Today marks a stark reminder of yet another collective failure of the international community in stopping the destruction of a people.
Eighteen years ago today during a five day massacre, over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered in Srebrenica.
Under General Ratko Mladic, the Serbian Army had entered what was declared a safe zone and swore revenge:
Today, on the 11th of July 1995, we are here in the Serbian town Srebrenica on the eve of a glorious day. We present this town as a gift to Serbian people. Finally, after the riots it’s time to take our revenge on the Turks in these lands.
Twelve years later, in 2007, the International Court of Justice held that the massacres of Srebrenica was a genocide, yet also decided that Serbia could not be held responsible. Even the Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who is arguably mostly responsible for the incidents in Bosnian War, stayed in power until 2001. However, the albeit delayed, capture of war criminal Ratko Mladic, being tried for not only the atrocities of killing civilians, but mass extermination, sexual assault and systematic rape, torture and ill-treatment, murder, creating terror, and hostage taking resulted in some respite for the victims families.
During the Bosnian War, the Srebrenica massacre and even afterwards, there was a distinct failure to ensure the accountability of those responsible for the genocide.
As history continues to remark, "We must not forget" and "Never again", it seems that the international community continue to fail to intervene to protect innocent lives. Further, so many are still even afraid to use the 'G' word, despite clear definitions beings set out in international law and in the very real and horrific tragedies of the 20th and 21st century.
December 9th 1948, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Despite it being heralded as the first distinct milestone on the road to international protection of human rights, how many crimes against a people have we witnessed, and why?
As in Srebrenica, the soft and impotent interventions of the international governments and the UN have lead to to the Rohingya in Arakan, Myanmar spending yet another Ramadan without food, water, shelter or medical aid, marking a year since the outbreak of conflict and subsequent reign of terror from June 2012.
Under the definitions of the CPPCG, a genocide against the Rohingya of Myanmar is continuing to be allowed to happen.
A shocking move to ease EU and US sanctions on Myanmar combined with the awarding of Myanmar’s President Thein Sein with a Peace Award and his apparently welcome visit to Britain and France this weekend begs us to ask if we have really learnt anything from Srebrenica at all.
The UN initiative of Responsibility to Protect maintains that a state has a responsibility to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing and furthermore the international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfil its primary responsibility. The third pillar of R2P maintains that where peaceful measure have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as economic sanctions.
Yet, if anything, the past few months have been counteractive to all of this.
Despite the steps taken to prevent international crimes, political and economic agendas will continue to take precedence.