OPEN LETTER BY 54 ACADEMICS & INTELLECTUALS
Caption: Photo of a child corpse on display
in the visitors center in Srebrenica.
A year ago, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued its verdict in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina versus Serbia, acquitting Serbia of direct involvement in genocide in Bosnia. We, members of the international academic community, believe that this decision – reached without a review of all the available evidence – amounts to a miscarriage of justice and a betrayal of the principle that international criminal law should act to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.
The ICJ refused to subpoena Serbia to hand over the uncensored minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Defence Council of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The application of the Bosnian team with this request was denied. ICJ judges also decided not to ask the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to disclose these documents. The importance of these transcripts in proving the intent of the Republic of Serbia to carry out genocide against the Muslim population of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992-1995 became apparent in the case of the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic at the ICTY. Judges in the Milosevic case had those minutes at their disposal when they found there was enough evidence to convict Milosevic on genocide charges in Bosnia and Herzegovina – not only at Srebrenica in 1995, but in relation to crimes carried out since 1992. In a procedural ruling in that case of 16 June 2004, the Trial Chamber concluded that “there is sufficient evidence that genocide was committed in Brcko, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Srebrenica, Bijeljina, Kljuc and Bosanski Novi”. It goes on to state that it “could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was a participant in the joint criminal enterprise” which had “the aim and intention” to destroy a part of the Bosnian Muslims as a group. This being the case, it is reasonable to surmise that, had the uncensored minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Defence Council been put before the ICJ, the verdict might have gone differently and Serbia might have been found responsible of genocide. The fact that the Court decided not to ask for these minutes leads us to believe that the Court’s conduct of the case, as well as its verdict, was influenced by political considerations.
According to the ICJ’s verdict, Bosnian Serb perpetrators were nowhere guilty of genocide except at Srebrenica. Yet this has already been called into question by the European Court of Human Rights, which on 12 July 2007 upheld the conviction for genocide of the Bosnian Serb paramilitary leader Nikola Jorgic by the German courts. Jorgic was convicted in Germany of having carried out genocide in the Doboj region in 1992, in one of a series of massacres that the ICJ claimed was not genocidal.
However, the ICJ is not the only United Nations’ court that failed to uphold the principles of international law. The ICTY judges granted Serbia’s request that the minutes of the Supreme Defence Council be submitted in a censored version, allegedly because Serbia’s ‘national security’ was at stake. This would be equivalent to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg agreeing to withhold key evidence against the Nazi leaders out of respect for Germany’s ‘national security’. The ICTY’s concession to Serbia was the result of a political agreement reached by the Tribunal with the Serbian government, and is therefore evidence again that the international courts have allowed politics to interfere with the legal process.
As representatives of the academic community, human rights activists and intellectuals from all over the world, we demand that the international public be told the whole truth. We therefore request that the full and uncensored minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Defence Council be made public, so that the role of the Serbian state in the genocide in Bosnia and Hercegovina can be assessed objectively.
1. Dr Marko Attila Hoare, Senior Research Fellow at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University; author of ‘The History of Bosnia: From the Middle Ages to the Present Day’ and ‘Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia’
2. Edina Becirevic, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Criminal Justice Science, University of Sarajevo; author of ‘International Criminal Court: Between Ideals and Reality’
3. Sonja Biserko, Head of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, wrote and edited several books about the Serbian nationalism, among them ‘Bosnia- Herzegovina the Core of the Greater Serbia Project’
4. Dr Robert Donia, Research Associate at the University of Michigan’s Center for Russian and East European Studies, author of ‘Sarajevo: A Biography’.
5. Dr Noel Malcolm, Senior Research Fellow, All Souls College, University of Oxford, author of ‘Bosnia: A short history’ and ‘Kosovo: A short history’
6. Professor Norman Cigar, Research Fellow with the Marine Corps University, Quantico, Virginia, author of ‘Genocide in Bosnia’
7. Diego Arria, Ambassador, former Chairman of the UN Security Council
8. Sylvie Matton, French writer and publicist, author of ‘Srebrenica: Un genocide annonce’
9. Professor Tom Gallagher, professor, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, UK, author of ‘The Balkans after the Cold War’, ‘The Balkans in the New Millennium’, ‘The Balkans, 1789-1989’
10. Branka Magas, historian, author of ‘The Destruction of Yugoslavia’; editor of ‘The War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina’
11. Quintin Hoare, Director of the Bosnian Institute
12. Maja Petrovic-Steger, Fellow of Peterhouse College, Cambridge and of the Department of Social Anthropology at Cambridge University.
13. Dr Smail Cekic, Direktor of the Institute for the Research of Crimes Against Humanity and International Law, author of ‘The aggression against the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina’
14. Una Barac, BA (Hons) Dip Arch RIBA, London
15. Dr Mirsad Abazovic, Professor, Faculty of Criminal Justice Science, University of Sarajevo
16. Jasmin Ahic, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Criminal Justice Science, University of Sarajevo
17. Dr Susan M. Blaustein, Columbia University
18. Dr James Lyon, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group
19. Latinka Perovic, historian, Belgrade, author of many books on Serbian history, most recently ‘Between anarchy and autocracy: Serbian society at the turn of the centuries (XIX-XXI)’
20. Biljana Kovacevic-Vuco, Direktor of YUCOM (Committee of Human Rights), Belgrade
21. Jasmina Besirevic Regan, Dean of Trumbull College of Yale University
22. Sabrina P. Ramet, Professor of Political Science, The Norwegian University of Science & Technology,Trondheim, Norway, author of ‘The Three Yugoslavias’
23. Dr Ronald A. Roberts, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University, author of ‘Just War: Psychology and Terrorism’
24. Ed Vulliamy, Senior International Correspondent, The Observer newspaper, London, author of ‘Seasons in Hell: Understanding Bosnia’s War’
25. Jens -Martin Eriksen, writer, Denmark
26. Florian Bieber, Lecturer in East European Politics, University of Kent, author of ‘Post war Bosnia’ and ‘Understanding the war in Kosovo’
27. Peter Lodenius, journalist Ny Tid, Denmark
28. Aida Alic, journalist, BIRN – Justice Report
29. Aida Kokic, University of Sarajevo
30. Mirza Kokic, University of Sarajevo
31. Zrinka Bralo, Executive Director of the Migrant and Refugee Communities Forum in London
32. Majda Becirevic, The Open University, UK
33. Adisa Mehic, lawyer, Sarajevo
34. Jasminka Dedic, MA, Peace Institute, Ljubljana
35. Carole Hodge, author of the book ‘The Serb Lobby in the United Kingdom’
36. Hariz Halilovich, Lecturer at the School of Anthropology, Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Melbourne
37. Velma Saric, Institute for the Research of Crimes against Humanity and International Law
38. Vlado Azinovic, senior editor, South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Prague, CZ
39. Bianca Jagger, human rights activist
40. Reverend Professor Nicholas Sagovsky, MA, PhD, the Canon Theologian at Westminster Abbey and author on many books on theology, ecumenism and social justice
41. Dr. Rory J. Conces, Department of Philosophy and Religion, University of Nebraska at Omaha USA
42. Edin Veladžić, Historian, University of Sarajevo
43. Karl F. Bahm, Associate Professor of European History, The University of Wisconsin – Superior, USA
44. Ioannis Armakolas, Adjunct lecturer, University of the Aegean, Greece
45. Dr.Srdja Pavlovic. Assistant Adjunct Professor, Department of History and Classics University of Alberta, Canada
46. Professor Persephone Zeri, Panteion University of Athens, Greece
47. Anna Di Lellio, Graduate Program in International Affairs, The New School, New York Visiting Professor
48. Tammy Smith, Assistant Professor of Sociology, SUNY Stony Brook
49. Maria Papadopoulou, journalist, Athens –Greece
50. Prof. Dr. Ludwig Steindorff, Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Osteuropäische Geschichte, Historisches Seminar
51. Gorana Ognjenovic, Chiefeditor, Dictum The Critical Viewm (www.dictum.no)
52. Ozren Zunec, Professor of Sociology, University of Zagreb
53. Dunja Melčić, historian, philosopher, Zagreb
54. Tone Bringa, autor of ‘Being Muslim the Bosnian Way’