Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today stressed the need to ensure accountability for those involved in the massacre of Muslim men and boys 15 years ago by Bosnian Serb forces after they took over Srebrenica, which was declared a safe haven by the Security Council.
“Until all those accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes face those charges and are judged, our quest for justice, and the path towards healing, will remain incomplete,” Mr. Ban said at an event at United Nations Headquarters to honour the victims.
Some 8,000 Muslims were killed by the Bosnian Serb forces who overran Srebrenica, the largest such massacre on European soil since the founding of the UN.
“We recognize the burden of families and loved ones who carry the memories and pain with each step,” said Mr. Ban. “And, we vow, together, never again to allow such an atrocity to happen at any time...in any place.”
He noted that while the region has made progress over the past 15 years, including efforts to promote reconciliation, there is still a long way to go.
The emergence of respect and trust after conflict depends heavily on bringing perpetrators to account, the Secretary-General said. “Truth must be told. Justice must be done.”
He pointed out that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have found that the horror of Srebrenica constituted a crime of genocide, and that these institutions are contributing significantly to the ongoing fight against impunity.
“The work of the International Criminal Court (ICC)…our efforts to protect civilians…our increased vigilance for early signs of genocide or other grave crimes…are all meant to reduce the risk of another such assault on innocents – and to fully prepare us if it does come,” Mr. Ban added.
“The age of impunity has passed, and the age of accountability is now taking over.”
The ICTY has indicted 21 people for crimes committed in Srebrenica. They include Radislav Krstić, the first individual to be convicted by the Tribunal of aiding and abetting genocide in Srebrenica. He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Just last month, the Tribunal jailed two former top Bosnian Serb military officers – Vujadin Popović and Ljubiša Beara – for life after convicting them of genocide for their role in the 1995 massacre.
The trials of then Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadžić and several others are ongoing. Ratko Mladić, the war-time leader of the Bosnian Serb forces, who is also charged with genocide in Srebrenica, however, still remains at large.