WASHINGTON—Only hours after Russia vetoed a UN resolution to condemn the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war, the U.S. House of Representatives went on record defining the massacre as a “crime of genocide” by unanimously passing legislation sponsored by Helsinki Commission Chair Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04).
H. Res. 310 affirms that the policies of aggression and ethnic cleansing implemented by Serb forces in that country constituted genocide, and condemns statements denying that the massacres meet the definition of genocide.
“The international community must recommit itself to bringing to justice once and for all those who perpetrated these heinous crimes,” said Rep. Smith ahead of the vote. “These brutal killings were not committed in battle. They were committed against people who were unarmed and helpless and who had been repeatedly assured by Dutch peacekeepers that they would not be harmed if they surrendered. The evidence is overwhelming that the executions were committed with specific intention of destroying the Bosnian Muslim population of the area. This intention is the central element in the crime of genocide.”
“Today the international community is nearly unanimous when it proclaims that the Srebrenica massacre was a genocide,” he continued. “My resolution today reaffirms the U.S. support for this fact—and conveys our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the victims.” (Read his full statement here.)
The legislation passed today also urges the Atrocities Prevention Board—an interagency organization charged with helping the U.S. government identify and address atrocity threats—to issue guidance on preventing future genocides, and encourages the United States to continue to support the independence and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as peace and stability in southeastern Europe as a whole.
The July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica was one of the worst atrocities to occur in the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina between April 1992 and November 1995, during which period more than 2,000,000 people were displaced, more than 100,000 were killed, and tens of thousands were raped or otherwise tortured and abused. In addition to being the primary victims at Srebrenica, individuals with Bosniak heritage comprise the vast majority of the victims during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a whole, especially among the civilian population.
Since 1995, Rep. Smith has worked to see that the perpetrators of the horrific acts at Srebrenica are punished and that closure is provided to survivors and victims’ families. In 2005, he authored H. Res. 199, which clearly and unambiguously condemned the Srebrenica massacre as a genocide and was passed with overwhelming support in the U.S. House of Representatives. In July 2007, Rep. Smith visited Srebrenica to witness the tragic aftermath of the genocide for himself.