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INFO::: Transitional Justice > Genocide > Text


A Statement at the Seventh Biennial Meeting of the International Association of Genocide Scholars

Sarajevo, July 2007

Florance Hartmann


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Genocide was defined as a crime of destroying or committing conspiracy to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group. Genocides or mass killings characterized by their systematic and widespread nature emerge from a long process recognisable by its pattern of purposeful actions that are common to each genocide: from the political doctrine and the message creating a clear distinction between them and us, to the perpetration of offences showing a pattern on repetition of destructive and discriminatory acts. But it is not sufficient identifying these patterns and even the moving force(s) behind the execution of the genocidal plan. Only external political will can prevent or stop genocides or crimes against humanity.

External, because the slaughtered people will never have the strength to react properly as genocide's first step consists precisely in dehumanizing the targeted groups and depriving them from any of their rights even the one to live.

Political, because genocide itself is a policy. Genocide and crimes against humanity are crimes of a system and not crimes of individuals even if multiple individual participations are necessary for achieving the goals. Only highest authorities, often highest state authorities, can instrumentalize efficiently the hatred through an orchestrated campaign prior to the commission of crimes, and then give other people the means and the organization to translate the hatred into actions and to undertake the genocidal process in details while the leadership is in fact making very general decisions.

Regrettably, the external political will necessary to stop genocides is not systematic and depends upon various political factors that are not universal but pertain to various particular state interests.

The intent which is peculiar to the crime of genocide need not be expressed clearly by the perpetrator or by his associates. It may be inferred from a "pattern of purposeful actions". Evidence of a pattern on repetition of destructive and discriminatory acts is powerful evidence of an intent to destroy the group, particularly where the perpetrator's group is systematically excluded from the crimes. The specific intent is therefore proved by perpetrators' words and by their actions.

The plan to carve (up) Bosnia has been clearly and precisely formulated, -often publicly-, as early as 1991. This plan implied the intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslims - the Bosniaks - within a limited geographic area, in this case part of the territory in Bosnia and Herzegovina which was targeted for inclusion in a Serbian state.

Milosevic was the initiator and the moving force behind the execution of the plan to secure Serb designated areas in both Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was the political leader of Serbia but was regarded as the leader and protector of all ethnic Serbs dispersed throughout the former Yugoslavia. He used Karadzic to formulate and to articulate their shared intent. In a conversation between Milosevic, Milan Babic and Radovan Karadzic in July 1991, Karadzic says he would chase the Muslims in the river valleys in order to link up all Serb territories in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Yet again, since the beginning of the crisis in the Former Yugoslavia, so already prior to the war, Milosevic and his associates made no secret of their goals. It was obvious that including territories from other republics with already established borders would inevitably bring a high risk - or certainty - of violence. The use of violence was necessary to achieve this goal, especially in multiethnic areas as was Yugoslavia. As it was foreseeable, it could have been prevented. Moreover, there was no doubt that the Bosnian Muslim population was the principle obstacle to their territorial designs and they could not tolerate their existence as a group in the municipalities coveted. Prior to the war, they started singling out the Bosnian Muslims as the group that was to be partially destroyed.

In spite of a clearly formulated intention no adequate actions were taken by the international community in order to prevent it. Diplomatic actions at that time were not properly designed to dissuade Karadzic, Milosevic and their associates from taking all military and political actions in order to ensure the implementation of their plan.

Milosevic took always a special care to minimize the public acknowledgement of his involvement in events in Croatia and Bosnia as we can see in various intercept from 1991. In an intercepted phone conversation with Karadzic on 30 December 1991, he cautioned him not to indicate any new concept for Yugoslavia -Greater Serbia for instance - but rather the continuation of the old Yugoslavia. He said: "Take care, it is dangerous if they think that something new is being created.".

At that time, Cyrus Vance was indeed saying to Milosevic: "You would never get Republika Srpska". In the first years of the war, the prospect of getting legalized the take over of part of the Bosnian territory was close to none. In June 1993, Milosevic felt that "the war option in Bosnia has been exhausted". At a high level meeting in Belgrade, he explained the reason: "they have taken everything that was supposed to be taken". "They", meaning his associates.

In facts, they had not exactly what they wanted. Their plan required making the map "compact". The area required to make the map "compact" was the enclaves that included Srebrenica, Gorazde and Zepa. Their need for, and their determination to have, a "compact" map sealed the fate of the enclaves in the summer of 1995. So the tragic events that slowly unfolded were not the chaotic consequences of the acts of individual local perpetrators but the consequences of the Serb political leadership's planning and foresight. Therefore it was predictable and so it could have been prevented.

The genocidal ambitions of the Bosnian Serb leadership are frequently evident in their discussions and speeches. They did not make any effort to disguise these intentions of ethnically cleansing Bosnia of Muslims, even from the international community as David Harland, for instance, revealed before the ICTY in its testimony at the Milosevic trial. Despite this advance notice, international community failed to take necessary actions to prevent such crimes committed with a genocidal intent.

Genocidal intent on the part of Karadzic and other members of the Bosnian Serb leadership found its expression in particular in speeches at the 16th Session of the Bosnian Serb Assembly on 12 May 1992 and in intercepts of communications between Karadzic and others in 1991 to 1992. Most of those intercepts were not made public but they were timely made available to leading powers.

"Six strategic Objectives of the Serbian people", -published on 12 May 1992 in the Republika Srpska's Official Gazette-, are the clearest manifestations that a plan existed to remove non-Serbs from power in all targeted areas and to essentially remove non-Serbs physically from targeted parts of Bosnia regardless of whether they formed the ethnic majority or not. Taken in the context of Karadzic's and others' increasing references to the annihilation of Muslims in Bosnia, and what followed, these documents may be seen as vehicles employed by the Bosnian Serb leadership to implement a genocidal plan. The first strategic goal -'separating the Serbian people from the other two ethnic communities"- is articulated by Karadzic in the 16th Assembly Session. "We cannot be in that unified state. We well know, where fundamentalism arrives, you cannot live any more. There's no tolerance. Serbs and Croats together by birth rate cannot control the intrusion of Islam in Europe, for in 5-6 years in a unified Bosnia, the Muslims would be over 51%. .This conflict was incited so that the Muslims would not exist"

On 12 October 1991, Karadzic had a lengthy discussion with Gojko Djogo. During the conversation, Karadzic repeated five times that the Muslims will disappear in case of war. Let me quote him partially: "They do not understand that there would be bloodshed and that the Muslim people would be exterminated. The deprived Muslims, who do not know where he (Izetbegovic) is leading, to what he is leading the Muslims, would disappear" or "They will disappear, that people will disappear from the face of the Earth"

On 13 October 1991, Karadzic speaks with Momcilo Mandic : "In just a couple of days, Sarajevo will be gone and there will be five hundred thousand dead, in one month Muslims will be annihilated in Bosnia and Herzegovina".

On 15 October 1991, Karadzic forecasts extermination of the Muslims in case of war in Bosnia. In a conversation with Miodrag Davidovic and Luka Karadzic, Radovan Karadzic says: "In the first place no one of their leadership would stay alive, in three, four hours they'd all be killed. They wouldn't have a chance to survive at all".

On the same day, in his famous televised speech in the Bosnian Assembly, -a public speech-, Karadzic says once again: "This is the road that you want Bosnia and Herzegovina to take, the same highway of hell and suffering that Slovenia and Croatia went through. Don't think you won't take Bosnia and Herzegovina to hell and Muslim people in possible extinction."

With the beginning of the war in April 1992, crimes were perpetrated on a large scale and a systematic pattern, notably in Prijedor, Brcko, Sanski Most, and in Zvornik, Bratunac and later in Srebrenica, as part of the genocidal campaign across the whole of the proposed Serbian state in Bosnia. Evidence of repetition, pattern, or system is indicative of the presence of a genocidal plan or campaign conceived at the leadership level. This should have drawn the attention of internationals in order to take the necessary measures to prevent the Serb leadership not only to realize their military goals but their genocidal ambitions.

A clear genocidal intent on the part of the Bosnian Serb leadership in respect to Srebrenica was expressed throughout the war. During the 33rd Session of the RS Assembly, held on the 20th and 21st of July, 1993, Karadzic says that if the Bosnian Serb forces had entered Srebrenica, there would have been 'blood to the knees'. In 1994, Karadzic said in the context of the enclave: "If the international community treats us like a beast, then we will behave like a beast". He repeated a similar sentence in a meeting with British General Rupert Smith on 30 April 1995 ( if the international community treated Bosnian Serbs like beasts in a cage, that is how they would behave). According to the well known evidence given at the ICTY by late Miroslav Deronjic, Karadzic said to him on 9th July 1995 in Pale just after meeting with Jovica Stanisic: "Miroslav, all of them need to be killed.everything you can get your hands on". On the other hand, Mladic expressed openly such an intent. For instance, on 11 and 12 July 1995 at the Hotel Fontana meeting, Mladic offers the Bosnjaks the option of surviving or disappearing.

By mid 1994, Milosevic acknowledged the change in the international community's position. To his associates he said at a meeting in Belgrade: "We have actually been offered to expand our territory by one fourth and to legalize it as well! And even to have a confederation right away!" Prior to the mass killings in Srebrenica, Milosevic stressed, in January 1995, that international community eventuelly offered a fifty-fifty solution in BH exclusively on basis of fact that a military victory has been achieved in war. If there had not been military victory, international community, he said "would have never proposed that territory of BH be devided fifty-fifty, which in history was never been territory on which there was a Serb state." After Srebrenica genocide and before Dayton, in August 1995, Milosevic stated that enclaves will not need to be exchanged as they would blend into Serbian surroundings without a fight. He then praised Mladic and his officers for having completed "their part of the job with honour". Then he added: ".if Muslims refuse a peace solution, they will be told that they are to be left alone with the sword of Mladic hanging over them ". After Dayton, Milosevic outlined: "And RS has been created, a state in territory where there has never been a Serbian state. That is a historical achievement. Simply, a huge victory has been achieved and the result is that the RS has been created , a republic!, on half the territory of BH. We sustained and entered into the books 49% !"

Evil inventiveness of modern murderous politicians has outpaced the legal inventiveness of lawyers and diplomats. Milosevic managed to give the impression he had no effective control over his associates and troops while they were committing genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina, that he had not formulated the intent or committed conspiracy to destroy a part of the Bosnjak group. In the case that Bosnia brought against Serbia for genocide, the International Court of Justice's verdict, from last February, found Serbia under Milosevic guilty of aiding and abetting an act of genocide, but not guilty of the act itself, even though the court found that the military and police of the Republika Srpska had indeed committed genocide. This was the first time that the often-cited but never implemented 1948 genocide convention was brought against a state.

How to prevent genocide ? I went though this short selection of facts and quotes in order to outlined that Bosnia provides us with a clear answer. This answer may not apply in every single case although Bosnia's example is not quite isolated. Indeed, in most of the cases, as in Bosnia, preventing genocide in a timely manner requires observing, understanding the signs, especially when the intent has been so clearly formulated since the beginning of the war. There was no surprise in what happened in Bosnia, any one who wanted, could easily foresee the cycle of violence and the intent to destroy one of the ethnic group, namely the Bosniaks. Preventing genocide, as I said at the beginning of my presentation, depends therefore on the external political will. In Bosnia the intent was clearly articulated and available to the great powers. If genocide was not prevented, that was the result of a lack of political will. And I have to underline, that this lack of political will happened despite the legal obligations created by the Genocide Convention on its signatories since it says that states have a duty to intervene and prevent it. It was to avoid those duties that the international community, mainly the US and the EU, deliberately avoided using the Genocide-word over Bosnia, same as they did in 1994 over Rwanda.



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