Russia vetoes UN resolution naming Srebrenica genocide

Russia has used its veto power in the United Nations Security Council to block a resolution condemning the 1995 Srebrenica massacre as a genocide.


Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the massacre – Europe’s worst mass killing since the Holocaust.

So why is the categorisation of what happened as genocide important?

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb Forces swept into eastern Srebrenica, slaughtering more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys.

Many of the 15,000 who managed to escape were later shelled and ambushed.

The area was meant to be a safe haven under the protection of United Nations peacekeepers.

But the peacekeepers were powerless to stop the killings.

On the streets of Sarajevo, Bosnian residents are reacting to the news a UN resolution to condemn the massacre as genocide has failed.

One resident says the UN decision doesn’t matter, that the world is already aware that the killings constituted genocide.

“The whole world knows about Srebrenica. So all these resolutions drafted now, they do have some value, but the world knows that what happened there was genocide. Now, when will this genocide be recognised as such, or not? More time will have to pass but, in the end, it will have to be acknowledged.”

A UN resolution to condemn the massacre was proposed by the United Kingdom, angering Serbia – which rejects the term.

It was vetoed by Russia, with Russia’s representative to the UN, Vitaly Churkin, labelling it counter-productive.

“The draft submitted by the United Kingdom turned out to be not constructive, confrontational and politically motivated. It contained distortion as a result of which the blame for the past is placed basically on one people. The approach whereby you single out one responsible party for a war crime is not legitimate and can result in even greater division within the Bosnian community.”

Four other members of the Security Council abstained while the remainder voted in favour.

In 2001 the UN Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague judged the events in Srebrenica as genocide.

Bosnia’s representative to the UN, Mirsada ÄolakoviÄ has told Al Jazeera the Security Council’s decision is disappointing.

“I thought the Security Council failed Srebrenica again. And I am deeply disappointed with the outcome of today’s meeting and that the Security Council is not united. Because a year ago this very same body adopted similar resolution on prevention of genocide by consensus. And today, on the same issue, we have no resolution.”

Meanwhile thousands of people have joined survivors of the Srebrenica massacre in a march to commemorate the route of their escape from Serb forces 20 years ago.

American Charles Wilcox was one of the marchers.

He says it’s important Srebrenica is remembered to try and prevent such incidents from happening again.

“It’s not just about Srebrenica, it’s about how mankind treats one another. It’s a world-wide event, this happens to be one of the events where genocide has taken place. We need to keep reminding ourselves of these terrible tragedies so that we can take the appropriate action to make sure they don’t happen in the future.”

More than 2,000 of the Bosnian Muslims killed in Srebrenica still haven’t been accounted for.

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