The Voice of America hosted a panel discussion in Washington, D.C. marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia. The event, titled “Bosnia: 20 Years After Srebrenica,” examined events of that time both in historical terms and in the context of the country’s journey toward ethnic reconciliation, and economic and democratic development.
In the program’s opening remarks, VOA Acting Director Kelu Chao emphasized the importance of VOA broadcasting in the region saying: “Credibility is the biggest asset of VOA's Bosnian Service. This is particularly important in countries such as Bosnia -- a country deeply divided along ethnic lines and struggling to address the many challenges steaming from war in the 1990s.”
Bosnian Service Chief Dzeilana Pecanin Allison moderated the panel, composed of Stephen Rapp, U.S Ambassador-at-Large for War Crimes Issues, head of the Office of Global Criminal Justice at the U.S. Department of State; Kurt Volker, Executive Director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership and former Ambassador to NATO; and Professors Daniel Serwer of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and (via Skype) Tanya Domi of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Despite Russia’s veto Wednesday of a U.N. draft resolution that would have condemned the 1995 massacre as a “crime of genocide,” Ambassador Rapp emphasized, “This is not a subject to dispute. It has been legally established. Not just by the ICTY but also by the International Court of Justice.”
Ambassador Volker provided modern day context on the importance of discussing the Srebrenica massacre by comparing it with today’s conflicts in Ukraine and other regions, asking: “What is it about us that has changed with these events that we are not outraged and called to action today in these cases [Libya, Syria, and other war-torn countries] as we were, rightfully, in the case of Srebrenica? That’s an important question.”
In his remarks, Professor Serwer underlined the need for continuous Western engagement in Bosnia amid renewed calls for partition along ethnic lines. “When I see forces in Bosnia trying to erase the word genocide from its history, I see the continuing of the war-time struggle” he said. Professor Serwer thanked VOA for its continuous presence in Bosnia, "for all these years of devotion to what they do and do so well."
Distinguished audience members at the event included the Ambassador of Albania to the U.S., Floreta Faber, and Ambassador of Montenegro to the U.S., Srdjan Darmanovic. Representing the Embassy of Kosovo was Counsellor Sami Kastrati. Counsellor Emin Cohodarevic represented the Embassy of Bosnia and First Counsellor Dusan Vujacic attended from the Embassy of Serbia.
VOA’s Bosnian Service has been a leading multimedia international broadcaster since 1996 in the target area, with a 17.4 percent weekly audience. The Service’s programming focuses on promoting peace and stability, ethnic reconciliation, regional cooperation and NATO/EU integration. This panel was part of VOA’s continuing efforts to serve as a forum for exchange of information and meaningful debate on important political, economic and social issues.