Parliamentary inquiry of Srebrenica - Investigation or diversion?

MSF questions the conditions of the parliamentary inquiry into Srebrenica.

Press release, Paris France, Saturday, November 11, 2000 - The Office of the Foreign Affairs Committee announced yesterday that it had appointed François Léotard to prepare a parliamentary report on the fall of Srebrenica. The Office added that Mr. Léotard would be working together with a member of the Defense Committee.

MSF rejects the conditions and methods that led up to this appointment, and reiterates its call for a genuine commission of inquiry that is independent, politically diverse, and dedicated to establishing the real cause of the tragedy of Srebrenica.

The appointment of an investigation team of just two people, with no debate and no Parliamentary vote, represents a failure to guarantee the independence and transparency requisite of such an inquiry. Furthermore, the decision to entrust this parliamentary investigation to Mr. Léotard represents a flagrant breach of the requirement for such an inquiry to be independent and impartial. As Defense Minister, Mr. Léotard was responsible for installing and administering France’s military presence in Bosnia between 1993 and 1995. How can he now play the part of judge and judged, as part of a procedure seeking to evaluate that very military presence?

MSF teams worked in the enclave from 1993 to 1995. In July 1995, the attack by Serb forces at Srebrenica, and the inability of UN troops to protect the civilian population, ended in the massacre of 7,000 people and the deportation of 45,000 others.

After being evacuated from this "protected zone," several dozens of injured and sick people receiving care from MSF teams were forced to leave the MSF buses and executed by Serb forces. Twenty-two Bosnian members of MSF were also killed.

On July 13, 2000, MSF requested that a commission of inquiry be set up to examine the circumstances surrounding the fall of Srebrenica. Mr. Paul Quilès, Chairman of the Defense Committee, indicated then that he would set up the same kind of parliamentary evaluation mechanism that he himself had introduced, as head of the information mission on France’s role in Rwanda. However, the present initiative is nothing like the previous one.

As the number of peacekeeping operations around the world increases, and as the debate continues to rage concerning the various military strategies that should be used to protect civilian populations, it is vital that Parliament uncover the military and political problems that led to the tragedy of Srebrenica. The introduction of a mechanism for ensuring parliamentary control over France’s operations abroad is all the more necessary and legitimate today, because of the prominent role played by France in peacekeeping operations. Indeed, this inquiry and evaluation mechanism was requested by the United Nations Secretary-General of those countries that had participated in the UN operations at Srebrenica.

In view of the central role played by France in commanding the UN presence in Bosnia, and in view of the extent of the slaughter at Srebrenica, MSF reiterates its call for a commission of inquiry able to guarantee the quality and transparency that only a genuine investigation can provide.

The commission should:

  • be composed of all those Members of Parliament on the Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee who express the wish to participate;
    n be given unconditional access to all documents essential to its work, including any documents deemed secret on the grounds of national defense or foreign affairs;


  • hold public hearings involving any and all actors and witnesses who may be needed in order to establish exactly what role was played by France’s political and military leaders.
  • Confine the use of in camera proceedings to exceptional cases, and state clearly why such proceedings are necessary.
  • publish accounts of all its proceedings and its working documents.

    MSF calls on the Defense Committee, which is due to meet next Wednesday, to reject the current process and open a genuine debate on this issue, with a view to removing all ambiguities surrounding the intentions of the present procedure.