12 July 2005

“May We All Learn and Act on the Lessons of Srebrenica”, Says Secretary-General, in Message to Anniversary Ceremony

NEW YORK, 11 July (UN Headquarters) -- Following is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the ceremony marking the tenth anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, delivered by Mark Malloch Brown, Chef de Cabinet, in Potocari-Srebrenica, 11 July:

Today, we pay tribute to the victims of a terrible crime -- the worst on European soil since the Second World War.  Throughout the world, this date is marked as a grim reminder of man’s inhumanity to man.

We express our solidarity with the families and friends of those whose lives were brutally taken 10 years ago, and with the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As they grieve, so we grieve.

As they cry out for truth and justice, so must we continue the fight, no matter how long it takes, to secure a full and proper reckoning.

Our first duty is to uncover, and confront, the full truth about what happened.

For us who serve the United Nations, that truth is a hard one to face.

We can say -- and it is true -- that great nations failed to respond adequately.

We can say -- and it is also true -- that there should have been stronger military forces in place, and a stronger will to use them.

We can say -- and it is undeniable -- that blame lies, first and foremost, with those who planned and carried out the massacre, or who assisted them, or who harboured and are harbouring them still.

But we cannot evade our own share of responsibility.

As I wrote in my report in 1999, we made serious errors of judgement, rooted in a philosophy of impartiality and non-violence which, however admirable, was unsuited to the conflict in Bosnia.  That is why, as I also wrote, “the tragedy of Srebrenica will haunt our history forever”.

Our second duty is to help rebuild trust among the peoples of this region.  That can only be done by persisting in the struggle for justice.

Without justice, there can be no reconciliation, and no peace for the families of the victims, or for society as a whole.

Yet our quest for justice remains incomplete.  The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal has worked hard, and some important culprits have been found guilty.  But those charged with being the main architects of this massacre -- Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic -- are still at large.  Until they are made to answer the charges against them, we cannot say we have defeated impunity.

But even that is not enough.  All Bosnians must search for truth and reconciliation.

Our third and most important duty, even while addressing the crimes of the past, is to prevent such systematic slaughter from recurring anywhere in the present and future.  The world must equip itself to act collectively against genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.  The “responsibility to protect” must be given tangible meaning, not just rhetorical support.

Finally, by our presence today, we commit ourselves to help the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in spite of all the difficulties, to rebuild a viable economy and secure a peaceful, prosperous future among the family of nations.

We share in the grief of those whose loss can never be repaired.

And we pay homage to those who died.

May their souls rest in peace.  May we all learn, and act on, the lessons of Srebrenica.

Thank you very much.

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