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(E) Srebrenica by Courtney Angela Brkic in The New York Times
By Nenad N. Bach | Published  07/11/2005 | History | Unrated
(E) Srebrenica by Courtney Angela Brkic in The New York Times

 

Srebrenica

Dear All,

The New York Times today printed my editorial on Srebrenica. You can follow
the link to see it, and I'm also pasting it at the bottom of this
message.

With best wishes to everyone,

Courtney Angela

'At the end of the Second World War, Allied troops forced German citizens to
walk through Nazi death camps. They were confronted by crimes committed in
their name, in order to ensure that those crimes could not be denied or
minimized later. The people of Serbia and Montenegro, by contrast, have
never been forced to acknowledge the crimes committed in their name.'


Op-Ed Contributor


The Wages of Denial


By COURTNEY ANGELA BRKIC
Published: July 11, 2005
Washington
TEN years ago this week, Serbian forces slaughtered more than 7,000 Muslim
men in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica. Despite the efforts of a
dedicated few in Serbia, and despite the war crimes prosecutions at The
Hague, Serbia is no closer today than it was a decade ago to reckoning with
its war guilt.
For years Belgrade has denied involvement by its citizens in Srebrenica and
other massacres of the 1990s. The recent broadcast of a graphic video that
showed Serbian paramilitary police executing six young men from Srebrenica
should have made it very hard to sustain that revisionism. Amazing as it
seems, however, the video was not enough to shatter what Serbian human
rights activist Sonja Biserko has described as the country's "state of
collective denial."
Fewer than half of Serbs polled last spring believed the Srebrenica massacre
took place. And while much has been made of the video's effects on a shocked
Serbian public, it remains to be seen where that public will stand once the
furor recedes. The Radical Party, which won 27 percent of the popular vote
in the last national elections, making it the largest party in Parliament,
has already criticized what it sees as the anti-Serb hysteria that "wishes
at all costs to put the burden of all crimes on Serbia." Graffiti has
appeared in several cities praising the "liberation" of Srebrenica. Rumors
circulate that the video was doctored, or that the men committing the crimes
were acting independently.
Instead of coming to terms with its past, Serbia has circumvented the issue
with the narrative skills befitting a psychopath. For example, a debate on
Srebrenica at the Belgrade Law Faculty earlier this year was initially
titled "10 Years After the Liberation of Srebrenica." In response to the
video, Serbia's president, Boris Tadic, said, "Serbia is deeply shocked"
that "the killers had walked freely among us." But Mr. Tadic's government
surely knows that the killers in the video are but a small fraction of the
number who continue to walk the streets of Serbia and Montenegro as free
men.
A fairy tale has passed for public memory until now in Serbia and Montenegro
and it is conspicuous in its omission of Serb atrocities in Croatia,
Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, which left hundreds of thousands dead. The
Serbian version of that history denies the fact that President Slobodan
Milosevic of Yugoslavia and those like him enjoyed overwhelming popular
support in Serbia during the war, despite the evictions, rapes and unchecked
slaughter by Yugoslav troops and irregulars. It suggests that Belgrade today
has nothing to do with Belgrade as it was 10 years ago. It aims at an absurd
relativism, placing Serbian atrocities within the context of crimes
committed by other ethnicities (in fact, the C.I.A. has reported that Serbs
were responsible for 90 percent of all atrocities committed in Bosnia). Mr.
Tadic was quoted as saying, "Crimes are always individual." All of this is
fiction.
At the end of the Second World War, Allied troops forced German citizens to
walk through Nazi death camps. They were confronted by crimes committed in
their name, in order to ensure that those crimes could not be denied or
minimized later. The people of Serbia and Montenegro, by contrast, have
never been forced to acknowledge the crimes committed in their name.
There are those who refuse to whitewash Serbia's recent past. The Helsinki
Human Rights Committee in Serbia and the independent broadcaster Radio B92
are admirable examples. People like Natasa Kandic, chairwoman of the
Humanitarian Law Center in Belgrade, have spent years fighting for the
truth, often at great personal risk. Extremists threatened to lynch Ms.
Kandic at the law school debate on Srebrenica, and one of them spat in her
face.
Eight of Serbia's human rights groups have drafted a declaration on
Srebrenica that would obligate the country's government to confess to the
massacre and to "expose and punish any ideological justification of crime."
But the daily newspaper Blic reported that the majority of parties in
Serbia's Parliament refused not only to endorse the declaration but also to
debate it.
Serbia must relinquish the fairy tale that its own wartime suffering was
equivalent to the devastation it visited on others. Adopting an honest
declaration on Srebrenica would have been an important first step, and the
Serbian Parliament should have taken it. For as long as Serbia's people deny
complicity in war crimes, they undercut any hope for justice and cheat their
country out of any decent future. The Western aid money that has poured into
Serbia may help rebuild the country's infrastructure, but it will do nothing
to cut out the cancer that riddles the country's heart.
Western governments are anxious for reconciliation in the Balkans, which
would ensure future stability in the region. They are pushing hard for the
arrests of people like Radovan Karadzic, the architect of the genocide, and
Ratko Mladic, who carried it out, and they lauded the speed with which the
Serbian government detained those suspected of being the killers shown on
the video. But those arrests will not be nearly enough.
Such men were not exceptions, nor were they acting independently, and Serbia
must acknowledge this truth, rather than denying or minimizing it. That
means surrendering all war crimes suspects to The Hague and paying
reparations to the victims of war. The West should ask for no less than this
when it considers Serbian requests for aid.

Courtney Angela Brkic is the author of "Stillness: And Other Stories" and
"The Stone Fields," an account of her work excavating mass graves outside
Srebrenica.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/11/opinion/11Brkic.html
 

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