DID YOU KNOW?  -- Three years before the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide, Serbs torched Bosniak villages and killed at least 3,166 Bosniaks around Srebrenica. In 1993, the UN described the besieged situation in Srebrenica as a "slow-motion process of genocide." In July 1995, Serbs forcibly expelled 25,000 Bosniaks, brutally raped many women and girls, and systematically killed 8,000+ men and boys (DNA confirmed).

15 October, 2009


In an ideal world, Republika Srpska (RS) would be held accountable for its actions and forced to pay billions of dollars in reparations to the victims of the Srebrenica genocide. RS is a Serb-controlled region in Bosnia-Herzegovina that was created through genocide and ethnic cleansing.

But, so far, victims of the genocide and their relatives have received no substantial help from RS, except empty promises that the nationalist government of Milorad Dodik would help improve the living standards of returnees in Srebrenica.

In fact, Dodik's budget for Srebrenica is being spent of fixing roads to connect Serb villages and hamlets around the town. These Serb settlements had been used as military bases from which Serbs launched brutal attacks on Srebrenica and surrounding Bosniak villages. Furthermore, Serb villages were used as convenient bases to keep Srebrenica under the siege from 1992 to July 1995.

A week ago, President Patrick Robinson addressed the United Nations General Assembly and raised an issue of particular importance: "that of compensating victims of crimes in the former Yugoslavia." Here is what he said:

There is another matter, which I feel obliged to bring to your attention. It is a matter which I strongly believe must be addressed if there is to be lasting peace and reconciliation in the region – namely, compensation to victims for the atrocities they suffered during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia.

As President of the Tribunal, I have met on a number of occasions with victims groups who have expressed their anguish at the failure of the International Community to provide any kind of compensation for their suffering. In many respects, these victims feel that they have been forgotten by the international community and that their rights have been disregarded. With respect to their right to compensation, I must agree that the international community has forgotten them.

Currently, there is no effective mechanism by which victims can seek compensation for their injuries, despite the fact that their right to such compensation is firmly rooted in international law. I need only refer to this Assembly’s 1985 Declaration of Basic Principles for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power, but reference can also be made to the Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, which was adopted by the Commission on Human Rights in April 2000.

The Statute of the International Criminal Court provision addressing victim compensation contrasts sharply with the absence of comparable provisions in our Statute. These instruments were established by the international community because justice is not only about punishing perpetrators but also about restoring dignity to victims by ensuring that they have concrete means to rebuild their lives. The Declaration itself identifies sources of compensation, including the offender, or national funds, but in circumstances where the State is unable to compensate the victim, it proposes that other funds be established for this purpose. This was a matter that then President Jorda brought to the attention of the Security Council in November 2000, recommending “to the Council and to the Secretary-General that methods of compensating victims of crimes in the former Yugoslavia, notably a claims commission, be considered by the appropriate organs of the General Assembly.”

But to date, nothing has been done, and I fear that failure by the international community to address the needs of victims of the conflicts that occurred in the former Yugoslavia will undermine the Tribunal’s efforts to contribute to long-term peace and stability in the region. It is for this reason that I implore you to support the establishment of a claims commission as a method of complementing the Tribunal’s work by compensating victims of crimes in the former Yugoslavia.

Full text:
Address of Judge Patrick Robinson, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, to the United Nations General Assembly