The United Nations created, Thursday, May 23, an International Day of Remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, in 1995. Belgrade and the leader of the Bosnian Serbs, who still refuse to recognize it, expressed their anger. The resolution, prepared by Germany and Rwanda, two countries marked by other genocides in the 20th century, received 84 votes in favor, 19 votes against and 68 abstentions.

“This resolution seeks to encourage reconciliation, today and for the future,” justified the permanent representative of Germany to the United Nations in New York, Ante Leendertse, assuring that the initiative was not directed against Serbia. “The United Nations was founded in the ashes of the Second World War, a war launched by Nazi Germany that left more than 60 million people dead,” she added, emphasizing that the UN was there to that such crimes are not repeated.

On July 11, 1995, a few months before the end of the intercommunal conflict that had raged in Bosnia for three years, Bosnian Serb forces, commanded by General Ratko Mladic, captured the town of Srebrenica. In the following days, approximately 8,000 Muslim men and teenagers were executed.

An indisputable “fact”

The massacre, the worst killing perpetrated in Europe since the Second World War, was described as genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ). It is therefore an indisputable “fact”, insist the supporters of the resolution.

Yet it is contested. “There was no genocide,” Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik insisted in Srebrenica on Thursday, warning the international community in advance that he would reject the resolution. “We’re telling you right now that we won’t accept it. It will not be included in the school curriculum and we will not commemorate July 11th. »

One year before the 30th anniversary of the massacre, the resolution proclaims July 11 as the “International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the Genocide Committed in Srebrenica in 1995.” The text also condemns “without reservation any denial of the historicity of the genocide committed in Srebrenica” and “acts which glorify those who have been found guilty” of these crimes.

Faced with criticism, the co-authors of the text added, at the request of Montenegro – the former Yugoslav Republic where part of the population identifies as Serbian – a sentence which specifies that the guilt of certain individuals cannot be attributed “to a ethnic, religious or other group as a whole”. A modification which did not convince Belgrade and its allies.

A “highly politicized resolution”, believes Belgrade

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, who came to New York to fight this initiative, denounced just before the vote a “highly politicized resolution”. This resolution “will open old wounds and cause political havoc, not only in our region, but also here,” he said, assuring that he paid tribute to “all the victims of the conflicts in Bosnia, Serbs and Bosnians [Muslims].”

Russia, which in 2015 vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning the Srebrenica genocide, also denounced “a sad chapter in UN history”. The text aimed to “demonize” the Serbs, denounced the Russian permanent representative, Vassili Nebenzia. “If the authors of the text wanted to divide the General Assembly (…), they succeeded brilliantly,” he quipped.

If all the countries of the former Yugoslavia, with the exception of Serbia, voted in favor, many countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America abstained. And the European Union exposed its divisions, with Hungary voting against, and several of its members abstaining (Greece, Cyprus, Slovakia). In this tense context, the EU had stressed before the vote that “anyone who tries to question [the Srebrenica genocide] has no place in Europe”.