Stop the Lies!
by Jose Maria Mendiluce
The 'protected' zone of Srebrenica has fallen into Serbian hands. It should have taken with it the empty hopes of all those innocents still deluding themselves that they could continue the game of mediation and neutrality amid the planned slaughter of the Bosnian people. I pass over the figures of the dead, and of the wounded, and of the horrors experienced by the 45,000 inmates of this concentration camp that Srebrenica had become since March 1993. Hungry and terrorized, those who then survived another loathsome, criminal offensive tried once more to escape death. At the time, I was responsible for evacuating more than 4,000 wounded, women and children towards the town of Tuzla, while we [represenatives of aid organisations] were exerting every possible pressure to protect what was left of the Srebrenica enclave. When the Security Council declared the zone'protected'. I was present at the disarmament of those who had protected it until then, armed civilians loyal to the [Bosnian] Government. They had then been told that the UN would remain there, to make sure nothing happened to them. Today, we know the result.
It would be untrue to say that I am surprised. Srebrenica is just one further tragic chapter in a book of horror: in the predicted disaster of Bosnia-Herzsegovina. We already know the end of this unfinished story: the completion of a genocide and the expulsion of all those who survive the slaughter.
For three years an attempt has been made to hide the cowardice of our governments and the international institutions, through a fÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌ°alse and cynical policy of neutrality. As if their analysts, wise or mediocre, were unaware what that policy would lead to. They have insisted that taking sides would simply make things worse. They have tied their own hands and smiled at the criminals, constantly humiliating themselves before them, shamefully accepting the logic of war while seeking to obtain the occasional concession from them. The fall of Srebrenica is the culmination of the series of provocations by which the Serbian side has responded to our cowardice. Enough prevarications and half-truths! In Bosnia, apart from a genocide, the future of Europe is being played out. Yes. Confronted by barbarism, the Bosnian people is resisting and dying in defence of the values of common living, tolerance, and respect for differences, which are the values of the majority of European citizens, and which constitute the basis of the European Union. Only if we stop being neutral between the murderers and their victims, if we start regarding Bosnia as our ally, if we decide to back its fight for life against the fascist horror of ethnic cleansing, shall we be able to contribute to the survival of the remnants of that country and of our own dignity. We must remember that the intrnational community agreed to protect the Bosnian population, and not just the soldiers sent to do that. Today, more than ever, we must demand that the recently created 'rapid intervention force' is used to protect that population effectively, in other words, that it actually behaves like an intervention force, and like a rapid intervention force.
It is necessary to remember also that the legitimate right of the Bosnian people to self-defence - under article 51 of the UN Charter - must be guaranteed both as a matter of principle and, above all, in view of the results to which the arms embargo has led. It will never be possible to implement a peace plan that helps to save a single inch of Bosnia-Herzsegovina, or that puts an end to the genocide perpetrated against the Bosnian people, if that people is not allowed to arm itself, so that the Serbian side understands that the permanent hegemony it enjoys at the military level is at an end. We must recognize our open and unequivolcal support for the fight of the Bosnian people, both because it is necessary to have done with the false neutrality I have just denounced, and also because this people represents the vanguard in the battle against the barbarism spreading these days across the centre and east of Europe.
I am tired of words. Apart from those directly concerning the people of Srebrenica, I think I have had the opportunity (in this very newspaper) over three years to express, I would say, almost every possible and conceivable argument to change the cynical and hypocritical policy of our leaders.
I expect of the Spanish presidency of the European Union a little more courage than its predecessors have shown, in order to break the logic of impotence. And if not, that they at least have the courage to say so. But please, for the dignity of the dead, for the dignity of Europe, enough lies and alibis! I do not want to weep tomorrow for the dead of Zepa, as we weep today for those of Srebrenica. I do not want to go on hearing the same half-truths, the same campaigns designed to manipulate and confuse public opinion, which have lead to the present situation.
Jose Maria Mendiluce, former head of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in Bosnia-Herzsegovina, is a member of the Soialist Group in the European Parliament. This article first appeared in El Pais on 13 July.