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Expressing the Sense of the House Regarding the Massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995

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Location: Washington, DC


EXPRESSING THE SENSE OF THE HOUSE REGARDING THE MASSACRE AT SREBRENICA IN JULY 1995 -- (House of Representatives - June 27, 2005)

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the resolution (H. Res. 199) expressing the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the massacre at Srebrenica in July 1995, as amended.

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on H. Res. 199, the resolution under consideration.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from New Jersey?

There was no objection.

Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, in consideration of H. Res. 199, today the House of Representatives brings honor to the men, women and children of Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina. In a little over 2 weeks, it will have been 10 years since the massacre of approximately 8,000 men and boys from that small town.

Mr. Speaker, renewed attention is focused on this event in light of the recently released video showing members of the Serb paramilitary group, the Scorpions, executing young Bosniak men from Srebrenica. Many Members of this House saw the news coverage of this video, including an interview of a woman who never knew what actually happened to her young son at Srebrenica in July 1995 until she saw the footage on television that he was among those executed. In passing this resolution, we are expressing solidarity with the thousands of women like her, and others, who a decade ago witnessed something so evil that it defies comprehension.

There are four basic motivations, Mr. Speaker, for passing this resolution today. First, there are those who, despite being indicted for genocide, continue to evade justice. Second, some continue to deny that the atrocity even occurred or they contend it was something other than genocide. Third, the international community must learn from its failure to stop slaughter from taking place in a declared safe area, and let us all remember Srebrenica was called a safe haven, especially as we look at similar situations around the globe. Finally, 10 years after Srebrenica, Srebrenica survivors, including many who came to this country as refugees and are now American citizens, still feel the excruciating pain of losing so many of their innocent loved ones.

Mr. Speaker, I want to stress that the resolution notes the direct support that came from the Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic and its followers. This is no small circle of Milosevic henchmen, as some in Belgrade have claimed. We are referring to an entire regime, albeit an undemocratic one, and not just a few individuals in positions of authority. Moreover, followers of the regime existed in the military, the police and other state institutions, and when it appeared that he was succeeding in a conflict against neighboring peoples, Milosevic actually garnered popular support.

Milosevic has rightfully been in The Hague, as we all know, Mr. Speaker, since 2001, but why have others like Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic remained at large? Why until recently, if not to today, have they benefited from the protection not only from criminal networks but perhaps by segments of the military and the police? To me, that shows broader involvement than has been alleged.

The reference to the followers of the Milosevic regime clearly indicates that we are not referring to those in Serbia, including those in positions of authority today, who had no role in what was happening when they put themselves at risk in opposing Milosevic and his policies in the 1990s.

I would just point out to my colleagues that on the Subcommittee on International Operations and Human Rights, which I chaired for several years through the 1990s, we did hold hearings, and many of us made trips to the former Yugoslavia.

In one of those hearings, we heard from Hasan Nuhapovic, a former translator of the U.N. peacekeeping forces in Srebrenica. Hasan was one of those who lost his family and I would just quote very briefly from that testimony that he gave to our committee. He said, "My family, just like thousands of others, was simply handed over to the Serbs in the village of Potocari, 6 kilometers north of Srebrenica on 13 July 1995. They have never been seen since. The Dutch peacekeepers threw my family out of the camp right in front of my eyes. The people, especially the men and boys who were inside the camp, didn't want to leave the relative safety of it."

It goes on to say, "The Dutch refused to tell the refugees inside the camp what was going on with the people outside." He says, "They lied, saying that everything was all right and that the people from inside the camp were also going to be evacuated to the federation territory. The Dutch lied to the refugees inside the camp," he goes on. "The Dutch knew that the men and boys outside the camp were being separated from the women and children and that some of them were even killed right on the spot. They watched the Serbs take away and kill civilians. They did nothing to prevent it."

Mr. Speaker, this resolution remembers those 7- to 8,000 men and boys who were slaughtered in Srebrenica, and it says in a collective voice of the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans alike, that we care, we care deeply. We are sorrowful for those who lost their lives, and hopefully never again.

I will insert a Chronicle of Genocide in the RECORD at this point.

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Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time.

As we consider this resolution, I want to thank those who have worked hard to craft the text that meets various concerns and reflects the realities of Srebrenica as we know them. In particular, I want to thank the Congress of North American Bosniaks and its members for stressing the need for the United States Congress to address this issue at this time, not only for their sake but for the sake of humanity.

I also want to thank the Coalition for International Justice for providing us with background on who was indicted for crimes relating to Srebrenica by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia located at the Hague, as well as their current status.

Finally, I want to thank the chairman of the International Relations Committee, the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Hyde), and especially the gentleman from California (Mr. Lantos), who is one of the cosponsors of this resolution and a great friend of human rights; and also for our friends on the Subcommittee on Europe and Emerging Threats, to which it was also referred, for working with us on helping to craft this regulation. And to the 39 cosponsors, including the gentleman from Maryland (Mr. Cardin), who is the ranking member on the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which I chair in the House.

Let me say, finally, Mr. Speaker, that Article 2 of the Genocide Convention, quoted in the text of this resolution, defines genocide as, "Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group, such as: A, killing members of the group; B, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; C, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; E, forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

Genocide is defined as the commission of acts with that intention, whether or not the acts succeed or are completed. The word "prevention" is also in the title of the Genocide Convention. While not specifying what to be done or obligating countries to do anything specific, clearly genocides must be defined as something taking place and not as something necessarily accomplished. If accomplished, it is too late to prevent it.

When I look at this definition, Mr. Speaker, and then hear what happened in Srebrenica 10 years ago, I, and I know others, can only agree with the Appeals Chamber at the International Criminal Tribal for the former Yugoslavia, which confirmed in April 2004 that the crime of summarily executing almost 8,000 men and boys at Srebrenica alone meets the legal definition of genocide.

The Appeals Chamber, in which an American is the presiding judge, concluded in its decision appealing a conviction that "the law must not shy away from referring to the crime committed by its proper name. The Appeals Chamber states unequivocally that the law condemns, in appropriate terms, the deep and lasting injury inflicted and calls the massacre," and I continue this quote, "at Srebrenica by its proper name: genocide. Those responsible will bear the stigma, and it will serve as a warning to those who may in the future contemplate the commission of such a heinous act."

The court got it right, Mr. Speaker. This resolution gets it right.

And, finally, I just want to thank the gentleman to my left, Bob Hand, who has been with the Commission on Security and Cooperation now since 1983 and who first came as an intern, for his diligence in crafting major portions of this legislation. I want to thank him for his work and his attention to detail. He is also the staff specialist for the commission on all the areas of the former Yugoslavia and Albania, and I am deeply grateful for his work as well.

And Dan Freeman, our expert parliamentarian, to my rear, I want to thank him for his work as well.

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