the evidence does point to deliberate slaughter by the Bosnian Serbs. Refusing to call it genocide only allows the embers of nationalism to continue to burn in a region of the world where nationalism still divides and keeps progress from happening-especially in Bosnia, which has been effectively stuck in neutral since the Dayton Accords. It may be a hard pill to swallow for the Serbians, but it will be an issue that will allow the countries to progress to other issues if it is resolved sooner than later.

By Kyle Menyhert

It happened in a pretty little town called Srebrenica, in the eastern part of what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Republika Srpska (Serb Republic). As war raged all around Bosnia and what was once socialist Yugoslavia, United Nations troops declared Srebrenica, then held by Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) troops, a “safe area” in April 1993.

Two years later, Bosnian Serb nationalist troops under the control of General Ratko Mladic overran the town. And that July, some eight thousand Bosniak men and boys were massacred by the Serb troops.

This event, which will be commemorated in Bosnia on the 11th of July, is known as the Srebrenica Massacre or Srebrenica Genocide. Dozens of recently identified victims will be remembered and buried at the memorial to the genocide.

What happened in Srebrenica in the summer of 1995 has been widely referred to as a genocidal act by both national governments and international organizations as the Bosnian Serbs committing the massacre were Orthodox Christian and the Bosniak victims were Muslims. However, not everyone agrees that the atrocities qualify as genocide.

Russia, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, has vetoed a resolution calling the events at Srebrenica a genocide, angering many across Europe.

Genocide naming has unfortunately become a politicized and subjective squabble in many places even when evidence points to genocide being committed. The United States has quietly not recognized the Armenian Genocide due to the fear that recognition will hurt the important relationship with Turkey, as does Israel. Even though France recognizes the Rwandan Genocide, Paris has waffled on its own role in the genocide.

And Russia refuses to acknowledge that Srebrenica (and the Holodomor) was a genocidal act.

The reasons for this are numerous. Russia has historically enjoyed close ties with Serbia. The two countries are predominantly Orthodox Christian. The Cyrillic alphabet is used in both Serbian and Russian. The countries share the same national colors and both use the Orthodox two-headed eagle as a national symbol.

Serbia is a divided country. While many Serbians believe their country should become a member of the European Union, others, particularly Serb nationalists, believe Serbia should look to its more traditional allies, namely, Russia. Serbian nationalism championed by Slobodan Milosevic was one of many catalysts that drove the Balkans into the hell of the Yugoslav Wars in the early 1990s. Yet a Serbian with nationalist credentials ousted Milosevic from power in 2000, when he lost the 2000 General Election to Vojislav Kostunica.

Another argument stems from numbers. The massacre at Srebrenica killed some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys. By comparison, somewhere between half a million and 1.5 million Armenians perished in the Armenian Genocide, and six million Jews met their death in the Holocaust. Some argue that the massacre in Srebrenica was not big enough to be considered a genocide, merely an atrocity of war. Yet the definition of genocide only vaguely considers size

Though international organizations claim that Serbia herself was not responsible for the massacre at Srebrenica, it did assert that Serbia did not do enough to prevent the atrocities from happening.

This is not to say Serbians outright deny what happened at Srebrenica. President Tomislav Nikolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic have both admitted and apologized for the massacre, and Vucic plans to attend the commemoration in Srebrenica on July 11. Yet neither consider what happened at Srebrenica a genocide, and Russia’s recent decision to veto the UN resolution was looked upon favorably in Serbia.

It’s important to remember that Serbia and her nationalist forces were far from the only forces responsible for atrocities during the Yugoslav Wars. Croatian nationalists committed numerous atrocities, matching their Serb counterparts tit-for-tat in vileness. Once Bosnia entered the fold, the multi-ethnic country was torn apart by Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks alike. The Yugoslav Wars made the lives of Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs hell-only the Slovenes and Macedonians managed to get out relatively unscathed as they did not possess ethnic minorities of interest to Croatia, Serbia, or Bosnia.

Russia walks an odd line when it comes to genocide. The Holocaust is remembered as a genocide in Russia, and the Armenian Genocide is also recognized in Russia, and has been since 1995. Yet the Holodomor and Srebrenica do not make the cut in the Kremlin.

The Kremlin’s decision to veto this UN resolution is not a prudent decision. Srebrenica has been analyzed by international organizations at the Hague as well as at the United Nations, and the evidence does point to deliberate slaughter by the Bosnian Serbs. Refusing to call it genocide only allows the embers of nationalism to continue to burn in a region of the world where nationalism still divides and keeps progress from happening-especially in Bosnia, which has been effectively stuck in neutral since the Dayton Accords. It may be a hard pill to swallow for the Serbians, but it will be an issue that will allow the countries to progress to other issues if it is resolved sooner than later.

By Kyle Menyhert

Free Russia Foundation’s Press Release on Submission of Article 15 Communication to the International Criminal Court

Oct 06 2020

On 21 September 2020, the Free Russia Foundation submitted a Communication to the International Criminal Court Prosecutor’s Office (in The Hague, Netherlands) seeking accountability for Crimean and Russian authorities concerning international crimes perpetrated during Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea. The Communication was prepared in cooperation with Global Rights Compliance and Center for Civil Liberties and is based on a focused inquiry conducted over the past year. In our inquiry, we documented crimes as part of a systematic, planned attack by the Russian state against civilians and groups in Crimea in order to discourage them from opposing the illegal occupation of Crimea and to force their departure from the peninsula. Crimes against civilians included unlawful arrests, beatings, torture, enforced disappearances, and other inhumane acts causing severe mental and/or physical pain. In particular, the crimes targeted the Crimean Tatars, a native ethnic group who had only recently returned to their homeland, having previously been forcefully and brutally displaced by the Soviet Union in 1944.

One of the principal coercive acts was the illegal detention and concomitant violence before, during, and after the imprisonment of political prisoners. Most of those detained were arrested by Russian and Crimean authorities on terrorism charges, but it was their legal, pro-Ukrainian advocacy that led to their imprisonment. In addition, trials of those arbitrarily detained were conducted in wholesale disregard of their fair trial rights. For example, some of those illegally imprisoned were denied a speedy trial, access to independent lawyers, and the opportunity to defend themselves against their arrest in a courtroom.

In order to force those illegally detained to confess to crimes they did not commit, Russian and Crimean authorities also perpetrated acts of torture and cruel or degrading treatment, the levying of additional charges against them, even more inhumane prison conditions, denial of communications with their families and threats made against them, enforced disappearances, and even, in at least one case, a mock execution.

Other inhumane acts include “punitive psychiatry” and the denial of adequate prison conditions, including the following: (i) feeding people inedible food or, at times, no food at all; (ii) facing severe overcrowding in prisons; (iii) denial of regular water supply; (iv) threats of assault against them by prison cellmates; and (v) adding pork to food – prohibited for observant Muslims. Further, medical attention was systematically inadequate or denied for many individuals.

Concerning acts of torture, it was perpetrated by different Russian authorities, including the FSB. Allegations include the use of electric shocks in an effort to get an accused to confess. One was beaten in the head, kidneys, arms and legs with an iron pipe. With another, fingers were broken. Still another endured spinal bruises and having a plastic bag placed over his head to the point of unconsciousness. Further, threats of sexual violence against a detained man were made. Murder as well. Hands were broken, teeth were knocked out in still another.

Trials were largely held behind closed doors for illegitimate reasons, and many of the witnesses were secret not only to the public but also to the Accused. Further, credible allegations exist that, at times, there were FSB or other agents in the room, silently instructing witnesses what to say and how the judges should rule. This adds credence to words, according to the Kyiv Post, heard by Arsen Dzhepparov from a senior FSB lieutenant who stated “I will prove by all possible – and impossible – means that [an Accused is] guilty – even if he isn’t guilty”.

Concerning the crime of persecution, nearly all of these deprivations of fundamental rights were carried out with discriminatory intent. Specifically, these groups were targeted due to their political view – namely, by peacefully opposing the illegal occupation of their country. Some were targeted on ethnic grounds or religious grounds on the basis of their Crimean Tatar background.

War crimes, another group of crimes punished at the ICC, were also perpetrated in addition to or in the alternative to the crimes against humanity. This includes the crime of torture, outrages against personal dignity, unlawful confinement, wilfully depriving protected persons of the rights of a fair and regular trial, and the transfer of the occupying power of parts of its population into the territory it occupies or the deportation of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory.

All these crimes had the ultimate objective of the criminal enterprise – the removal of pro-Ukrainian elements out of Crimea and the annexation of Crimea into the Russian Federation without opposition, including the installation of pro-Russian elements, which include the emigration of more than 70,000 Russians, the illegal imposition of Russian law in the occupied territory, forcing Russian nationality on many Crimeans, and the appropriation of public property.

Ultimately, we hope that all the information gathered by the ICC in the context of its preliminary investigation will lead the ICC to investigate mid- to high-level Russian and Crimean officials on this basis. The international community expects responsible global leadership that follows the rule of law and expects it – no matter the situation – to be respected, especially from a state that is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. When this fails to happen, the international community must demand accountability. We hope that an investigation can be opened and responsible officials of the Russian Federation will be investigated. After an investigation that conforms to international best practices, responsible persons should be charged with the systematic perpetration of international crimes.

Novichok Use Implicates Putin’s Government in Navalny’s Poisoning

Sep 02 2020

Today, the German government has announced that Russian pro-democracy leader Alexey Navalny was poisoned by Novichok. Novichok is a deadly nerve agent developed by the Soviet government chemical weapons program and used on several occasions by the Russian government to kill its critics in the recent years.

To restate the obvious, Novichok is a poison that can only be accessed with the authority of the Kremlin. Therefore, today’s announcement by German officials  directly implicates the Kremlin and Putin in the high-profile assassination attempt on Navalny.

The choice of Novichok was not just a means  to silence Mr. Navalny, but a loud, brazen and menacing message sent by Putin to the world: dare to criticize me, and you may lose your life.

The announcement by the German government of its intent to formally notify the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (‘OPCW’) of the use of Novichok against Navalny is a meek bureaucratic half-measure that fails to acknowledge the extraordinary threat to human life posed by Putin’s regime everywhere. Taken together with Angela Merkel’s promise earlier this week to help Putin finish his Nord Stream 2 pipeline despite an international outcry amounts to condoning the poisoning and normalizing it into a new modus operandi where Putin’s murders go unpunished. Free Russia Foundation urges the leaders of the EU, its Member States and the U.S. Government to take an urgent and drastic action to punish the perpetrators of this heinous crime not only to serve justice, but to establish a powerful deterrent against new attacks by Putin’s regime globally.

Free Russia Foundation Statement on Kremlin’s Interference in Elections in Georgia

Aug 26 2020

We are deeply concerned with information recently distributed by the well-respected authoritative source Center “Dossier.” According to “Dossier,” the Kremlin is using Russian political expert Sergey Mikheev and consulting company “Politsecrets” to manipulate Georgian society, distribute disinformation and anti-democratic narratives, undermine Georgia’s Western aspirations, and interfere in free and fair elections in Georgia scheduled for October 2020.

More

Free Russia Foundation Calls for Investigation into Alexey Navalny’s Poisoning

Aug 20 2020

Free Russia Foundation is gravely concerned about the life and safety of Alexey Navalny. More

Civic Solidarity Platform Appeal with Regard to the Recent Events in Belarus

Aug 12 2020

INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY SHOULD REACT IMMEDIATELY AND STRONGLY TO RIGGED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS AND MASSIVE VIOLENCE OF SECURITY FORCES AGAINST PEACEFUL PROTESTORS IN BELARUS More