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US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

  • Margaret Besheer

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said that she expects passage of a resolution commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian war, although Russia has proposed a countermeasure that stops short of calling it a genocide.

In an interview with VOA, Ambassador Samantha Power said there is "broad global consensus" about what happened at Srebrenica in July 1995, when more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically killed by Serbian forces because of their religious faith.

"There's not a lot of confusion about that," Power said. "For political reasons, people may want to divert attention, and that's unfortunately what we deal with in the world.

"But one of the things that's been reflected in our negotiations over the U.N. Security Council is just how mainstream the facts about what happened at Srebrenica have become," she said. "We expect the resolution to reflect the facts, and we won't accept anything less."

Britain has circulated a draft U.N. Security Council resolution that strongly condemns the genocide at Srebrenica and those who deny it.

The measure points out that the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice have determined that the massacre was a genocide.

It also calls for accountability for the perpetrators and urges educating future generations to prevent the recurrence of such atrocities.

British resolution 'divisive'

Russian officials have circulated their own proposal that does not mention Srebrenica by name. Instead, it "condemns in the strongest terms the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia against persons of various ethnic and religious backgrounds."

Russia, which has close religious ties to Serbia and is one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, has described the British draft as "divisive," saying it focuses too strongly on wrongdoings carried out by the Bosnian Serbs.

"It focuses on only one aspect of the conflict," Russian Deputy Ambassador Petr Iliichev said.

Power said at a commemoration event at the United Nations on Wednesday that those who deny the Srebrenica genocide only "embarrass and humiliate" themselves.

"Let's just say genocide deniers, they’re not dealing with reality," Powers said. "They’re trying to distort historical facts that have been amply documented over now 20 years. All you have to do is go and see the excavation of remains that will happen again this year.

"I’ve seen it happen on the five-year anniversary, the 10-year anniversary, the 15-year anniversary," she said. "I've been back in Srebrenica and seen those families still grieving because they haven’t been able to track down the remains of their loved ones. People can try to claim it wasn’t what it was, but nobody’s behind it, so they’re just embarrassing themselves."

'Excruciating time'

Power, who was a young journalist in the Balkans when the massacre took place and later wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about genocide, said the tragedy would never be forgotten.

“My message to the people of Bosnia is that we will never forget," she said. "We will pursue justice to the end of the Earth, and I think we’ve proven that. There’s not one indictee from the International Criminal Tribunal indicted for the crimes of Srebrenica left at large," Power said.

"There’s still prosecutions, of course, going on within the Bosnian court system," she said. "We will support the domestic justice efforts, but basically my main message is I’m sorry for you, and I’m sorry for your families, and this must be an excruciating time.”

The Security Council is expected to adopt the resolution on the anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide early next week.

VOA'S Mike Richman contributed to this report from Washington.

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