Srebrenica as Genocide?
Even those unfamiliar with the conflict that consumed the formerYugoslavia in the 1990s have heard of Srebrenica. If nothing else, the word“Srebrenica” carries a pall of tragedy. Uttered with a mixture of historicalimport and regret, it has become a euphemism for unspeakable events.Only a court of law could provide the detachment necessary toexamine the facts of what occurred near the small town in southeasternBosnia-Herzegovina in July 1995. The United Nations Security Councilestablished the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia(ICTY) in 1993 to prosecute serious violations of internationalhumanitarian law in the region since 1991.
In an August 2001 decision,
Prosecutor v. Radislav Krsti
, one of the tribunal’s three trial chambers setforth a comprehensive account of the tragedy. The chamber found thatfollowing the takeover of the town, Bosnian Serb forces executed between7,000 and 8,000 military-aged Bosnian Muslim men.
In addition, the Serbforces transported away from the area nearly all the Bosnian Muslimwomen, children, and elderly.
Finding that these actions resulted in “thephysical disappearance of the Bosnian Muslim population at Srebrenica,”
the trial chamber concluded that the Serb forces had committed genocide.For his involvement in the killings, Radislav Krsti
, the Serb officer on trial,was sentenced to forty-six years imprisonment, one of the longestsentences imposed by the tribunal,
though the ICTY Appeals Chamberreduced the sentence to thirty-five years in April 2004.
Although theGenocide Convention came into force in 1948, this was the first-everconviction by the ICTY for “the crime of crimes.”
On April 19, 2004, the
1.U.N. SCOR, 48th Sess., 3217th
mtg. at 6, U.N. Doc. S/RES/827 (1993).2.Prosecutor v. Radislav Krsti
, Case No. IT-98-33-T, Trial Judgement, ¶ 84 (Aug. 2, 2001)[hereinafter Krsti
. ¶ 52.4
. ¶ 595.5.Krsti
’s sentence was the longest imposed by the ICTY up until July 2003, when anothertrial chamber sentenced Milomir Staki
to life imprisonment for crimes against humanity(extermination and persecution) and violations of the laws of war (murder). Prosecutor v.Milomir Staki
, Case No. IT-97-24-T, Trial Judgment, ¶ 253 (July 31, 2003).6.The appeals chamber decreased Krsti
’s sentence to thirty-five years after determiningthat Krsti
aided and abetted genocide rather than having functioned as a co-perpetrator, asoriginally determined by the Trial Chamber. Prosecutor v. Radislav Krsti
, Case No. IT-98-33-A, Appeal Judgment, ¶¶ 266 and 275 (Apr. 19, 2004) [hereinafter Krsti
, Appeal Judgment].7.Genocide was first identified as “the crime of crimes” in a 1998 case before theInternational Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Prosecutor v. Jean Kambanda, Case No.ICTR 97-23-S, Trial Judgment and Sentence, ¶ 16 (Sept. 4, 1998);
Prosecutor v. GeorgeRutaganda, Case No. ICTR-96-3-T, Trial Judgment and Sentence, ¶ 451 (Dec. 6, 1999);Prosecutor v. Omar Serushago, Case No. ICTR-98-39-S, Trial Sentence, ¶ 15 (Feb. 2, 1999). The
appeals chamber noted that “[a]mong the grievous crimes this Tribunal has the duty topunish, the crime of genocide is singled out for special condemnation and opprobrium … Thisis a crime against all humankind, its harm being felt not only by the group being targeted fordestruction, but by all of humanity.” Krsti
, Appeal Judgment,
note 6, ¶ 36. The firstconviction for genocide by an international court was handed down on September 2, 1998,when an ICTR trial chamber found Jean-Paul Akayesu guilty of genocide and crimes againsthumanity. Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu, Case No. ICTR-96-4-T, Trial Judgment, ¶ 734