Columbia must press Dodik on his denial of Srebrenica genocide

10/25/2011

Timothy Frye
Director, The Harriman Institute
Columbia University

Dear Dr. Frye,

I am writing to you regarding the lecture at Columbia University’s Harriman Institute scheduled for Tuesday 25 October. The lecture entitled "An American Foreign Policy Success Story: The Dayton Accords, Republika Srpska, and Bosnia’s European Integration" is to be given by Milorad Dodik, President of Republika Srpska, one of two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. While I am sure you are fully aware of Milorad Dodik’s political record and credentials to speak to the subject of the lecture, I wish to draw to your attention to two issues that should not be ignored.

In public statements during his presidency, and previously as Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik has repeatedly denied that genocide was committed by Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica in 1995. The facts surrounding the genocide in Srebrenica have been repeatedly established by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and also by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as well as affirmed in official United Nations documents and declarations of the European Parliament, the United States Congress and other international and national bodies.

Despite this, Milorad Dodik has repeatedly publicly denied these findings of genocide, which has caused additional unnecessary suffering of genocide survivors and victims’ families and significantly contributed to political instability in Bosnia and Herzegovina. His statements of this nature are numerous, but I will mention only a few which are illustrative.

In April 2010, in an interview to Vecernje Novosti, Mr. Dodik stated that "Bosnian Serbs will never accept that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre was genocide.” In December 2010, in a press conference in Banja Luka, he claimed that “the international community is attempting to impose responsibility for the genocide—which did not happen—on an entire [Serb] nation.” His most strenuous denial of genocide in Srebrenica came during this year’s election campaign. In August 2011, he said that “there was no genocide in Srebrenica, because a big number of Muslims left Srebrenica towards Tuzla and other cities, not all were killed,” which is representative of numerous similar statements made in recent months. In addition, Mr. Dodik frequently denied facts established at the ICTY about the Markale massacre in Sarajevo and other crimes committed during the conflict in Bosnia.

The second issue is that Milorad Dodik has consistently opposed efforts to prosecute and try war crimes at the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He has openly called for abolishing the State Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which has been assessed by the ICTY and independent international experts to have conducted trials in accordance with application of international standards of fair trial. Furthermore, Mr. Dodik has publicly attacked the Court, which OSCE’s Report on the Independence of Bosnia and Herzegovina Judiciary of December 2009 identified as a “clear interference in the ongoing criminal investigations.” This campaign is best illustrated by an overtly racist statement from December 2008 when Mr. Dodik stated “…it is unacceptable for the Republika Srpska that Muslim judges [of the State Court] try us [Serbs] and throw out complaints that are legally founded.”

If Mr. Dodik is to be given a platform to present his views, he must be asked why and on what basis he denies the judicially established facts about the Srebrenica genocide as found by the international courts and investigative bodies and why he has repeatedly tried to undermine efforts to fight impunity through the Bosnia and Herzegovina State Court. I strongly hope that Harriman Institute will make an effort to address these questions to Mr. Dodik, and thus avoid any misperceptions about its motives for providing him with such a public platform to expand his views.

Sincerely,

David Tolbert
President
International Center for Transitional Justice