PAGE 2/3


NO 109-110

PAGE 2/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3

INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 109-110 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 109-110

July - August 2007



Sylvie Mutton

(A Statemnet at the Seventh Biennial Meeting of the International Association of Genocide Scholars,
Sarajevo, July 2007)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Having very little time to speak, I will be direct; I'll just say clearly what I believe about Western complicity with the genocide that occurred in Bosnia in the 1990s. But it is disturbing for me to do so here, when among all the scholars here present there are also victims, survivors; it's as if I were appropriating the right to tell you your own story, the story of your suffering; a story you know much too well. I hope you will forgive me.

"Reacting to genocide before it's too late." Unfortunately, there seems to be no such thing in history, either before 1948 nor after the word genocide was invented. But if they refer to the 'Convention on the Prevention and Punishment for the crime of genocide', leaders of UN member countries have an international legal obligation to react, interfere, intervene, as soon as one of them is suffering or about to suffer an act of genocide. The UN Charter proposes a wide range of actions against the aggressor in Chapters VI and VII, including the use of force. This, of course, is the reason why world leaders are so reluctant to call a crime a crime, and a genocide by its name. That's what happened among the permanent members of the UN Security Council during the Bosniac genocide, from 1992 to 1995: The United States wished not to get involved, the 'zero dead' option meaning there would be no men on the ground. Russia clearly supported Serbia, its Slavic sister and a trade-bound country. And Great Britain and France, more secretively but quite efficiently, were supporting Milosevic's so-called 'politik.'

International consensus after the crime would be a childish cover-up: "We didn't know; we couldn't have known." The reality was denied : the planned aggression of Milosevic's army against the Bosniac civilians was called a "civil war." There was neither an aggressor nor an aggressed population, but warring parties, belligerents attacking each other because of ancient hatreds, etc. ... The aggressor was painted as a victim and the killings, the massacres as plain collateral damage. François Mitterrand and his ministers (as Roland Dumas and Hubert Védrine) ; John Major and his (as Rifkind and Hurd) -all of them repeated those same lies. The words chosen were part of the plan; in fact, they repeated Belgrade's propaganda. But they were so erroneous, so unrealistic compared to what was actually happening on the ground that they revealed later not only the truth that those in charge wanted so very much to hide, but also their personal commitment, if not their complicity. The corruption scandal linking some Western politicians to Milosevic's regime was first denounced in Great Britain by Ed Vulliamy and, later, by Carol Hodge; and in the United States by Roy Gutman. As for the French politicians, all the proof has not yet been compiled, but we have quite a lot of clues.

The main purpose of all those lies and denials was, of course, to stay away from the dangerous word 'genocide.' Had the crime been recognized as such as soon as Bosnia became part of the UN on May 22, 1992, members of the organization would have been obliged to intervene using military force. But most likely, after the first lies and compromises, it was already too late to react from the leaders' point of view.

The words chosen for this consensual camouflage prove a clear intention to hide the truth. Because there is no doubt that they all knew what was planned out and then achieved; they all know, from the services and agents, from the intercepts and aircrafts, from the drones and satellite shots, but also through Karadzic's public speeches. Some of the trials at the ICTY have yielded crucial evidence. They knew as early as May 1991 about arms and killers flooding into Bosnia, in the first chapter of the planned aggression on the towns and villages. The Bosnian intercepts between Milosevic and his Bosno Serbs accomplices talking about this organization are now public. They were certainly not meant to be heard only by the Bosnian presidency. They were a desperate cry for help.

The Western leaders knew as early as January 1992 about the tanks up on the hills surrounding Sarajevo, ready to attack the besieged city. As Roy Gutman revealed, certain CIA agents informed the US Administration that those tanks could be entirely destroyed by NATO forces within a day or two. But at that time, the United States wanted to avoid any involvement in Milosevic's wars - despite the suffering such an intervention would have prevented.

This medieval siege (plus mortars and snipers) was allowed by the leaders of the so-called civilized world, as proven by the former French president François Mitterrand: his apparently friendly visit to Sarajevo on June 28, 1992, with Bernard Kouchner, the current French Foreign Affairs Minister, confirmed international treason.

As Roy Gutman realized while writing his first articles on the concentration-extermination camps in Northern and Eastern Bosnia in early August 1992, the CIA had obviously known of their existence since very early April. As for François Mitterrand's being told about them by Alija Izetbegovic during his visit, he remained silent for more than a month until the camps were denounced by the media. Did the Western leaders conclude, at the time, that it was too late to react? Or did they simply choose to let Milosevic and his Bosnian Serb accomplices achieve their goal?

We should remember the Nazi camps. When discovered by shocked soldiers in 1945, four years after the Holocaust started and after the extermination of six million Jews, the leaders of the Allied countries pretended to be astonished. In 2005, 60 years later, the actual leaders of those countries admitted that their predecessors had been aware of the existence of those camps-thanks to airplane shots. Nevertheless, for four years, they chose not to react.

During the Bosniac genocide, not only was there no will to interfere, but there was a clear will to support the aggressor. All the UN resolutions that were proposed and voted in by the Security Council had been, most of the time, promoted by the French and the British. All those resolutions prove their support. The first ones for example, as the arms embargo, offered the military power to Serbia, while denying Bosnia the slightest legal right to self-defense as mentioned in the Charter.

Thanks to Diego Arria, the former UN ambassador from Venezuela, and both his testimonies at the ICTY, we have precise clues about the responsibilities of the Russian, British, and French on the Security Council, with withholding information, disappearance of crucial documents, etc. In April 1993, back from a UN mission in Srebrenica he had promoted in April 1993 (the only one of its kind), Diego Arria also denounced to the press, the 'slow-motion genocide' he had witnessed in the enclave.

In 1995, Western leaders wanted more than ever to pull out of Bosnia and find an agreement with Milosevic. It had to happen. Public pressure for peace was strong and impatient. The negotiations started in late May, in Belgrade, between Robert Frasure, one of Richard Holbrooke's team, and Milosevic. That's what one can conclude from what Carl Bildt told me when answering one of my questions: 'Republika Srpska had been dealt at the end of May, in Belgrade." Republika Srpska negotiated and accepted by Milosevic meant no Muslim enclaves left on that territory. In exchange, Milosevic would accept a cease fire, the recognition of the Republic of BH and the same surface of territory as the sacrificed enclaves, regained by force within the early Serb conquests in Western Bosnia -but no more : the Croato Muslim forces helped by some Americans were told to stop before Banja Luka they had at hand.

Lets also remember Holbrooke's words when interviewed for Hayat Television in November 2005: "I was under initial instructions to sacrifice Srebenica, Goradze and Zepa... and I thought that was wrong." When asked if the sacrifice of the enclaves meant only the territories or both the territories and their populations, his answer by email was clear; "Both." I also asked him who had given him his instructions. The answer was 'Tony Lake,' meaning Number 3 at the White House. Later, when interviewed by American journalists about that statement which was published in a French magazine, Holbrooke would pretend he meant only Goradze but neither Srebenica nor Zepa. But that's impossible: the context of his answer is Srebenica, and during this ten-minute interview, Goradze is not even mentioned anywhere else!

The fall of Srebenica was planned out. In the first days of July, most of those in charge left for a trip or on holidays, and wouldn't get back to their offices before the enclave was in the hands of Mladic's forces. Obviously, they didn't want to be there, and to have to react. I'm mentioning, of course, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Kofi Annan, Yasushi Akashi, but also Ruppert Smith, among others...

But once the so-called UN 'security zone' had fallen, the UN should at least have taken care of the population, which obviously needed to be evacuated. Instead of doing so, Boutros-Ghali, as usual obeying the British and French, refused, on July 11th, around 6.30 P.M., to let the transfer be organized using UN vehicles.

While interviewing Alain Juppé, the former French Prime Minister in May 1995, I asked him if he knew of Karadzic's instructions: "Take the enclaves and destroy the Muslims." He repeated the sentence, confirming that all Western politicians concerned by the conflict were aware of the Serb leader objectives. And when I asked Juppé what he meant by the word "destroy," he answered me, while obviously not being aware of the real meaning of his sentence: "We knew the Serbs would make no prisoners." Now, no one needed Intelligence to know that the men and boys were being separated from the rest of the population. Mladic himself had said it to the crowd in Potocari in front of a camera: "Women and children first." They all knew right from the beginning that the systematic slaughter had begun. They needed neither satellites, nor U2 images, and they wouldn't even ask for the pictures to be treated. They knew through their agents, their intercepts, through the desperate phone calls from the Bosnian Presidency or ministry of Foreign Affairs. But they pretended not to know, and wouldn't even try helping the column of men fleeing out of the forest.. None of them promoted a negotiation with Milosevic. They simply looked the other way...

To avoid being accused of complicity in an ethnic cleansing, they chose to let Mladic's forces do the job, despite the terrible risk to the sacrificed population. They preferred becoming accomplices in this ultimate chapter of the Bosniac genocide. as long as they could deny it. That is why they have never wanted Karadzic or Mladic to be arrested and tried, as their trial would in part reveal the negotiations and compromises of the so-called International community with the criminals - especially of the 5 Permanents of the Security Council.

Looking at the example of the Bosniac genocide, we see how the "too late to react" may, in fact, start very early for politicians - as early as the first negotiations, compromises and lies. The gap between awareness and complicity is dangerously narrow. The shameful ICJ judged that Serbia had violated the Convention of genocide by not preventing it in Srebenica. But you can only try to prevent it if you are being informed of its preparation. And this is precisely where the complicity starts, for Serbia, of course (political complicity with the RS being a euphemism), but also for all informed foreign governments.

This is when the counter-power of the media becomes so powerful, while provoking indignation in the public opinions. All of us-writers, journalists, observers, members of the civil society, we must remain aware; we must fight for the values and principles that politicians are used to putting aside so easily. We must keep on denouncing the previous genocides, as this conference allows us to do; we must have the truth emerge and be admitted by all as such. Because denial always opens the door to the potential for repeating such a crime. While anticipating the next genocide, we must continue denouncing the process in order, perhaps, to avoid it. Reacting to the next genocide must start now; it can never be too early.


NO 109-110

PAGE 2/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3







Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment