A month after the apology of the Dutch minister in Potocari during the commemoration of the anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, the Balkan Research Network of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIRN BiH) analyzes how rare apologies are in BiH society and why they are so important.
Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said at the commemoration in Potocari on July 11th that the Netherlands bears part of the responsibility for the failure of the international community in Srebrenica in 1995.
She explained that the international community failed to provide adequate protection to the victims during the Srebrenica genocide in which at least 7,000 Bosniak men were killed. She added that the Government of the Netherlands, as part of the international community, shares responsibility for the failure.
”For that, we offer you our deepest apologies. It is our moral duty to always tell the truth about everything and expose lies,” Ollongren said, among other things.
Although it comes 27 years after the crime, this apology is still one of the few for Srebrenica. In the Republika Srpska (RS), whose political and military leadership was convicted of the genocide committed in July 1995, but also in Serbia, for which the International Court of Justice in The Hague found that it did not prevent the genocide or punish its perpetrators, apologies and acknowledgments of genocide are were rare and have not been part of official policies for years.
Statements by former prime ministers and presidents in RS and Serbia asking for forgiveness for the crimes in Srebrenica have long since been canceled. After the apology of the Dutch minister, the authorities of the entity and neighboring countries criticized the calls for respect for the victims and recognition of the crime.
According to Velma Saric, director of the Center for Post-Conflict Research, the attitude of politicians towards apologies shows how far domestic society is from the true process of dealing with the past.
“This is an election year and we can see that the commemoration of the genocide is being put into a very ugly context of denial, insulting the survivors and victims, relativizing the legal facts established in many international and domestic courts,” says Saric.
This is one of the reasons why she believes that the recognition of the Dutch minister resonated and that it has “historical importance because after 27 years the state of the Netherlands found the strength to apologize to the victims and survivors, as well as to admit that it did not do enough to protect them”.
Looking at the complete process of transitional justice, Saricexplains that an apology means a lot to the mothers of Srebrenica, but that it will take a change in politics in RS and Serbia for recognition and true reconciliation.
”Accepting responsibility for crimes, asking for an apology and giving up falsification and relativization are key to the reconciliation process, ” explains Branko Todorovic from the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights of the RS. But in RS and Serbia there is no desire for it because “it is not politically profitable,” he adds.
“We expect peace to build somehow by itself. Peace cannot be built by itself, just as war cannot be built by itself. War is built because of certain political interests, and peace should be built through the activities of a free society,” told Todorovic.