Open letter on genocide

Author: 54 authors
Uploaded: Friday, 04 April, 2008

A public call by 54 international academics, human-rights activists and intellectuals for 'the full and uncensored minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Defence Council' of Serbia to 'be made public, so that the role of the Serbian state in the genocide in Bosnia and Hercegovina can be assessed objectively'

Open letter to the presidents of the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslaviaand the Republicof Serbia



A year ago, the International Court  of Justice (ICJ) issued its verdict in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina versus Serbia, acquitting Serbia of direct involvement in genocide in Bosnia. We, members of the international academic community, believe that this decision - reached without a review of all the available evidence – amounts to a miscarriage of justice and a betrayal of the principle that international criminal law should act to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.


The ICJ refused to subpoena Serbia to hand over the uncensored minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Defence Council of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The application of the Bosnian team with this request was denied. ICJ judges also decided not to ask the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to disclose these documents. The importance of these transcripts in proving the intent of the Republic of Serbia to carry out genocide against the Muslim population of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992-1995 became apparent in the case of the former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic at the ICTY. Judges in the Milosevic case had those minutes at their disposal when they found there was enough evidence to convict Milosevic on genocide charges in Bosnia and Herzegovina - not only at Srebrenica in 1995, but in relation to crimes carried out since 1992. In a procedural ruling in that case of 16 June 2004, the Trial Chamber concluded that “there is sufficient evidence that genocide was committed in Brcko, Prijedor, Sanski Most, Srebrenica, Bijeljina, Kljuc and Bosanski Novi”. It goes on to state that it “could be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was a participant in the joint criminal enterprise” which had “the aim and intention” to destroy a part of the Bosnian Muslims as a group. This being the case, it is reasonable to surmise that, had the uncensored minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Defence Council been put before the ICJ, the verdict might have gone differently and Serbia might have been found responsible of genocide. The fact that the Court decided not to ask for these minutes leads us to believe that the Court’s conduct of the case, as well as its verdict, was influenced by political considerations.


According to the ICJ’s verdict, Bosnian Serb perpetrators were nowhere guilty of genocide except at Srebrenica. Yet this has already been called into question by the European Court of Human Rights, which on 12 July 2007 upheld the conviction for genocide of the Bosnian Serb paramilitary leader Nikola Jorgic by the German courts. Jorgic was convicted in Germany of having carried out genocide in the Doboj region in 1992, in one of a series of massacres that the ICJ claimed was not genocidal.


However, the ICJ is not the only United Nations’ court that failed to uphold the principles of international law. The ICTY judges granted Serbia’s request that the minutes of the Supreme Defence Council be submitted in a censored version, allegedly because Serbia’s ‘national security’ was at stake. This would be equivalent to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg agreeing to withhold key evidence against the Nazi leaders out of respect for Germany’s ‘national security’. The ICTY’s concession to Serbia was the result of a political agreement reached by the Tribunal with the Serbian government, and is therefore evidence again that the international courts have allowed politics to interfere with the legal process.


As representatives of the academic community, human rights activists and intellectuals from all over the world, we demand that the international public be told the whole truth. We therefore request that the full and uncensored minutes of the meetings of the Supreme Defence Council be made public, so that the role of the Serbian state in the genocide in Bosnia and Hercegovina can be assessed objectively.


1. Dr Marko Attila Hoare, Senior Research Fellow at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Kingston University; author of ‘The History of Bosnia: From the Middle Ages to the Present Day’ and ‘Genocide and Resistance in Hitler’s Bosnia’


2. Edina Becirevic, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Criminal Justice Science, University of Sarajevo; author of ‘International Criminal Court: Between Ideals and Re

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