A misinterpretation of the genocide convention, and what “genocide” is.
1. Genocide is the intent to destroy
The Holocaust has become so defined with the act of genocide, that any time the killing does not reach Holocaust proportions and any time not everyone in the group is slated for biological destruction, people say genocide did not occur. That is a misinterpretation. Genocide is based on the intent to destroy, in whole or part an ethnic, religious or national group. That intent to destroy, does not have to confine itself to biological destruction. Therefore, one does not need to attempt to, or even want to kill every member of a group for genocide to have occured.
Article 4(2) of the Statute defines genocide as: any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) killing members of the group;
(b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
2. The Numbers Game
Genocide deniers have argued that the number of people killed in Srebrenica was too small of a statistical number for it to be seen as an attempt to destroy. The actual number of people killed by themselves do not determine whether a genocide has occured. Of course, looking at the numbers may help support or not support allegations of genocide, but by themselves; they do not determine whether a genocide has occured.
Some factors ignored by genocide deniers are:
There has been an historic precedence set where killing a small percentage of a group is considered genocide, when looking at the larger issue of the impact of that group on the well being and survival of the group as a whole.
There is an historic/legal precedence set where a small stastical sample of dead, is considered genocide.
The trial chamber in Kristic particularly noted the importance of the Srebrenica community, and how they were emblemantic of the larger Bosnian Muslim community.
Killing selective members of the group could be seen as an intent to commit genocide:
The “Final Report of the Commission of Experts established pursuant to Security Council resolution 780 (1992)” (hereinafter “ Report of the Commission of Experts ”) confirmed this interpretation, and considered that an intent to destroy a specific part of a group, such as its political, administrative, intellectual or business leaders, “may be a strong indication of genocide regardless of the actual numbers killed”.(From Kristic judgment 578)
Genocide findings based on “small” statistical samples:
The UN General Assembly condemned the massacre of 800 civilians in the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra & Shatila as a form of genocide.
Jorgic case found that ethnic cleansing limited to a specific geographical region could be considered genocide.
The Importance of Srebrenica with regards to the larger plan of ethnic cleansing;
I have already discussed the importance of Srebrenica in regards to the massive ethnic cleansing campaign of the VRS. (See part II of “There was a Genocide in Srebrenica...")
Srebrenica as emblematic of Bosnian Muslims:
Bosnian Muslims from throughout Eastern Bosnia were living in Srebrenica. Therefore, the destruction of Srebrenica also meant the permanent removal of all Bosniaks in Eastern Bosnia.
Because the Bosnians in Srebrenica were emblematic of the larger Bosnian Muslim community, attacking them and specifically attacking a Safe Area showed all Bosnians how vulnerable they were. (Kristic appeal para 15)
The capturing of Srebrenica would also undermine the effort of the state of BiH to exist. (Kristic para 15).
For the creation of Greater Serbia:
Without Srebrenica, the ethnically Serb state of Republica Srpska they sought to create would remain divided into two disconnected parts, and its access to Serbia proper would be disrupted. (kristic para 15)
Control over the Srebrenica region was consequently essential to the goal of some Bosnian Serb leaders of forming a viable political entity in Bosnia, as well as to the continued survival of the Bosnian Muslim people. (kristic para 15)
Therefore, because of the importance Srebrenica played, both in realizing the viability of the state of BiH and of the goals in creating Greater Serbia, the attack on Srebrenica had consequences far beyond just the attack on the enclave; but were evidence of the VRS ability to remove all Bosniaks from Eastern Bosnia.
4. Killing of the men
Another claim is that because Mladic did not kill the vast majority of women & children, than genocide did not occur. Again, based upon the genocide convention and based upon what happened in Srebrenica-this is false. The ICTY found that the killing of the men along with the expulsion of the women and children imposed conditions on the Bosnian Muslims that showed the intent to destroy of the VRS
Some factors ignored by genocide deniers are:
The importance of the men to the survival of the Bosniaks
The effect of killing the men on the biological existence of the group
The findings that the forced deportations/killings can be seen as an act of mental destruction to the surviving women & children.
The importance of the men to the survival of the Bosniaks:
Effect of the killing of the men on the patriarchal society of Eastern Bosnia. According to Kristic judgment:
the Bosnian Serb forces had to be aware of the catastrophic impact that the disappearance of two or three generations of men would have on the survival of a traditionally patriarchal society, an impact the Chamber has previously described in detail. (594) Thereby, by killing the defenders and leaders of the group, it put a strain on the entire group to survive.
The effect of the killing of the men on the biological existence of the Srebrenica survivors:
Evidence introduced at trial supported this finding, by showing that, with the majority of the men killed officially listed as missing, their spouses are unable to remarry and, consequently, to have new children.The physical destruction of the men therefore had severe procreative implications for the Srebrenica Muslim community, potentially consigning the community to extinction. (Kristic appeal)
The mental harm of the women & children:
(Causing serious mental harm to members of a group)
“what remains of the Srebrenica community survives in many cases only in the biological sense, nothing more. It’s a community in despair; it’s a community clinging to memories; it’s a community that is lacking leadership; it’s a community that’s a shadow of what it once was” (kristic judgment 592)
several trial chambers dealing with the Srebrenica cases looked at the “Srebrenica syndrome” of severe psychological anguish that the surviving women and children have been diagnosed with. In ICTY genocide cases, the lasting psychological effects of the killings/deportations along as with the actual killing/deportations themselves, have been proven to be an act of genocide.
According to the Prosecution, “by killing the leaders and defenders of the group and deporting the remainder of it, the VRS and General Krstic had assured that the Bosnian Muslim community of Srebrenica and its surrounds would not return to Srebrenica nor would it reconstitute itself in that region or indeed, anywhere else”. (592 Kristic judgment)