In an attempt to down-scale the horrific, unacceptable act of genocide committed by Serbian Troops in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where more than 8000 Muslim men and boys were massacred some 17 years ago, Serbia's new President Tomislav Nikolic, said last month that the killings in Srebrenica constituted "grave war crimes" but not genocide.
Our leaders in the West moved to refute and rectify this. US President Obama stated "The United States rejects efforts to distort the scope of this atrocity, rationalise the motivations behind it, blame the victims, and deny the indisputable fact that it was genocide."
And British Prime Minister David Cameron added "We must never forget the act of genocide that was committed in Srebrenica, nor should it ever be denied."
People travelled to bury 520 newly identified victims - some of the thousands slaughtered in July 1995 by Serb forces of which 6,800 victims have been identified so far.
The massacre's architects - Serb military commander Ratko Mladic (70) who led the attack and political leader Radovan Karadzic (67) - are on trial before the UN war crimes court.
Both men have evaded justice for sixteen and thirteen years, respectively, and have pleaded not-guilty to genocide charges for masterminding the massacre, and all other charges against them, over the Bosnian war that left around 100,000 people dead.
About 30,000 people came for the re-burials yesterday as the anguish is far from over for many of them. Denials of genocide by the Serb officials only add to the misery as solemn onlookers were surrounded by a mass of green-covered coffins and white tomb stones.
This concludes the typical 'news-type' talk. Now, let me revert to the more considered view on matters as beheld through the lens of great thinkers and diplomats.
In my first op-ed on Huffington Post "Islam at the Cross-Roads...," I referred to Murad Wilfried-Hoffman as one of those types of individuals who understood a great part of our historical development - both Eastern and Western - and rationalised the political, secular and spiritual dimensions seamlessly in order to help us have better sense and meaning of our reality.
In the same light, and it is highly timely on this sad anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, to recall in mind another iconic man of great stature, deep understanding and immense spirit: Alija Izetbegović, former President of Bosnia. On page 328 of his Autobiographical Notes ("Inescapable Questions", 2003) he reproduces his speech given in Elysee Palace, Paris, 14th December, 1995:
"We came here to sign the Peace Agreement, which we initialised in Dayton 20 days ago.
Our people and our Parliament have accepted this Accord. They did this without enthusiasm, like a man taking a bitter but useful medicine. Still, I wish to assure you of our determination to consistently and honourably put the signed Contract and all of its components into action.
Our goal was and is an integral and democratic Bosnia. Provisions of the Agreement guarantee this, but whether these provisions become live or remain a dead letter on paper for this moment greatly depends on us, on what we want and what we can do. The battle for these goals is not lost, not is it won. It goes on through other peaceful means, not with weapons of power, which we are deprived of, but with the power of ideas and spirit.
We believed and claimed that our model of a multinational community and open society was superior and could not lose. Now is the time to prove this to ourselves as well as others.
With these thoughts we are sending a message to the Serbs that the war is over and that evil is to stop. We again declare that there is no revenge or payback, but that there is and should be justice.
Human rights must be established everywhere. Banished persons have rights to their homes and the culpable have the right to their punishment; this because punishment is the human right of a criminal.
The Serbs around Sarajevo should be given a choice: to leave or to stay. We invite them to stay and on living in safety. The only condition is that they respect the laws of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which order freedom and forbid violence.
This philosophy of embedded multi-cultural, pan-ethnic humanitarian values was stated and re-iterated endlessly by Alija Izetbegović, who was otherwise being cornered as an Islamist trying to establish an Islamic state. His response to a The Times journalist was "Only a partitioned Bosnia can be that, and it is in fact certain European governments who are working ardently for the partition of Bosnia. Thus, we have the paradox of Europe creating an Islamic state in Bosnia." (p257.)
This is the type of character that makes people here remark how Mr Izetbegović was "urbane and thoughtful".
Alas, only if this was recognised earlier during the conflict such that Peace was given a greater chance by our Governments supporting his earnest appeals for aid. Subsequently, I would welcome and urge many of our Statesmen to stand tall, with full integrity and consistency, just like him.
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