Seventy-eighth Session,
82nd Meeting (AM)

General Assembly Adopts Resolution on Srebrenica Genocide, Designating International Day of Reflection, Commemoration

Many Decry ‘Politicized’ Nature of Text, Note Action May Exacerbate Tensions

The General Assembly today adopted a resolution on the Srebrenica genocide, designating 11 July as the “International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica”, to be observed annually, amid a flurry of abstentions and votes against the measure, including from Serbia, which decried the “highly politicized” nature of the resolution.

The resolution (document A/78/L.67/Rev.1), adopted by a recorded vote of 84 in favour to 19 against, with 68 abstentions, condemned any denial of the Srebrenica genocide as a historical event and actions that glorify those convicted of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide by international courts.  It also requested the Secretary-General to establish an outreach programme titled “The Srebrenica Genocide and the United Nations”, starting its activities with preparations for the thirtieth anniversary in 2025.

The representative of Germany, who introduced the draft, said it commemorated the tragedy that took place almost 30 years ago, starting on 11 July 1995, when 8,372 Bosnian Muslims were systematically executed in the town of Srebrenica, which had been designated a safe area by Security Council resolution 819 (1993).  She went on to counter “false allegations” about the text, stating that it was not directed against anybody, including Serbia; it was against the perpetrators of genocide.  The co-facilitators of the text took on board suggestions, including those put forth by Montenegro, she said, calling on States to vote in favour.  What message would be given to future generations if the General Assembly chose not to commemorate the victims of this massacre, she added.

In explanation of vote ahead of the vote, Serbia’s President, Aleksandar Vučić, noted that before the session started, he had “already bowed my head and laid a flower” at a memorial for all Bosniaks killed.  Calling on “everyone in this room to vote against this resolution” as it is “highly politicized”, he asked its main author, Germany, why it was proposed — as individual legal liability had already been delivered through indictments, verdicts and convictions.  Citing the resolution on genocide passed in 2015, he stated that the current text would not bring reconciliation to Bosnia and Herzegovina or the region.  Asking the representative of Germany “why they were hiding all the preparations for this resolution”, he called for recognition of the genocide against the Serbian people in the First World War, losing 28 per cent of its overall population ranking first ahead of France, and acknowledgement of the country’s rare anti-Nazi position in South-East Europe during the Second World War.

Asking Germany’s representative why the resolution did not equally mourn and regret victims on all sides, he stated that it will deepen regional divisions.  He further noted that Member States were pressured to vote in favour or not receive economic support.  Announcing his intention to vote against the resolution as it “will open a Pandora’s box” — with Member States facing “tens of these types of resolutions” — he asked how they would explain “how killing 8,000 people is bigger than killing, let’s say, 20 million people in the Second World War” including tens of thousands of Serbian people.  Stressing that the real reason behind the resolution was “someone needed it politically”, and that it “will just open an old wound and will create a complete political havoc”, he called on Member States to vote against it.

China’s representative, who called the tragedy that occurred in Srebrenica “deplorable”, said that his delegation would nonetheless vote against the draft resolution, as the text had sparked controversy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Hasty voting on a text marked by differences, was not in line with the spirit of reconciliation in the country, he added.

Namibia’s delegate was among many countries stating their intention to abstain, explaining that they “want to discuss genocide comprehensively and honestly”. Selective amnesia “is fast becoming the norm” worldwide — where “what our designated foes do, is genocide.  But when we or our allies do the same, it’s not genocide,” he added.  What happened in Srebrenica, Rwanda and in Germany with the Holocaust was genocide — as is what is happening in Gaza — he said, recalling that what happened in Namibia between 1904 and 1908 is recognized as the first genocide of the twentieth century.

In a similar vein, the representative of the United Arab Emirates, while condemning any attempts to deny or minimize the genocide in Serbia, said he would abstain, in the context of the destabilizing impact that adoption could have in the region. Expressing “severe misgivings about the timing and process”, he said that discussions surrounding the draft resolution regrettably demonstrated significant politicization.  Peace in the Balkans is fragile, and efforts to resolve long-standing disputes have stalled — with significant gains reversed, as actors in the region have failed to carry out their commitments, he said, adding that inter-ethnic tensions are on the rise, as a result.

Among other delegates voicing similar points were Cuba’s speaker, who rejected the proposed text that invokes doctrines such as the responsibility to protect — which lack a consensus in the General Assembly and have been manipulated in the past for political reasons, jeopardizing the sovereignty of States and undermining the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.  Geopolitical ambitions should not jeopardize regional political security, he added.

Similarly, Egypt’s representative voiced objection to the rushed negotiation process around the draft resolution, noting that countries, including sponsors, targeted some countries politically during negotiations, paying lip service to international law in the context of the Balkans, while remaining silent on flagrant violations of such laws in ongoing conflicts in different parts of the world.  Meanwhile, Venezuela’s speaker recalled that his country was a Council member when such a draft resolution was proposed at the Security Council, pointing out that it had abstained on the initiative, as it did not enjoy the consensus of the people and authorities of the region.  Angola’s delegate, voicing concern over the negotiation process, with respect to transparency and inclusivity, also said his country would abstain.  Such an initiative may exacerbate regional tensions, and impede national unity and reconciliation, he said, underscoring the need for genuine reconciliation.

Following the vote, several States took the floor to deliver their explanations of vote, including the Russian Federation’s delegate, who condemned “a sad chapter” in the history of the Assembly, as a number of delegations led by Germany decided to abuse its power and — under the guise of a resolution on the establishment of a Memorial Day — adopt a political declaration aiming to demonize one of the peoples of the former Yugoslavia and undermine the Dayton Agreement.  A greater number of Member States did not support the non-consensus resolution than did — another confirmation of the consistent line of some of the Bosnian elites and their Western mentors to undermine the role of the Presidium as the highest exponent of the consensus position of the multinational Bosnian-Herzegovinian society on key issues for the State.

He drew attention to the “absolute inappropriateness of the parallels” cited with the resolution on the genocide in Rwanda.  Noting that all calls from representatives of responsible UN Member States, including the Russian Federation and Serbia, to return the issue to the national level for its discussion were rejected, he stressed that the sponsors of today’s decision “are acting intentionally, pushing Bosnia and Herzegovina towards confrontation”, without regard to the price it paid during the civil war in the 1990s.  It was even more surprising that Germany was the main sponsor — the country that in the twentieth century sparked two world wars, exterminated millions of people in concentration camps, is responsible for mass crimes in Africa and took an active part in the collapse of Yugoslavia and the bombing of Sarajevo in 1995.  “If the goal of the sponsors was to divide the General Assembly — something we warned them about — then they succeeded brilliantly,” he stated.

Hungary’s delegate, noting that the tragedy of 1995 unfolded in the country’s close vicinity, questioned if the draft resolution focuses on the maintenance of regional stability or creates further divisions that reopen old wounds.  Her delegation is not convinced that the text is instrumental in promoting peace and stability in the Western Balkan region, she said, and was therefore unable to lend support to the resolution.  She commended the President of Serbia, present in the Assembly, for promoting development and for “the fact that the Hungarian community could always count on him”.

Montenegro’s representative recalled that the two suggestions which his country proposed in the preamble aimed to clearly and unambiguously emphasize the individualized character of accountability for the crime of genocide and to prevent the misuse — be it legal or political — of the resolution for labelling a people or a community as genocidal.  As a multicultural and multi-ethnic society, Montenegro prioritizes the culture of remembrance and good-neighbourly relations, demonstrating sensitivity and understanding to issues essential for peaceful coexistence.  These values align with one of Montenegro’s key foreign policy objectives:  full membership in the European Union, he added.

Meanwhile, Iran’s representative, welcoming the tributes paid at the outset of the meeting to the memory of his country’s President, Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, who passed away on 19 May, said Tehran voted in favour of the text.  The lives lost in Srebrenica were due to egregious crimes committed by individuals; however, they were also victims of power politics and failures of certain Western countries including those who were in the form of peacekeepers at the time of occurrence of this tragedy.  Further, he deplored the double standards and selectivity demonstrated by some countries towards the situation in Palestine, adding that the text should serve as a reminder of the responsibilities of the United Nations towards every single Palestinian woman, man and child.

A smattering of other countries also drew a parallel to the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Indonesia’s delegate, who said the international community is “compelled to apply the lessons from Srebrenica to the present day”, as “before our eyes a genocide is unfolding in Gaza”.  The world is witnessing “live stream 24/7” the systematic subjugation, maiming and killing of the people in Gaza — and “if there is one thing that we must learn from Srebrenica, it is that inaction is not an option,” he stressed.  Noting his delegation’s vote in favour, he nonetheless voiced regret that it had to be put to a vote, expressing a preference for a more inclusive negotiation process towards a consensus text.

Brazil’s delegate, noting his abstention, said that his country’s decision was taken due to its assessment of the circumstances around the negotiation of the draft resolution, which had incited acrimony and division within the United Nations, as well as the region.  Similarly, Mexico’s representative noted his abstention, voicing regret that a resolution on such a sensitive topic was put to a vote and was not the result of consensus. “Srebrenica is a live reminder that genocide does not happen overnight; an escalation becomes genocide,” he said, voicing regret that the draft resolution was not accompanied by inclusive consultations in the Balkans region.

At the end of the meeting, President Vučić took the floor a second time to exercise his right of reply, pointing out that today’s meeting marked the first time that a vote on a resolution about genocide was not adopted unanimously in the General Assembly.  While 84 [States] voted in favour of the text, 87 [States] did not, he said, pointing out that such a motion would have failed in any national Parliament.  In response to some States who spoke of the importance of amendments, he said they merely contributed to “a bigger confusion”.  Some countries wished to save face with their amendments and to deceive States on the legal nature of the issue.  He once again questioned the purpose of the resolution, since those who perpetrated the massacre were already convicted and sentenced to prison.  “Its only purpose was to put moral guilt on one nation:  on the people of Serbia and Republika Srpska.  They wanted to put a mark on our forehead, and they failed,” he said, thanking those who voted against the text, as well as those who voted in favour, for “opening his eyes”.

Meanwhile, Rwanda’s delegate objected to comments by his counterpart from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, adding that he had “sadistically” used the occasion to lay abominable allegations against his country — amounting to trivialization and denial of genocide.  In 1994, Rwanda suffered the most tragic genocide of that century, with over 1 million innocent Rwandan Tutsis massacred in heinous crimes of murder and horrific genocide.  The perpetrators went to what was then Zaire — now the Democratic Republic of the Congo — where they continue their genocidal activities by targeting Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese Tutsis in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  “The Government supports and collaborates with the genocidal FDLR [Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda], who continue to perpetrate this genocide,” he stressed.  Congolese Tutsi have been systematically murdered and hounded from their ancestral lands for almost 30 years.  Stressing that the Democratic Republic of the Congo is the perpetrator of “abominable” genocide against its own citizens, he called for them to be condemned in the strongest terms.

For information media. Not an official record.