Toggle navigation menu.
Srebrenica

Remembering the Srebrenica Massacre

  • Hon. Christopher H. Smith
    US












House of Representative

109th Congress, First Session

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to the attention of my colleagues House Resolution 199, regarding the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica in eastern Bosnian-Herzegovina. In July, ten years will have passed since thousands of Bosniaks perished in what was the worst atrocity committed during the three-and-a-half years of conflict in Bosnia. This was an absolute fiasco by the international community, eroding its credibility and principles. Those of us who worked together at the time in urging a more decisive international response can remember the horror associated with that conflict. 

Many may ask: why do this? Why focus on what happened ten years ago in a region that we are encouraging to look forward to a future that includes further European integration? I believe it is impossible to look forward without acknowledging the past and what really happened at Srebrenica. We have many lessons to learn from the past. 

First, the very fact that many of those responsible for the Srebrenica massacre–especially Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic and others, not only have evaded justice in The Hague but may be receiving protection and are held almost as folk heroes by some indicates that the past has not been fully understood. Hundreds of people currently holding positions of responsibility are only now being investigated for possible connections to the massacre. Clearly the myths and propaganda originally used to justify a slaughter still hold sway in the minds of too many people. 

Second, the international community must learn not to repeat the mistakes it made with horrible consequences in 1995. Some lessons have been learned. For the first time since World War II, for example, an international tribunal was created to prosecute those responsible for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. That body has borne some results, though its task is not complete. 

Intervention in Bosnia-Herzegovina was not some reckless act, as some suggest, but a needed response made increasingly difficult by unnecessary delay. Mutual congratulations will undoubtedly come later this year when commemorating the ten year anniversary of the Dayton Agreement. We would do well, however, to recall that it was the simple shame of allowing thousands to be massacred within one of the international community’s officially designated “safe areas” that finally motivated serious consideration of action against the brazen thugs responsible for these crimes. Unfortunately, it took additional atrocities before effective action was taken. 

It is also helpful to listen to some of the words spoken in the aftermath of the Srebrenica massacre. For example, 27 non-governmental organizations, including religious and humanitarian organizations not usually inclined to support the use of force, as well as Muslim and Jewish organizations not known for taking common stands, issued a powerful statement: 

Bosnia is not a faraway land of no concern to our “national interest.” At stake is the global commitment to fundamental human values, the right not to be killed because of one’s religious or ethnic heritage, and the right of civilians not to be targeted by combatants.

At about the same time, the U.N.’s rapporteur for human rights in the former Yugoslavia, former Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiezki, explained why he could no longer ‘‘continue to participate in the pretense of the protection of human rights’’ and chose to resign in response to the events at Srebrenica. Known as a thoughtful, principled man, he said:

One cannot speak about the protection of human rights with credibility when one is confronted with the lack of consistency and courage displayed by the international community and its leaders. . . . Crimes have been committed with swiftness and brutality and by contrast the response of the international community has been slow and ineffectual.

If, when listening to these words from ten years ago, we think of subsequent events including Darfur today, we realize how little we have indeed learned.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina we also produced examples of the best in humanity, people in the international community, aid workers, soldiers, diplomats, journalists, monitors and advocates, who risked and sometimes gave their lives to prevent further loss of life. I particularly mention in this connection the American negotiators Robert Frasure, Joseph Kruzel, and Nelson Drew who died while traveling Bosnia’s dangerous, war-torn roads. They deserve our gratitude for the efforts to restore peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we cannot forget the memory of the victims of Srebrenica and those who survived, but were traumatized by the debacle at Srebrenica. Many continue to wonder about the ultimate fate of the missing, even as new mass graves have been unearthed in northeastern Bosnia-Herzegovina. For these people, ten years is not long ago, and recognizing the pain and anguish they experienced may help bring closure for them. Some of these victims, I should add, have come to our country as refugees and are now Americans. They will no doubt be remembering the tragic events at Srebrenica ten years ago.

I will not detail here the almost unspeakable horrors that were part of the massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995. Some of the events are mentioned in House Resolution 199. Mr. Speaker, I hope that my colleagues will give this measure their serious consideration and active support.

Category
Country
Issue
Date
Filter Topics Open Close
Press Releases

Helsinki Commission Leadership Responds to Murder of...

Feb 16, 2024

WASHINGTON — Following reports of Alexei Navalny’s death in prison, Helsinki Commission Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09) issued the following joint statement: “Alexei Navalny dedicated his life to seeing Russia free and at peace. Despite every cruel obstacle Putin placed in his way, even a near-fatal poisoning, he did not waver in his condemnation […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Eyewitness Accounts: Ukrainian Children and Adult Ci...

Jan 31, 2024

  Russia’s abduction of thousands of Ukrainian children and adult civilians as part of its war on Ukraine calls for urgent U.S. and international action to both save Ukraine’s children and civilians and to hold Russia accountable for its war crimes. The Ukrainian government has documented close to 20,000 cases of children taken to Russia […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Wilson, Whitehouse, Tillis, Jackson Lee Applaud Incl...

Dec 08, 2023

WASHINGTON, DC – Representative Joe Wilson (SC-2), Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Helsinki Commissioner Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Senator Thom Tillis (NC), and Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) applauded the inclusion of the Foreign Extortion Prevention Act as part of the FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). “We cannot allow authoritarians to extort American […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Making Russia Pay: Sovereign Asset Confiscation for ...

Dec 06, 2023

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its partners and allies have frozen an estimated $350 billion in Russian reserves held abroad. Members of Congress – including members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) – and experts have advocated for governments to confiscate and repurpose these funds […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Hearing – Making Russia Pay: Sovereign Asset Confisc...

Nov 30, 2023

HEARING NOTICE – Making Russia Pay: Sovereign Asset Confiscation for Ukrainian Victory Wednesday, December 6th 2:00-3:30 PM Dirksen Senate Office Building 608 Stream live here: https://youtube.com/live/9X0Ip2wjogs In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States and its partners and allies have frozen an estimated $350 billion in Russian reserves held abroad. Members of Congress […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

CSCE Leadership Welcomes New Executive Branch Commis...

Nov 07, 2023

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, today announced the appointment of three Executive Branch Commissioners to the Commission. CSCE welcomed Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Celeste Wallander, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Donet Dominic Graves, Jr., and Department of State Coordinator for […]

screen-reader-text
In the News

Lawmakers say Kara-Murza case spotlights administrat...

Oct 26, 2023

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Hamas’ Hostages, Putin’s Prisoners, and Freeing Inte...

Oct 25, 2023

The practice of seizing hostages and political prisoners, as well as actively terrorizing civilians is a constant displayed by Hamas in Israel and Russia’s war against Ukraine. To highlight issues related to the United States’ strategy to free hostages and political prisoners, last year the Commission’s Ranking Member Congressman Steve Cohen and Chairman Joe Wilson […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Hearing: Hamas’ Hostages, Putin’s Prisoners, and Fre...

Oct 20, 2023

Wednesday, October 25, 2023 10:00am – 11:30am Longworth House Office Building 1334 Stream live here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5U-5Mj_WQtE Hamas’ hostages and Putin’s political prisoners have seized the world’s attention, showing the depths oppressors around the world will sink to in terrorizing civilians and undermining democracy. Dictators and terrorists use violence to fuel fear in those they seek […]

screen-reader-text
Hearings

Israel and Ukraine Against Terror

Oct 19, 2023

Terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli and Ukrainian civilians have shocked the world with their cruelty and sophistication. These unprovoked attacks are fueled by transnational terrorist networks that include Hamas, Russia, and the Iranian regime, and which regularly target Ukrainian and Israeli civilians and infrastructure. Israel and Ukraine face common foes in terrorist networks that use […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Hearing: Israel and Ukraine Against Terror

Oct 13, 2023

Thursday, October 19, 2023 2:00-3:30pm Rayburn House Office Building 2247 Stream here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=tWxwUk4TvVo Terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli and Ukrainian civilians have shocked the world with their cruelty and sophistication. These unprovoked attacks are fueled by transnational terrorist networks that include Hamas, Russia, and the Iranian regime, and which regularly target Ukrainian and Israeli civilians and infrastructure. […]

screen-reader-text
Press Releases

Hearing: Has the United Nations Failed Ukraine and t...

Sep 27, 2023

Wednesday, September 27, 2023 2:00 pm to 3:30 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building Room 2200 Stream live here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrBXYsQA0Qk In 2022, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the largest land war in Europe since World War II. In its wake, experts and leaders like President Zelenskyy raise serious questions whether a United Nations […]

screen-reader-text