Friday, February 29, 2008

Carla Del Ponte - A MUST read

Today in the Western Balkans, we can study live how the fabrics of new myths and heroes are working. Let me give you a few examples of how factual events are being manipulated to create such myths.
On 11 July, the world commemorated the genocide of Srebrenica. Close to 8000 Muslim boys and men were slaughtered in and around Srebrenica between 11 and 17 July 1995. It is a proven fact. Those who would doubt it should go through the thousands of pages of written materials and the videos and transcripts presented during the Krstic trial in The Hague. The evidence is indisputable, and the Appeals’ Chamber of the ICTY has found on 19 April 2004 that these killings deserve the legal qualification of genocide. Calling this crime differently, diminishing its magnitude and avoiding to accept the Tribunal’s ruling is a first step towards the denial of the truth.
The Serbian public was at first shocked when, early June, a video was shown in our Court, and afterwards on Serbian televisions, showing forces from Serbia participating in the genocide. We thought it would prompt the Serbian society to finally accept the truth about Srebrenica. As you all know, the mere existence of a crime in Srebrenica is still, today, denied by a third of the Serbian population, and the fact that this crime amounts to a genocide is rejected by an overwhelming majority.
The counter-attack of the nationalist circles in Serbia was well-organised and effective. Firstly, a massive media campaign was mounted to demonstrate that there were nearly as many Serbian victims in and around Srebrenica. The facts and figures were grossly manipulated to fit the purpose and there was of course no word about the trial in The Hague of Naser Oric, the Muslim defender of Srebrenica. It was pretended that 3000 Serbs were killed by Muslims in Srebrenica and the neighboring Bratunac. What was not said is that the alleged number of Serb casualties in these two municipalities, which is probably closer to 2’000, concerns the whole period of the war, 1992 to 1995, and that it concerns both combatants and non-combatants. Secondly, a huge monument was hastily built in Kravica, a village not far from Srebrenica, and a commemoration called for July 12Th. The maneuver was a success: the attention in Serbia moved to the Serb victims and the public was largely convinced that, indeed, in Srebrenica, the crimes committed against Serbs were about as important as those committed against Muslims. And, of course, the international community, because it devoted so much attention to the Srebrenica genocide, is perceived as biased and anti-Serb
Not surprisingly, the picture emerges of a common attitude towards war crimes throughout the region: in a just war, there can be no war crimes; one side’s heroes are the other side’s war criminals. It is a pity that the Church, on all sides, is adding legitimacy to visions of history which are twisted in accordance with nationalist biases. There is an African proverb saying "As long as lions will not have their own historians, hunting stories will continue to glorify the hunters." And indeed, throughout the countries and regions of the former Yugoslavia, this proverb proves to be absolutely correct. The natural tendency of those in power, government, religious, and army leaders in particular, remains to build myths, and to create myths - one needs heroes. Victims’ sufferings are sacrificed to boost the national egos. Unfortunately, most segments of the society seem to be ready to accept the vision of history spread from the top. There are many individuals – more than we think - who know precisely what happened and who committed crimes against whom. But how many dare to speak out the truth? The very few admirable persons who do – quite often women, I wish to stress – face intimidation, death threats and public ostracism. How many people in Serbia support human rights activists like Natasa Kandic? Less than 5%? Probably even less than 1%! When the living memory of those who know the truth because they have seen the crimes will be gone, textbooks will stay, and only the official, heroic vision of history will be transmitted to the next generation.


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