I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Cannon, to the House. I commend our colleagues, Senators Feighan and Richmond, on proposing this important motion. Most important, I welcome the members of the Bosnian Irish community in the Gallery, in particular Mirza and Bronagh Catibusic. It is good to have them here.
It is vital that we involve ourselves in formal events to commemorate the anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. Many colleagues will recall that two years ago, on the 20th anniversary, we had several events at Leinster House. I was involved in some of those events in July 2015 to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide. I hope that we might see in future a formally instituted national Srebrenica memorial day declared for 11 July each year. The European Parliament has recommended that EU member states would recognise this day as the day of the commemoration of the Srebrenica genocide. I am unsure whether Senator Feighan had envisaged that we would have a minute's silence. Perhaps we might do that today in the Chamber at the conclusion of the debate, if colleagues are in agreement. It could be a formal way of marking our respect for the victims of the massacre.
I am grateful to Mirza Catibusic for some text pointing out that the Bosnian community in Ireland warmly welcomes the event in the Seanad to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. The Bosnian community ask us to remember that over 8,000 Bosnian men and boys were brutally killed on 11 July 1995 when the UN safe area of Srebrenica fell to Serbian forces led by Ratko Mladi. Indeed, the European Parliament resolution of 9 July 2015 on the Srebrenica commemoration sets out in stark terms exactly what happened. The resolution includes the following recitals:
whereas on 11 July 1995 the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, which had been proclaimed a safe area by UN Security Council Resolution 819 of 16 April 1993, was captured by Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladi, acting under the authority of the then President of the Republika Srpska, Radovan Karadži;
whereas, during several days of carnage after the fall of Srebrenica, more than 8 000 Muslim men and boys, who had sought safety in this area under the protection of the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR), were summarily executed by Bosnian Serb forces commanded by General Mladi and by paramilitary units, including irregular police units; whereas nearly 30 000 women, children and elderly people were forcibly expelled in a massive-scale ethnic cleansing campaign, making this event the biggest war crime to take place in Europe since the end of the Second World War;
This text sets out in stark terms not only the true horror of the massacre itself but the linked ethnic cleansing that took place at the same time. As we have heard, and as other colleagues have said, the Srebrenica massacre has been recognised subsequently as genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the International Court of Justice.
The theme of the commemoration this year is on gender in genocide. We note the courage and strength of Bosnian women who have been at the forefront in the past 22 years of seeking to ensure that the world remembers the Srebrenica genocide. In reflecting on the events of 22 years ago it is important to look at a number of ways in which we should commemorate this massacre. First, we need to ensure that it is named as genocide. That has been done through the decisions of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. It has also been done through the European Parliament resolution. That is important. We need to keep stating that and reminding ourselves of it. As the European Parliament pointed out in 2015, it is important to counter any attempts to deny the genocide. Indeed, the European Parliament stated that it should do everything in its power to prevent such acts from recurring and to reject any denial, relativist interpretation or misinterpretation of the genocide.
One issue linked to the commemoration, especially at the distance of 22 years, is the need to reflect on the need for justice. Others have spoken of some of the developments in recent years, in particular developments in terms of international justice and the perpetrators being brought to justice. We know that only last year Radovan Karadži was found guilty of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and that this year the Hague Court of Appeal found the Netherlands partially liable for the death of over 300 Muslim men who died in the massacre in 1995.
Clearly, there is a lot more still to be done in terms of bringing the perpetrators of genocide to justice and in terms of ensuring accountability, in particular for poor decisions at international level that contributed to the carrying out of the massacre.
When we reflect on this particular genocide, as the motion calls on us to do, we must look also at how we support people in Srebrenica, and in other places where we have seen genocide occur, with the challenges they face in moving on from genocide in a spirit of reconciliation in order to make a better future for all communities. The European Parliament resolution of two years ago offers a way forward, emphasising the need for political representatives to acknowledge the past in order to work successfully together towards a better future and calling on the EU at a more general level to commit to a European perspective and to develop support for civil society organisations, such as the association, the Movement of Mothers of Srebrenica and Žepa Enclaves, for its pivotal role in raising awareness and building a broader basis for reconciliation. All of us have a duty to take on board those recommendations.
I want to finish with some strong words marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide from a statement made in New York by Serge Brammertz, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He spoke of the immense tragedy of Srebrenica, and said:
All of us must accept that in July 1995, thousands of men and boys were killed. That tens of thousands of women, children and elderly were terrorized, abused and forced from their homes. All of us must accept that there was a deliberate plan to commit genocide. [.] To respect the past, we must call Srebrenica by its name, genocide. To build the future, we must speak out with one voice when it is denied. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia established these facts and delivered justice for Srebrenica, as well as for many other crimes.
He goes on to say that while there have been convictions for crimes in Srebrenica, we must reflect again on the need for prevention of genocide as a first priority, but when prevention fails, justice is essential. I think that is a poignant and timely reminder for us all in marking this 22nd anniversary.