Jeffrey LewisSrebrenica — 10 Years Later

What does Srebrenica have to do with arms control?

Well arms control and other cooperative security approaches efficiently solve security dillemmas, freeing up resources for dealing with real security threats that kill people every day like civil conflict and terrorism.

You may remember Condi Rice’s derisive comment about pulling troops from Bosnia because “We don’t need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten.” Maybe it’s just me, but having the 82nd Airborne keeping the locals from filling mass graves like this one (right) seems like a good thing.

My friend Ivan Susak—who worked as a translator for the US Army in Bosnia—sends his thoughts on Srebrenica, ten years after the worst genocide in Europe since the Second World War.


July 11th marks the ten-year anniversary of the genocide on at least 7,000 Bosnian fathers, brothers and sons in and around Srebrenica, Bosnia-Hercegovina. The worst mass murder in Europe since the end of the 2nd World War occurred under the watch of the United Nations, the European Community and the United States. To this day, the reconciliation process remains incomplete. Certain actions must take place for there to be a true peace in Srebrenica and the Balkans or risk a new round of instability.

Thousands of those murdered are still missing. Mass graves have yet to be uncovered. And the process of exhumation and identification continues to be brutally slow. The fact that so many are missing prevents loved ones, from properly mourning the deceased. Reconciliation requires locating, identifying and properly burying the innocent. Until then, there is no room for apologies.

Worse, the two individuals most responsible for the slaughter—the wartime political and military leaders, Radovan Karadzic and General Ratko Mladic—continue to live freely. Both must stand trial for the families of the dead to receive justice. The international community had opportunities to arrest these criminals during the 1990, but chose not to. Serbia must hand over Karadzic and Mladic—excuses are unacceptable.

Finally, the condition must be created for refugees to be allowed to return home. The CIA estimates approximately 327,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) live in Bosnia. Although the international community has spent billions of dollars in aid to assist in reconstruction efforts, the local economies remain stagnate and industries closed down. Local officials have also pocketed much of the aid while blocking returnees with administrative procedures. Obtaining the required paperwork and permits without paying the necessary bribes is at best cumbersome and at worst, impossible. While the poor economic situation makes it more lucrative for the returnee to sell donated building materials on the black market.

Our responsibility did not end with the cessation of violence. It was on our watch that thousands of people were murdered. If the United States and European Union hope for a lasting and stable peace in Bosnia, the country must be integrated into the EU and other trans-Atlantic Partnerships, as have other former Central and Eastern European Communist countries. Reconciliation is the first step in the process.

We must offer Bosnia-Hercegovina path toward a democratic, non-nationalist civil-society that respects the rule of law and individual rights. The alternative is a new generation of nationalists and, perhaps, more killing. The arrest of Karadzic and Mladic, during the 10-year anniversary of the massacre, would demonstrate the futility of hatred. More important, it would allow the victim’s families to mourn their loved ones and begin the long process of building a prosperous and stable Bosnia.