Mechanism Principals participate in “Stop Genocide and Holocaust Denial” conference in Sarajevo

The Hague
Stop Genocide and Holocaust Denial

The Principals of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (Mechanism), President, Judge Carmel Agius, Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz, and Registrar Olufemi Elias, today participated in a conference entitled “Stop Genocide and Holocaust Denial” in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). All three Principals today delivered keynote remarks as part of the conference opening session, which also included a video message from Mr. Adama Dieng, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide.

The conference, which is taking place on 20 and 21 June 2019, is organised by the Association of Victims and Witnesses of Genocide and The Mother’s Action of the Srebrenica Žepa Enclave. It is the fourth in a series of conferences dealing with various aspects of adjudicating and coming to terms with acts of genocide at the domestic and international level. Building on the work of the previous conferences, this year’s event will focus on the theme of genocide denial, bringing together legal professionals, academics, representatives of the media and the non-governmental sector, as well as victims, witnesses and survivors of genocide, and others.   

During his keynote remarks President Agius condemned the recent acts of Republika Srpska in setting up commissions on the Srebrenica genocide and seeking to rewrite the history of those tragic events. The President outlined four ways to tackle denial and revisionism, emphasising the importance of bringing perpetrators of genocide to justice through international and domestic courts, enhancing the role of politicians and members of civil society in championing the truth, reforming the education system, and taking steps to criminalise the denial of genocide.  He concluded by stating: “We must leave no stone unturned in our efforts to isolate the deniers. They will continue to lie but, in time, through our efforts they will be diminished. History is on the side of justice, and we will prevail.

Prosecutor Brammertz addressed the status of national prosecutions of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, the work of the Office of the Prosecutor in support of those efforts, and the ongoing challenge of denial and glorification of war criminals. He recalled that over the last several years he had reported to the United Nations Security Council about the alarming rise of denial and glorification. He noted, “The uncomfortable truth is that the situation today is worse than in many years because very few within and outside the region have reacted and drawn a line.” Prosecutor Brammertz emphasised that the facts of the crimes committed were established by the ICTY and are beyond dispute. He concluded his remarks by saying: “This situation cannot be tolerated anymore. The denial of crimes and glorification of war criminals must be stopped. I firmly believe that today, there is no more important task ahead of us.” 

Finally, in discussing the Mechanism’s role in preserving and protecting the legacy of the ICTY, Registrar Elias emphasised the importance of facilitating public access to the Tribunal’s legacy as one safeguard against the denial of genocide and other crimes. By underscoring the need to understand, respect and preserve the events of the past on the basis of established facts, he further noted: “Preserving this legacy also means having the responsibility to ensure that the findings contained in the thousands of pages of judgements, witness testimonies and evidence, are not lost to false narratives.” He concluded his remarks by stating: “Memory, aided by facts, established beyond reasonable doubt, accessible to everyone, is our best shield against denial and revisionism.”

As part of their visit to Sarajevo, the Principals of the Mechanism held a joint diplomatic briefing for members of the diplomatic community accredited to BiH and representatives of international organisations. During the briefing, which was attended by some 45 members of the diplomatic corps, the Principals provided an update on the Mechanism’s ongoing work and activities.