GENOCIDE MEMORIAL UNDER STATE CONTROL
SREBRENICA GENOCIDE MEMORIAL NO LONGER UNDER SERB JURISDICTION
Srebrenica is located in Republika Srpska, however it is also the site of the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosniak boys and men, Europe’s worst carnage since World War II – ruled genocide by both the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslaiva (ICTY) and subsequently by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. The bodies of the victims are being still uncovered from mass graves around the area and then reburied at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial located in Potocari.
Bosnian Serb officials were angered by the fact that the new law would allow Bosnia’s state authorities to control an institution on the territory of their political entity, which along with Bosniak-Croat Federation makes up Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The law was enacted by the High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, Schwarz-Schilling, after Bosnia’s state parliament failed to pass it earlier this month. “While no representative voted against the draft, the absence of Bosnian Serb deputies resulted in the lack of the majority required to pass the law,” Schwarz-Schilling said.
To declare the law, the High Representative used Bonn powers and explained his move to the press with the stance that the Memorial Centre must not be part of the political game.
“I could not end my term in Bosnia-Herzegovina by leaving the possibility that this law become the victim of political maneuvring. To allow this law to stay forgotten because of the omissions in its passing in the parliamentary procedure would be inconceivable to me.”– Schwarz-Schilling told the daily newspaper Dnevni avaz.
The government of the Srpska Republic immediately condemned the decision, calling on the high representative to change it back. Bosnian Serbs fear that any measure that allows central institutions to interfere into matters on their territory will eventually lead to the unification of the country.
After the ICJ’s ruling in February, returnees to Srebrenica, mainly the families of the victims, have requested that Srebrenica be exempted from the territory of Republika Srpska and turned into a district under the control of central institutions, claiming it is unacceptable for the town to stay under the control of authorities responsible for genocide. Bosnian Serbs reject such an idea.
The proposal to put at least the memorial center under state control was supposed to be discussed mid-June at the State Parliament, where representatives of all three groups sit. However, Bosnian Serb lawmakers were collectively absent from the session, preventing the passing of the law.
“This law directly affects those who were bereaved at Srebrenica; it ensures that the dead will be remembered in an appropriate way and that the crime perpetrated against them will not be forgotten.” – Schwarz Schilling said.
This is why the law had to be imposed, said Schwarz Schilling, who has the authority to impose laws when domestic authorities fail to do so.
“The Memorial Center is one of the core elements in this country’s effort to come to terms with and to ameliorate the deep sorrow that continues to be caused by the genocide that was committed at Srebrenica. The secure and properly managed future of this Center matters to every decent citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, from whichever community he or she may come,” – he said.
“The law applies directly to those who lost their dearest ones in Srebrenica and ensures that the memory of the fallen is preserved and that the crimes committed against them are not forgotten. ” – he said.
“For me to allow this law to go into limbo because of a failure of parliamentary procedure would have been unthinkable,” said the diplomat whose mandate ends on June 30.