International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Leader of Bosnian Serbs Calls for Srebrenica Truth Commission

Milorad Dodik, president of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is calling for a new international truth commission for the Srebrenica massacre. Dodik views what happened in Srebrenica as a “huge crime” that has resulted in “a big political problem.” According to him, propaganda has wrongly portrayed all Serbs as the murderers in the massacre. In Dodik’s mind, the Srebrenica killings were “an act of cowardice” contrary to the knightly way in which Serbs always had carried themselves.

Dodik’s push for a new international truth commission for Srebrenica is interesting, given his history of denying that the Srebrenica massacre by Bosnian Serbs was genocide, even though international and Bosnian courts ruled it as such.

Yet what is even more interesting than Dodik’s apparent change of heart as to the severity of what happened in Srebrenica many years ago, is the reaction of victims’ groups to the possibility of yet another commission. Such groups argue that court verdicts have already well established what occurred in Srebrenica, questioning why a new commission needs to be created to go over the facts yet again. Hajra Catic, president of the Women of Srebrenica association, thinks that Dodik is just trying to rewrite the history of Srebrenica, as he is displeased with what commissions have established.

These developments lead me to question whether truth commissions are always valuable for a society that has suffered such massive abuses. While truth, as an ideal, may be something quite valuable and worth pursuing, we must consider the effects that reliving experiences has on victims and their families. Perhaps survivors and families involved with Srebrenica are tired of going through the trauma of what they experienced and would rather have the digging stop. Moreover, how valuable would another truth commission be when so many court verdicts, in addition to a former commission, have already well-established the facts of what occurred? Is Dodik seeking to establish a new truth commission for the betterment of the survivors and their families, or is it a political attempt to grab the media’s attention, as some critics believe it to be? Not only does Dodik’s push for a new truth commission bring up questions about the intrinsic value of yet another commission, but it also brings into light how politics and state interests may be involved in decisions to establish and support them.

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2 responses to “Leader of Bosnian Serbs Calls for Srebrenica Truth Commission

  1. tlunn March 28, 2015 at 11:38 am

    In the case of Srebenica, it seems that a truth commission could go one of two ways – successful or very harmful. Since there have been prosecutions associated with the former Yugoslavia, a truth commission might be a good addition. However, it seems that it likely would not be beneficial. Since the events were so long ago, it might be unburying old woulds. Like we read in the readings, it is also clearly politicized and likely will take on “one side” of the truth. Since the overall conflict was so two-sided, unlike in Latin America and South Africa, the case is very different. It likely would lend itself to increasing divides that are already there. It also seems as if most of the “truth” that there is to be told is already known. That said, it could be a good faith effort to reconcile after an atrocity. The problem with truth commissions is that they have large potential to be beneficial, but possibility to cause harm. This will only be confirmed – either way – after the process has begun, or likely after it has finished.

  2. pollorey March 28, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    President Dodik’s call for the establishment of an international truth commission follows the arrest by Serbian police of eight men suspected of having participated in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The importance of these arrests lies in the fact that they were the first by Serbian authorities of anyone accused of participating in the massacre that resulted in the death of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys. Furthermore, these arrests symbolize the extension of prosecutions beyond high-level officials and commanders. The eight suspects are being held responsible for the deaths of more than 1,000 Bosnians. The newly arrested suspects will most likely be put on trial in Serbia, as the ICTY will soon be closing.

    While the ICTY has often been criticized for its inefficacy, can Serbian domestic courts be entrusted with delivering justice for the victims and their families? Furthermore, will the victims’ families be given closure if the suspects are prosecuted within Serbia?

    The truth commission, in combination with the arrests, will be an opportunity for Serbia to prove its devotion to truth and reconciliation for the victims and their families. After reading about the President’s history of refusing to label the massacre as an act of genocide, it will be interesting to see for which crimes these men are indicted. While critics accuse Dodik of acting politically, these series of actions may be representative of the Serbian government’s effort to show its support for human rights. A truth commission could further ensure a societal consensus on what happened not only in terms of the atrocities committed by Serbs, but the UN’s failure to adequately respond. There is little hope of moving forward until there is accountability for all involved and a clear acknowledgment of who was responsible.


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