Public Lecture - 28 May 2015 - Sarajevo BiH - Gallery 11/07/95

Srebrenica - Mapping genocide

Dr Janja Bec-Neumann

sociologist, genocide researcher, author and lecturer


I am very happy that many of those who are maybe invisible today are the next generation – the children of war and children of this terrible pain and crime which happened here. It means that maybe we have a continuity not to be silent after this deep trauma of genocide.

I would like to start now with a few very short but important sentences. Sentences which frame the knowledge we have received today about the events in Srebrenica in July 1995. When I'm teaching, my first sentence is: 'The most terrible form of violence', because we are dealing with violence, 'is poverty'. This was said by Mahatma Gandhi many years ago. Next, I start with the ABC of genocide:

a) Genocide is a crime of the state and state institutions and resources. On the first place, on the base of the monopoly of violence, this means army, police and para-military troops.
b) Denying genocide in the post-genocide time. Denying genocide is a strategy of the state.
c) Genocide is not an event. Genocide is a process with three main phases: pre-genocide, genocide and post-genocide.

Now twenty years after Srebrenica we are, I am sure, in this post-genocide time with genocide as an important part of our identity and with genocide as a social practice in the region. And this is very important.

In the last five or ten years in this post-genocide time I added a d. and shortly I could say that now we have to focus on monitoring the cash flow to understand who had benefits of the war and the genocide which happened during the war, I mean, wars.

I will start now with the indictment signed by the chief prosecutor, the first chief prosecutor if the ICTY, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It is very important that the indictment was signed on the 25th of July 1995, a few days after the executions. The first chief prosecutor, Richard Goldstone, who was the chief prosecutor in the Hague, was at the same time a judge at the Constitutional Court in South Africa and a good friend of Nelson Mandela. And we should trust such people. A few days after the executions he signed the indictment and I will tell you now a short, for me crucial part of indictment. The indictment has many pages, it's official and you know that means it includes a lot of words, explanations, evidence etc. In this indictment, this is part 1, points 1 and 2, it is said: 'Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, from April 1992 in the territory of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, by their acts and omissions, committed genocide.' And it is very important to know that this indictment was signed immediately after Srebrenica. Today we will see his interview on video, because he couldn't come here today from South Africa. I think it is extremely important, especially for the next generations if you want them to understand and not to see everything black and white, that somebody like him signed an indictment a few days after the events. I am not a lawyer, I am a sociologist and psychologist, after my life when I was an engineer. It is very important to understand that it is extremely difficult to open the case with this indictment. Genocide is the crime of crimes. He managed that but it's not only him. It's not a fairy tale. You need evidence. You need excellent investigators who will find evidence for the case. Maybe this is not usual. Jean Rene Ruez is here today and he is my hero - we've never met as well - because I know how difficult it is to open the case for genocide and even more difficult to find evidence. You can open the case about genocide, but it's even more difficult to find evidence. I think that without people like him as an investigator, in Srebrenica we could never have a case for genocide, it would be a case for crimes against humanity, war crimes etc. I think it's very important to understand the complexity of the case.

Here I would like to tell you something that you maybe don't know or you haven't had the chance to find out. I mentioned that in the indictment it is stated 'from April 1992'. Not only Srebrenica. And this is the fourth point, point d. of genocide – that genocide is a process. After that, after hard, difficult work we have today additional 7 municipalities in Bosnia: Prijedor, Sanski Most, Kljuc, Kotor Varos, Zvornik, Vlasenica, Visegrad, for which we have indictments for genocide. Srebrenica, as I understand it, could not be possible in a few months. It needs time and space. And this is important if you want to understand how it was possible, if you want to prevent, if you want to create a new culture of resistance, a new culture which could understand that in time it is maybe possible to happen.

I just want to tell you how Richard Goldstone was elected to be the first chief prosecutor, because it's not easy to find such details. The Tribunal was, let's say, created after many individuals and NGOs, who were here in Bosnia in in April, May 1992, in summer 1992, when the most terrible crimes happened in the first period, made a very strong pressure towards the international community to intervene. We are talking about a military intervention. It didn't happen and that is the next public lecture. After that a trade started. From this pressure from the bottom, it was bottom up pressure, they tried to create something to make a compromise, to do something by doing nothing. So, they decided to create the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I just want to remind you that it was the first international criminal tribunal in history which was not a military tribunal. After the Holocaust we've had the Tribunal in Nürnberg but it was a military tribunal, in Tokio after 1946 we had also a military tribunal, after the First World War we had an attempt of criminal military tribunals in Leipzig and Ancara, but they failed. That means that for the first time humans created something and didn't know what to do with it. Because, in the beginning it was a trade: peace for amnesty. They promised to Bosnian Serbs, especially to the military, the embodiment of violence, 'we will give you amnesty, stop what you are doing and just start the peace.' And it was a trade. For fourteen months the international community couldn't manage to agree on who is going to be the chief prosecutor. That is another public lecture and a long story. Nelson Mandela said: 'I have a great judge in the Constitutional Court in South Africa, he had great experience with our situation, with apartheid etc. He could be very good.' And after fourteen months Richard Goldstone became the first chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I think it is very important, if we want to understand such extreme situations of war, genocide and war crimes, to know who are the players. One of the most important persons at that time was judge Goldstone and he established all the good parts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. I wanted to share with you some things that you, maybe, cannot find in the books. I started to work with him in 1996 and it was the best period of my life. And I wish that you have that kind of experience, not with genocide, but with such human beings, who know what the priorities are, who know what is good and what is bad, what is evil and what is not evil. Richard Goldstone is small, he is not physically impressive, but without him, I think, we couldn't have the case of genocide. It could be forsaken and forgotten like the genocide in Cambodia with two million killed, like the genocide in Guatemala with 200.000 Mayan people killed, like the genocide in Argentina with 60.000 killed. Genocide happened in Rwanda in 1994. Without such people we cannot have the cases for genocide and it could have been forsaken and forgotten. It's not and now we have the opportunity to talk and to try to understand the post-genocide society in which we live today.

I will answer many questions in the second part, but now I will say shortly: post-genocide societies, like the one in which you were born and in which you live in the region, are societies with experience of genocide as a social practice, not theory. Genocide means direct and indirect victims. You are, as well, indirect victims. Scholars with radical attitude and radical opinions about this topic - we can open this discussion - say that everybody who has seen the broadcasting of the genocide in Srebrenica, the broadcasting of the genocide in Rwanda is an indirect victim. We can open this question, but for us here it's the legacy of terror and fears and we have to live with this legacy. Without talking about that, without the shattering the silence about that, on micro and macro level, it could not be possible, because this region where we are born and where we have been living, like me in my age, didn't work through trauma for centuries. Such events, such authors, such investigators, such prosecutors, such students – they are opening these zones of silence, they are shattering and breaking this legacy of silence we have here for centuries. Thank you so much.

Janja Bec-Neumann, Germany & Vojvodina-Serbia
Born in the house on the Danube in Zemun/Semlin. B.Sc. in Engineering in Technology, University of Belgrade and Ph.D. in Sociology, University of Zagreb, University of Cambridge and ILO-International Labor Organization. Since 1991 anti-war activist and since 1994 anti-genocide researcher, writer and professor. Author and co-founder, together with Dan Bar-On , University David Ben Gurion, Beer Sheva and Peter Riedesser, University of Hamburg, of MA course “War Crimes, Genocide and Memories: The Roots of Evil, I want to Understand”, the first such a course in post-genocide societies of former Yugoslavia; University of Sarajevo (2002-2007), IUC-Inter University Centre, Dubrovnik (2003-2008), University of Hamburg (2005-2006). Author and co-founder, together with Women in Black, of “Sophie Scholl School-We will not be silent” (Belgrade, 2012)

Books: ”Why the Wars in Yugoslavia?” ( 1993), “Shattering of the Soul”(1997), “Sewing up the Blue” (2002), “Archipelago Atlantis” (2004), “Darkness at Noon: War Crimes, Genocide and Memories”(2007), “Talks with Richard Goldstone” (2007), “Talks with Luis Moreno Ocampo” (2008) “La Destruccion del Alma” (2013)
Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. Nominated for Peace Prize of German Booksellers 2014. Nominated for Raphael Lemkin Prize 2015. Citizen of honor of municipality Kljuc 2005.