Need to keep the memory alive | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Need to keep the memory alive

(09/06-2010)
-Norway has a strong commitment to international criminal justice. There must be no impunity for genocide, said Gry Larsen, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the seminar Srebrenica 10 years on hosted by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee on June 3.

-In Bosnia and Herzegovina Norway has supported the prosecution of war crimes, the building of capacity of courts and the initiatives of NGOs. We will continue, that we can promise you, Larsen said. She further empathetically underlined that it is simply not acceptable that Mladic is avoiding justice. The government had not yet concluded on a question raised by the NHC to the government about a commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide, and invited the NHC to further discussions on this issue. NHC Secretary-General Bjørn Engesland elaborated on the challenges related to the genocide in his introduction.

Elma Kovacevic, the Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina to Norway, said that genocide in Bosnia was a global disgrace of the 20th century that can only be corrected by truth and justice and called for international commemoration.

Edina Becirevic, Professor at the University of Sarajevo explained the overwhelming evidence of genocide in Srebrenica and argued that the term genocide applies not just to Srebrenica. She said that even if Auschwitz is the symbol of Holocaust, no one would say that the Holocaust only took place at Auschwitz. In the same way no one should say that genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina only took place in Srebrenica.

Gunnar Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary-General of NHC said that there was a huge backlog of war crimes cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina and regretted the lack of progress in implementing the War Crimes Processing Strategy adopted by the BiH Council of Ministers in December 2008 which is aimed at removing this backlog. The NHC called for urgent implementation of the Strategy and increased transparency and civil society participation in the process.

Norwegian support to combat impunity for war crimes were presented by Nils Ragnar Kamsvåg, Head of Western Balkan Section of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who also emphasized the Norwegian commitment to continue this support. He highlighted the importance of cooperation with NGOs, including the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

People in Srebrenica today live with the consequences of genocide. The ethnic composition of the town is dramatically changed. The economic prospects are poor and the return of minorities is not sustainable, said Amir Kulagic, Srebrenica survivor and resident.

Despite the evidence and outcomes of court cases the facts of genocide are still denied and relativized in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina said Aleksandra Letic, Secretary General of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Republika Srpska and Sonja Biserko, Chair of the Helsinki Committee for human rights in Serbia.

In the final debate all participants from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia called for Norway to adopt a parliamentary resolution or Royal Decree and to organize annually official commemoration of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. State-Sectretary Espen Barth-Eide welcomed further discussion on the topic.