For the families of the victims, the establishment of a new Srebrenica commission by the Bosnian Serb government is just another attempt to deny the genocide that was committed there and that was proven by two international courts.
Authorities of Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity Republika Srpska (RS) plan to form commissions that would be dealing with the suffering of the Serbs in Sarajevo and suffering of all peoples in the eastern town of Srebrenica during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.
The RS Government discussed on Thursday the appointment of the commission's members which will be formed, as the officials said, to “reconcile these and future generations.”
RS top officials, most of all those from the ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), have been denying that a genocide was committed in Srebrenica for years.
“I would be surprised if they would admit there was a genocide,” said Kada Hotic, a member of the Movement of Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa Enclaves who lost her son, husband and two brothers in the Srebrenica massacre.
“They are deep in the mud up to their necks, and they don’t know how to get out of the trouble and get rid of genocide label,” she said, adding that “the genocide cannot be erased with anything.”
“That was not just made up, those are the remains of the people who had a will to live and were only guilty for having Muslim names,” Hotic said.
The international community also reacted.
The Office of the High Representative, the international administrator overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement which ended the war, condemned the forming of the commissions.
So did the US Embassy, which stressed that everyone must respect decisions by international courts and accept the truth “regardless of how painful” it is.
The UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, as well as the International Court of Justice, have ruled that the massacre of the Srebrenica men and boys in 1995 was an act of genocide.
The Bosniak Vice-President of Republika Srpska, Ramiz Salkic, said that the establishment of a new commission is not contributing to reconciliation and that the RS Government only cares about Serb victims and discriminates against Bosniaks.
He said that, if there are rulings by international courts, and if there is an executive and a legislative branch of government denying there was a genocide, the message to the victims is: “we don’t recognise the victims, the crimes, and we don’t accept that those who committed the crimes are criminals, but that they are, in fact, heroes.”
But others believe forming the new commissions represent a step toward reconciliation and an attempt to find out the truth.
“Regardless of what the conclusions of the commission end up being, we need to be aware that all peoples must accept the report, as the report is not targeting anybody, but is meant to find out the truth and reconcile the peoples,” said the head of the RS Centre for War Crime Investigations, Milorad Kojic.
Israeli historian Gideon Greif was named as the head of the new commission for Srebrenica.
“The research will be professional, and honest. Normal people will accept it. Those others will not accept anything, as they live in a completely different world, but that must not hamper us,” Greig told the RS public broadcaster.
“We have to have one goal on our mind, and that goal is the truth, and there is only one truth,” he said.
But the truth has already been established in the rulings of UN Courts, renown journalist and chief editor of the ‘Avangarda’ web portal, Dzenana Karup-Drusko, said.
For her, the forming of the commissions represents the gravest assault on the Dayton Agreement until now and she said she expects the international community to react.
“These are political messages and decisions. The goal is to change the story about the past, the character of the war, to make all sides equal, to weaken the position where it is known who the victim and who the aggressor, the perpetrator of the crime is,” she said.
On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces overran the eastern Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica and rounded up the town’s Muslim Bosniaks, separated men from women and little children and systematically executed some 8,000 men and boys.
The bodies of the victims were dumped into numerous mass graves in the area.
Forensic experts excavate them and identify the bones through DNA analysis before returning the bodies to the families, who every year rebury them on July 11 at the cemetary of the Potocari Memorial Centre.