UN Resolution Seeks to Recognise Bosnian Genocide and Close the Darkest Chapter in Bosnian History Features
Michael Büker, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
UN Resolution Seeks to Recognise Bosnian Genocide and Close the Darkest Chapter in Bosnian History

In recognition of the grave events that unfolded in Srebrenica in 1995, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday held a briefing on a resolution that calls for the acknowledgment of the genocide that took place in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the dedication of July 11th as The International Day of Reflection and Remembrance of the 1995 Srebrenica Genocide.

The resolution is tabled by the missions of Rwanda and Germany at the UN and co-sponsored by fifteen countries, including the US, Albania, Netherlands, Finland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Ireland, Italy and France. Speakers at the UN briefing argued that such a resolution is necessary to promote peace, justice and reconciliation related to the genocide.

Srebrenica Genocide: 

The recognition of genocides at the UN level involves a complex process that intertwines with international law, politics, and historical investigation. The term “genocide” itself was coined by Raphael Lemkin in 1944, combining the Greek word “genos” (race or tribe) and the Latin “cide” (to kill). However, the formal acknowledgment and legal framework to address genocide came with the establishment of the UN and its subsequent adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. This convention defines genocide in legal terms and binds signatory nations to prevent and punish actions of genocide.

In July 1995, over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically massacred in and around the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This act has since been recognized as a genocide by several international courts.

In 1993, the UN Security Council declared Srebrenica the world’s first internationally protected “safe area” (resolution 827) due to the imminent threat of Bosnian Serb forces overrunning the enclave of 60,000 Bosnian Muslims. The council promised to demilitarise the town and deploy UN peacekeepers to protect its inhabitants. However, the international community failed to provide the necessary military resources. From 1993 to 1995, Canadian and Dutch peacekeepers arrived to defend Srebrenica, stripping its Bosnian Muslim defenders of their heavy weapons and setting up UN checkpoints. By July 1995, only 400 lightly armed and poorly supplied Dutch peacekeepers remained in the town. Over 25,000 Bosnian Muslims sought refuge at the Dutch Battalion peacekeepers’ base under UNPROFOR.

When Serb forces launched a major offensive, Dutch forces requested NATO air strikes twice to halt the Serb advance. However, UN commanders repeatedly rejected the requests. On July 11, 1995, the overwhelmed Dutch peacekeepers were unable to prevent the Bosnian Serb forces from taking Srebrenica, and the enclave fell to Serb forces who killed over 8,000 Bosnian Muslims.

The Bosnian Serb forces separated the women, children, and elderly from the military-age men. The women and children were transported by bus to territory controlled by the Bosnian government. However, the men and boys were detained. Over the next few days, they were taken to various sites around Srebrenica and systematically executed. Their bodies were buried in mass graves.

It is estimated that around 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were executed in this manner. Forensic experts have exhumed over 6,800 bodies from mass graves in the years since. The Srebrenica Genocide is considered the worst crime to occur in Europe since World War II.

In 2001, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) ruled that the massacre at Srebrenica constituted genocide. Several key Bosnian Serb leaders, including General Ratko Mladić, have since been convicted of genocide and other war crimes by the ICTY for their roles in the Srebrenica massacre. However, genocide denial still persists among some in Serbia and BiH’s Republika Srpska as to whether a genocide actually took place.

The Srebrenica Genocide is a tragic chapter in the Bosnian War that resulted in the mass murder of thousands of civilians. It serves as a reminder of the horrors of genocide and the importance of preventing such atrocities.

The heavy criticism directed at the UN over the siege of Sarajevo still mars the legacy of the organization’s involvement in the Bosnian War. With criticism levelled at the organisation in response to subsequent atrocities, the credibility of the organisation is under continuous scrutiny. After the veto of a previous Srebrenica genocide recognition resolution by Russian diplomats at the UN Security Council and the threat stemming from Serbia and allies of the Serb minority in Bosnia, the resolution to be presented on April 27 will test the UN in its ability to atone for its past deeds on Bosnia and continuing to support the victims of these atrocities.

What the draft resolution says:

The draft resolution seen by JURIST, dated April 9, 2024, illuminates the solemn occasion of the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration for the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica. It is based on the UN General Assembly resolution of 2004, which declared April 7 as the International Day of Remembrance for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi group in Rwanda.

The document, guided by the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Resolution 260 A (III), annex), articulates a powerful call to action to remember and uphold the values of human rights and justice.

The resolution reaffirms the critical responsibility of states to protect civilians and ensure human rights for all individuals under their jurisdiction. Through recalling significant Security Council resolutions and judicial judgments, the text underlines the condemnation of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, emphasising the unwavering opposition to impunity for such heinous acts.

Acknowledging the progress made in international courts towards combating impunity and ensuring accountability for grave crimes, the document lauds the efforts of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and stresses the importance of collective action by the international community to prevent genocide.

Moreover, the role of the Secretary-General’s Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect is highlighted, highlighting the need for vigilance in the early detection of potential genocide through monitoring human rights violations and hate speech. The resolution also calls for the completion of efforts to locate and identify the remaining victims of the Srebrenica genocide and urges member states to fully comply with their obligations under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The document further designates 11 July as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica, urging member states to preserve the historical facts and educate future generations to prevent revisionism and future genocides. It also condemns actions that glorify individuals convicted of war crimes and genocide. Furthermore, it advocates for the establishment of an information program focused on educating and raising awareness about the tragic events in Srebrenica, with a specific emphasis on the 30th anniversary in 2025.


Survivors of the Srebrenica genocide, such as Azir Osmanovic, head of the museum-archival team at the Srebrenica Memorial Center, who gave a powerful testimony, strongly support the resolution. He argued that it is important for the UN to recognise the trauma survivors continue to endure from the genocide, including rampant denial:

On behalf of the survivors of genocide, on behalf of all who work in the name of justice and peace, of preserving truth – I urge you to adopt this resolution. The thousands of innocent lives lost during the Srebrenica genocide can never be recovered, and the wounds of those they left behind can never be fully healed.

As multiple countries support this resolution (New Zealand, Chile, Germany, France and Rwanda, Ireland), it signifies a global effort to acknowledge and address historical injustices. By commemorating the victims of the Srebrenica genocide and taking proactive measures to prevent similar atrocities in the future, the UNGA would reaffirm its dedication to upholding human rights, fostering peace, and promoting reconciliation worldwide. This significant step would underscore the collective commitment to remembering the past, seeking justice, and preventing future atrocities from occurring.

While the majority of politicians from BiH welcomed such a step, many condemning reactions came from Serbia and Republika Srpska, highlighting concerns that the resolution may stigmatise the entire Serbian people. A 2015 Security Council resolution trying to recognize Srebrenica as a genocide was vetoed by Russia’s diplomats in New York. With tensions in the region still at an all-time high, Serbia’s mission has also threatened that such a resolution will have “dangerous consequences” for “peace, security and stability” in the Balkans.

The Srebrenica Memorial Centre in Donji Potočari, Bosnia and Herzegovina has called on all international missions and embassies to BiH to make every effort to have the “accurate and true information” reach the decision-makers in their respective countries, regarding the adoption of the Resolution on Srebrenica before the UN General Assembly.

The head of the center, Emir Suljagic, noted the importance of the resolution:

The significance of this Resolution is immense. Victims’ families will no longer have to fear being forgotten. The heavy burden of truth-telling will no longer solely rest on us, Bosnians, but rather on a global scale – to disseminate the facts further. I must commend our years of collaboration with the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Nderitu, who ensured our presence on the map and maintained recognition in the UN.

The present resolution would help counter denial and ensure future generations never face such atrocities again, reiterating the haunting words of “Never Again.” If the resolution on the genocide in Srebrenica is adopted, we will have the opportunity to close the darkest chapter in Bosnian history. Only with full acceptance of the Resolution can the world move forward from that point.