Debating Genocide Deniers Part I/II

Debating Genocide Deniers Part I/II
By Daniel Toljaga
Institute for the Research of Genocide, Canada

Background of the debate:
(1) 6 December 2010: “
The The bizarre world of genocide denial” by Marko Attila Hoare.
(2) 20 December 2010: “ The Second Coming of Joe McCarthy: David Gibbs Responds to Hoare’s Criticisms” by David N. Gibbs.
(3) 24 December 2010: “First Check Their Sources: On David N. Gibbs and ‘shoddy scholarship” by Marko Attila Hoare.
(4) 28 December 2010: “Debating Genocide Deniers, Part I/II” by Daniel Toljaga
[ I submitted this commentary as a response to genocide deniers on “Modernity Blog” (link #2). Unsurprisingly, it has not been approved, so I posted it here ]

On Dr. Hoare and  Prof. Gibbs

Dr. Marko Hoare’s research is a model of impeccable scholarship and, without essential hesitation, I plead guilty of praising and endorsing his work. His scholarly contributions need no defense from me. They are capable of standing on their own. In contrast, Prof. David N. Gibbs’ pernicious denial of genocide calls into question not only his academic credibility, but his very qualifications to hold tenure at a university at all.

Prof. Gibbs of the University of Arizona knows or understands very little of the relevant literature on Srebrenica and has made a deliberate misinterpretation of facts to lead people to believe that the Bosnian Muslims instigated violence around Srebrenica (e.g. discredited statements about Naser Orić by General Philippe Morillon), which I will address in my upcoming text (Part II) in a timely manner. Rather than willingly inflicting emotional distress on the genocide survivors and denigrating the public image of the University of Arizona, I invite Prof. Gibbs to reconsider his opinion and align himself with the facts about Srebrenica.

Judge Theodor Meron (Holocaust survivor) presided over the Krstić appeal when the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia unanimously agreed:

“Among the grievous crimes this Tribunal has the duty to punish, the crime of genocide is singled out for special condemnation and opprobrium… The gravity of genocide is reflected in the stringent requirements which must be satisfied before this conviction is imposed. These requirements – the demanding proof of specific intent and the showing that the group was targeted for destruction in its entirety or in substantial part – guard against a danger that convictions for this crime will be imposed lightly. Where these requirements are satisfied, however, the law must not shy away from referring to the crime committed by its proper name. By seeking to eliminate a part of the Bosnian Muslims, the Bosnian Serb forces committed genocide. They targeted for extinction the forty thousand [40,000] Bosnian Muslims living in Srebrenica, a group which was emblematic of the Bosnian Muslims in general. They stripped all the male Muslim prisoners, military and civilian, elderly and young, of their personal belongings and identification, and deliberately and methodically killed them solely on the basis of their identity. The Bosnian Serb forces were aware, when they embarked on this genocidal venture, that the harm they caused would continue to plague the Bosnian Muslims. The Appeals Chamber states unequivocally that the law condemns, in appropriate terms, the deep and lasting injury inflicted, and calls the massacre at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide. Those responsible will bear this stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act.”

The Question of Serbia’s responsibility for Genocide

In reference to allegations by anonymous commenter (‘frunobulax’) – who may or may not be aligned with a self-confessed genocide denier Mr Nebojša Malić – I tendered my response earlier this year and will not dwell on this nonsense again. I will gladly grant my full response to another anonymous commenter (‘Asteri’) who raised some interesting observations and refrained from name-calling.  He/she wrote:

“Marko along with a quite a few people, including Francis Boyle, the Bosnian Muslims and Daniel Toljaga reject the judgement that Serbia was not guilty of Genocide in Bosnia.”

For the record: I dissent with some aspects of the ICJ judgement, but I do not reject it.

First of all: The judgement of the International Court of Justice (26 February 2007) dealt exclusively with the question of state responsibility for genocide, while the judgement of the International Criminal Tribunal in the Krstić case dealt exclusively with the issue of individual responsibility. The ICJ judgement – which qualified Srebrenica as genocide, but exonerated Serbia from direct responsibility for the massacre (holding, instead, that it ‘merely’ failed to prevent genocide) — was not unanimous. The court acknowledged that the massacre was committed with the logistical, moral and financial support of Serbia and the Yugoslav Army; however, there was no evidence of Serbia’s “intent” (mens rea) to commit the genocide. Vice-president of the court, Judge Al-Khasawneh, dissented on the following grounds:

“Serbia’s involvement, as a principal actor or accomplice, in the genocide that took place in Srebrenica is supported by massive and compelling evidence. Disagreement with the Court’s methodology for appreciating the facts and drawing inferences there from The Court should have required the Respondent to provide unedited copies of its Supreme Defence Council documents, failing which, the Court should have allowed a more liberal recourse to inference. The ‘effective control’ test for attribution established in the Nicaragua case is not suitable to questions of State responsibility for international crimes committed with a common purpose. The ‘overall control’ test for attribution established in the Tadić case is more appropriate when the commission of international crimes is the common objective of the controlling State and the non-State actors. The Court’s refusal to infer genocidal intent from a consistent pattern of conduct in Bosnia and Herzegovina is inconsistent with the established jurisprudence of the ICTY. The FRY’s [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] knowledge of the genocide set to unfold in Srebrenica is clearly established. The Court should have treated the Scorpions as a de jure organ of the FRY. The statement by the Serbian Council of Ministers in response to the massacre of Muslim men by the Scorpions amounted to an admission of responsibility. The Court failed to appreciate the definitional complexity of the crime of genocide and to assess the facts before it accordingly.”

The bottom line: The judgment is that Serbia is responsible under the Genocide Convention for failing to prevent the genocide committed by the Bosnian Serb army (VRS) in Srebrenica and for not cooperating with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in punishing the perpetrators of the genocide.

Second of all: the Hague Tribunal continues to introduce compelling new evidence which clearly indicates that Scorpions were under the effective control of Serbia (see: “Arkan’s Men and Scorpions Under State Security Umbrella“). Now, it remains a point of contentious debate when did that “effective control” end? In the indictment of  Serbia’s Chief of the State Security Service Jovica Stanišić and the commander of the Special Operations Unit Franko Simatović, we find:

“… that in June 1995, Stanišić and Simatović ordered the Scorpions, a special unit of the Republic of Serbia DB, to travel from their base in Đeletovci in RSK [‘Republic of Serbian Krajina’ in Croatia], to Serb controlled territory near Sarajevo. The Scorpions arrived in BiH in early July 1995 and based themselves in the village of Trnovo, at the foot of Treskavica Mountain, near Sarajevo. In July 1995, certain Muslim men and boys who were captured after the fall of Srebrenica enclave were taken to the base of the Scorpions in Trnovo… where they murdered them by shooting them.”

Other convincing evidence, uncovered by the Hague Tribunal, also suggests that Serbia was, indeed, directly involved in the massacre. For example: Momcilo Perisic, the former Chief of General Staff of the Yugoslav Army, was present in the headquarters of the Main Staff of the Bosnian Serb Army in Han Pijesak in July of 1995, that is – during the Srebrenica genocide (see: “Perišić Visiting Mladić During Srebrenica Operation“). What was he doing there? Among the Serbian forces who entered Srebrenica in July 1995 were soldiers belonging to the Uzice Corps (see: “Srbijanci u Potočarima“, “Serbians in Potočari“). What were they doing there?

Daniel Toljaga
Institute for the Research of Genocide, Canada