The Bosnian Genocide
The term Genocide may just be another term in the dictionary but the weight of the meaning of the term is tremendous. The term ‘Genocide’ was first spotted in the book ‘Axis Rule’ authored by a Polish Lawyer named Raphael Lemkin in the year 1944. ‘Genos’ means ‘Race or tribe’ and ‘cide’ means killing. The author coined this term in response to the various mass killings that had taken place in history.
Genocide was not recognized as a crime until the year 1946. The UNGA was the committee behind making genocide a crime.
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
Killing members of the group;
Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group. (United Nations Office on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.html)
Genocide is something that cannot happen without preparation and takes a lot of tactical and strategical planning. There are precisely 8 stages involved in genocide. The 8 stages are; Classification, Symbolization, Dehumanization, Organization, Polarization, Preparation, Extermination and Denial. These eight stages were given by Dr. Gregory. H. Stanton. He stated that these stages can occur simultaneously or in any order. He also stated that it could be stopped at any stage.
The psychological state of mind of a person who wishes to commit genocide is indeed fascinating. The thoughts that are needed to perform such a heinous crime is in fact dark and inhuman. The impact a genocide leaves on society is unnerving. Genocide is by far the worst way to die and the most soulless crime.
The Bosnian Genocide
Bosnia is located on the northern part of the nation called Bosnia and Herzegovina. The entire nation is informally known as Bosnia.
Bosnia is a place haunted by what its people did to one another during times of war.
In the aftermath of WW2, the states of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia etc fell into the people’s republic of Yugoslavia. After a few years of growing nationalism since the death of Josip Broz Tito (Yugoslav’s leader) Bosnia, Croatia and Macedonia declared independence. After his death, politicians of Serbia and Croatia were at each other’s throats competing for supremacy. Following this, war broke out in Yugoslavia which lasted for about 5 years. The siege of Sarajevo marks the beginning of the genocide. The militants of Serb opened fire on innocent civilians and took a lot of lives. After this, approximately 400,000 civilians were trapped and were deprived of food, water and shelter. The United Nations tried to intervene and deployed troops sending food and medicine to the dispossessed muslims. But these troops were not allowed to interfere. The Serbs were so confident that the U.S government, United nations and the European community wouldn’t intervene.
By the time the siege was over, the city of Sarajevo had lost around 200,000 people.
Bosnia boasted the single largest muslim population by the year 1971. Bosnia had a population of 4 million people out of which 44% were Bosniak, 31% were Serb and 17% were Croatian.
Few years after independence, The Bosnian Serb forces allied with the Serb dominated Yugoslav’s army committed heinous acts of crime on the large population of the Bosniak muslims. This was the worst act of genocide after the holocaust.
The violence and killings didn’t stop there. The next worse thing to happen was the Srebrenica Massacre. Srebrenica was a small town dominated by Bosniak muslims. The UN had shipped around 600 Dutch soldiers as a part of the peace keeping force because this place was deemed to be a ?Safe Haven’. Those troops were very inefficient and weak. Serb militants forcefully separated men, women and children. Men were sent for questioning and women and children were deported. Some men were sent to concentration camps where they were tortured, beaten and exposed to inhuman conditions and the other men were all lined up and shot dead. Women were taken hostage to places commonly described as Rape camps which needs no explanation. The kind of environment these people were exposed to would’ve made them feel less human and would’ve wanted to choose the coward’s way out. But they were tortured and killed slowly. The people who did this enjoyed dropping bodies and seeing people lose their loved ones in front of their own eyes. This is not only mass killing but mass rape as well. The families of the men and women that were sent off to such places are still called to identify bodies that are being found even to this day. The mental trauma they undergo is indescribable.
The Serbs who did all this felt that they were much superior than the Bosniaks and felt that the Bosniaks needed an ethical cleansing. Now this ?they vs us’ mentality automatically created a barrier between the two and established a power distance between them.
By the end of all this horror, the death toll was approximately over 200,000. And another 2 million people were separated from their own homes and families.
Was Justice served?
While the war was still in place, the UN finally decided to step in and start prosecuting the people responsible for this. The UN set up the ?International Criminal Tribunal’ in The Hague, Netherlands. 161 people were indicted, and 90 people were convicted and sentenced. The main culprits involved were Radovan Karadzic, Slobodan Milosevic and the infamous ?Butcher of Bosnia’ Ratko Mladic. (Retrieved from https://worldwithoutgenocide.org/genocides-and-conflicts/bosnia )
Radovan Karadzic was charged with genocide and crimes against humanity for carrying out the siege of Sarajevo and the Srebrenica massacre which claimed the lives of over 8000 boys and men. He was given a sentence of 40 years.
Milosevic was indicted but was found dead in his prison cell. Due to this, all the charges against genocide, war crimes etc had to be dropped.
Ratko Mladic, the head of the Serb army was charged with genocide, murder, inhumane acts etc. His most noticeable roles were in the siege of Sarajevo and leading the Srebrenica massacre. He was found guilty for all the charges and now faces a lifetime in prison.
The worst part about Mladic’s sentencing is that he was found guilty for all those charges on November 22, 2017.
To conclude, researching about this was indeed very painful. Reading about the death toll and the methods that were used to torture and kill people gave me goosebumps. The fact that people do this just to prove their supremacy over you is heartening. I cannot even put myself in their shoes even for a second to understand why they did what they did. We live in a world where we have the constant urge to fight each other or prove that we’re number 1. It’s high time we start living to bring each other up and to make life peaceful and harmless for our future generations.
Bosnia and its people are still haunted by the things that happened to them and will never be able to forgive or forget any of this.