RECOM Reconciliation Network


Serbia’s Lies About UN Srebrenica Resolution are All About Power

RECOM, Srebrenica, War Crimes

Balkan Transitional Justice

Author: Sofija Todorovic

In portraying a draft UN resolution on the 1995 Srebrenica genocide as an unprecedented and dangerous assault on the Serb people, Serbia’s leaders are motivated by nothing more than hunger for power.


On March 27, Aleksandar Vulin, Serbia’s former intelligence chief, gave a tabloid interview that set the tone for the country’s response to a draft United Nations resolution put forward by Germany and Rwanda to designate July 11 as International Day of Reflection and Remembrance of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide.

Instead, falsehoods about the content of the resolution, its legal power and its potential consequences for Serbia and the Republika Srpska have been spread tirelessly by a large part of the Serbian media that is controlled by the government.

The resolution, in fact, is largely about remembrance, education and the prevention of similar events in the future, but this was lost on the initiators of a formidable campaign of misinformation and scaremongering in Serbia, a campaign motivated by a greed for power and launched with one eye on a June 2 re-run of elections in the capital, Belgrade.

We should not be surprised: those in power have long sought to cement their grip by manipulating unprocessed trauma, inciting hostility and spreading disinformation.

Seeking political gain

Genocide denial in Serbia has intensified in the roughly 12 years since the Serbian Progressive Party and its leader, President Aleksandar Vucic, took power, to such an extent that it has become standard practice, causing great distress of those who lost loved ones in Srebrenica over five July days in 1995.

Well-documented irregularities during elections in Serbia in December, followed by a call from the European Parliament for an international investigation, have forced authorities in Serbia to call a re-run of voting in Belgrade; the ruling party is pushing a narrative that frames the election as one of “the highest national importance”, one in which the capital will be defended from those who supposedly wish to harm Serbia and its national interests.

The Srebrenica resolution, proposed by Germany and Rwanda but which has the backing of the United States and a number of other countries, has become part of that narrative – convince the electorate that the world is against it and that the best defence is a vote for those already in power, for continuity, not change.

It is the kind of tactic referred to in a November 2023 paper by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, concerning justice, peace and social cohesion in the former Yugoslavia.

“It has been noted that the manipulation of wartime events is intended to revive ethnic tensions and resentment and has become a strategy for nationalist politicians to gain votes and keep their positions of power,” Mijatovic wrote.

State-sponsored falsehoods

It feels like truth is simply set aside when apocalyptic political campaigns herd people in a certain direction in order to keep power in the hands of the political elite.

However, the importance of truth cannot be measured by the standards imposed by those involved in the most painful period of the recent past, people like Vulin, once a party ally of Mira Markovic, wife of late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, and Vucic, Serbia’s feared information minister during the 1998-99 Kosovo war. They certainly don’t care; if they did, they would try to build a different future for the region, free from constant warmongering, glorification of war criminals and hatred.

Vucic echoed Vulin’s words framing the resolution as an attempt to label the Serb nation as genocidal.

In Bosnia, Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik warned that the Republika Srpska entity, of which he is president, would “withdraw from the decision-making process in Bosnia”, a fresh step towards the secession Dodik has so often threatened.

Serbian parliament speaker Ana Brnabic and several Serbian cabinet ministers flanked Dodik at a rally against the resolution in the main Republika Srpska town of Banja Luka on April 18, where warmongering, slurs and hate speech could be heard from the stage.

Many respected experts, analysts, politicians and lawyers tried to provide credible information and explain the real impact of the resolution, but despite some success the damage has already been done.

Propaganda offensive wins church backing

A ‘Great Easter Assembly’ was announced by Vucic, Dodik and patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church to address the ‘grave’ political situation facing the Serb people, but was postponed when the vote on the resolution at the UN General Assembly was also delayed.

Orthodox Easter, however, could not pass without reference to the genocide in Srebrenica.

In his traditional message, the patriarch, Porfirije, condemned the “attempted, unprecedented historical revisionism in declaring the Serbs a genocidal people”, lending our elected leaders the full backing of the country’s most important spiritual leader.

It is not always easy to stand up for what is right; and right thing in this case would be to support the resolution, since there is nothing wrong with the content.

As we wait for confirmation of when the UN General Assembly will vote on the resolution, we see that the goal of those who started this propaganda offensive against the text and against peace has been achieved: the Serbian public has bought their lies, and the politicians will reap the benefits.

The damage done is irreparable; it has caused fear, pain and mistrust, unleashing a new wave trauma among the victims.

Those responsible for this damage will not hold back. It is their political calculation that what hurts the public will only help their own cause.

Sofija Todorovic is programme director at the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in Serbia.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of BIRN.


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