Russia blocks UN genocide resolution on Srebrenica

Russia vetoes UN resolution suggested by UK to condemn events surrounding killing of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica as act of ‘genocide’ committed by Serbian paramilitaries during fall of former Yugoslavia

Photo by: AA
Photo by: AA

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A United Nations Security Council resolution on condemnation of the killings of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica by the then Serbian paramilitary groups in 1995 was vetoed by the Russian Federation on Wednesday.

The resolution bill drafted by the United Kingdom on Tuesday suggested to the UN Security Council to recognise the killings of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) in Srebrenica in July 1995 as a “crime of genocide” committed by the Bosnian Serbs.

The proposed resolution stated that recognition of "the tragic events at Srebrenica as genocide is a prerequisite for reconciliation" and "condemns denial of this genocide as hindering efforts towards reconciliation."

The Russian Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin objected to the British resolution which was devoted to mark the 20th anniversary of the killings of Bosniaks in Srebrenica, as he regarded the bill was "not constructive, confrontational and politically motivated."

"The blame for the past is placed basically on one people," Churkin said, by adding that, "Our vote against ... will not however mean that we are deaf to the sufferings of the victims of Srebrenica and other areas of Bosnia and Herzegovina."

Churkin emphasised that the resolution bill would not serve to the sufferings of Bosniaks as he also considers the British act being “unfair,” rather he stated that the Bosnian Serbs and Croats had also suffered from the 1992-95 civil war that resulted the dissolution of Yugoslavia and caused the death of at least 100,000 people.

“The draft that we have in front of us will not help peace in the Balkans but rather doom this region to tension," Churkin told in the Security Council meeting that began with a minute of silence to remember the victims in the 20th anniversary of the bloody war.

But the UK and the US were trying to persuade the Russian side not to block the resolution, but Russian envoy did not change its solid stance on the British move which was voted by 10-member countries in favour whereas China, Nigeria, Angola and Venezuela abstained during the Security Council session on Wednesday.  

The British Deputy Ambassador to the UN Peter Wilson said the resolution "did not point fingers of blame, score political points nor seek to reopen political divisions,” while Russia opposed the text as saying it unfairly singled out Bosnian Serbs for war crimes.

Previously, the Hague International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had recognised the killings of Bosniaks in Srebrenica as “genocide,” as being the worst mass killing on European soil since the Second World War.

The Russian veto sparked the British outrage as Wilson called the war crimes and atrocities in Srebrenica were apparently being a “genocide,” a planned and organised mass killing of a single community that was attributed for the first time to the Nazi killings of the Jewish people, or the Holocaust during World War II.

"Genocide occurred at Srebrenica. This is a legal fact, not a political judgment. On this there is no compromise," Wilson told the Security Council after the vote was vetoed by Russia.

“Russia's actions tarnish the memory of all those who died in the Srebrenica genocide," Wilson said. "Russia will have to justify its behavior to the families of over 8,000 people murdered in the worst atrocity in Europe since the Second World War," he added.

The US Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, who was a 24-year-old journalist in Bosnia when the events took place in Srebrenica, also blamed Russia as she said, "Russia's veto is heartbreaking for those families and it is a further stain on this council's record."

Serbia and Serbs living in Bosnia-Herzegovina appealed Russia to block such attempts at recognising the events in Srebrenica in the UN and other international law bodies.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic warmly welcomed the Russian veto in the UN Security Council on Wednesday despite the fact that Belgrade has been committed to cooperate with the Hague International Criminal Tribunal in return to open its membership bid in the EU.

Nikolic said “This is a great day for Serbia,” after the Russian veto and added that Russia had "prevented an attempt of smearing the entire Serbian nation as genocidal," an attitude that had also proven Moscow as being a “true and honest” friend of Belgrade. 

Russia and Serbia are known for their historical, cultural and religious (Orthodoxy) ties that make them cordial allies in European affairs. 

Moscow has never recognised independence of Kosovo and still perceives the young Balkan country as a part of Serbian state.

Serbia only condemned the killings of Bosniaks in Srebrenica as a "grave crime" in 2010, but it has long been denying that the events could be classified as genocide.  

Serbian authorities immediately acted when the UK submitted the genocide bill to the Security Council on Tuesday and warned the UN through a letter saying that the resolution, which they perceived as “anti-Serb,” would only serve further ethnic divisions between Belgrade and Sarajevo.

However, President of the Association of Mothers of Srebrenica, Munira Subasic angrily reacted to Moscow’s blockage of the bill in the 20th anniversary of the killings.

"After 20 years, Russia showed that it backed the crime instead of justice," she said. "We are not surprised by such a decision... Russia is actually supporting criminals, those who killed our children," Subasic added.

Belgrade seemed so far partially cooperative as the EU demands more efforts, but the issue frequently causes a nationalist blow in Serbian politics that retards the country’s membership process.

The Hague criminal court judged the Serbian commandership trio, Slobodan Milosevic, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, who were known as “Butchers of Bosnia” and accused of the humanitarian crimes in Bosnia during the Yugoslav war of dissolution.

TRTWorld and agencies