On this 16th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, as one who combats anti-Semitism and hatred of all kinds, I would like to add my voice to those who will assemble later this morning to remember and honor the memory of those who were killed and those who will be buried here today.
Never again. It is a phrase that emerged after the Holocaust, Europe’s darkest era. Never again. We repeat it after the genocide at Srebrenica and the terrible crimes that took place here, in the former Yugoslavia, when power-hungry leaders turned religious and ethnic groups against each other and brutally destroyed a society.
It is my duty to speak out against genocide, no matter who the victim. As the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, it is especially meaningful for me to speak out against genocide of Muslims. We should never forget the terrible crimes that took place here. We should do all in our power to prevent it around the world.
Let us take some comfort in the recent arrest of one of the most wanted war crimes fugitives, former Bosnian-Serb military commander Ratko Mladic, on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes for his role in the Srebrenica massacre and the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian civil war in the early 1990s.
On this solemn day, I join with the government officials, diplomats, military, community and family members in mourning the death and destruction and pledging to honor the dead by never forgetting their sacrifice and working toward peaceful coexistence.
The arrest on May 26 of Ratko Mladic, the fugitive former Bosnian-Serb Army Commander, brings at last the prospect of justice for the victims of the genocide at Srebrenica 16 years ago. It offers the chance of closure to the families of the victims. And it offers a vital opportunity to draw a line under the past, and to move the entire Western Balkan region decisively towards a better future.
Already there has been considerable progress. The situation in Serbia and Croatia is dramatically different to that of two decades ago. Those countries are now moving steadily forward to membership of the European Union. Croatia is already a member of NATO and seeking conclusion of its accession negotiations with the EU. Serbia is working in pursuit of EU Candidate status. But while its neighbors are looking to the future, the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina itself gives rise to mounting concern.
For half a decade now, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been sliding backwards. That slide has accelerated in recent months, and now demands a firm response from the international community, above all from the European Union. The country’s institutions are gridlocked. In the Republika Srpska entity, harsh nationalist rhetoric and actions challenging the Dayton framework risk dragging BiH back towards the past – just at the moment its neighbors start moving towards a European future.
The real victims of this paralysis are not Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politicians, but its citizens – the very people these political leaders were elected to serve. Instead of living in a free, fair and prosperous society, many still live under the shadow of division and fear, suffering from poverty, unemployment and lack of opportunity.
It need not be like this. Bosnia and Herzegovina has every prospect of a bright and hopeful future. It is a beautiful European country, with talented and resourceful people. It has a rich heritage and an abundance of natural resources. It has always been, and remains, a bridge between East and West. The Muslims of Bosnia and Herzegovina have a long tradition of moderation, and are a continuing rebuke to the notion that Islam has no place in Europe. We want to see BiH thriving as a peaceful member of the European Union and NATO, with the conflict and suffering of the 1990s left behind never to return. We know that the citizens of this unique country want this too, from Prijedor to Travnik, from Foca to Livno and from Mostar to Brcko.
So how can we make this a reality?
First, the international community needs to stay focused on Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Western Balkans as a whole. Yes, there are plenty of other challenges – from Afghanistan to Libya, from the Arab Spring to the Middle East Peace Process. But we know all too well that what happens in one Balkan country has inevitable knock-on effects across the region. Nowhere is that more true than Bosnia and Herzegovina. What happens there will affect what happens to its neighbors, and vice versa.
Second, there must be no doubt about the resolve of the international community to stand by the settlement agreed at Dayton which ended the conflict. Our message is crystal clear: we are committed to Bosnia and Herzegovina as a single state, with two vibrant entities and three constituent people. We will not tolerate any challenges to the country’s unity and sovereignty. Our support for the Office of the High Representative in upholding the Dayton Agreement will be firm and unwavering. We will hold personally accountable politicians and those around them who seek to undermine this framework.
Third, we look to the political leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to work with each other and with their counterparts in the region to move beyond the stale arguments of the last two decades which have served the peoples of BiH so poorly. It is time to build on the successes of the last 16 years – the restoration of freedom of movement, the repair of BiH’s physical infrastructure, the reform of its defence sector – and to equip Bosnia to move forward alongside its neighbors to membership of the European Union.
That means looking at the Dayton Agreement as a foundation to be built on, not a chain to be broken. BiH needs more effective and efficient government at all levels – a state government that can meet the requirements of Euro-Atlantic integration; entities and lower levels of government that are economically sustainable and can deliver basic services. And above all it needs political leaders who are ready to take courageous decisions towards these ends rather than in their own narrow personal or ethnic interests.
To those who say this is impossible, we say that the rest of the region is proving every day what progress is possible. It is time for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s leaders to deliver for their people too.
In March, European Union nations agreed a reinvigorated strategy for Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the creation of an enhanced presence in Sarajevo with a strong mandate and resources. This strategy should allow the EU to play a leading role in supporting positive change and protecting against threats to stability. EU High Representative Ashton has named Peter Sorensen, a senior diplomat with 15 years of experience in the Balkans, to lead this EU effort. The U.S. and UK will be strongly supportive of Ambassador Sorensen, using all of the levers available to achieve progress, while working in close partnership with the Peace Implementation Council and the Office of the High Representative.
As Mladic faces justice at last, the world has a duty to commit itself once more to standing by the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The vision of a stable, prosperous and sovereign BiH as a member of the EU and NATO is not an impossible dream, it is our firm objective. That is what the people of Bosnia want, and what we want too. As President Obama said in London on 25 May, “We have always believed that the future of our children and grandchildren will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren are more prosperous and free – from the beaches of Normandy to the Balkans to Benghazi. That is our interests and our ideals.” In Bosnia and Herzegovina, let us hold true to that principle.
The United States also welcomes the arrest of Ratko Mladic by Serbian security services a week ago today. We commend President Tadic, the Government of Serbia, its security services, and all those who have labored for years to bring Mladic to justice. This is a huge step for Serbia on its continued path towards Euro-Atlantic integration and towards its coming of age as a nation. We also welcome the transfer of Mladic to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague, where he will finally face justice.
We reiterate the words of Secretary Clinton: “Mladic’s arrest serves as a statement to those around the world who would break the law and target innocent civilians: international justice works. If you commit a crime, you will not escape judgment, you will not go free.
“Today, as we thank Serbia for bringing a criminal to justice, we also send our deepest sympathies and extend our thoughts and prayers to all those who have suffered from the notorious acts charged to Mladic, particularly the genocide at Srebrenica in 1995. You have waited far too long for this day. This arrest cannot restore what you have forever lost, but we hope it will provide some comfort that this criminal is now behind bars. We hope that Serbia’s action in arresting Mladic will help Serbia move on, provide the opportunity to gain admission into the European Union and enable Serbia to build a brighter future as part of a whole, free, and peaceful Europe.”
Thank you, Chair.
Fifteen years ago, Ratko Mladic ordered the systematic execution of some 8,000 unarmed men and boys in Srebrenica. Today, he is behind bars. I applaud President Tadic and the Government of Serbia on their determined efforts to ensure that Mladic was found and that he faces justice. We look forward to his expeditious transfer to The Hague.
Today is an important day for the families of Mladic’s many victims, for Serbia, for Bosnia, for the United States, and for international justice. While we will never be able to bring back those who were murdered, Mladic will now have to answer to his victims, and the world, in a court of law. From Nuremberg to the present, the United States has long viewed justice for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide as both a moral imperative and an essential element of stability and peace. In Bosnia, the United States – our troops and our diplomats – led the international effort to end ethnic cleansing and bring a lasting peace. On this important day, we recommit ourselves to supporting ongoing reconciliation efforts in the Balkans and to working to prevent future atrocities. Those who have committed crimes against humanity and genocide will not escape judgment.
May the families of Mladic’s victims find some solace in today’s arrest, and may this deepen the ties among the people of the region.
The United States welcomes the arrest of Ratko Mladic by Serbian security services earlier today. We commend President Tadic, the Government of Serbia, its security services and all those who have labored for years to bring Mladic to justice. We look forward to his earliest possible extradition to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague so that justice may be served.
This is a great day for justice in the international system. Mladic’s arrest serves as a statement to those around the world who would break the law and target innocent civilians: international justice works. If you commit a crime, you will not escape judgment, you will not go free.
Today, as we thank Serbia for bringing a criminal to justice, we also send our deepest sympathies and extend our thoughts and prayers to all those who have suffered from the notorious acts charged to Mladic, particularly the genocide at Srebrenica in 1995. You have waited far too long for this day. This arrest cannot restore what you have forever lost, but we hope it will provide some comfort that this criminal is now behind bars. We hope that Serbia’s action in arresting Mladic will help Serbia move on, provide the opportunity to gain admission into the European Union and enable Serbia to build a brighter future as part of a whole, free, and peaceful Europe.
The arrest today of Ratko Mladic is a victory for all people of conscience. The evidence of Mladic’s deliberate cruelty and appalling disrespect for the rules of war and basic standards of decency is overpowering, and we hope he will swiftly receive justice. We commend the Government of Serbia for its action today, and we hope that this arrest can support reconciliation efforts all across the region. Even as we urge a full reckoning for Mladic, we mourn anew for those murdered at Srebrenica and for all the victims of the genocide unleashed by the regime that he served. We remember them, and we rededicate ourselves to the pursuit of a world that can muster the will to halt mass atrocities before they occur. We also recommit ourselves to the work of international justice and ensuring that those who perpetrate these grave crimes meet their fate in a courtroom. We look forward to the day when Goran Hadzic joins Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic in The Hague. Today, with this opportunity to bring a measure of justice for some of the worst cruelties of recent memory, we have both a responsibility to remember and a responsibility to protect.