To arrest Mladic is finally to face the truth about Srebrenica

Author: Sylvie Matton
Uploaded: Tuesday, 20 July, 2010

The author of one of the most important books on the 1995 Srebrenica massacre comments fifteen years later on the contrast between the grief of survivors mourning loved ones and the true story of international complicity behind the official ceremonies

Sunday 11 July, on this 15th commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide, 775 coffins with newly identified victims were returned to the earth in a moment of intense mourning. At the same time, the politicians in attendance renewed their pious vows to see Ratko Mladic the ‘butcher of Srebrenica’ finally arrested and judged - a sinister farce.

The reason why Mladic, a protégé of - and in - Belgrade, has not yet been transferred to The Hague is only too obvious: officials of the ‘international community’ do not want his trial to take place. We know what happens when we really want to track down a fugitive, like Saddam Hussein at the bottom of an Iraqi pit. General Philippe Rondot (DGSE) himself affirmed in 2007 that he had been commissioned by Jacques Chirac to track down the fugitives Karadžic and Mladic, but without ever receiving the human resources needed to apprehend them. In other words: never lose their trace, but above all do not arrest them. Unlike Radovan Karadžic, whose trial will not be harmful to either Belgrade or the West, the Bosnian Serb Mladic received his emoluments as an officer of the Serbian government - the ‘fugitive’ also received a pension up until 2002 - and his orders directly from Miloševic.

Additionally, a Mladic trial would undermine the culture of genocide denial that exists today in Serbia and in the Bosnian Serb entity, since it would recognize the responsibility of Miloševic’s Serbia in the Bosniak genocide, or at least in the case of Srebrenica. And thus Serbia’s entry into the EU would not take place on a red carpet.


The Great Powers do not want Mladic’s trial to happen

Above all, the trial of Ratko Mladic would reveal to the world the responsibility of the Great Powers in the Srebrenica genocide. Everyone knew, everyone let it be, and this from the beginning of ‘Miloševic’s wars’ - with the massacre of more than 8,000 men in Srebrenica as their grand finale. The existence of wiretaps between Miloševic and his henchmen during the preparation of the Bosniak genocide, as well as numerous testimonies, confessions and opinion surveys, have shown how all the secret services and leaders of the Great Powers knew from 1991 on about the preparation for and implementation of the genocide: the arrival of men and weapons in the coveted territories; the placement of tanks around Sarajevo; the army’s aggression against a civilian population; mass crimes and the unfurling of terror; the opening of camps, etc.


American and British journalists like Roy Gutman, Ed Vulliamy and Carole Hodge have revealed the collusion with Belgrade and the corruption behind the refusal to intervene against Serbia, notably by American Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, or by certain ministers and advisors to the government of John Major such as Pauline Neville-Jones, Malcolm Rifkind and Douglas Hurd, to just cite a few. The position of François Mitterrand with regard to Miloševic has also been proven. After his visit to Sarajevo on 28 June 1992 (accompanied by Bernard Kouchner, then the Minister of Health and Humanitarian Action), during which President Alija Izetbegovic presented them with a list of 94 camps opened in northern and eastern Bosnia and besought them to send an investigative mission, the silence and inaction of the Elysée condemned thousands to torture and death for an additional five weeks. This lasted until 2 August 1992, when the first article by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Roy Gutman revealed the existence of these shameful camps to the world.

The Srebrenica enclave was sacrificed for an unworthy peace accord

In 1995, after three and a half years of compromises with Belgrade, the Great Powers desired to get out of the ‘Bosnian quagmire’. Everyone knew that Miloševic would never agree to a durable cease-fire so long as the enclaves of Bosniak refugees existed in eastern Bosnia. At the end of 1995, after more than 8,000 men were murdered in Srebrenica, the Dayton Peace Accords sealed the partition of Bosnia into two entities, giving the perpetrators of genocide a territory conquered in blood and drenched in flesh: their ‘Republika Srpska’. In the meantime, and not by coincidence, a sleight of hand has been accomplished: the exact same area as that of the dissolved enclaves was taken in western Bosnia by an American-Croat-Muslim coalition.

The negotiations with the ‘strong man of Belgrade’ took place a month and a half before the enclave fell: Robert Frasure, right-hand man of the American diplomat Richard Holbrooke, was assigned the task on 23 May 1995, in Belgrade. The Swede Carl Bildt, at the time the EU representative, confirmed this during a meeting he held at The Hague on 8 December 2004: ‘The deal for Republika Srpska was made at the end of May 1995 in Belgrade’.

‘I was under initial instructions to sacrifice Srebrenica, Goražde and Žepa’


But it is Richard Holbrooke who provides us with the key to this deal. In November 2005 in Dayton, during the 10th anniversary of the Accords, he said directly into the camera of the Bosnian television station Hayat: ‘I was under initial instructions to sacrifice Srebrenica, Goražde and Žepa’ (the three enclaves in eastern Bosnia). To see and hear this:

Two questions were posed to Holbrooke and published with the responses in a November 2006 issue of Paris Match: ‘Who gave you this order?’ Response: ‘Tony Lake’ (the number 3 man in the White House, close to President Clinton). ‘Did the sacrifice involve solely territory, or both the territory and the population?’ Response: ‘Both’. After this publication, Richard Holbrooke retracted the statement and claimed to have confused dates and enclaves.

‘We knew that the Serbs wouldn’t take any prisoners’

By an extreme coincidence, the entire UN hierarchy is absent, travelling or on vacation, just before the attack on Srebrenica. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, General Secretary of the UN, took his orders from the five permanent members of the Security Council, and especially from France and Great Britain, who were supporting him for an illusory second mandate. His directive of the evening of 11 July, after the fall of the enclave, is not to transfer the population that has been tortured for three years, but rather to sacrifice it to the executioners.


The ‘both’ indicated by Holbrooke and long foreseen would now be realized. As Alain Juppé admitted in February 2005: ‘We knew that the Serbs wouldn’t take any prisoners’. Now, facing a camera, Mladic told the terrified crowd that the men would be separated from the women and children. From wiretaps, the appeals of the Bosnian president, the numerous phone calls made by Bosnia’s UN ambassador Sacirbey to all the embassies, the images from reconnaissance planes, drones and satellites, the on-site reports of the UN, it is clear that everyone knew that massacres were taking place. Were they still hoping, following the example of the French prime minister, that the killings would not be systematically organized and could be qualified as ‘collateral damage’?



By choosing not to transfer the population in UN vehicles in order not to be accused of complicity in ethnic cleansing, the Great Powers preferred to risk complicity in genocide. Thus bound to Miloševic by the ‘crime of all crimes’, these officials were likewise condemned by him to silence


But fifteen years later, the truth is recognized and the oath of silence is obsolete. And it is high time that Ratko Mladic is arrested in Belgrade and tried at The Hague. For as long as justice has not been served, the guilty sentenced and the truth about the genocide revealed to the world, no reconciliation between the children of the perpetrators and their victims will ever be possible.


Originally published in French on the internet site

Rue 89, 14 July 2010. Sylvie Matton  is the author of Srebrenica: un génocide annoncé (2005)

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