Speaking Out videos: MSF and Srebrenica 1993-2003

13 March 1993 – France 2 (French)

TV presenter: But first we’re going to Srebrenica in east Bosnia, where French General Philippe Morillon still is. We thought he was being held by the town’s Muslim population, as that’s what was reported in the first news we received. But this afternoon General Morillon has supposedly said he’s staying of his own free will to protect the inhabitants.

Commentary: The voice picked up this afternoon by an amateur radio enthusiast in Zagreb has been analysed by military wiretapping specialists at UNPROFOR headquarters in the Croatian capital. It’s being processed now and its authenticity checked. The message – apparently sent from the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica in east Bosnia that has been besieged for the past 11 months by the Serbs – has already been authenticated by General Morillon’s aides in Sarajevo and is indeed from the commander of the United Nations Protection Force in Bosnia. Its message is clear. Philippe Morillon denies being held against his will in Srebrenica, he is remaining voluntarily. But several UNPROFOR and UNHCR sources stated this morning that civilian Muslims had been forcibly detaining him since last Friday. General Morillon, who we see here filmed on Thursday evening in Zvornik, had said he was going to Srebrenica to negotiate with the Serb forces the evacuation of casualties from the blockaded town. His mission was also to get humanitarian convoys blocked for several days by the Serbs into Srebrenica. It would appear that General Morillon failed in the negotiations and Srebrenica’s 75,000 inhabitants have not been provided with supplies from the convoy. The Serb offensive on the Muslim enclave has intensified. Morillon indicated in his message that he was staying to help allay people’s fears. Confirmed by a UNPROFOR officer in Sarajevo.
UNPROFOR officer: He’s in good health and doesn’t feel threatened. He has chosen to stay put in Srebrenica.

TV presenter: So, Gérard Sebag, this leaves us somewhat intrigued. Major Robert C. has just told us live from Zagreb that he’s being detained.

Gérard Sebag: You’re right. The situation is rather muddled and indeed odd as the first information out of Srebrenica suggested that General Morillon had been detained (not to say taken hostage) by some of the population who were pressuring him to give guarantees on three points. First, a ceasefire, second, the deployment of United Nations observers, and third, that airdrops of food and drugs would continue. Prevented from leaving the town, General Morillon is apparently trying to make the best of things. Those are the words of a Western diplomat we were able to contact by telephone. So it looks as if he’s decided to stay in Srebrenica and attempt the impossible – meaning, continuing negotiations on lifting the siege of the town with the Serb militias and the town’s authorities, but they haven’t come to anything yet. What is certain is that this latest development in Bosnia is a severe blow to the credibility and effectiveness of the United Nations – credibility because it is very hard to cross a starved town and then leave behind wounded people, women and children with nothing achieved. And effectiveness, because the United Nations forces in former Yugoslavia find themselves once again in an impasse that General Morillon may well find difficult to get out of.

17 April 1993 - France 2– Rony Brauman, MSF: - Srebrenica (French)

TV presenter: So, Rony Brauman, let me first remind viewers that you are president of Médecins Sans Frontières. You and your organisation were in Croatia at the beginning of the conflict, then former Yugoslavia and now Bosnia. Let’s start with how did we allow this to this happen?

Rony Brauman: I think it was an attempt to replace a kind of fundamental political responsibility with a strategy of the lesser evil. It was allowed to happen because we were following on the heels of the Serb nationalists, picking up the pieces, bandaging wounds and patching up some of the casualties. That’s it. Our responsibilities were readily abdicated, probably by invoking a whole slew of pertinent historical, diplomatic and political reasons, but the facts are there and, as the report shows only too well, we European citizens, our governments, our Western countries, have totally abdicated the responsibility that was ours to prevent the deployment of a strategy of racial domination and territorial conquest right at the heart of Europe. This failure, as we are now witnessing, is barbaric.

TV presenter: Do you consider that the entire Western political establishment has given itself a good conscience by leaving it to humanitarian organisations to take action on the ground?

Rony Brauman: Yes, never in my life have I been as struck by what could be called the ‘humanitarian alibi’ in Bosnia. Seeing in Bosnia all the armoured vehicles and the tanks, all the soldiers, all the aid organisations, all these worthy sentiments in a kind of hellish whirl to make it look like something’s being done. But nothing’s being done. We manage to get to a few towns and enclaves, but not very many, while the war continues to rage relentlessly in 90% of the country. That’s what’s happening in Srebrenica now, exactly like what happened in other towns in east Bosnia, and nobody’s saying a word.

TV presenter: And Croatia…

Rony Brauman: And Croatia, like in Vukovar and Osijek. We had teams in Vukovar who were attacked by Serb nationalists when they were evacuating casualties. We’ve got a surgical team in Srebrenica operating as we speak. Well, I don’t know what’s going to become of them in the next few hours, or tomorrow or the next day. Perhaps they’ll be forced to flee in a panic, probably along with tens of thousands of people who have sought refuge in Srebrenica. You should know that Srebrenica’s population is 6,000, and that now more like 30 or 50,000 people are there, refugees from other towns in the vicinity who’ve ended up there.

TV presenter: So seen from the ground, does that mean Srebrenica is going to fall in a few hours, that the Serbs aren’t necessarily going to exterminate the people in the town, but are going to ask humanitarian organisations to evacuate them?

Rony Brauman: I believe there are two reasons why they won’t exterminate them. Firstly, it’s not in their strategy. Serb nationalism isn’t a Hitlerian enterprise; it’s not a strategy of extermination. It’s a strategy of terror, of expulsion. What they want is to drive out all the non-Serbs from all the places they lay claim to. That’s the first reason why they’re not going to exterminate them. But the fact remains that when people wanting to show their determination are prepared to kill, if that means killing several hundreds or thousand of people, they’ll do it. We saw it happen in Vukovar. The second reason why they’re not going to do it is because we’re going to do it; Western governments, the United Nations will do the job for them. Humanitarian organisations are really valuable to ethnic cleansing, and that’s why we feel like the world has gone crazy, that all sense of values has been over-turned. To be inhuman, cowardly, adopt the guise of a big shot, well, here’s the answer – the humanitarian worker, the perfect mask for our abdication and our cowardice.

May 1994 – A Year in Focus / Journal de l’année, MSF 1993-1994: Gorazde (French)

Commentary: Far from the negotiating tables, against a background of ethnic cleansing and persistent bombing, the insanity of war continues to crush Bosnia. Although declared a safe area, in the middle of April, the Gorazde enclave and its 65,000 inhabitants were caught in a barrage of fire. Trapped by the Serb artillery but also by the indecision of the international community, two Médecins Sans Frontières volunteers are witness to the demise of the enclave. The Bosnian surgical teams in the hospital are operating non-stop.

Commentary: On 17 April, Serb troops entered the town and, on 19 April, the hospital collapsed under the bombs. 65,000 desperate people crowded into cellars are certain of just one thing; they can expect nothing from the United Nations or the rest of the world.

Commentary: "The courage of the people here never ceases to surprise us,” wrote the Médecins Sans Frontières team. "The town is lost; everyone know it. The choice is simple. Die or go somewhere else, who knows where. Despite it all, we’re trying to hold our heads high, we’re surviving in the hope that we’ll soon be able to live. Tell the surgeon and the anaesthetist to go home, there’s nothing more to be done here than witness the agony of a people who were simply asking to live."

Commentary: Have these cries of distress been heeded? The threat of NATO airstrikes, as in Sarajevo, has led to a retreat by the Serb troops – but for how long?

12 July 1995 – France 2– Stephan Oberreit, MSF: Factuel Srebrenica (French)

TV journalist: The main news tonight is the liberation of Srebrenica. Proclaimed solely by the Serbs, this is one more defeat for the UN and the international community. The peacekeepers had to pull back from the area declared “safe” by the United Nations in 1993 and this morning tens of thousands of people fled from the zone. Combining tones of threat and victory, a Bosnian-Serb general declared earlier today that he would have the Muslim refugees bombed if the UN asked NATO to carry out airstrikes. However, people in Pale, the capital of the self-proclaimed Republic of Serbia, are saying quite the opposite.

Commentary: Here are the victors, Serb soldiers, filmed a few weeks ago as they surrounded Srebrenica. According to their leader General Mladic and I quote, “the town was liberated last night,” and, I’m still quoting, “we can no longer tolerate the Muslims committing acts of terror against the Serb people.” But the people living in terror are the Muslims who have assembled around the Dutch peacekeepers’ headquarters in the village of Potocari 15 kilometres further north. Our journalist has managed to contact the Médecins Sans Frontières team who are with them.

MSF: Over 20,000 people have assembled in a razed village. There is no shelter and distraught people are subjected to appalling sanitary conditions. The children, their faces haunted, sit on the ground. There are no shelters, little water, no food for them to eat and we have a big problem due to the shortage of drugs in the small makeshift hospital set up in the UNPROFOR compound.

Commentary: This morning, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic stated that the refugees are free to stay or leave. They won’t be hurt but the Serbs aren’t going to leave Srebrenica. UN General Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali has proclaimed that this is not a failure on the part of the UN and that the peacekeepers’ priority is now on looking after the refugees. But who are we to believe? The Serbs captured 20 more Dutch peacekeepers this morning and now it’s the turn of the enclave in Zepa to be attacked. Cynicism rules supreme in this war.

12 July 1995 – France Inter (radio) – Stephan Oberreit, MSF: Prise de Srebrenica /Fall of Srebrenica (French)

Journalist: Our journalist has managed to get hold of Stephan Oberreit, MSF’s coordinator in Belgrade. This is what he had to say.

Stephan Oberreit: “On one side, women and children being loaded onto busses, and on the other, men separated from their families. Obviously, people were in a state of panic. There were tears, there was crying and, when they left, it was to an unknown destination. They were given no assurances about where they were being taken. Otherwise, the situation in Potocari is the same and there are still lots of people there. Their situation is dire because they don’t know what’s going to happen to them. This has to be put into context – three years spent in an enclave, several days of brutal violence and now very little water or food and abysmal sanitary conditions. It’s a very small area, with absolutely no sewage. Humanitarian organisations must be given access to these people urgently.”

12 July 1995 – France 2 –Stephan Oberreit, MSF: La Chute de Srebrenica (French)

TV journalist: First, and most important, the worrying deterioration in the situation in Bosnia. The NATO Council, which met in Brussels today, limited itself to a vigorous condemnation of the Bosnian-Serb militias’ taking of the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica. Their leader, Radovan Karadzic, has ruled out any retreat of his forces. Quite the contrary in fact, as the Serbs appear to be preparing for yet another ethnic cleansing among the thousands and thousands of refugees now under their control.

Commentary: The honour of the UNPROFOR was General Morillon’s grand gesture. In March 1993, at the depth of the despair as the Serb army was threatening to take Srebrenica at any moment, he climbed onto a tank and shouted, "we will not abandon you.” His words saved Srebrenica and the concept of UN protected area was born – a status accorded to Zepa, Gorazde, Bihac, Tuzla and Sarajevo. But Morillon’s gesture was appreciated neither by military officials nor the politicians who said the enclaves were too remote and too difficult to supply and the peacekeepers defending them were potential hostages. In a nutshell, the fall of Srebrenica is not only a horrific symbol but the international community could have predicted it. A tragedy, the consequences of which now have to be dealt with – starting with the 20,000 refugees amassed around the Dutch peacekeepers’ base in the small village of Potocari. The Serbs took control of their evacuation this afternoon, separating the men from the women and children and loading them onto buses in full view of the Médecins Sans Frontières teams who were with them.

Stephan Oberreit: Apparently it was a horrific scene. People were crying, screaming, panicking, as they were loaded onto buses leaving for an unknown, unconfirmed destination. Tuzla was mentioned but nobody substantiated it.

Commentary: According to the Serbs, the women and children are being evacuated whereas the men are going to be interrogated. We don’t know what’s going to happen to the 7,000 people still in Srebrenica and who are out of the sight of any witnesses.

TV journalist: Let’s go back to Gilles Rabine in Sarajevo. Hello, Gilles. Do have you any more details about the fate of the thousands of refugees living in the Muslim enclave?

Gilles Rabine: Listen, the first information I can give you is that this evening the Serbs authorised an UNHCR convoy to go to Potocari, where there are apparently 30,000 refugees, not 20,000. The convoy is transporting 23 tons of food, drugs, tents, blankets and mattresses. As for the refugees who have been taken by the Serbs, we know that the men have been separated from the women and children and taken to Bratunac, the Serb command post nearest the Srebrenica enclave. The women and children have been taken to a destination still unknown this evening. I want to add a little detail to what Stéphane Manier said. The Dutch from the UN have asked that one peacekeeper be allowed on each bus and truck. General Mladic, who’s been managing the operation, has refused.

TV journalist: Gilles, a really simple question that many of our viewers must be asking. Why didn’t the Bosnians defend the town?

Gilles Rabine: Listen, it’s hardly surprising. They didn’t defend it because they weren’t able to. After what happened with General Morillon in March 1993, when the Bosnians in Srebrenica accepted to be demilitarised and give up their weapons, they played the game. That’s why placing themselves under UN protection with practically no weapons, they feel very strongly this evening they’ve been betrayed by the UN in Srebrenica.

11-13 July 1995 – France 2 - Srebrenica: Epuration ethnique / Ethnic Cleansing (French)

TV journalist: Good evening. According to the NATO Secretary General, the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica is definitively lost, a view not shared by Paris. We’ll go back to that in a minute. In any event, the leaders of the Serbs militias on the ground are methodically carrying out what the UNHCR spokesperson has called one of the biggest ethnic cleansing operations in the history of this tragic war. Stéphane Manier reports on exclusively Serb images.

Commentary: These people are safe, at least for the time being. They’re being held in concrete hangars intended for military planes near Tuzla airport, one of the five remaining Muslim enclaves. Their faces are anxious, exhausted, stunned, not even the smallest sign of relief at being still alive. They’re suffering from dehydration and malnutrition, and some are passing out. There are only women, children and elderly people, and a few casualties being looked after by the peacekeepers. The Serbs got the ones capable of walking through the tunnel that marks the frontline off the buses a few hundred metres before and told them to “run for it.” That’s ethnic cleansing. From now on, you’ll only be seeing images filmed by Serb cameras, the only ones authorised in the small village of Potocari where the refugees left from. General Mladic, the Serb military commander, is shown as a sensitive man, handing out chocolate and reassuring people as he himself organises the exodus. "Get on the buses, nobody will hurt you,” he says. But you won’t see the tearing apart of families as they’re separated, or the money that Serb soldiers demand before allowing them to leave, or the men over the age of 16 who are taken to a stadium for interrogation. The Serbs consider anyone suspected of carrying a weapon a war criminal. Some are exchanged for prisoners, others don’t come back, we’ll never know how many, there were no records kept in Srebrenica. That’s ethnic cleansing too. But these images also show peacekeepers becoming auxiliaries to this ethnic cleansing in an effort to avoid panic. Mladic spares them no humiliation and refuses their timid request to put one UN worker on each bus. We also see General Mladic making his triumphant entrance into Srebrenica two days before and his embracing of the victors. "Srebrenica will never be a UN protected area ever again; the town is Serb now," proclaims Radovan Karadzic. The camera films several burning houses but no corpses, no people, nor the seriously injured the Serbs have brought back to Srebrenica and forbidden to leave. This is ethnic cleansing, and it is on this that Greater Serbia is being inexorably and ruthlessly founded.

TV journalist: A demonstration is being held at 3 pm tomorrow at the Communards’ Wall in Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris to condemn this latest ethnic cleansing. Now over to Gilles Rabine, live from Sarajevo. Gilles, a simple question, how is the fall of Srebrenica perceived by the Muslim population in Sarajevo?

Gilles Rabine: You know, the fall of Srebrenica is perceived with much bitterness and a feeling of having been betrayed by the UN, because the Bosnians in Srebrenica played the game, they let themselves be disarmed and put themselves under the protection of the UN. As for the rest, the diplomatic posturing beginning to take shape, people stopped commenting on it a long time ago. You know, the inhabitants of Sarajevo have been in a state of siege for 39 months, 39 months during which they’ve heard and expected it all, hoped in vain that their fate would improve. Nobody in Europe has been subjected to such a siege or nightmare in over 150 years. Tomorrow or the next day it’ll be Zepa that’ll fall into Serb hands and then Gorazde perhaps; it’s hard to see the UN preventing the Serbs from trying to take Zepa. So the inhabitants of Sarajevo have had it with all the questions, they’ve had it with being filmed, being photographed, they’re tired of being watched as they die live on TV with nothing being done to rescue them. What do you want them to say? Other than they’re right?

MSF Belgium - MSF Unlimited: interview with Christina Schmitz on Srebrenica (English)

27 July 1995 – France 2 – Rony Brauman, MSF: Démission Mazowiecki / Mazowiecki Resignation (French)

TV journalist: Our guest is Rony Brauman. Rony Brauman, a year ago you were still head of Médecins Sans Frontières. You’ve now been able to get a little bit of distance. Do you think the decisions taken by lawyer Henri Leclerc on behalf of the League of Human Rights and the Polish prime minister to condemn the UN and its incapacity to confront the barbarity of the Serbs are helpful decisions?

Rony Brauman: Yes, I particularly think that Mr Mazowiecki’s resignation – well, it’s not for me to judge the League of Human Rights’ decision, which will have to show if it’s legally admissible –, but of course, I understand the rationale. But Mr Mazowiecki’s resignation, who throughout the conflict showed courage, loyalty and determination in standing up to the inertia and cynicism of the UN, is proof that the fiction and the sham have been smashed by the evidence in Bosnia. I think there’s a very close link between Mazowiecki’s resignation and the process of the gradual lifting of the embargo that’s being decided in the United States. This is when we realise that this sort of diplomatic and humanitarian arrangement, an arrangement with virtual soldiers as one perceptive observer put it, doesn’t work anymore.

TV journalist: Does this mean that you, Rony Brauman, the defender of the humanitarian cause, are pro-war?

Rony Brauman: I’m not pro-war. War exists, and I have to live with it like everyone else.

TV journalist: But this isn’t about taking action after war, but making war.

Rony Brauman: It’s about making war for those already fighting on the ground. I don’t think western democracies or the world’s powerful countries can go and fight in Bosnia for objectives they aren’t able to properly define. But, what I see is that, in the name of a humanitarian ideal, in the name of a very honourable aspiration for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, we have skewed the balance of power, tied the Bosnians’ hands behind their backs and paved the way for the Serb aggressor. It must be remembered that peace starts first with a trial of strength before going on to become a concept. Well, this trial of strength needs to be restored and I think that lifting the embargo, this increasing support, this process that is a move towards re-establishing the balance of power, could therefore possibly offer the Bosnians a resolution to the conflict.

TV journalist: And the withdrawal of the UNPROFOR, if the embargo were to be lifted.

Rony Brauman: That goes without saying. As it is now, the UNPROFOR is meaningless.

TV journalist: Does Polish Prime Minister Mazowiecki’s decision, and thus a politician’s decision, reconcile you the humanitarian with the politicians who often instrumentalise you on the ground?

Rony Brauman: Generally speaking, I don’t have a problem with politicians but I do with those who use humanitarian aid as a kind of media gadget, a communications technique that absolves them from assuming their political responsibilities. That’s what I and quite a few other humanitarians criticise. But thank goodness for people like Mazowiecki and others like him, in governments and in positions that are difficult, because nobody can claim to have the key to the conflict in Bosnia; that’s simply not true, it’s a lie. We don’t live in cloud cuckoo land anymore. So it’s a complex issue and western governments don’t have a ready solution to solve it. On the other hand, they can facilitate a process through which this balance of power could be restored and, consequently, a political solution negotiated. Mr Mazowiecki is one of these people and I find his decision extremely courageous.

TV journalist: One last question. Although it doesn’t really look like it, last year you gave up Médecins Sans Frontières.

Rony Brauman: As president.

TV journalist: As president, so you’ve taken a step back, so to speak. Rwanda last year, and now Bosnia. Isn’t there part of you that wants to throw up your hands and say, "it’s just not possible anymore”?

Rony Brauman: You know, I’ve been working in humanitarian aid for almost 20 years and there’s never been a today or a tomorrow. There have always been several emergencies, major tragedies, happening at the same time, but that’s pretty much the history of humanity. The history of humanity is made up of conflicts and horror but also of people who try to fight them and the horror in their own way, using their own methods. I don’t think the situation today is any more tragic.

14 August 1995 – France 2 – Les quatre vérités / A Few Home Truths – Pierre Salignon, MSF (French)

TV journalist: Hello. Pierre Salignon from Médecins Sans Frontières is with us. Thank you for coming in. You were there not long ago. A Médecins Sans Frontières plane left on Friday; where is it now and what is it doing?

Pierre Salignon: It’s at the airport in Banja Luka. It has delivered 30 tonnes of supplies, mainly sanitation logistics. This is on top of the equipment we’ve managed to bring in by road – drugs and medical supplies for the 150,000 people on the roads around Banja Luka.

TV journalist: There are 150,000 people? There’s talk they may be 200,000. How can so many people be helped in such a small area?

Pierre Salignon: This is a whole group of people who left in a panic. They’re advancing towards Banja Luka, the main town in the region. A column of refugees very quickly went in the direction of Serbia, mostly because people didn’t want to stay in Bosnia as the men among them are scared of being forcibly conscripted or because they wanted to get away from what they’d been subjected to. They’re on their way to Serbia, which we know is blocked. As for what we can do for them, we have prepared health posts along the road so that our mobile teams can treat and provide people with assistance and give them water, food and drugs.

TV journalist: I suppose the closure of the border we saw on the early morning news poses a very serious problem?

Pierre Salignon: A very serious problem indeed. These people have been on the road for several days already and the longer the situation lasts, the greater the risk of a humanitarian emergency. It’s humanly urgent to do something, not only to assist these people but also to find a solution. The solution is re-opening the border with Serbia, but it’s not up to us to say, given that it’s ethnic partitioning that’s causing the population displacements we’re witnessing. So we’re seeing people being re-settled in Kosovo, in Voïvodine, in east Bosnia in areas that have been cleansed; I’m referring here to Srebrenica. All we can do is acknowledge the unacceptable.

TV journalist: We’re seeing a real partitioning. Each camp is positioning its pawns, and these pawns are human beings.

Pierre Salignon: Exactly. And we’re not hearing much about the non-Serb community around Banja Luka. There are 30,000 of them in a zone that was cleansed in 1992; we haven’t forgotten the Omarska concentration camps. These people are the victims now with the arrival of these refugees. They’re returning with quite a lot of hate against them. They’re showing up at their houses, making them leave and forcing them to take to the road. There’s been some brutality. All we can do is acknowledge that the ethnic partition – in effect sought by the international community because it didn’t assume its responsibilities and in 1991 accepted this method for restabilising borders in Europe – is happening now and is almost over.

TV journalist: Ultimately, should this partitioning, which is visibly happening really fast as we’re seeing with these very substantial population movements, be concluded before winter?

Pierre Salignon: It’s obvious that a fourth or fifth winter is going to be problematic for the region. I think that’s why diplomatic efforts are being deployed so quickly. I’m
thinking more particularly of the enclaves – Gorazde, Sarajevo, Tuzla. Another winter in these areas is going to be a major problem and the international community needs to find solutions, and fast.

TV journalist: Three weeks ago you were in Srebrenica, which hardly gets a mention anymore. It looks like the latest emergency pushes the previous one onto the back burner.

Pierre Salignon: Yes, you’re right. But on the human level, it’s clear that Srebrenica is nothing like what’s happening in Krajina. People are suffering, so I have no wish to enter into a hierarchy of horror, but Srebrenica was an enclave, which isn’t the case for the people in Krajina who are in areas taken and cleansed by the Serbs in 1991. Srebrenica was an enclave besieged for three years. We know how that ended – with the forced deportation of almost 30,000 people and up to 10,000 still unaccounted for.

TV journalist: The Americans are saying there are mass graves near Srebrenica. We must exercise extreme caution, but we’ve seen pictures in some of our newspapers this weekend. Do you think there’s any truth in it? There are said to be 3,000 bodies buried in different locations.

Pierre Salignon: All I can say is that our team stayed right up to the end, until all the people they had access to in Srebrenica were evacuated. They weren’t witness to actual massacres, but they did see civilians being bombed, forcibly displaced and men being separated from women and children. It’s plain that 2,000 or 3,000 or 4,000 people – the figures are relatively high and rising –, as many as 10,000 are missing. We even have men missing from among our staff. We know that our team heard automatic gunfire long after the population was assembled in Potocari. There’s serious concern about what happened to these people, especially as the ICRC has still no access. They’ve visited some of the detention centres but not all of them. So we’re seriously worried about the fate of these 12 to 60 year-old men.

August 1995 – Srebrenica in Memoriam - Christophe Picart/EUP/MSF (English)

August 1995 – Srebrenica in Memoriam - Christophe Picart/EUP/MSF (French)

12 October 1995 - France 2 - Envoyé spécial – Pierre Salignon, MSF (French)

TV journalist: Good evening Pierre Salignon. You are responsible for former Yugoslavia at Médecins Sans Frontières. I would first like to ask you how these accounts were recorded.

Pierre Salignon: These accounts were recorded in the Tuzla region, at the time of the fall of Srebrenica, during the month of August. We met these people after they left the enclave. Most were refugees. We knew a lot of them because we worked with them for over two years in the hospital in the enclave in Srebrenica, or we’d come across them in our operations we had in Srebrenica. The stories they told us are so dire and shocking that we decided to make them public to try and set the record straight about what happened in Srebrenica.

TV journalist: So the proof of their credibility is that you knew them and because around ten of the survivors told similar stories?

Pierre Salignon: Exactly.

TV journalist: How many people are missing?

Pierre Salignon: The numbers put about vary between 5,000 and 8,000, mainly men separated from their families in Potocari or who fled through the forest and of whom we have no news. The ICRC has only been able to see 200 of them so far, which is really making us concerned about what could have happened to them.

TV journalist: And we shouldn’t forget there have been massacres – on both sides.

Pierre Salignon: Yes, and MSF condemns acts committed against civilians, regardless of who perpetrates them. On this subject, I want to make something really clear. In the case of the fall of Srebrenica, it’s the logical conclusion of a process of ethnic cleansing begun in 1993 and now ending with the deportation of more than 30,000 people to Tuzla and 6,000 to 8,000 missing men.

TV journalist: Meaning, you have to compare what’s comparable?

Pierre Salignon: Right, yes.

TV journalist: One last question. You’re obviously continuing your work in former Yugoslavia and in other places in the world, and to bear witness. What do you need to be able to carry on?

Pierre Salignon: What we need is the public’s support, so that we can take action on the ground, care for people and carry on bearing witness like we did for Srebrenica. It’s the public that gives us the means to do it.

May 1996 – Journal de l’année / A Year in Focus MSF F 1995-1996: The Fall of Srebrenica /La chute de Srebrenica (French/English)

29 May 1996 - “Srebrenica, a Bosnian betrayal “ (English/French) 

26 January 2001 - France Inter (radio) - Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, MSF: Mission d'information parlementaire française sur le massacre de Srebrenica en juillet 1995 / French parliamentary fact-finding mission on the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995 (French)

Journalist: Françoise Bouchet Saulnier is Médecins Sans Frontières’ Legal Director. The association lost 22 of its staff in Srebrenica. She explained to Luc Lemonnier that the French parliamentary fact-finding mission is not good enough.

Françoise Bouchet Saulnier: There’s no way parliament can move forward without the government fully cooperating in terms of access to the archives and not just to people. We’ve already seen quite a number of those being interviewed having memory lapses just when it really matters.

Journalist: Regarding the tragic events in Srebrenica, do you think France has a responsibility that it’s now trying to hide?

Françoise Bouchet Saulnier: That isn’t our intention at all. Right now, we’re unfortunately forced to speculate on the causes of the deaths of 8,000 people and, in my view, it’s not worthy of a democracy and definitely not worthy of the investigation that is needed into the effectiveness of the peacekeeping operations. Let’s not forget that the United Nations General Secretary has called on member states, which include France, to conduct an investigation into Srebrenica and for that investigation to be worthy of a democracy. For the moment, we’re not really making any progress with that. We’re not making any pre-judgements regarding France’s military engagement in the Bosnian conflict but the question now is to determine how we can shed light on a tragedy that cost 7,000 people their lives.

March 2001 - Rencontre responsables MSF et membres serbes et bosniaques de la municipalité de Srebrenica/Meeting MSF Officials and Serbs and Bosniak members of the Srebrenica Municipality – EUP/MSF (French)

29 March 2001- Audition Christina Schmitz et Daniel O’Brien, MSF, par la Mission d’enquête parlementaire française sur Srebrenica /  Hearing of Christina Schmitz and Daniel O’Brien, MSF by French Parliamentary Fact-Finding Commission on Srebrenica.

22 June 2001 – A Year in Focus / Journal de l’année – MSF F: French Parliamentary Fact-Finding Commission on Srebrenica / Mission d’information parlementaire française sur Srebrenica (French)

Commentary: Nobody’s forgotten the images. General Mladic assuring the inhabitants of Srebrenica, with an unbelievable cynicism, that nothing was going to happen to them. A hollow promise, of course. We’re in July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces have just taken the Muslim enclave and they’re about to deport the population in full view of the Dutch peacekeepers. A total of 7,000 people were killed and 40,000 deported. But the UN had declared Srebrenica a safe area. So why did the international community stand by and do nothing? Why did the peacekeepers do nothing? Thanks to Médecins Sans Frontières’ campaign, French MPs have set up a parliamentary fact-finding mission to investigate this inaction. MSF was in Srebrenica and Christina Schmitz and Daniel O'Brien watched as casualties they were looking after and 22 members of their local staff disappeared.

Christina Schmitz: A father carrying his one-year old baby came up to me in tears. He was with an armed Bosnian Serb soldier. It was obvious they were going to take him away. He handed me his baby. I thought he would never see his daughter again, so I took his and his baby’s name.

Commentary: Hugely traumatic, but an equally huge question mark. Were the people of Srebrenica sacrificed for political ends? The Dayton Peace Agreement would be signed two months later. But France, which commanded UNPROFOR at the time, did not appear to be seeking greater transparency as the MPs confined themselves to investigating the military aspects of the fall of the enclave, whereas MSF also wants a condemnation of the predictability of the massacres and the lack of response.

Pierre Salignon: If all we do is to look into the fall of the enclave, we absolve the United Nations and France of their responsibilities regarding the massacres that came when the people of Srebrenica were left to the mercy of the Bosnian Serb forces. It wasn’t just the absence of NATO airstrikes to prevent the Serb forces taking Srebrenica. No other plan had been envisioned to ensure the safe evacuation of civilians and non-combatants, which would have conformed to the decisions in the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions.

Commentary: Looking beyond Srebrenica, peacekeeping operations raise questions for countries such as Rwanda and Sierra Leone. What are the roles, what are the responsibilities of humanitarian aid organisations and the military? Clarification is needed more than ever.

29 November 2001 - France 3 – Jean-Hervé Bradol, MSF, Parliamentary Mission into the Srebrenica massacre / Mission parlementaire massacre de Srebrenica (French)

TV journalist: Collective responsibility for a massacre. It is estimated that in 1995 Serb troops executed at least 7,000 civilians in three days in Bosnian town Srebrenica. The parliamentary fact-finding mission has now submitted its report – a conclusion that is also an admission of failure. Julien Colombani explains.

Commentary: He triumphed, Ratko Mladic, as his troops entered the Muslim enclave in Srebrenica on July 11 1995. The Commanding General of the Bosnian Serbs ordered that the men be separated from the women, children and the elderly who were deported. The men were executed. 8,000 deaths, the worst massacre committed in Europe since World War II. The 300 Dutch UN peacekeepers in Srebrenica could do nothing. But, during the first hours of the attack, they had asked General Bernard Janvier, the French head of the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia, to order airstrikes to stop the Serbs. A vain effort. Why? Years later, at the request of Médecins Sans Frontières, a parliamentary fact-finding mission tried to probe the extent of France’s responsibility. This morning it presented its report and emphasised the errors committed by all the countries represented in the UN force.

François Loncle: We have exonerated no one, but we are not accusing anyone in particular, except the two major war criminals.

Commentary: But some of the parliamentarians still have doubts. A few days before the fall of Srebrenica, 376 French peacekeepers who were Serb hostages, were freed. Did France make a trade-off – the hostages in exchange for no military intervention?

Pierre Brana: The minority, and I’m one of them, are saying we have no proof of a deal so we can’t be sure. There may or may not have been a deal. General Janvier or the civilian authorities may have made one. We have no proof either way.

Jean-Hervé Bradol: There are two parts to the conclusions in the report. It highlights the military responsibility while shrouding the political responsibility.

Commentary: Everyone acknowledges that this responsibility is far from being elucidated. It’s going to take a lot more will and time to understand, "Why Srebrenica?"

31 March 2010 - France 3 – Serbian Parliament Public Apology for the Massacre of Srebrenica / Excuses publiques du Parlement serbe pour le massacre de Srebrenica (French)

TV journalist: Serbia is confronting its past. The Serb Parliament has, for the first time, officially condemned the 1995 Srebrenica massacre that left 8,000 dead. The survivors regret that the term ‘genocide’ hasn’t been used but the gesture is appreciated by Europe, which will now examine Serbia’s application.

Commentary: Portraits of Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic, commander of the Bosnian-Serb army, which perpetrated the massacre in 1995. The Serb far-right wants to stage a demonstration in front of the parliament.

Serb extremist: These war crimes were committed by individuals, not a nation. Individuals should be judged, not a nation.

Commentary: This not the opinion of the majority of the parliament. After 13 hours of debate, the Serb parliament voted a resolution condemning the Srebrenica massacre and presented its apologies to the families of the victims.

Nenead Canak: This is only the beginning. It’s just the tip of the iceberg of a past that we must confront as these war crimes are not a legacy we should leave to future generations.

Commentary: July 1995, as war raged in former Yugoslavia and the Serbs in Bosnia began ethnic cleansing of the Bosnian Muslims, Srebrenica was declared a safe area. The peacekeepers were there, as was General Ratko Mladic. After evacuating the women and children, the Serb militias massacred over 8,000 people. In 2004, this slaughter was found to constitute genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia. In Sarajevo, Bosnia, this belated recognition by the Serb state was deemed insufficient.

Woman: I’m disappointed. 15 years on, and the Serbs are still not calling a spade a spade. Genocide is far more than a crime.

Commentary: This is a major step for Serbia on its path to Europe, which is still waiting for Belgrade’s full cooperation regarding the arrest of Ratko Mladic.