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OPEN LETTER BY 54 ACADEMICS & INTELLECTUALS

April 7, 2008 3 comments
A public call for the full and uncensored minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Defence Council of Serbia to be made public, so that the role of the Serbian state in the genocide in Bosnia and Hercegovina can be assessed objectively.

Caption: Photo of a child corpse on display
in the visitors center in Srebrenica.

By: Fifty-four international academics, human-rights activists and intellectuals

Open letter to the presidents of the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Republic of Serbia

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’

UPCOMING GENOCIDE CONFERENCE IN SARAJEVO

July 3, 2007 1 comment

The International Association of Genocide Scholars will hold its 7th biennial meeting in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 9-13 July 2007, hosted by the University of Sarajevo’s Institute for Research into Crimes against Humanity and International Law.

“…The timing of the conference has been moved from our traditional June dates to July in order to enable us also to devote one day to participating in the annual memorial ceremonies at Srebrenica, the site of an awesome genocidal massacre of Moslem people in a locale that was supposed to be under the protection of the United Nations.” – Prof Israel W. Charny.

Our conference theme, Responding to Genocide Before It’s Too Late: Genocide Studies and Prevention, is always appropriate, of course, but also has an immediate resonance as we convene in a site of one of the shameful genocides of the last century. The timing of the conference has been moved from our traditional June dates to July in order to enable us also to devote one day to participating in the annual memorial ceremonies at Srebrenica, the site of an awesome genocidal massacre of Moslem people in a locale that was supposed to be under the protection of the United Nations.” – said Prof Israel W. Charny, Ph.D., President of the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS).

“We are also proud to announce that we are taking advantage of being on European soil to convene a pre-conference Auschwitz Seminar which will take place in conjunction with the Auschwitz Jewish Center and with the participation of senior professional staff of the Auschwitz Museum, and also with the cooperation of Jagellonian University Medical School, on 6-8 July in Krakow and Auschwitz-Birkenau.” – said Prof Charny in a signed statement on IAGS web site.

A pre-conference Auschwitz Seminar will take place on 6-8 July in Krakow and Auschwitz; seminar participants will fly from Krakow to Sarajevo in the evening of 8 July.

Prof Deborah Lipstadt will also attend the Conference in Sarajevo where she expects the case of Srebrenica genocide to be one of the many topics discussed.

“I am, among other things, getting ready to leave for a meeting of the International Association of Scholars of Genocide in Sarajevo. I am sure this topic will be one of the many discussed.” – commented Prof Deborah Lipstadt on her blog.

This is a great opportunity for all of us to get first hand experience about this important event taking place as Prof Lipstadt will blog directly from Sarajevo:

“I am excited about being there and shall blog from the meeting [International Association of Scholars of Genocide].” – commented Prof Lipstadt.

In 2005, Dr. Kathleen Young took students with her to the Genocide Conference and memorial service to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the massacre in Srebrenica. Students who attended the Genocide Conference in Sarajevo also accompanied Dr. Young to Den Hague to the International Criminal Tribunal and the trial of Slobodan Milosevic. Here is Dr Young’s exciting video feedback from the past conference, which also includes a text transcript:

Video Caption: Kathleen Young, Ph.D., Department on Anthropology

Question: Why did you take your students with you to the International Genocide Conference in Sarajevo?

Kathleen Young, Ph.D.:
I was invited to present a paper at the genocide conference and memorial and to commemorate the massacre at Srebrenica. In 1995, in Srebrenica, in the United Nations safe haven, 8000 Bosnian men and boys were massacred by Serb soldiers. It was the largest massacre in Europe since World War II. And the 10 year anniversary of the mass deaths was also going to be the time in which Sarajevo would host a conference on genocide. And I was invited to give a paper based upon my work at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and I happened to be teaching the war and human rights class at the time. And I mentioned to the class and said that I was going… I was absolutely going, and if they wanted to come too, they were invited. It was up to them. And a group of them decided they would go with me, and one student said she left the classroom and she went and got passport that day, so she could go… her first passport. They were an exceptional group of students, but it was also an overwhelming opportunity to be there, to participate, to remember in person and to be changed by experience.

There were 50,000 people at this memorial and it was intense, of course. The students participated in the excavation of the mass grave, they were witnesses. We went to the re-burial of 600 bodies of Bosnian Muslim men that have been excavated from mass graves around the area. A collection of Muslim imams, of teachers, people who were burying the dead from the area, people who came to bear witness to bury the dead, and world leaders – we were all in attendance.

It was a Muslim funeral. There were people praying. One of the students said to me “What is that sound?”, and I said it sounds like rolling thunder, but it is the sound of people praying. It was phenomenal to be there. There is nothing like being in attendance, to witness, to be there in person.

And from there we went to the Genocide Conference and the students listened the papers on genocide for a week. The Bosnian hosts in Sarajevo were so kind, and so generous, and it was an experience to be in Sarajevo which is a living cemetery, in part, but it’s also a testimony to human resilience and not looking away and not trying to repress what had occurred, but to bear witness and to go on living, to go on tending and mending.

And from there we went to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia where the students were in attendance of the Milosevic trial, so they got to see that today there is no impunity for these crimes on such a mass scale that are crimes against humanity. It was, in that way, I think encouraging, and also somewhat… it gives a kind of energy to know that there are good people all over the world to stop this, and it makes a difference.

We went to the International Criminal Court and were able to interview and to meet with one of the judges of the International Criminal Court. This is the first time that there is a permanent solution to crimes against humanity that are ongoing, to make sure that leaders know that in the future they will be held accountable. That was inspiring to students as well.

— — —
The International Association of Genocide Scholars is a global, interdisciplinary, non-partisan organization that seeks to further research and teaching about the nature, causes, and consequences of genocide, and advance policy studies on prevention of genocide. The association, founded in 1994, meets biennially to consider comparative research, important new works, case studies, the links between genocide and gross human rights violations, and prevention and punishment of genocide. The aim of the Association is to focus more intensively on questions of genocide than is possible in the existing two-hour format of most conferences and to draw colleagues from different disciplines into an interdisciplinary conversation. Membership is open to scholars, graduate students, and other interested persons worldwide. The Association is an autonomous affiliate of The Institute for the Study of Genocide.

SREBRENICA – DEFENDING THE TRUTH

January 4, 2006 1 comment
Srebrenica – defending the truth

Author: Twenty-four signatories

Uploaded: Tuesday, 03 January, 2006

This letter addressed to The Guardian (London) was originally accepted for publication, provided that it was cut to a maximum of 450 words in length. When a 450-word abridgement was duly submitted, however, The Guardian refused to publish it without drastic further shortening and unacceptable editorial rewriting. The authors therefore decided that they had no alternative but to publish it elsewhere. It accordingly appeared on the website of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) at http://www.birn.eu.com with an accompanying article on the affair by Alison Freebairn.

Sir,

We are writing to protest at the ‘correction’ published by The Guardian on 17 November, in relation to Emma Brockes’s interview with Noam Chomsky of 31 October and the Bosnian concentration-camp survivor Kemal Pervanić’s letter to The Guardian of 2 November. We believe that by issuing this ‘correction’, The Guardian has unjustly besmirched Brockes’s reputation, misrepresented and insulted Pervanić and bestowed a stamp of legitimacy on revisionist attempts to deny the Bosnian genocide and minimise the Srebrenica massacre.

The ‘correction’ was published in response to complaints from Chomsky over Brockes’s alleged misrepresentation of his views. The Guardian upheld Chomsky’s complaints: a) that Brockes falsely attributed to him the view that the Srebrenica massacre of 1995 never occurred, or was not genuinely a ‘massacre’; and b) that Brockes’s ‘misrepresentation’ of Chomsky’s views on Srebrenica stemmed from her ‘misunderstanding’ of his support for the writer Diana Johnstone, which ‘related entirely to her freedom of speech’, rather than to her actual views. Furthermore, The Guardian claimed: ‘Neither Prof. Chomsky nor Ms Johnstone have [sic] ever denied the fact of the massacre.’ Finally, The Guardian upheld Chomsky’s complaint that it had published on 2 November a letter from Kemal Pervanić, a Bosnian concentration-camp survivor, on the grounds that Pervanić’s letter ‘addressed a part of the interview which was false’.

For the following reasons, we believe that neither of Chomsky’s complaints against Brockes is valid; that Brockes’s presentation of his views was essentially fair; that Chomsky’s complaint about the publication of Pervanić’s letter was similarly invalid; and that The Guardian’s ‘correction’ was therefore unjustified:

1. It is untrue that Johnstone has never denied the Srebrenica massacre. In her book Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO and Western delusions’ (Pluto, London 2002), Johnstone puts quote marks around the words ‘Srebrenica massacre’, implying that it was not a real massacre (pp. 106, 115). She rejects the claim that 8,000 Muslims [Bosniaks] were killed at Srebrenica, claiming that most of these had not been killed, but had merely ‘fled Srebrenica’ and ‘made it to safety in Muslim territory’ (p. 114). And she admits only to the Serb killing in cold blood of 199 Muslims, or less than 2.5% of the accepted total (p. 115). This is denial. Furthermore, the book as a whole constitutes a defence of the Serb nationalists’ record during the 1990s, and a minimisation or whitewashing of their crimes.

2. It is untrue that Chomsky’s support for Johnstone was limited to her ‘right to free speech’. An open letter signed by Chomsky describes Johnstone’s book in the following terms: ‘We regard Johnstone’s Fools’ Crusade as an outstanding work, dissenting from the mainstream view but doing so by an appeal to fact and reason, in a great tradition.’ In his own open letter on Johnstone’s book, to which he refers in his letter to The Guardian of 2 November, Chomsky states: ‘I have known her for many years, have read the book, and feel that it is quite serious and important… Johnstone argues – and, in fact, clearly demonstrates – that a good deal of what has been charged has no basis in fact, and much of it is pure fabrication.’ Conversely, nowhere does Chomsky express the slightest disagreement with anything that Johnstone’s book says (except perhaps in the Brockes interview, which he has repudiated). This goes beyond support for Johnstone’s right to free speech, and amounts to an endorsement of her arguments.

3. It is untrue that Chomsky has been as unambiguous in his recognition of the Srebrenica massacre as he now claims. Since the appearance of Johnstone’s book in 2002, Chomsky has spoken of Serb forces as having ‘apparently slaughtered’ Muslims in Srebrenica and of the thousands of dead as mere ‘estimates’; has described the killings as Serb ‘retaliation’ for alleged Muslim crimes against Serbs; and has compared Serb behaviour at Srebrenica favourably with US behaviour in Iraq. In the very same open letter to which he refers in his letter to The Guardian, he described the crime of Srebrenica as ‘much lesser’ than Indonesian crimes in East Timor in 1999, even though he estimates the latter as involving only 5-6,000 civilian casualties. If Brockes’s depiction of Chomsky’s position on Srebrenica was inaccurate, then it was an inaccuracy for which his own ambiguity on the subject was entirely responsible.

4. It is untrue that Pervanić’s letter to The Guardian of 2 November ‘addressed a part of the interview which was false’. In his interview with Brockes, Chomsky expressed a revisionist view on the matter of Serb concentration camps in Bosnia: he described Guardian journalist Ed Vulliamy’s reports on these camps as ‘probably not true’, and Living Marxism’s claim that the character of these camps was deliberately misrepresented by the Western media as ‘probably correct’ – even though Living Marxism’s claim was proven to be false in a British court of law. Chomsky has at no time claimed that Brockes misrepresented his view on this matter. Pervanić’s letter in The Guardian condemned Chomsky above all for his defence of Living Marxism’s discredited claims. The Guardian has therefore misrepresented Pervanić and insulted his intelligence.

5. Finally, both Johnstone and Chomsky reject the use of the term ‘genocide’ in reference to the actions of Serb forces at Srebrenica or in Bosnia as a whole, despite the conviction of a Bosnian Serb general for aiding and abetting genocide at Srebrenica by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia – an international court established by the UN.

We call upon The Guardian to withdraw its ‘correction’ of 17 November; to apologise unreservedly to Emma Brockes for its unjust impugning of her professional reputation; and to apologise unreservedly to Kemal Pervanić for misrepresenting his argument and insulting his intelligence.

Yours faithfully,

Dr Marko Attila Hoare, author of How Bosnia Armed (2004)

Nerma Jelačić, Bosnia Country Director, Balkans Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN)

Hasan Nuhanović, Srebrenica survivor

Nihad Salkić, Srebrenica survivor

Emir Suljagić, Srebrenica survivor, author of Postcards from the Grave (2005)

Diego Enrique Arria, director of the UN mission in Srebrenica, March 1993

Professor Ivo Banac, author of The Price of Bosnia (1996)

Martin Bell, author of In Harm’s Way (1996)

Sonja Biserko, editor of Srebrenica: from denial to acknowledgement (2005)

Dr Cathie Carmichael, author of Ethnic Cleansing in the Balkans (2002)

Professor Norman Cigar, author of Genocide in Bosnia (1995)

Nick Cohen, columnist, The Observer

Professor Robert J. Donia, author of Bosnia-Hercegovina: a tradition betrayed (1994)

Quintin Hoare, director of The Bosnian Institute

Oliver Kamm, columnist, The Times

Melanie McDonagh, journalist, The Evening Standard

Branka Magaš, editor of The War in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina (2001)

Dr Noel Malcolm, author of Bosnia: A Short History (1994)

Sylvie Matton, author of Srebrenica: un génocide annoncé (2005)

David Rieff, author of Slaughterhouse: Bosnia and the Failure of the West (1995)

David Rohde, author of Endgame: the betrayal and fall of Srebrenica (1997)

Dr Brendan Simms, author of Unfinest Hour: Britain and the destruction of Bosnia (2001)

Francis Wheen, journalist, Private Eye

Said Zulficar, former chairman, UNESCO staff group ‘Solidarity with Bosnia’

Related Story: Chomsky’s Genocidal Denial