(The author served as Legal Adviser to the Palestinian Delegation to the Middle East peace Negotiations from 1991 to 1993. The viewpoints expressed here are his own.)
What do we do about major human rights atrocities and catastrophes that undeniably do occur in the world today? Certainly, we do not give the great military powers of the world such as the United States, the NATO states, Russia, and China a right of “humanitarian intervention” that they will only abuse and manipulate to justify military intervention against less powerful states and peoples for their own selfish interests. There are more than enough international laws and international organizations to deal with major human rights atrocities and catastrophes going on around the world today. This is a political problem, not a legal problem. Indeed, behind most of the major human rights atrocities and catastrophes in the world today, we have seen the dirty and bloody hands of the Great Powers.
In this regard, I wanted to say just a few words about the genocide by the Milosevic regime against the People and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the role that the Great Powers of Europe, the United States, and the United Nations Organization played in aiding, abetting, and facilitating this modern human rights catastrophe — the worst in Europe since the genocidal horrors perpetrated by the Nazis over a generation ago. Pursuant to the self-styled Dayton Peace Agreement, on 14 December 1995 the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina — a U.N. member state — was carved-up de facto in Paris by the United Nations, the European Union and its member states, the United States, Russia and the many other states in attendance, despite the United Nations Charter, the Nuremberg Principles, the Genocide Convention, the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their two Additional Protocols of 1977, the Racial Discrimination Convention, the Apartheid Convention, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as two overwhelmingly favorable protective Orders issued by the International Court of Justice on behalf of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 8 April 1993 and 13 September 1993. This second World Court Order effectively prohibited such a partition of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the vote of 13 to 2.
This U.N.-sanctioned execution of a U.N. member state violated every known principle of international law and human rights that had been formulated by the international community in the post World War II era. The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina was sacrificed on the altar of Great Power politics to the Machiavellian god of expedience. In 1938 the Great Powers of Europe did the exact same thing to Czechoslovakia at Munich.
The Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina stands for the proposition that genocide pays. As then Bosnian Foreign Minister (later Prime Minister) Haris Silajdzic said in reference to the invitation of the genocidaire Radovan Karadzic by the United Nations, the European Community, and the United States to attend the 1993 Vance-Owen negotiations in New York: “If you kill one person, you’re prosecuted. If you kill ten people, you’re a celebrity; if you kill a quarter of a million people, you’re invited to a peace conference.” Almost three years later at Dayton, Richard Holbrooke, Warren Christopher and Bill Clinton personally gave the genocidaire Slobodan Milosevic 49% of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And Serbia today still controls, dominates, and strangulates almost one-half of Bosnia and Herzegovina — a U.N. member state.
I currently represent the Mothers of Srebrenica and Podrinja living in Vogosca, Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as the Women of Srebrenica, living in Tuzla, B-H. These are the two major organizations grouping the women and children survivors of the greatest massacre in Europe since World War II. In July of 1995 approximately 10,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were taken out and systematically exterminated over just a few days at the U.N. declared “safe-haven” of Srebrenica by the Bosnian Serb Army acting at the behest of the Milosevic regime in Belgrade. The Great Powers of the world on the Security Council, the European Union and the United Nations Organization deliberately sacrificed Srebrenica and its inhabitants in order to produce the carve-up of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina that the United States government then later orchestrated at Dayton and Paris.
Almost six years after the massacre, the Mothers of Srebrenica and Podrinja as well as the Women of Srebrenica cannot even go back to their homes in Srebrenica because of dire fear for their lives. And the United States, the European States, the NATO states, and the United Nations Organization could not give a tinker’s dam about the Mothers of Srebrenica and Podrinja and the Women of Srebrenica. On Wednesday October 4, 2000, I met with Ambassador Jacques Klein, Head of the U.N. Mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina at the U.N. Headquarters Compound in Sarajevo. Klein repeatedly insulted and berated the Mothers of Srebrenica and Podrinja to my face while their three Presidents sat down the hall patiently waiting for their scheduled appointment with the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, The Honorable Carla Del Ponte, successor to now Justice Louise Arbour.
After what happened to the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina — which no longer exists! — it should come as no surprise that we saw outright genocide inflicted by the Hutu government with the connivance of France against the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, while the Security Council stood by and did nothing despite the prophetic warnings by Canadian General Romeo Dallaire. That we saw Russia inflict outright genocide against the Chechens from 1994 to 1996, and then again from 1999 until today — financed by the Western Powers, which have also acquiesced in Russia’s gross violation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty in order to prosecute this genocidal war against my clients and friends, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria and its People. Recently, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Canada. You can correct me if I am wrong, but from my admittedly cursory examination of the news media, I saw no evidence that the Canadian government raised Chechnya with him.
After Bosnia-Herzegovina, it should come as no surprise that we saw outright genocide inflicted by the Milosevic regime against the Kosovar Albanian Muslims immediately after the United States and NATO launched their illegal war in March of 1999. Then we saw outright genocide inflicted by Indonesia against the People of East Timor after decades of military and economic support to the military dictatorship ruling Indonesia by the United States and Britain — “our kind of guy,” as the Clinton administration publicly referred to the genocidaire Suharto. We have also seen the United States and Britain insist on the imposition of genocidal economic sanctions against the People of Iraq now for over a decade.
Just recently we have seen the United Nations Human Rights Commission condemn Israel for inflicting a war crime and a crime against humanity upon the Palestinian People — which criminal conduct has been financed, armed, equipped, supplied, and supported by the United States. The Nuremberg crime against humanity is the historical and legal precursor to genocide as defined by the 1948 Genocide Convention. Finally, let us never forget that the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, the United States, and Latin America have been subjected to continuing acts of genocide for the past 500 years.Despite the slogan “Never again,” toward the end of the Twentieth Century, genocide has become an increasingly familiar and acceptable tool for powerful states to wield against weaker states and peoples.