Revisionism and attempts to deny court-proven facts about war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia pose a serious threat to peace in the region and should be fought resolutely, officials of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) said in Sarajevo on Tuesday.
Carmel Agius, who presides over the body that succeeded the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and chief prosecutor Serge Brammertz arrived in the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina today to attend events marking the 30th anniversary of the siege of Sarajevo, which lasted from 1992 to 1996.
Speaking at the conference “30 Years Later: Sarajevo”, Agius recalled that the siege of Sarajevo lasted more than 1,400 days and that the existence of many visible signs of the war destruction years after the war was a clear reminder of its extent and of the suffering of the city’s residents.
That is a reminder not only of what happened but of what should never have happened again, Agius said, adding that that was the idea behind the UN Security Council decision to establish a tribunal to prosecute war crimes in the former Yugoslavia – to send a clear message that there was no more impunity for war crimes.
The foundation of the ICTY’s work was that all crimes must be proven beyond reasonable doubt and individual responsibility established precisely, he said.
Agius recalled that that was the reason why former Bosnian Serb army generals Stanislav Galic and Dragoljub Milosevic, as well as Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, whose orders they had followed, were now serving prison sentences, noting that it was unacceptable that despite that, there were still people who denied what had happened in Sarajevo during the war, questioning proven facts about the crimes that had been committed.
We must resolutely fight revisionism, and unfortunately that is how political leaders frequently act, Agius said, adding that he strongly believes in the future of Bosnia and Herzegovina based on truth and reconciliation.
Brammertz said that the siege of Sarajevo was one of the darkest moments in the history of humankind and that its purpose had been to destroy the idea of living together.
He recalled that the first investigations launched by the ICTY prosecutors had referred exactly to crimes committed during the siege of Sarajevo, with strong evidence having been collected and leading to guilty verdicts against those responsible.
The suffering of civilians (during the siege) was not incidental, the intent was clear, he said.
In an apparent allusion to attempts by Bosnian Serb leaders to deny crimes committed during the siege of Sarajevo, Brammertz said that it was unacceptable for some pseudo-scientific commissions to rewrite history in spite of the facts and to glorify criminals.
He said the best response to that was to continue to investigate and to prosecute hundreds of those who had committed war crimes and were still at large.
Let this be a reminder that the fight for the truth and justice must not stop, he said.