“We must remember what happened in Srebrenica and Rwanda,” says Tribunal Prosecutor

“We must remember what happened in Srebrenica and Rwanda,” says Tribunal Prosecutor©MICT
MICT Prosecutor Hassan B. Jallow
3 min 45Approximate reading time

Hassan Bubacar Jallow from Gambia is Chief Prosecutor for both the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) -which is winding up at the end of this year- and the UN Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (UNMICT). In an interview with JusticeInfo.Net, he says all humanity must remember that genocide occurred in Srebrenica.


JusticeInfo.net:  Twenty years on, some countries (Serbia and Russia notably) still do not want to recognize the Srebrenica massacre as genocide, although it has been recognized as such by the ICTY. Why this refusal, according to you?


Hassan B. Jallow: Serbia has recognized that terrible crimes did indeed take place in Srebrenica. The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor has also recently indicted Serbs involved in the crimes in Srebrenica, although none of them are charged with genocide. I welcome these important steps. And I hope that eventually all states will recognize that genocide did indeed take place in Srebrenica


JusticeInfo.net: What should be done by the International community to ensure that the Srebrenica genocide is recognized worldwide?


HBJ: Fortunately, the international community has done a lot already. To a whole generation of people in Europe, and indeed all over the world, the Srebrenica genocide has been entrenched as one of the important, defining moments in our history. It was the biggest crime in Europe after the Second World War and it really brought to the forefront the need for accountability for such crimes. ICTY was operating when the genocide took place and everyone looked to the ICTY to deal with the masterminds of the genocide – and it has indeed done so in a string of cases. So, the international community has done some very important work not only to ensure that those responsible for the genocide in Srebrenica are held accountable, but it has also through that process clearly documented, in undisputable terms, that what happened in Srebrenica was a genocide. The International Court of Justice has also recognized that the crimes in Srebrenica amount to genocide.


JusticeInfo.net:  What could be the consequences to humanity if the Srebrenica genocide is not recognized as such?

HBJ: The first consequence would be that we effectively deny the victims and survivors justice. But the reason that genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes are international crimes is that they affect all of us – humanity as a whole, because the genocide perpetrator intends to destroy, in whole or in part, national, ethnical, racial or religious groups. That deprives us of the diversity and contributions that all human groups bring to humanity. If we want to avoid genocide being committed in the future, we must recognize when it has happened in the past. We must therefore remember what happened in Srebrenica, Rwanda and other places, and stand firm in our condemnation of these crimes that are an attack on humanity as such.


JusticeInfo.net: In countries (or situations) where genocide has been recognized, has it made a difference?


HBJ: If you go back to the Second World War again and look at how Germany has dealt with the Holocaust, I think that we see a real example of how a country through recognition of truly horrible crimes has been able to move forward. Through recognition of the horrors of the Nazi regime and a determination to ensure stability in Europe, Germany became one of the pillars in creating a unified Europe where peace has prevailed for 70 years. In the case of Rwanda, I think that the recognition by the ICTR that indeed there was a genocide in Rwanda has been very important for the developments in that country as well. Rwanda has also prosecuted an impressive number of cases, a lot through its traditional justice system – the Gacaca courts. I think this has also made genocide denial difficult.

JusticeInfo.net: Was it easy before the ICTR to have the Tutsi genocide recognized as such?

HBJ: Genocide has a specific intent requirement, which can make it a difficult crime to prove. The difficulty is that you not only have to prove that the accused intended to commit murder, cause serious harm and so on, but also that their intent was to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group. It is rare that you have direct evidence of that purpose, so you have to draw inferences from the circumstances in which the crime was committed. That can be a challenge, but in both Rwanda and Srebrenica the circumstances were clear: genocide was committed and it was proved in court.


JusticeInfo.net:  Is genocide "the hardest crime to prove", as some people say?

HBJ: It is true that the specific intent requirement for genocide makes it a difficult crime to prove, but there are also difficult elements one has to prove for other crimes. For crimes against humanity it has to be proven that there was a widespread or systematic attack on the civilian population. For war crimes it has to be proven that the crime was committed in the context of an armed conflict. All of these things make cases large and difficult to prove.  And there are other things, such as the sheer scale of the crimes that make them difficult to investigate and prosecute. However, in all the ICTY cases regarding the events at Srebrenica 20 years ago, it has been found that there was a genocide in Srebrenica.


JusticeInfo.net: Your message on the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide?


HBJ: My thoughts are with its many victims and survivors. We must honour them by doing everything we can to ensure that there will be no more victims of the heinous crime of genocide in the future. That process starts by recognizing what happened in the past. I am therefore happy to be able to, in Srebrenica on Saturday with survivors, manifest our recognition that genocide took place in Srebrenica 20 years ago and express our commitment to preventing it and all other forms of mass atrocity in the future.