UNITED NATIONS – The U.N. official focusing on preventing genocide on Thursday sharply criticized the Bosnian Serb legislature's decision to revoke support for a government report acknowledging the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.
Special Adviser Adama Dieng called the National Assembly's decision on Tuesday "a step backwards for Bosnia and Herzegovina."
The legislature's vote "undermines the rule of law and national and international efforts to achieve justice for victims of crimes committed against people of all ethnicities during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War," he said in a statement.
The war killed an estimated 100,000 people and the Dayton Agreement that ended it split the country into two semi-autonomous mini-states along ethnic lines, one shared by Bosnian Muslims and Croats and the other for Bosnian Serbs.
The Srebrenica Commission, set up by the Bosnian Serb government, reported in 2004 that between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosnian Muslims went missing from Srebrenica in July 1995 after Bosnian Serbs overran the enclave and over 1,000 were killed, constituting a serious violation of international law.
All of the missing are presumed to have been killed, and more than two decades later, experts are still excavating victims' bodies from hidden mass graves throughout Bosnia.
Two international courts, the International Court of Justice and the U.N. war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia, have determined that the massacre constituted genocide.
The U.N. war crimes tribunal sentenced Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic over the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities. But Bosnian Serbs have never admitted that their troops committed the ultimate crime and nationalist politicians have viewed Mladic and Karadzic as heroes.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik told a parliamentary session of the autonomous Bosnian Serb republic before Tuesday's vote that genocide was not committed in Srebrenica and support for the commission's report should be withdrawn.
"The Srebrenica crime is a staged tragedy with an aim to 'satanize' the Serbs," Dodik said without elaborating.
He called for the forming of an "unbiased" international investigation into the Srebrenica massacre "in order to stop manipulation" with the number of victims.
It is widely believed that Dodik's reopening of the debate over Srebrenica is intended to secure the support of hard-line Bosnian Serbs ahead of the Oct. 7 general election in Bosnia. Dodik has had the support of Russia, which has close ties to Bosnia's Serbs, for his separatist stands.
Dodik's comments and the legislature's action outraged Srebrenica victims and survivors.
Dieng said the vote is "likely to exacerbate tensions" ahead of the Oct. 7 election and "damage prospects for long-term stability and reconciliation."
When he visited the Balkans in February, Dieng said "It is evident that events of the past are being used for political purposes." He warned that "mistrust and outright hostility between political leaders representing different constituencies is preventing any significant progress towards reconciliation."