PHOTO: Haris Silajdzic, Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, addresses the general debate of the sixty-third session of the General Assembly in New York, September 23rd 2008.
Quick Points: In a vehement denunciation of widespread genocide denial, the President of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dr Haris Silajdzic, warned the United Nations to be more pro-active in preventing genocides and correcting past mistakes. Dr Silajdzic, who disagrees with RDC figures which account for 100,000 dead in Bosnia, warned the UN that according to the International Red Cross Committee data “200,000 people were killed during the Bosnian war, 12,000 of them children, while 50,000 women were raped, with 2.2 million people forced to leave their homes.” He reminded the World that was a true genocide and blasted the UN for bearing partial responsibility for Srebrenica genocide.
Dr Haris Silajdzic, the presiding member of the presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina, visited New York last week and started his seven-day summit to remind the World to be more pro-active in preventing genocides and correcting past mistakes.
At the initiative of American-Jewish Committee, Dr Silajdzic met with the Jewish delegation, led by Mr Andrew Bauer and Mr Herbert Bloc, and thanked them for the help their Committee was giving Bosnia so far. Dr Silajdzic attended the opening ceremony of the 4th Annual Meeting of Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), a meeting about developing needs of the world, organized by Bill Clinton, former President of the USA. He also attended the reception organized by US President George Bush for presidents who have peace troops stationed in Iraq, and the one organized by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for heads of state attending the UN General Assembly.
In his address to the UN General Assembly last week, Dr Haris Silajdzic has called on the UN to correct the mistakes made during the Bosnian Genocide. He has also demanded that the UN send the message that genocide cannot be rewarded.
“Some in the international community insisted on maintaining the arms embargo imposed by the UN Security Council in 1991, thus adding to the obviously overwhelming military advantage of Milosevic’s regime that was bent on destroying Bosnia and its people. They justified this course by claiming that the lifting of the embargow ould add oil to the fire. The result, inevitably, was quelling that fire the blood of the innocent,” – Dr Silajdzic said.
The president of Bosnia-Herzegovina quoted the International Red Cross Committee data which says that 200,000 people were killed during the Bosnian war, 12,000 of them children, while 50,000 women were raped, with 2.2 million people forced to leave their homes. “That was true genocide,” he said. “This was a veritable genocide and sociocide. The intent of the perpetrators of this genocide was to forever destroy the unique multi-ethnic fabric of Bosnia and Herzegovina through mass slaughter, rapes, torture, abuse, expulsion and plunder.” He added that “despite of this, defenders of our country conducted themselves honorably, as demonstrated by the ICTY acquittals of most of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s military leadership.”
Dr Silajdzic reminded the World about Srebrenica genocide referring to the International Court of Justice’s verdict, which stated that “those were the acts of genocide committed by the members of the Republic of Srpska (RS) army in and around the town of Srebrenica from July 13, 1995, until the end of the war.”
The United Nations must take action to reverse the de facto “ethnic apartheid” that has taken root in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as part of efforts to redress the failure surrounding the Srebrenica genocide, Silajdzic warned. The UN has acknowledged that, by its own acts and omissions, it is partially responsible for the July 1995 Srebrenica killings in which more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys lost their lives, casting a shadow over the world body forever, said Dr Silajdzic.
“We do not want the United Nations to be haunted,” he told world leaders gathered at UN Headquarters in New York. “This Organization’s credibility is too important to the world to carry the burden of this failure.” Rather, the world body must ensure that mistakes are not repeated and that past errors are corrected, Mr. Silajdzic stressed.
“Without righting this wrong, can we genuinely celebrate the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this December. Moreover, can we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Genocide Convention if the first and only judgment of the international Court of Justice on the crime of genocide remains in the archives of that Court?” – asked Dr Silajdzic. “Certainly, there are those in Bosnia-Herzegovina who would not agree with this, but they are surely not the victims of genocide,” – he added.
“We cannot bring back the dead, but we can give dignity and justice to the survivors,” he said. “What we say today is not aimed at the past, but at the future, and not only for Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Despite the positive results delivered by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, many key issues remain, including the blocking of ‘minority’ returns by the authorities of the Republika Srpska, an entity within the country, by either directly taking part in violence or by not protecting people from attacks due to their ethnic background, Dr Silajdzic said.
One day ahead of Silajdzic’s speech in New York, the Serb representative in the Bosnian presidency Nebojsa Radmanovic sent a letter to the UN General Assembly stating that the address would be Dr Silajdzic’s personal opinion and not an official position of Bosnia-Herzegovina, adding that a three-member presidency did not reach a consensus on his appearance before the assembly.
Dr Silajdzic responded back with a letter to the UN Secretary- General, and the UN General Assembly President, in relation to Mr. Mr Radmanovic’s letter, sent to those officials. Chairman Silajdzic underlined in his letter that Mr Radmanovic’s claims in fact represent his personal view, and contain a series of factual oversights. First and foremost, Dr Silajdzic emphasized that the BiH Presidency, on May 28, at the 38th regular session, adopted a decision authorizing Dr Silajdzic, as BiH Presidency Chairman, to represent Bosnia and Herzegovina at the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly, including the need for a general debate on that assembly. This decision was made unanimously, including the vote of Mr Radmanovic.
Bosnian Croat member of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Presidency, Mr Zeljko Komsic, issued a press release stating that “it must be clearly underlined and emphasized that, at least, Dayton Peace Agreement was not obligatory to sign, as well as April package of constitutional changes” for which Dr Silajdzic was responsible. “B-H Presidency Chairman Silajdzic should be reminded that unfortunately for most of B-H citizens, genocide was rewarded by the mere act of signing of Dayton Peace Agreement.”
In his address the UN General Assembly in New York, Dr Silajdzic said that the Dayton peace deal, apart from bringing peace, was intended to “annul the results of genocide and ethnic cleansing” and “was never meant to “maintain ethnic apartheid in Bosnia-Herzegovina”. He said that “rewarding genocide could send a dangerous message to the world that would most certainly jeopardize the chances for permanent peace and stability in Bosnia and in the rest of the region.”
Before his departure from Sarajevo to the U.N. General Assembly, Bosnian media reported that Dr Dilajdzic said that the Serb Republic was using a U.S. lobbying group to promote its interests among U.S. officials on issues such as foreign trade, diplomatic relations, and constitutional and other reforms. He accused the Serb Republic of trying to “position itself as a separate and independent international entity.”
The Serb Republic hired Quinn Gillespie & Associates LCC in 2007 for about $1.5 million per year to lobby for what it said were its cultural, economic and sports interests.
Dr Silajdzic is also widely quoted in the Bosnian media as saying that he will take the Serb Republic to the constitutional court over its decision to pull out from the state electricity network it formed along with the federation to enable Bosnia to join the southeast Europe’s energy community. The international community involved in the implementation of Bosnia’s peace process said the Serb Republic’s move was illegal and asked the government to revoke it.