Professor David Pettigrew from the Southern Connecticut State University warned German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday against awarding Israeli professor Gideon Greif with the Order of Merit as the Israeli historian presided over a commission that issued a report denying the Srebrenica genocide which Germany itself commemorated.
You can read his letter in its entirety bellow:
“Indeed, with his commission’s denial of the Srebrenica Genocide, Mr. Greif contravenes High Representative Valentin Inzko’s amendment to the Criminal Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina which criminalized the denial of the Srebrenica Genocide (and other war crimes) as well as the glorification of convicted war criminals. Moreover, the amendment to the Criminal Code in Bosnia and Herzegovina was essentially predicated on the EU Framework Decision indicating that ‘Member States shall… insure’ that ‘publicly condoning, denying, or grossly trivializing crimes of genocide is punishable.’ The EU Framework decision was itself inspired the profoundly important tradition of laws against Holocaust denial that has been developed in Germany and Austria.
What these laws against genocide denial have in common is that they see genocide denial as hate speech that minimizes and trivializes the suffering of the targeted victims, thereby rendering them vulnerable to a repetition of the atrocities. Denial, then, is a form of incitement to future violence against the group that was targeted.
The atrocities committed in Srebrenica by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995 have been judged to be genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal and the International Court of Justice. Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic have both been found guilty of Genocide for crimes committed at Srebrenica in 1995 and have been sentenced to life in prison. It should not escape our attention that Mr. Greif’s work on the Srebrenica Genocide was commissioned by the authorities in Republika Srpska, an entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina whose founding members have all been convicted of either genocide, crimes against humanity or other war crimes. Mr. Greif’s commission has been just one of Republika Srpska’s efforts to revise history, deny the genocide and to wield denial as an incitement to further violence. In fact, Mr. Greif’s commission shamelessly panders to the worst kind of Islamophobia, eliding Bosnia’s rich multicultural history, and foreclosing the possibility of “peaceful interaction and mutual tolerance between different religions and cultures.”
Your excellency, Bosnian Serb war criminals–including those who have been convicted of the Srebrenica Genocide—are glorified in Republika Srpska in ways that would be wholly unacceptable in German society. Your planned award comes at a time when the Bosnian Serb member of the Presidency is using genocide denial and hate speech on a daily basis to destabilize Bosnia and the region.
On the occasion of the 19th commemoration of the Srebrenica Genocide, when you were German Foreign Minister, you so nobly honored the memory of the victims and firmly rejected any efforts to alter history or deny the truth. This is why, your Excellency, I am respectfully requesting that you reconsider your plan to legitimize the Srebrenica genocide denial of Mr. Gideon Greif by recognizing him with one of your nation’s highest honors. Such an act of recognition would be a cruel insult to the victims and survivors of the genocide and a violation of the human right to the truth,” Proffessor Pettigrew wrote.