UN General Assembly Declares July 11 as International Day of Remembrance for Srebrenica Genocide

Resolution Faces Opposition from Serbia and Bosnian Serbs

On Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring July 11 as an international day of remembrance for the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. This resolution was met with strong opposition from Serbia and Bosnian Serbs.

The 1995 massacre, in which approximately 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian Serb forces overran the U.N. safe zone of Srebrenica, occurred during the Balkan wars following the breakup of Yugoslavia. It is considered Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II.

Resolution Details

The resolution, spearheaded by Germany and Rwanda along with a cross-regional core group of 17 member states, including the United States, was passed by a simple majority of 84 votes in the 193-member General Assembly under its Culture of Peace agenda. The resolution establishes July 11 as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica, to be observed annually.

“Our initiative is about honoring the memory of the victims and supporting the survivors who continue to live with the scars of that fateful time,” stated Antje Leendertse, Germany’s Permanent Representative to the U.N., during the plenary session.

Controversy and Opposition

Serbia and Bosnian Serbs, who deny that the massacre constituted genocide, argue that the resolution unfairly labels Serbia as a “genocidal nation,” although this is not explicitly stated in the text. Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić urged member states to vote against the resolution, claiming it was “highly politicized” and would deepen divisions and cause regional instability.

Leendertse emphasized that the resolution was not aimed against Serbia. Amendments proposed by Montenegro, clarifying that the crime of genocide is individualized and cannot be attributed to any specific group, were included to address Serbian concerns.

In response, towns across Serbia and Bosnia’s Serb Republic displayed Serbian flags and placards reading, “We are not genocidal people, we remember.”

Secession Threat

Prior to the vote, Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik threatened that the Serb Republic, an autonomous region within Bosnia, would secede if the resolution passed. Dodik has repeatedly made secession threats in the past.

Historical Context

On July 11, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces, commanded by General Ratko Mladić, separated men and boys from women and slaughtered them in the following days. Their remains were discovered years later in mass graves across eastern Bosnia, and some relatives still do not know where their loved ones died.

Two international courts have ruled that the massacre was genocide. Mladić and his political chief Radovan Karadžić were sentenced to life imprisonment for war crimes, including genocide, and nearly 50 Bosnian Serbs were also convicted.

Resolution’s Calls to Action

The resolution condemns the denial of the massacre and the glorification of war criminals. It calls for the identification of the remaining victims and the apprehension of all perpetrators still at large. Additionally, it urges member states to incorporate the established facts into their educational systems to prevent denial or distortion of the events.

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