UN approves annual day to commemorate Srebrenica genocide

United Nations
Germany’s UN Ambassador Antje Leendertse introduces the resolution.

The United Nations has approved a resolution establishing an annual day to commemorate the 1995 genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs.  The 193-member General Assembly (GA) voted 84 to 19 in favour, with 68 nations abstaining.

The vote, though welcomed by some, was also seen as a reflection of concerns about how the decision might affect reconciliation efforts in divided Bosnia. A majority of Bosnian Serbs feared approval of the day would brand them as “genocidal” supporters. Reportedly, those supporting its approval had hoped for 100 “yes” votes.

Twenty-two member nations were absent from the GA session.

The GA draft resolution referenced the 2007 decision of the International Court of Justice — the UN’s highest tribunal –  that the acts committed in Srebrenica constituted genocide.  Serbia and Bosnian Serbs have denied that genocide happened there.

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serbs overran a U.N.-protected safe area in Srebrenica, separating some 8,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys from their families and slaughtering them.

The resolution, sponsored by Germany and Rwanda, designates 11 July as the “International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica,” to be observed annually, starting this year.

Introducing the resolution, Germany’s UN Ambassador Antje Leendertse insisted that it was not directed “against Serbia”.

However, Aleksandar Vucic, President of Serbia, thought differently and after the vote claimed that the sole purpose had been “to put moral and political guilt on one side” — the people of Serbia and Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb half of Bosnia.  “Nothing could have ever united Serbian people better than what was happening here today”, he declared.

Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik and neighbouring Serbia’s populist President Aleksandar Vucic led a vigorous campaign against the draft. Vucic was harshly critical of Germany for trying to give “moral lessons” to the international community and to Serbia.

The vote was welcomed by Zeljko Komsic, the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, by family members of Srebrenica victims, and by many Western and Muslim nations.

Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, who voted against the resolution, pointedly noted that abstentions and “no” votes totalled 87, three more than the 84 votes cast in favour. He called the GA vote little more than “a Pyrrhic victory”, claiming that if the resolution’s sponsors had set out “to divide the General Assembly … then they’ve succeeded brilliantly.”

Richard Gowan, the UN director of the International Crisis Group, called the timing of the UN vote “unfortunate, given allegations that Israel is pursuing genocide in Gaza.”

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