UN approves resolution to commemorate the 1995 Srebrenica genocide annually over Serb opposition

May 22, 2024, 10:25 PM | Updated: May 23, 2024, 6:28 pm

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations approved a resolution Thursday establishing an annual day to commemorate the 1995 genocide of more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslims by Bosnian Serbs, a move vehemently opposed by Serbs who fear it will brand them all as “genocidal” supporters of the mass killing.

The vote in the 193-member General Assembly was 84-19 with 68 nations abstaining, a reflection of concerns among many countries about the impact of the vote on reconciliation efforts in deeply divided Bosnia.

Supporters had hoped for 100 “yes” votes. Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who voted against the resolution, told the assembly the combined abstentions and “no” votes — 87 — was more than the 84 votes in favor. It is also noteworthy that 22 countries skipped the meeting and didn’t vote, some reportedly because of the dispute over the commemoration.

The resolution designates July 11 as the “International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica,” to be observed annually starting in two months.

The resolution, sponsored by Germany and Rwanda, doesn’t mention Serbs as the culprit, but that didn’t stop the intense lobbying campaign for a “no” vote by Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik and the populist president of neighboring Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, who had a Serbian flag draped over his shoulders as he sat in the assembly chamber during the vote.

Vukic told U.N. members after the vote that all those involved in the Srebrenica massacre have already been convicted and sentenced to prison and said the only purpose of the resolution was “to put moral and political guilt on one side” — the people of Serbia and Republika Srpska, the Bosnian Serb half of Bosnia.

“Those people that wanted to stigmatize Serbian people, they did not succeed and they will never succeed,” he said. “Nothing could have ever united Serbian people better than what was happening here today.”

Russia’s Nebenzia called the resolution’s adoption “a Pyrrhic victory for its sponsors,” saying if their goal ”was to divide the General Assembly … then they’ve succeeded brilliantly.”

But the resolution’s adoption was welcomed by Zeljko Komsic, the Croat member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, family members of Srebrenica victims, U.N. human rights chief Volker Türk and by many Western and Muslim nations.

The United States was one of more than 40 co-sponsors of the resolution, and the U.S. Mission to the United Nations welcomed its adoption in a tweet, saying “we honor the victims and commit to a more peaceful, stable world.”

“We actually expected more countries to be in favor, but we are satisfied,” Sehida Abdurahmanovic who lost several family members during the genocide, told AP. “Those who abstained and voted against — we will put them on a pillar of shame that we are building at the memorial center.″

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serbs overran a U.N.-protected safe area in Srebrenica. They separated at least 8,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys from their wives, mothers and sisters and slaughtered them. Those who tried to escape were chased through the woods and over the mountains around the town.

The Srebrenica killings were a bloody climax of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, which came after the breakup of then-Yugoslavia unleashed nationalist passions and territorial ambitions that set Bosnian Serbs against the country’s two other main ethnic populations, Croats and Muslim Bosniaks.

Both Serbia and Bosnian Serbs have denied that genocide happened in Srebrenica although this has been established by two U.N. courts.

Before the vote, Vucic urged U.N. members to vote “no,” calling the resolution “highly politicized.” He warned that it will open “Pandora’s Box,” and said it was not about reconciliation. He said it will only “open old wounds” and create “complete political havoc” in the region and at the U.N. He also strongly attacked Germany for trying to give “moral lessons” to the international community and to Serbia.

The determination in 2007 by the International Court of Justice, the U.N.’s highest tribunal, that the acts committed in Srebrenica constituted genocide, is included in the draft resolution. It was Europe’s first genocide since the Nazi Holocaust in World War II, which killed an estimated 6 million Jews and people from other minorities.

Germany’s U.N. Ambassador Antje Leendertse introduced the resolution, saying her country wants to build a multilateral system to prevent a repetition of Nazi Germany’s crimes and to honor the memory of the Srebrenica victims and support the survivors. The resolution “is not directed against anybody, not against Serbia,” she said, adding that if anything it is directed at the perpetrators of genocide.

Leendertse noted that there is an official U.N. commemoration of the 1994 Rwanda genocide on April 7 every year — the day the Hutu-led government began the killing of members of the Tutsi minority and their supporters. The resolution is aimed at “closing the gap” by creating a separate U.N. day to commemorate the victims of Srebrenica, she said.

Menachem Rosensaft, the son of Holocaust survivors who is an adjunct professor at Cornell Law School, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that designating July 11 as the official day of remembrance for the Srebrenica genocide “is a moral and legal imperative.”

The slain Muslim Bosniaks deserve to have their deaths and the manner of their deaths commemorated and Srebrenica was supposed to be a safe area but was abandoned by Dutch U.N. peacekeepers, leaving the Bosniaks who sought shelter there “to be murdered on the U.N.’s watch,” Rosensaft said.

Richard Gowan, U.N. director of the International Crisis Group, called the timing of the vote “unfortunate, given allegations that Israel is pursuing genocide in Gaza.”


Associated Press writers Eldar Emric in Srebrenica and Jovana Gec and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia contributed to this report.

National News

Associated Press

UN approves more transparent procedures for people and entities to get off its sanctions lists

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved more transparent procedures Friday for the hundreds of individuals, companies and other entities who are subject to U.N. sanctions and want to get off the blacklists. The resolution, co-sponsored by Malta and the United States, also authorizes the establishment of a new informal working […]

1 hour ago

FILE - Rep. Shelia Jackson Lee, D-Texas, speaks during a House Judiciary Committee meeting, Dec. 13...

Associated Press

Longtime US Rep Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who had pancreatic cancer, has died

Longtime U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who helped lead federal efforts to protect women from domestic violence and recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday, has died. She was 74. Lillie Conley, her chief of staff, confirmed Friday night that Jackson Lee, who had pancreatic cancer, had died. The Democrat had represented her Houston-based […]

1 hour ago

Stools line the bar at Elwood's Liquor and Tap on Thursday, July 18, 2024 in Milwaukee, Wis. This w...

Associated Press

Outside the RNC, small Milwaukee businesses and their regulars tried to salvage a sluggish week

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Jay Nelson was standing outside the convenience store he manages in downtown Milwaukee when one of his regular customers walked by on her daily stroll around the neighborhood. “I’ve been telling people to come and buy even just a bottle of wine,” she said, stretching out her arms. “I hope it helps.” […]

2 hours ago

Descendants of Nelson Bell, brothers Milford Fonza, front left, and Elmer Fonza, front right, surro...

Associated Press

In a California gold rush town, some Black families are fighting for land taken from their ancestors

COLOMA, Calif. (AP) — In a tiny town where the California gold rush began, Black families are seeking restitution for land that was taken from their ancestors to make way for a state park now frequented by fourth graders learning about the state’s history. Their efforts in Coloma, a town of around 300 people that’s […]

2 hours ago

An image of President Joe Biden is projected on a screen during the final night of the 2024 Republi...

Associated Press

Biden’s ability to win back skeptical Democrats tested at a perilous moment for his campaign

WASHINGTON (AP) — Despite a week of campaign stops, interviews and a determined insistence he is the best candidate to confront Republican Donald Trump, President Joe Biden’s efforts to revive his reelection bid and win over skeptical Democrats have done little to soften the push for him to exit the 2024 race. Biden has weighty […]

2 hours ago

Associated Press

Alaska election officials to recalculate signatures for ranked vote repeal measure after court order

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A state court judge on Friday disqualified numerous booklets used to gather signatures for an initiative that aims to repeal Alaska’s ranked choice voting system and gave elections officials a deadline to determine if the measure still had sufficient signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The decision by Superior Court […]

4 hours ago

UN approves resolution to commemorate the 1995 Srebrenica genocide annually over Serb opposition