EVENT TITLE: SREBRENICA: GENOCIDE AND ITS LEGACIES
DATE: 16th January 2018
SPEAKERS: SIR GEOFFREY NICE QC, MARTIN BELL OBE
CHAIR: TESSA BLACKSTONE
Good morning everybody, I’m Tessa Blackstone and I’m the Chair for this morning session. We’re going to be talking about Srebrenica, genocide and its legacies and I’m delighted that we have two very distinguished speakers. The first of them is Sir Jeffrey Nice who’s a QC and one of our most distinguished human rights lawyers, I’m not going to go into his career as many of you will know him. But he’s currently a bencher of the inner temple and he’s been a campaigner for raising the awareness of humanitarian crimes.
Our second speaker is Martin Bell who’s a very well-known broadcaster and author and independent politician. He’s one of the few people who have been elected to Parliament as an independent and he was an MP for a number of years. He’s now doing a whole range of different things that I won’t go into but I’ve written a number of books that are relevant to our subject today.
So I’m going to start with Jeffrey Nice, so over to you and then we’ll go on to Martin afterwards and then it will be open to questions and comments.
SIR GEOFFREY NICE QC:
Good morning. I prosecuted the case of Milosevic. I must assume a fairly high level of background knowledge. I’ll deal with some insufficient detail if necessary. I’ll try and speak for less than fifteen minutes.
Srebrenica is the greatest humanitarian disaster, worse than that, tragedy of the 20th Century on European soils is subject to many influences that are determined as the true story will not emerge. So I’m going to tell you about three of those that support that rather curious thesis. Fourth thing them I’ll open it up for questions.
For those of you who don’t know, in the wars of the 1980s, the Balkan wars of the 1990s the first two involving Croatia and Bosnia had Serbia saying ‘not me governor, I was not involved I was an entirely separate state, I had nothing to do with these crimes. What the Serbs in Croatia did, what the Serbs in Bosnia did, nothing to do with me.’
Those of us prosecuting Milosevic we took an entirely different view and said that what was happening in those territories was part of a very long plan going back at least a century whereby Serbia would maintain its authority in the area, not least by having all Serbs living in a single state possibly by enlarging that state and that far from being disengaged from what happened in Croatia, Croatia Serbs tried to carve out and keep Serb quarters for themselves. Engaged was Serbia and Milosevic as its president there. Likewise, in Bosnia when the Bosnian Serbs were trying to create and successfully on the back of genocide something called Republic of Srebrenica as a Serb area, ultimately to be joined on to Serbia proper. Not at all did we say Milosevic was not engaged, he was fully engaged. Not just in supporting troops and providing armaments – he was not just a supermarket for guns and weapons or an employment agency for soldiers. He was fully engaged in controlling events and directing events along with of course Mladic the military general who masterminded the killing of the 18000 men and women plus boys in July 1995 but also of Karadžić.
Now then three separate events aimed to either surprise or shock but maybe for you to put together an understanding why it is why I was on the prosecution side of this case and you might think therefore fully supporting of everything that’s happened by the international community concerning Serbia and I can assert that there’s forces at work to save the truth from ever emerging. Exactly a year ago I was retained by Bosnia with a colleague. And we were asked to do things in relation to what was called a revision of the European Court of Justice case delivered in 2007 in respect of allegations by Bosnia that Serbia as a state had committed breaches of genocide convention. So in short allegations by one state that another state had committed genocide in respect of and relative to an earlier period of time in 1995 on the Eastern parts of Bosnia. I was retained and whereas for Bosnia it was pro bono on this occasion I was paid a modest amount of money. Not all of which was paid.
And what did they want from me? The government of Bosnia? They wanted me simply to sign a document, almost any document that could be part of the application to seek revision of the unsatisfactory 2007 judgement. And the 2007 judgement had been unsatisfactory because it found that Serbia had not breached the genocide convention in respect of what happened to save in the most minimal way but it had not been an act of participant. It was as unsatisfactory as many people thought it was, many people thought that it should be revised if at all possible. Something that can only happen within a ten-year period and that ten-year period ran out in February of last year. They wanted my name on a document – the government of Bosnia. Completely absurd. Because they first asked me to do this in about December of the year before 2015 and I told them years before that the President personally you must do this in the interests of your people, you must set a record of what you believe actually happened. Because if you don’t nobody will. You’re very unlikely to succeed in being allowed a full revision by the European Court of Justice which like all these courts is politically influenced and not to be trusted necessarily. But you as the leader of your state have an opportunity and we would say this is in the 8 or 9 years of my advising people whenever they ask me. You have a duty to try and set out the case that you believe shows the 2007 judgement was wrong. The president reacted in a combination of bad manners, disinterest and deflection for the next 2 years. I had that conversation with him in July 1995 and then he came up through an intermediary who wasn’t to be trusted in a very devious way to get me to sign a document. Why? Because Bosnia had already laid plans that the application would certainly fail. And they simply wanted my signature on an application that they knew and intended would fail.
So that the issue could be closed. Either with responsibility cast elsewhere or at any event without my turning up and telling the truth. Why should that happen? Nobody quite knows. Now let me go back to the trial. Tell you something else. A colleague of mine discovered that there was a series of documents called the Supreme Defence Council records which are the records of the Serbian and Montenegrin federation – called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It had President Milošević and then President of the Republic. They met together in this council, we are the people – chiefs of the general staff and that sort of thing and the ministers. And they made the decisions about the deployment of all Serb forces. And in doing that, they made all sorts of decisions about what happened in the Bosnian forces because they weren’t just supplying people through an employment exchange – they were paying two and three times the going rates for being in a war. They were pensioning, they were promoting generals in Bosnia. This was one of the ways in which we showed we were far from uninvolved in Bosnia – they were in it up to whatever appropriate part of the anatomy you will choose. So we knew that these documents existed, we got hold of these documents which are stenographical recorded, tape recorded, they met about every month and they covered about an eight-year period. And low and behold, just before we might have produced the documents to the public a deal was done whereby depending on your viewpoint the best parts of the document or the worst parts of the document if you were a Serb were blacked out. So although we lawyers could see the documents, the public never could.
Also, they provided us with documents but there some curiously missing bits. And it won’t surprise you to know the missing bits were those bits which surrounded Srebrenica around July 1995. Why should Mrs Delponty who was then the Chief prosecutor against all my advice and for no reason have agreed with Serbia to black out the pieces of evidence which would show the public what actually happened? I don’t know. Complete mystery. As it is a bit of a mystery that the international court of justice which was still in the process of working on its case of Bosnia against Serbia, for which this material would have been immensely valuable, chose to work on the blackout version. Didn’t ask for the full version. And of course from that moment on, the ordinary people in Bosnia of Bosnian ethnicity regarded the missing bits as one of the reasons why they didn’t get in 2007 the decision they wanted.
Third piece of information, we knew that there were intercepts or transcripts of intercepts. Of telephone conversations passing between Mladic and Milosevic at the very time of this. And when I say we know that, first of all these documents which I told you about that were stenographical recorded had Milosevic speaking about the conversations with Milosevic. SO we know that the telephone conversations occurred. In what’s called the Niode Report of the Dutch, there is a footnote of a wince who speaks of Vice President Gor reading from the transcripts to a galaxy of senior officials, including from our own good country reading from the transcripts.
I hope you all understand that somebody prosecuting a case like this could hardly conceive of more valuable material on the question of culpability than tape recorded conversations of the man we say was in some ways the mastermind speaking to the man who’s doing all the killings. What might he have said? He might have said ‘for goodness sake, obey the Geneva Convention and the Hay Convention. Don’t put a foot out of line’ or he might have said ‘I’ve been told by the West that we can do what we like.’ Innocent or guilty? Well we had the applications to get hold of these intercepts and any country that actually said even if it was lying that it didn’t have them – we didn’t have enough to go for them. Several countries did say they didn’t have the intercepts, including one country did not deny that it had them so we dragged them to the Hay to explain to the judges whether they had them and whether they were going to hand them over.
Just a couple of days before that court hearing, no explanation another country walked into the office of Mrs Delponty and told her to withdraw the application. She did. If you look at the internet, you’ll find plenty of material about these intercepts including a very reputable journalist called Andrea Zoomak who’s read them but because of confidentiality of journalists can’t say what’s in them. Maybe we’ll never know.
But this was one of the greatest interventions with rule of law judicial process that one can imagine. And I’m not entirely satisfied that my excuse for not doing more than I did which was simply led eventually to my resignation and no action or any consequence is justified. Maybe I should have shouted more than I did and complained more than I did.
Incidentally my general reaction to the many things that went wrong in the prosecution, a lot of them I find to be properly laid at the door and Mrs Delponty carved it in a book I published called Justice for All in October of last year and its in Appendix One of the list of all the things that went wrong.
Nearly finished. I said four things and you’ve had three. The fourth thing was something we did know of a bit and I’ve just touched on it. We knew that there was a plan to (inaudible) by way of a land swap. You can see it on a wonderful documentary called The Death of Yugoslavia a man called Sandy Urcshbow in May of 1995 explains that there was exceptional tidying up of the map. And there’s lots of other stuff about this which again you can find readily enough on the internet. You can see in a film made by newsnight in 2009 I think, Richard Hobrook the chief negotiator for America saying to the camera ‘I was instructed to sacrifice or abandon’ I can’t remember which word that he uses (inaudible) and there’s then a follow up email from a French journalist called Sylvie Macon I think and she said to me ‘when you said that did you mean just the territory or the territory and the people’ both. So it’s always been well understood that there’s a following wind in the taking of Srebrenica? And it’s at least. And some of us believe we know who it was who handed the message over on the weakened before as well. Or when the massacre started.
If you now look, I’m sorry I’ve gone over 15 minutes but I’m coming to the end. If you now look, the film which you can find readily enough called Wise and it’s Hard to Fall a Dutch documentary by a man called Hoob Yaspars built on material built on the Clinton library a year or so ago in a selected release. It is quite clear that there was a decision made to provide no military support for Srebrenica when it fell. To withdraw air power at a time when the general at the time was in the island of Cortula not expected to come back or even allowed to come back. That decision to withdraw air support was made in the terms of the state department documents that lie beneath this film. The decision was made quietly, between the US the UK and France specifically not telling the Dutch – who as you know were the only remaining forces on the ground who were expecting the air support to come in and who were left to fend for themselves.
Those are four of the little reasons why I fear that the truth of Srebrenica will never be told because there are very strong interests engaged against that truth coming out. I suspect that it’s our duty as citizens to do what we can to ensure that it does come out in the interests of victims, not in the interests of great powers its either that thing or nothing and in order to ensure that the imperfect processes of international justice for war crimes are not unfairly tainted by Srebrenica’s story which is incomplete.
Thank you very much indeed, we’ll go straight on to Martin and then we’ll have questions immediately after that.
MARTIN BELL OBE:
I shall be relatively brief. I’m reminded of something I wrote in a notebook at the height of the war in February 1993 having just met and been embraced by a notorious war criminal called Yusuf Prezeena who defected from one army to another and after hearing him out I wrote in my notebook ‘everyone’s lying but it doesn’t matter because no one’s listening either.’ We’re going back twenty-five and more years and those of us who testified in the tribunal were aware that people’s liberty and the system of justice depended on us remembering correctly what had happened and the reports I there together are at the end of a long and difficult day would be introduced as evidence and I would have to swear that they were mine and listen to what happened. I’m not a lawyer, but I was a journalist. I was the BBC’s principal reporter there from the start of the war to the end and what I want to talk about briefly, let’s revisit the justice or otherwise of the tribunal. Which went out of business a month ago with the suicide of one of the accused. I gave evidence in five cases, I was asked to give evidence in a sixth by Slovian Chavak – the man who took the poison. He was the HBO commander in Moscow at the time of the blowing of the bridge in 1993. Shortly after he arrived in The Hague I got a message from his lawyer asking me to provide him with an alibi as Praliak was sure that he had been interviewed by me in Prezor in central Herkskavina on the day the bridge was blown. I checked my notes, which is why you keep notes and the alibi was one day out. So I didn’t testify for or against, but when he killed himself I wasn’t surprised because I’d known him in the Croatian War as well. What he was before he was a soldier, he was a theatrical director and he staged his own departure. But I did give evidence in the other five cases including those of Manovich and Serbovich and Gaudich. There was a huge debate among the journalists about whether we should testify, whether it’s a compromise on neutrality etc. The Americans without exception refused to do so, most of the British did and I did because I felt and still feel responsible for a citizen to come first and as a journalist second. And as I did this, I was a prosecution witness in all the cases but one. The case in which I was a defence witness gave rise to some various stats set out which I still hold about the justice of a prosecutors’ court. Then an international criminal tribunal of Yugoslavia was established at the darkest time of the war in Bosnia. It was in April 1993, it actually first trial was in June 1996. A very minor Serbian operative called Tydich. And the trial that I was asked by the defence to testify on was that of a man well known to Bob Stewart here, Turban Blastich. He was the commanding colonel commanding the defence of the Croatian enclave in charge of HBO forces at a time of side war between Muslims and Kurds this is central Bosnia the last fevali started in April 1993 and it ended with an agreement in 1994. It was a bitter and savage fight I was in and out of it and the worst atrocity that happened and at times the Aveechi massacre of April 93 in which more than 100 Muslims were killed in cold blood, shot while trying to escape or burned in their homes in the village of Efneechi and the mineralties toppled it was the symbol of ethnic cleansing. Now I was aware of the chaos and anarchy that prevailed at the time and I knew that many of the other warlords and hoodlems all armed who I was sure were an achramanovich not under the command of Blasckvich. Anyway, Blasckvich was charged with crimes against humanity including command responsibility for the arbeechi massacre. He surrenders to the court in 96 and the trial began in 97. I gave evidence in 98, I was in and around this palace at the time I noticed 11 votes on the European election was billed to do so and I have no regrets. And I told what I knew that he was an honourable soldier and I didn’t think I believed that this massacre happened outside his chain of command. In 2000, he was sentenced for 45 years’ imprisonment which is the highest tariff ever imposed by the court. Then after the death of Franyo Tusman, the Croatian president the files of the Croatian intelligence were opened and it became clear that they’d already had been a separate chain of command leading to a bunch of para militaries called the jokers who had carried out this enterprise. Now Karadžić was released the next month and I think that this case will remain as stained on the record of international criminal court and I think my last speech in the House of Commons 2001 was not about any of the issues I was elected. It was about establishing a system of international justice which is interested more in justice than in convictions. I remember I was at an informal occasion shortly after he became secretary general shortly after he out stationed the mission in Mangola as one and Geneva as another and the third was the international criminal court which of course was a UN court. At a social gathering I mentioned to Louise Arbot that I was giving evidence in her defence and she expressed disappointment. I said how can this be? If you’re presiding over a court, your primary interest must be the provision of justice and not conviction. So I think that statement rest with it.
The problem was that the prosecutors and the judges were part of the same operation under the same roof. Geoffrey Robinson QC has expressed his own doubts about this that the defence came in on a day by day basis and were assigned their rooms. They were not part of the machinery of the court. So I think when we look back on it, that should be in mind and never again.
I’m just going to close with a little anecdote because the way you survive these wars and this was a particularly difficult mission for all of us is I got to know Curralidge really well. Kurlachvich was extremely helpful to us for the first six months of the war, I would interview him most days he could. They would hold court in parlais and over bottle of baletynes, they would unroll their maps. I wasn’t so fond of his daughter Sonia. She ran the international press centre in Palais and for 20 deutsch bachs a day would tell you who you were not allowed to see and where you were not allowed to go. So to get our revenge, we invented the golden fish story. The golden fish story goes like this – one day Karadžić is negotiating with the international diplomats about the future map. Always they had maps, wherever they went and it gets her frustrated, he storms out the meeting and goes fishing taking a map with him. And on the banks of the river he catches a golden fish with magical properties and the fish says ‘if you put me back in the river I’ll grant you any wish you have’ and Karadžić says ‘then make this map acceptable to my people’ and the fish says ‘I should’ve told you that I don’t actually do maps, is there anything else I can do for you?’ ‘Yes,’ he said ‘you could make my daughter Sonia the most beautiful young woman in the whole of Bosnia’ and the fish says ‘I think I’ll take another look at that map.’ Thank you for your attention.
Thank you very much indeed. A lot of food for thought there. So it’s open to comments and questions – it would be very helpful if you could say who you are and where you’re from when you make your comment. indeed. A lot of food for thought there. So it’s open to comments and questions – it would be very helpful if you could say who you are and where you’re from when you make your comment. Yes.
Audrey Wells, London University. What is the value in charging anyone with genocide instead of war crimes or crimes against humanity? Because it does seem that as genocide involved proving intentionality its always difficult and very often fails. Why not just charge them with crimes against humanity or war crimes?
SIR GEOFFREY NICE QC:
You’ve touched on an immensely interesting issue. Those of you who find it interesting can find in various sources but in particular in professor William Schabas book, unimaginable atrocities – the history of the coming about of genocide as a crime following on from the London conference set up (inaudible) statute where the Americans made it quite clear that they wanted a narrow definition of crimes against humanity because if the definition was too wide the Americans would be vulnerable for pursuit for crimes against humanity in respect of the things that they had done. One imagines that Jackson had in mind lynching of African Americans and maybe historically the destruction of the native Americans. And so Lampkin who created the term genocide realising that dirty deeds were afoot in this narrow construction of crimes against humanity which meant you could not pursue Germany simply for annihilating the Jews. You could only pursue them for that if it was connected to another war crime. He said that’s not very good is it? You need something better than that. So he went off and he created the genocide convention and then that became a crime. Now, in many ways I agree with your proposition and used to argue it.
Genocide is a troublesome crime, it’s very difficult to prove. It’s no worse in terms of what people actually do than crimes against humanity. It enables film stars to stick the term genocide on this conflict but not on that one and then this conflict gets more attention than that one even if it’s no different in terms of gravity. So I used to support your argument. Not your argument, let’s do without genocide but I’ve changed my mind. Lawyers and politicians for whatever devious reasons gave the citizens of the world this new term – Lenkin gave them the term, the politicians and the lawyers gave it legal meaning. You can’t take that away from the citizen if you’ve given it to them. They now want their suffering to be described as genocide and then to be tried as genocide. We put this work into their Lexicuns why should we take it away? Difficult. And I have come to the conclusion that it’s not right.
Yes at the back
My name’s Anthony Robinson (inaudible) unfortunately my focus was not on Yugoslavia during this period but on all the other things that were happening in the rest of it. But listening to these proceedings bring back a lot of memories including going to (inaudible) and places like that and your answer to the lady’s question reminds me of something that Stalin said. He said ‘one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.’ Why is it not possible given the political nature of the courts that you described, why was it not possible to accuse people of murder?
SIR GEOFFREY NICE QC:
Well because murder is indeed one of the allegations contained within either war crimes or crimes against humanity, but the statutes of these courts follow the international humanitarian law and the crimes that you’re allowed to charge are genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. But the sub-division of those crimes or the particularisation of those crimes certainly includes murder in each one of them. But would there be an advantage in simply charging mass murder? Or maybe there would be, but that’s not the way the statute was designed. There’s certainly no need for allegations to be made any more complicated than effectively murdering one of the war crimes or crimes against humanity or genocide, but again that’s simply not the way it was decided by those creating the statute that it should be done.
The complication is with all these things this so call legal, all these courts all the lawyers and so on and so forth as you said yourself this is essentially a political process. The judgements are already made before the courts and the sitting courts is always coming with such a disappointing endless kind of process which really does no good for anybody. A murder trial where somebody is found guilty of the murder of one human being I’m with Stalin on this.
SIR GEOFFREY NICE QC:
I’d like to come back to that but I expect Martin will have some good input.
MARTIN BELL OBE:
These courts, yes in a sense they’re political courts their judgements are politically freighted. If you go back to the Newenberg tribunals, Robert Jackson drew attention in his famous speech to (inaudible) the accuser and the accused, to which reason if for no other, there had to be justice delivered temperately which would not be victors justice and I think there have been cases where I felt if you look at the effect of these judgements over the years that tribunals have been running it’s been extraordinarily divisive in countries of the Balkans. You know if a Croat were convicted, huge outrage throughout Croatia. You saw it in the hero’s response to frailer couldn’t live with himself. I still think we are better off having had an attempt but we have to learn from the failures. One of the failures and we haven’t mentioned it yet was an extraordinarily protracted length of the proceedings. There was no reason for Blaskit to be on trial for two years. Levich for much longer had to be shorter procedures. I think one of the lessons of history is that we don’t learn the lessons of history – this is one lesson we have to learn.
SIR GEOFFREY NICE QC:
If I can just make my contribution to the question, endorsing entirely what Martin says. First, the criticism of the system I can expand on willingly because I enjoyed my work and funny old English systems enjoyable for the lawyers. Nobody ever suggested it was the best type of proceedings for dealing with war crimes and it is argued we completed the worst. I might come back to that if you give me leave. But there’s one point that I should make and that is that although there may well have been political interference in some trials and I can certainly speak efforts to interfere with my trial by and large I think the lawyers and most of the judges were doing their best within the constructed system. And I don’t think it would be fair to say that all the verdicts were political or in any way politically influenced. And indeed of the judges who got very good credit for being fair judges it happens that the English judges did very well and the Australian judges and all the American judges bar one got very good reputations where as some of the other judges from smaller companies who were owed promises by their governments or who had alcohol problems to solve or wanted an easy ticket to work three and a half day weeks somewhat less favourable things can be said about them. But Martins point is one which I would expand on if I were allowed to go into the procedure generally. There was indeed no reason for these trials to be as long as they were apart from the ludicrous English adversarial system that had been imposed. You can pick up a copy of the New York Times from about October 1995 and see a well-researched thorough analysis of what happened at Srebrenica which is hardly being beaten by the verdicts which are being brought in 20 years after the event. Now, we live in a modern age we don’t live in the 18th or 17th century when these procedures of ours which we tell the world are the best in the world. English legal system best in the world. When did you ever trust a bragger? But that’s what we do. And we should be able to find systems that maybe inquisitorial in nature rather than adversarial but we should be able to find systems that can bring to the victim the resolution that she or he wants in months not years. There’s one particular point I’ll deal with but let’s have the next question.
Rod White, observer of world events particularly in the Balkans. It seems to me that the rewriting of the map of the Balkans has been going on for many hundred years. It seems to me that the date in agreement was (inaudible) these regions were designated in other words there was fate for them and that fate was that it was too far from Zagreb or it was over on the East let them sort it out – sacrifice them. At the time I was there, 93-95, the coverage and the press was actually quite accurate. Particularly in Croatia which had an interest in it. It’s always mystified me how the relevant generals or parliamentary people, the Dutch forces were withdrawn the very weekend before the actual massacre and Mark of course is right there were many hundreds being killed, murder, starved over the past prior years. And there’s been no justice.
Martin would you like to –
MARTIN BELL OBE:
Well of course there were half a battalion of Dutch peacekeepers there, I think the total number was 308 totally demoralised but the point Sir Geoffrey’s making is we still don’t know the truth of what’s happened. I mean it was one of the great disasters in the history of the United Nations and it was a failure of the Western democracies from start to finish that we could have done more than we did when it fell. I’ve written extensively about the effects of the premature recognition of creation that was decided in December 1991. A whole series of mistakes impacting on the other I think it’s a disgraceful episode in all our histories.
SIR GEOFFREY NICE QC:
You know what I’d like, I wonder if the honourable member for Beckenham might have something to say? Because he was a prime witness!
I wasn’t going to say anything…
SIR GEOFFREY NICE QC:
I know you weren’t, that’s why I thought I’d provoke you!
You’re quite welcome to, sir.
I don’t quite know what I’m going to say… I heard on the radio (inaudible) in April 1993. My intelligence section is listening to the commercial radios; it may be that I can’t remember. I asked for permission to go to Srebrenica from the UN – it was well out of my area. The British were unhappy. Mind the fact we were overstretched. But with approval from General Philip Morion, I was allowed by the British command to take forces into Srebrenica. We led in with the peace core, it took us two days to get in when we arrived just outside Srebrenica about twenty people were killed. It was disastrous. I think I had a couple of soldiers wouldn’t but no deaths but twenty people were killed because the Bosnian Serb Army shelled the vehicles as we arrived.
That makes you more determined to stay there actually. There was a doctor called Simon Waddell who should have got the Georgian Red Cross, I don’t know whether you can remember him. I recommended him for George Cross for the way he acted at the time. He got nothing because the World Health Organisation bid into my recommendation, but I say it publically now he should have got the George Cross. He was a civilian.
The fact of the matter was we stayed and Philip Morion came and joined us. We were then ordered out. Out of Srebrenica, Morion sat in a wheelbarrow smoking a cigar with his legs crossed. Because when he tried to give the order, the people wouldn’t let us withdraw. My soldiers were very reluctant anyway, we felt we should be there and in the end it became what Geoffrey would call a so called protected area. That’s what they called it. Once we were there I felt that we should stay, but the British were very extended. We were very extended. It was a hell of a long way for us to cover. We’d already covered the South in Bosnia and I was ordered we were to be replaced by Canadian troops. And the Canadians came and they were good, they were very good.
We withdrew and we withdrew from Bosnia my unit. And I don’t know if this story’s got anything to do with it but frankly that’s the limit of my knowledge of it apart from the fact my observation in July 1995 where I was chief of policy at the supreme headquarters in Europe and when I heard that Srebrenica was occurring I was still in the army at Monz. I went to Saka as supreme ally commander Europe and said this is disgraceful you should get in and sort this out. I was told to shut up when I asked what the Dutch were doing, I take a different view perhaps to Martin, Commanding Officer Kerimenz was a coward he should not have capitulated the Dutch soldiers were like soldiers anywhere – well led, they would be fine, their morale was foul. But the excuse given, and I remember going home to Claire my wife was sitting beside me who was (inaudible) the British Red Cross in Bosnia the same time as me and saying ‘the Dutch are saying it didn’t open fire because their anti-tank weapons are out of date.’ Okay? And Claire’s comment, and I’ll end there was ‘all weapons are out of date in Bosnia.’
In my view, whatever the law the trials took place, Srebrenica was a bloody disgrace and if we have good troops with good commanders the Dutch would have opened fire and Bladich, Karadžić would have stopped. Because of a failure of nerve, 7380 men and boys were murdered. I’ve got to go shortly but that’s my view on it. I have given evidence as Geoffrey knows. He used to give me a hard time. Even wanted my wife to give evidence at some stage, but that was not allowed because she’s delicate. But the fact of the matter is I think this is a very good summary, I think you’ve got two first class people. Geoffrey – he won’t say it, I will – was an outstanding lawyer gave evidence in five trials to outstandingly sensible and really good and a beacon of how you should conduct things in an uncertain legal situation which was the ICTY. Martin Bell’s dodgy because of course he’s a journalist and I’m joking here, Martin Bell would have dinner with me each night and I’d ask him for advice as to what I should do. Generally, I took it. Although I have to say it’s quite difficult taking advice from someone who was the last corporal in Suffolk.
Thank you, thank you very much. Any more comments or questions?
Andrew Ross, I kind of created this event so it’s very personal and I’d just like to thank Colonel for your words its very emotional for my experiences and Tom here beside me. I don’t say this lightly but I feel the British had quite a lot of failures during this time period. So my question to the panel would be what can we do now? To right those wrongs? And is there anything that you would suggest in way of lessons that could be learned from the whole period?
Big question and a good one, I was going to foot it myself were the questions from the floor going to dry out. Anyway, over to you both.
SIR GEOFFREY NICE QC:
There are a lot of lessons to be learned. One is the almost inevitably unsatisfactory nature of multinational with some contingents to the business and others are completely capable. I think that we should never get in to a situation like this without the determination to stay there. The mandate was unworkable and for the war to reach the conclusion that it did with data required unfortunately the Srebrenica massacre and the second marketplace bombing at the end of August and the arrival of creation main force units which were already collapsing the Serbs frontlines. But I think there are many lessons to be learned both on the political and military and diplomatic level. And indeed on the journalistic we weren’t perfect either.
MARTIN BELL OBE:
Has it ever occurred to you that there is no principal philosophy or proactive of confession? In cases in court we ask the defendant to plead guilty either to acknowledge his guilt or to save court time. But there is no politician who will confess to anything. There is no government institution who will confess to anything if its interests are engaged. And that is why those involved in this sort of work will accept the proposition that victims count for nothing. This conflict and any other where there are competing influences from great powers.
What can you do to sort out the Srebrenica problem? You cannot persuade the Serbs, the American government, the British government, the French government to tell the truth. Because that is what you need and that is what the victims have always needed to bring their suffering to an earlier close to the extent that they’re suffering may ever be closed.
We now need, the public who are not interested in the interests of big states and big powerful international communities. We need documents. And we will not get them. Serbia is at this moment trying to recover from the international criminal tribunal from former Yugoslavia all the documents that are lodged there that haven’t been used. But worse than that in the trials, and this is the point I said at the beginning and this is what I might come back to our mechanism in the trial was to go through a courtly dance with states whether it was Serbia who was clearly an aggressor state or America who was an involved state holding documents that would be revealing go through a courtly dance that would take how long to get a document? A day? A week? A month? A year? Two years? Three years? Three years! For critical documents and we still didn’t get them. Because the court was designed to enable countries to have every advantage they could in keeping documents away. They weren’t interested in the victims. They had other interests.
Well thank you very much, I’d like to thank Geoffrey and Martin for their contribution – we could have gone on a lot longer. I personally had a question about Myanmar generals but that’s a whole new subject. Thank you again and thank you all for coming.