01.03.2006.

OBLIGATION TO PREVENT GENOCIDE IS UNIVERSAL

"If they fail to prevent genocide committed in their name by rogue leaders and criminals, or if, what is even worse, they take part in it, then the citizens of their state must take on at least some of the burden needed to rebuild shattered lives and the social fabric of the survivors," Professor Thomas Franck said on the third day of hearings in the BH vs. SaM case

The basic message of the case before the International Court of Justice, according to Professor Thomas Franck, a lawyer in the BH team, should be that everyone, not just the leaders, have the "honorable universal obligation to prevent genocide". If they fail to do this, "if they fail to prevent genocide committed in their name by rogue leaders and criminals, or if, what is even worse, they take part in it, then the citizens of their state must take on at least some of the burden needed to rebuild shattered lives and the social fabric of the survivors". According to Professor Franck, this is "the very core of the humanitarian and civilizational purpose of the Genocide Convention".

In their efforts to prove that genocide really was committed in Bosnia and Herzegovina between 1992 and 1995 and that the then Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is responsible for it, the Sarajevo legal team relies primarily on the ICTY indictments and judgments, facts established in trials conducted so far and a number of admissions of guilt by the accused themselves.

"Political and military preparations" for what would take place from April 1992 on in BH started at least a year before that, according to the Sarajevo lawyers. This is apparent from the 45 intercepted telephone conversations between Slobodan Milosevic and Radovan Karadzic between May 1991 and February 1992. Milosevic, the JNA and the Serbian Interior Ministry provided the Bosnian Serbs with the "necessary political leadership, weapons, training and troops for the tempest of violence that was to follow". As for the Serbia's role in what followed, the Bosnian lawyers said, it was best described by Karadzic himself, who said at a RS Assembly session in 1994 that "nothing would have happened without Serbia, since we [Bosnian Serbs] would not have had the resources and would not have been able to wage the war".

The BH lawyers linked each of the individual crimes – so far they mentioned Sarajevo, Srebrenica and detention facilities – with one of the six strategic objectives declared in may 1992 by the Bosnian Serb Assembly. The first strategic objective, they argued, is at the core of every crime: ethnic separation, which would entail, as Karadzic said, "the expulsion from their homes by force of our enemies: Croats and Muslims, so that we are no longer in the same state".

BH counsel Van den Biesen linked the siege and shelling of Sarajevo and the sniping campaign targeting civilians with the fifth strategic objective – the division of Sarajevo into a Serb and Muslim parts. In his view, behind this was the intention to "inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part of an ethnic group". The siege of Sarajevo was begun by the JNA. After its ostensible pull-out, the BH lawyers claim, "nothing changed in essence", since all the heavy weapons around the city remained at the disposal of General Mladic and his forces. Arguing that Belgrade "was never absent during the longest siege of an European city", Van den Biesen showed footage of Vojislav Kostunica touring the VRS positions dominating Sarajevo. The Court could hear Kostunica, then the leader of the opposition, now the Serbian prime minister, say that from the position he was on he "can see best where the borders of the future Serbia should be, on both sides of the Drina river". Several video tapes were shown of shelling and sniping incidents, including the massacre at the Markale market in February 1994. In the first-instance judgment of General Galic, the ICTY Trial Chamber found it was caused by a shell fired by the Serb forces.

As "visual evidence of genocide", the Court saw a 20-minute recording of the shooting of six Muslim youths and boys by the Scorpions, a special unit of the Serbian Interior Ministry. The Scorpions were sent to Bosnia in June 1995 to assist Mladic in the Srebrenica operation. Van den Biesen linked Srebrenica with the sixth strategic objective of the Bosnian Serbs: the eradication of the Drina river as the border dividing Serb lands. He corroborated that by quoting Miroslav Deronjic who said in the statement of facts accompanying his plea agreement before the ICTY that there had been a plan in place as early as in 1991 to ethnically cleanse an area extending fifty kilometers west of the river Drina.

Noting a notorious fact that between 7,000 and 8,000 men were killed and about 30,000 women and children deported, Van den Biesen concluded that "there is only one name for this crime – genocide". The ICTY has reached the same conclusion in the its judgments in two Srebrenica-related cases.

Magda Karagiannakis of Australia spoke today about 520 camps and other detention facilities. As she said, between 100,000 and 200,000 Bosnian Muslims and Croats passed through them. Many never returned. She described the "pattern" of arrests, detention, killing, torture and deportation that was repeated in all the municipalities, towns and villages controlled by the Serb forces. According to her, the camps in Eastern Bosnia served the function of "eradicating the Drina as the border dividing Serb lands", while those in the Posavina region and the Bosnian Krajina were set up in order to implement the third strategic objective: establishing a corridor to link all the Serb lands.