The charge of genocide almost always generates disputes over data and numbers killed and charges that the other side engaged in equal atrocities. False charges of genocide can be used to foster and motivate actual genocide, as Chapter 3 demonstrates.
Even the most clearly established cases of genocide, such as the Holocaust or the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, have frequently been denied. Given the human tendency to deny, evade, excuse, or ignore something as profoundly evil as genocide, a few denials in the right place at the right time can effectively disrupt efforts to halt genocide in progress.
The claims in this book are based on the following types of sources: (1) human rights reports by organizations that are not attached to any government, that have reported on human rights practices of any and all governments, and whose credibility has been established by vindication of their reporting over long periods of time; (2) evidence collected by the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague (authorized by the United Nations on November 17, 1993) and indictments issued by the tribunal; (3) eyewitness accounts by refugee workers in Bosnia, who have no political interest in either maximizing or minimizing the abuses they witnessed; (4) interviews by this author with Bosnian refugees and survivors; (5) reports in the press insofar as they are corroborated by evidence from one or more of the first four categories; and (6) negative evidence, revealed in glaring contradic-
tions within the denials of atrocities by those alleged to have committed them or in the refusal by those accused to allow access to independent investigators or to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal.
Of special importance is the corroboration of evidence from more than one source and more than one kind of source. It is possible even for trained human rights investigators to make a mistake in a particular case. Cross-corroborated evidence and evidence gathered not from a single incident but from a pattern are more reliable. An example of how cross-corroboration works can be found in the case of the Celopek Cultural Center killings near Zvornik. Survivors from Zvornik testified that Serb militiamen detained, raped, tortured, and killed Muslim civilians at the Celopek Cultural Center outside town. This evidence was later corroborated by a trial in Yugoslavia, reported by the dissident Serb journalists of Vreme News Digest , in which an alleged perpetrator admitted the crimes but excused them on the grounds that he was drunk. Later, when the issue of possible involvement by the Yugoslav secret police was raised, the Yugoslav government shut down the trial. Serb nationalist authorities in Zvornik have refused to cooperate with or grant access to International Criminal Tribunal investigators and human rights groups. It is often difficult to prove rape and torture to those who discount the testimonies of survivors, but the physical testimony of dynamited mosques is hard to dispute. The accounts of genocide in Zvornik, as elsewhere, weave accounts of attacks on persons with descriptions of the systematic destruction of mosques. When it turns out that every mosque in Zvornik and every mosque in the Republika Srpska has been destroyed, the evidence of systematic, organized genocide is reinforced.
Negative evidence is important in view of demands that the point of view of the other side be respected and heard and that coverage should be "balanced." The point of view of Serb and Croat religious nationalists has indeed been taken into account
very carefully; it has impeached itself in the following ways: (1) through internal contradiction based on obvious stereotypes and ignorance, as in the accusations by Serb religious nationalists that Bosnians are Muslim fundamentalists who aim to establish an Islamic state ruled by religious scholars, on the one hand, and are plotting to reestablish the viziers and other accouterments of imperial Ottoman rule, on the other; (2) through contradictory responses to the same accusation, as when Serb authorities defended shelling refugees in Srebrenica in 1993 by saying they were shooting at a Bosnian tank and accidentally hit the refugees, while at the same time maintaining that there was no shelling at all but that the incident was staged by Bosnian and UN officials using the bodies of Serbs who had been tortured to death; (3) through a pattern of repeated falsehoods, as with the three-year history of denial by Republika Srpska officials that ethno-religious expulsions were taking place or that refugee convoys were being blocked in the face of massive eyewitness testimony to the contrary; (4) through glaring falsehood in individual instances, such as the claim by Yugoslav diplomat Vladislav Jovanovic in his December 1995 letter to the UN Security Council that the thousands of Bosnian Muslims missing from the safe areas of Zepa and Srebrenica were killed by their own soldiers, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary; or the Croatian government's claim that the property of Muslims in Prozor was damaged during a fire fight, when photos and eyewitness accounts showed burned-out Muslim businesses and residences scattered throughout town next to undamaged businesses and residences of Catholic Croats; and (5) through refusal to allow claims to be verified, as has been the case throughout the Republika Srpska: Serb nationalists claimed that prisoners were treated according to the Geneva conventions but refused access to the International Red Cross, war crimes investigators, and other human rights monitoring organizations.
Religious nationalists in the former Yugoslavia have special-
ized in the control of the media. Atrocities by their own forces are never mentioned; alleged atrocities by their enemies are repeated continually. Are there people of good will in these territories who truly believe the views presented to them with such an air of authority? Is it possible for them not to have noticed the interior contradictions in such propaganda or how the boasting of local militia leaders in their own town or village contradicts it? In writing a book like this one, I take it as a moral challenge to be open to the possibility that I have been deceived and to reexamine continually the account I give. To those who maintain total skepticism, however—and with it, reject any moral responsibility to stop the genocide if it is occurring—I would say this. The possibility of deception can never be ruled out completely, but the willingness to accept an unpleasant, even devastating truth, when we are faced with it, is necessary if we are to become truly human.
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