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Monday, 29 February 2016

Srebrenica – Mapping Genocide

Jessie Hronesova (Ph.D. Candidate, St Antony's College, Oxford)

“Our past is blocking our society’s future”, noted Asja Hafner from the School of Knowledge, at the screening of a video animation “Srebrenica – Mapping Genocide”, organized by SEESOX in collaboration with the Oxford Transitional Justice Research (OTJR) on the 22nd February 2016. Hafner introduced the project’s aims as “preventing manipulation with the fact about the massacre in Srebrenica”. The animation project traces how the killing in July 1995 unravelled. The project draws on the material of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and shows the events before, during, and after the fall of the town to General Ratko Mladic's Republika Srpska Drina Corps in July 1995. It can also be viewed here: 

The Srebrenica massacre – established to have resulted in genocide by the ICTY – took place five months before the end of Bosnia’s 1992-1995 war. Up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed in the stretch of less than a week in the are of the then UN-protected enclave (“safe haven”) of Srebrenica. Their bodies were later found in mass graves and also secondary mass graves as Serb forces tried to cover up the crime by moving their bodies to different locations.  

In addition to screening the video documentary, Sir Geoffrey Nice and Dr Svjetlana Nedimovic discussed the repercussions of the Srebrenica genocide both for Bosnia and Herzegovina and the global justice system. Sir Geoffrey Nice, who from 1998 to 2006 worked at the ICTY and led the prosecution of Slobodan Milošević, focussed on some of the key events at the ICTY such as the screening of the video of Scorpions and how such images shook the public opinion in Serbia, which had until then been in denial of its involvement in the Bosnian war. He also alluded to the obstacles he had to faces whilst at the Tribunal with regards to presenting evidence about Serbia’s direct links to Republika Srpska’s military actions. Without finger-pointing to individual actors of countries, he let the audience speculate as to who was against presenting such evidence, which would compromise Serbia’s involvement in the genocide of Srebrenica. He further discussed the various uses of the word genocide and how that can be socially misused, while noting that the legal definition is very narrow and precise. This to him does not mean that other crimes should not be referred to as genocide in the social, rather than legal sense. Dr Svjetlana Nedimovic, an independent researcher and activist in Sarajevo, focussed on the socialist period in Bosnian history and the opportunities of societal dissent in the current society. She argued that during socialism the public had larger opportunities to influence policy-making and governance due to the decentralized self-management system of Yugoslavia. To her, the voice of the public was drastically silenced after the end of the war as certain topics and questions became a taboo. Though she recognized that the 2014 protests in Bosnia and Herzegovina have not translated into political changes, she argued that this experience has broaden and somewhat open the scope of public debates in the current Bosnian society. To her the protests were a formative experience for a generation of activists, who have been pushing for open dialogues about the past but more importantly the future. 

The evening demonstrated that living in a country, which experienced mass atrocities, has everyday impact on how people think about their voice, future and political impact. The trauma of the past events – especially when discussed in a very reductionist manner – only reinforce traumas of the present, blocking any prospects for a different – and more positive future.

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