Hague Court President: Recognising the Srebrenica Genocide is Necessary

Ten days after her term in office began, one of the first tasks undertaken by Graciela Gatti Santana, the new president of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, was to deliver a speech at the commemoration of the 27th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.

As the first female head of the Hague-based war crimes court that was established by the United Nations Security Council to complete the work of the UN's tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Santana emphasised during her speech how much she was affected by the stories she had heard about the women of Srebrenica, some of whom have struggled for decades to preserve the truth about what happened in July 1995.

"Preservation of the truth is really the essence of our presence here," Santana said in her speech.

Uruguay-born Santana has worked as a judge in The Hague for more than a decade, including as a member of the judging panel in Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic's appeal against his conviction for the Srebrenica genocide and other crimes.

In an interview with BIRN, she said that it is necessary to accept the truth about Srebrenica as established by the court in order to achieve reconciliation.

"Because you cannot achieve a meaningful reconciliation if you don't consider the truth - you cannot forget what happened," she said.

In her speech at the Srebrenica Memorial Centre, Santana pointed out that although the truth is known, genocide denial persists. "Those engaging in such rhetoric are in a minority but their voices are loud," she said.

The authorities in Serbia and Bosnia's Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity both refuse to accept that the massacres of Bosniaks by Bosnian Serb forces constituted genocide...

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