Srebrenica: Genocide and its Legacies

Time: 13:00 – 14:00, Tuesday 16th January 2018
Location: Committee Room 2A, House of Lords, London SW1A OPA
Speakers: Sir Geoffrey Nice QC and Martin Bell OBE
Event Chair: The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone


The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
Good morning everybody I’m Tessa Blackstone and I’m the chair for this morning’s session. We’re going to be talking about Srebrenica, genocide and its legacies and I am delighted that we have two very distinguished speakers. The first of them is Sir Geoffrey Nice who’s a QC and one of our most distinguished human rights lawyers. I’m not going to go into his career, 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 a very well-known broadcaster and author and an 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 which I won’t go into but he’s written a number of books relevant to our subject today. So I’m going to start with Geoffrey Nice so over to you and then we will go onto Martin afterwards and then it will be open to questions and comments.

Sir Geoffrey Nice
Good morning I prosecuted the case of Slobodan Milosevic, I must assume a fairly high level of background knowledge I will deal with it with sufficient detail if necessary, I will try to speak for less than 15 minutes. Srebrenica has the greatest humanitarian disaster, worse than that, tragedy of the 21st Century on European soils it’s subject to many influences which are determined that the true story of Srebrenica will not emerge. So I’m going to tell you about three of those or three events that support that rather curious thesis and then 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 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.’

For those of us prosecuting Milosevic 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 hegemony 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 when Croatia Serbs tried to carve out and keep Serb quarters for their selves engaged was Serbia and Milosevic as its President there. Likewise in Bosnia when the Bosnian Serbs where trying to create and successfully on the back of genocide something called republic of [inaudible] as a Serb area ultimately to be joined on to Serbia Poppa not at all did we say that Milosevic wasn’t engaged he was fully engaged not just in supporting troops and providing arms, he was not just a supermarket for providing guns and weapons or an employment agency for soldiers, he was fully engaged in controlling events and directing events along with of course Mladic who was a military general who masterminded the killing of the 8000 plus men and boys in July 1995 but also of Karadžić.

Three separate events aimed at either trying to surprise or shock you but maybe for you to put together understanding what it is that I on the prosecuting side of this case and you might think therefore fully supportive of everything what’s happened by the international community concerning Srebrenica. I can assert that there are 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 revision or an attempt at 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 the genocide convention so in short allegations by one state that another state had committed genocide in respect of Srebrenica but also an earlier period of time in 1995 on the eastern parts of Bosnia.

I was retained and whereas for the previous 9 years all the work for Bosnia I had done had been pro-bono simply when asked, on this occasion I was paid a modest amount of money, not all of which was paid. What did they want of me the government of Bosnia? They wanted me to simply sign a document almost any document that could be part of the application to seek revision of the unsatisfactory 2007 judgement. The 2007 judgement had been unsatisfactory because it found that Serbia had not breached the genocide convention in respect of what happened at Srebrenica so saying the most minimal way that it had not been an active participant. Judgement was unsatisfactory, many people thought it was, many people thought that it should be revised if at all possible. Something that can only happen within a 10 year period and that 10 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 15 and I told them years before that the President personally, you must do this in the interest 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 Justice like all these courts are politically influenced and not to be trusted necessarily. But you as the leader of your state have an opportunity and we would say this in the 8/9 years of my advising people of 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, un-interest and deflection for the next 2 years I had that conversation with him in July 1995. 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. They simply wanted my signature on an application 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 were the records of the Serbian and Montenegrin federation called the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It had a President each then there was President of the Republic, three Presidents and they met together in this council, we are the people, chief of general staff and that sort of thing other ministers and they made the decisions about the deployment of all Serb forces. 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 at 2 and 3 times the going rate at being in a war, they were pensioning, they were promoting generals in Bosnia. This was one of the ways in which we showed that they were far from un-involved in Bosnia, they were in it to whatever appropriate part of the anatomy you chose. So we knew that these documents existed, we got told of these documents which were stereographically recorded, tape recorded, they met about every month and they covered about an 8 year period. And lone behold just before we might of produced the documents to the public, a deal was done whereby depending on your view point, the best parts of the document or the worst parts of the documents if you were a Serb, where blacked out.

So although we the lawyers could see the documents, the public never could. Also they provided us with the documents but there were some curiously missing bits and it won’t surprise you to know the missing bits were those bits that surrounded Srebrenica around July 1995.

Why should Mrs Delpointe who was then the chief prosecutor against all my advice and for no reason had agreed with Serbia to black out the pieces of evidence that 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 blacked out version, the sanitised 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 Srebrenica. But when I say we know that, first of all these documents I’ve told you about which were stereographically recorded has Milosevic speaking about these conversations with Mladic. So we know that the telephone conversations occur.

In what’s called the NIOD report of the Dutch, there is a footnote of a witness who speaks of Vice President Gal reading from the transcripts to a galaxy of senior officials including from our own good country, reading from the transcripts.

I hope you will 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 whose doing all the killing. What might he have said? He might of said ‘for goodness sake obey the Geneva convention and the Hague convention don’t put a foot out of line’ or he might of 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 they didn’t have them, we didn’t have enough to go for them. Several countries did say that they didn’t have the intercepts including, one country did not deny that it had them and so we dragged them to The Hague 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 Delpointe and told her to withdraw the application, which she did.

If you look around the internet, you’ll find there’s plenty of material about these intercepts including from a very reputable journalist called Andrew Zulac who’s read them but because of confidentiality of journalistic sources he can’t say what’s in them. Maybe we will never know but this was one of the greatest interventions with rule of law judicial process that one can imagine. I’m not entirely satisfied that my excuse for not doing more than I did which would have simply led to my resignation and no action and any consequence is justified. Maybe I should of shouted more than I did and complained more than I did. Incidentally my general reaction to the many things which went wrong in the prosecution of Milosevic, many of them I find to be properly laid at the door of Mrs Delpointe which is covered in a book I published called justice for all in October of last year and in Appendix 1 is a list of all things that went wrong.

Nearly finished but I said there were 4 things, you’ve had 3. The fourth thing was something of which we did know a bit and I just touched on it. We knew that there was a plan to let Srebrenica and the other Eastern enclaves go by way of a land swap. You can see it on a wonderful documentary called the death of Yugoslavia, a man called Sandy [inaudible] in May of 1995 explains there was [inaudible] in 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 News night in 2009 I think, Richard Holbrook the chief negotiator the chief negotiator for America saying to the camera, I was instructed to sacrifice or abandon, I can’t remember which word he uses Gardijan and Srebrenica and he was in a follow up email from a French journalist and she says in the email when you said that do you mean just the territory or the territory and the people – both. So it’s all understood that there was a following wind in the taking of Srebrenica at the least. Some of us believe who it was that handed the message over on the weekend before Srebrenica fell. 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 at a film which you can find readily enough called why Srebrenica had to fall, a Dutch documentary my a man called Hub Yaspers built on material released from 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 to Srebrenica when Srebrenica fell, to withdraw air power at a time when the general in charge was in the Island of Cotulla and not expected to come back or even allow to come back. That decision to withdraw air support was made in the terms of the state department documents that remain at the root of this film. The decision was made quietly between the United States, the United Kingdom and France specifically not telling the Dutch who as you will 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 4 of the 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 the victims not in the interests of great powers who did this, that or the other thing or nothing. In order to ensure that the imperfect processes of international justice for war crimes are not unfairly tainted by the Srebrenica story which is not yet complete.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
Thank you very much indeed we will go straight on to Martin and then we will have questions and a meeting after that.

Martin Bell
I shall be relatively brief. I’m reminded by something I wrote in a notebook on the [inaudible] on the trial at the height of the war in February 1993 having just met and been embraced by a notorious criminal called Yousef [inaudible] who defected from one army to another. After hearing him out I wrote in my notebook – everyone’s lying but it doesn’t matter because no-one is listening either. We are going back 25 or more years and those of us who testified in the tribunal were aware that people’s liberties and the system of justice dependant on us remembering correctly what had happened and reports I threw together in a hurry at the end of a long and difficult day will be introduced as evidence and I would have to swear that they were mine, this is what happened. I’m not a lawyer but I was a journalist so I was the BBCs principle reporter there from the start of the war to the end and there was, 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 actually the suicide of one of the accused.

I gave evidence in 5 cases, I was asked to give evidence in a sixth by Slobodan Praljak the man who took the poison he was the HPO commander in Bosnia at the time of the blowing of the bridge in November 1993 and shortly after he arrived in The Hague I got a message from his lawyer asking me to provide him with an alibi because Praljak was sure that he had been interviewed by me 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 had known him in the Croatian wars as well. What he was before he was a solider he was a theatrical extra and he stage managed his own departure.

But I did give evidence in the other 5 cases including those of Mladic and Srebrenica, there as a huge debate amongst the journalists about whether we should testify, whether it compromised on neutrality etc. etc. The Americans without exception refused to do so and most of the British did and I did because I felt and still feel that responsibilities as a citizen come first and as a journalist second. As I did this I was a prosecution witness in all cases but one. In the case in which I was a defence witness gave rise to some serious doubts which I still hold about the justice of a prosecutor’s court.

In the international criminal tribunal the [inaudible] of Yugoslavia we established the Dagestan war in Bosnia it was in April 1993, it actually its first trial was in June 1996 a very minor Serbian operative called Tallech and the trial I was asked by the defence to testify on was that of a man well known to Bob Stewart here [inaudible] Blasvic. Blasvic was the commanding colonel commanding the defence of the Croatian enclave who was in charge of forces from the time of the side war between Muslims and [inaudible] this was in central Bosnia started in April 93 and it ended with an agreement in 94. It was a bitter and savage fight and I was in and out of it and the worst atrocity what happened in that time was the massacre of April 93 in which more than 100 Muslims were killed in cold blood, shot by trying to escape or burned in their homes in the village of [inaudible] and the inaudible toppled it was the symbol of ethnic cleansing.

Now I was aware of the chaos and anarchy which prevailed at the time and I knew many of the other warlords who were all armed who I’m sure was [inaudible] not under the command of Blasvic. Anyway Blasvic was charged with crimes against humanity including command responsibility for the Abechi massacre. He went to the court in 96 the trial began in 97 I gave evidence in 98 I was in around this palace at the time and I missed 11 votes on the European elections but I had to do so and I have no regrets. I told what I knew that he was an honourable solider and I didn’t think, I believed that this massacre happened outside his change of command.

In 2000 he was sentenced to 45 years imprisonment which was the highest tariff ever imposed by the court then after the death of Franjo Tudjman the Croatian President the files of the Croatian intelligence were opened and it became clear that there had been a separate chain of command leading to a bunch of paramilitaries called the [inaudible] who had carried out this enterprise. Now Blasvic was released the next month and I think that this case will remain as a stain on the record of the international criminal court and I think on the occasion of my last speech in the House of Commons in 2001 I didn’t talk about any of the issues I was elected on 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 I was accompanying Kofi Annan shortly after he became secretary general and I took some of his out stations, the mission in Angola was one, the Geneva agencies were another and a third was the international criminal court which was of course a UN court. It was a social gathering and I mentioned to Louisa Abbott that I giving evidence in the 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 stain rests with it.

The problem was that the prosecutors and the judges were part of the same operation under the same roof. Jeffrey Robinson QC has expressed his own doubts about this that the defence came in on a day by day basis and where 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 brought in mind and never again.

I’m just going to close with a little anecdote because the way you survive these wars, this was a peculiarly difficult mission for all of us, I got to know Karadžić really well, Karadžić was really helpful to us for the first 6 months of the war I would interview him most days, he would, they would hold court in Paly and over a bottle of bannatynes they would unroll their maps. I wasn’t so fond of his Sonia. Sonia ran the international press centre in Paly and for 20 Dutch pounds a day she would tell you who you were not allowed to see and were you were not allowed to go. So to get our revenge we invented the golden fish, the golden fish story goes like this. One day Karadžić is negotiating with the international diplomats about the future map. The always had maps with them wherever they went. And he gets so frustrated he storms out of the meeting and goes fishing taking a map with him. On the banks of the river he catches a golden fish with magical powers and the fish says if you put me back in the river I will grant you any wish that you have. And Karadzic says yes make this map acceptable to my people. And the fish says I should have told you that I don’t actually do maps is there anything else I can do for you. Yes he said you can make my daughter Sonia the most beautiful young women in the whole of Bosnia and the fish says I think I’ll take another look at that map. Thank you for your attention.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
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 put your question or make your comments.

Question 1
Audrey Wells, London University. What is the value in charging anyone with genocide as opposed to war crimes or crimes against humanity because it does seem that as genocide involves proving intentionality it is always difficult and very often fails? Why not just charge them with crimes against humanity or war crimes?

Sir Geoffrey Nice
You’ve touched on an immensely interesting issue. Those of you who find it interesting can find in various sources but in particular Professor William Schabas’ book unimaginable atrocities the history of the coming about of genocide as a crime following on the London conference that set up the Nierenberg statue 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 or tend to destruction of the Native Americans. And so Lemkin who invented 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 that if it was connected to another war crime. He said that’s not very good is it, we need something better than that so he went off and he created the genocide convention and then that became 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 is not worse in terms of what people actually do than crimes against humanity it enables film stars to stick 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 and say let’s do without genocide but I’ve changed my mind. Lawyers and politicians for whatever devious reasons gave the people, gave the citizens of the world this new term. Lemkin gave them the term, the politicians and lawyers gave it legal meaning. You can’t take that away from the citizen if you have given it to them. They now want their suffering to be described as genocide and then to be tried as genocide. We put this word into their lexicons why should we, because we the sort of whatever we are, the lawyer literacy or whatever we might call ourselves, why should we take it away. Difficult. I’ve come to the conclusion not right.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
Thank you. Yes at the back.

Question 2
My names Andrew Robinson I used to be East Europe affairs for the international times but 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] places like that and your answer to the ladies question reminded of something 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 describe, why was it not possible to accuse people of murder?

Sir Geoffrey Nice
Because murder is indeed one of the allegations contained within either war crimes or crimes against humanity but the statues of these courts follow the international humanitarian law and the crimes you’ll allowed to charge are genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes but there’s the sub-division of those crimes or the particulisation of those crimes certainly include murder in each one of them. Would there be an advantage in simply charging mass murder, maybe there would be but that’s not the way the statue was designed.

There’s certainly no need, there would have been no need for allegations to be made any more complicated than effectively prosecuting one of the most war crimes or crimes against humanity or possibly genocide but again that’s simply not the way it was decided by those creating the statue that it should be done.

Audience member
I hate to complicate it but all these things so-called legal, all these courts, all the lawyers, as you said yourself this is essentially a political process. The judgements are already made before the courts sit and the sitting of the courts always comes with such a disappointing, endless kind of process which really does no good for anybody. A murder trial when somebody is found guilty of the murder of one human being, I’m with Stalin on this.

Sir Geoffrey Nice
I’d like to come back to that but I would suspect Martin will have some input.

Martin Bell
These courts in a sense yes there criminal courts there are judgements which are politically fretted. If you go back to the Nierenberg tribunals, Jackson drew attention in his famous speech to the disparities between the accusers and the accused for which reason if no other there had to be justice delivered temperamentally which would not be victor’s justice and I think there have been cases where if you look at the effect of these judgements over the years that the tribunals have been running, it has been extraordinary decisive in all the countries in the Balkans if a [inaudible] was convicted there was huge outrage throughout Croatia and you saw it in the hero’s response in [inaudible] death of himself. But I still think we are better off for having had an attempt but we have to learn from the failures.

One of the failures and we haven’t mentioned it yet was the extraordinary protractive length of the proceedings. There was no reason for Blasick to be on trial for 2 years, Mladic for much longer. There had to be shorter procedures. I think one of the lessons of history is that we don’t always learn the lessons of history and this is one lesson we have to learn.

Sir Geoffrey Nice
If I can just make my contribution to the question, endorsing entirely what Martin says. First the criticisms of the system I can expand on willingly because although 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 is arguably completely the worst, I might come back to that if you give me lead. But there is one point I should make and that is that although there may well have been political interference in some trials and I can certainly speak of 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 happened that the English judges did very well and the Australian judges and all the American judges bar one as it happens have got very good reputations whereas some of the other judges from smaller countries who were owed promises by governments or had alcohol problems they solved or wanted an easy ticket work 3 and a half day weeks, somewhat less favourable things can be said about them.

But Martin’s point was one that I would expand on if I was 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 in Srebrenica which has hardly been beaten by the verdicts that have been brought within 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 are maybe inquisitorial in nature rather than adversarial but we should be able to find systems that can bring to the victim the resolution that he or she wants in months not years. That’s one particular point I will deal with but let’s have the next question.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
Next question.

Question 3
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 with the date and agreement with Srebrenica particularly, these enclaves or these regions where designated in other words there was a fate for them and that fate was there was too far from Zagreb or it was over on the East sort of sacrificed them. At the time I was there at the time in 93 and 95 the coverage in the press was actually quite accurate, particularly in Croatia which had had an interest in it. But it’s always mystified me how the relevant general or parliamentary people and the Dutch forces at Srebrenica were withdrawn the very weekend before the actual massacre. Martin of course is right there were many hundreds of people who had been killed, murdered, starved over the prior couple of years and there’s been no justice.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
Martin would you like to begin.

Martin Bell
Well there was half a battalion of Dutch peacekeepers there I think the total number was 308, totally demoralised before this happened and the points that Sir Geoffrey is making that we still don’t know the full truth of what happened. It was one of the great disasters in the history of the United Nations and it was a failure of Western democracies from start to finish that we could have done more than we did. I was in Vukava when it fell, I have written extensively about the effects of the premature recognition of Croatia decided in December 1991. A whole series of mistakes impacting on the other I think it’s a disgraceful episode in all of our histories.

You know what I’d like to do. I wonder if the honourable member for Beckenham might have something to say because he was a prime witness, Colonel Bob.

Bob Stewart MP
I wasn’t going to say anything…

Martin Bell
I know you weren’t that’s why I wanted to invoke you.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
You are very welcome to do so.

Bob Stewart MP
I’m not sure what I’m going to say. I heard on the radio the pleas for people to come and save us in April 1993. My intelligence section was listening to the commercial radios, Martin may have been there I can’t remember. I asked for permission to go to Srebrenica from the United Nations which was well out of my area and the British were unhappy. Mindful of the fact we were overstretched but with approval from General Philip Morian I was allowed by the British command to take forces into Srebrenica. We led in with the [inaudible] it took us two days to get in. When we arrived at Srebrenica just outside Srebrenica about 20 people were killed. Mainly civilians it was disastrous, I think I had a couple of soldiers wounded but no deaths, 20 people were killed because the Bosnian-Serb army shelled the vehicles as we arrived.

That made us more determined to stay there actually. There was a doctor called Simon Mardel who should have got the George Cross I don’t know whether you remember him, I recommended him for the George Cross for the way he acted at the time. He got nothing because the World Health Organisation binned 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 Morian came and joined us. We were then ordered out, out of Srebrenica. Morian sat in a wheelbarrow smoking a cigar with his legs crossed because when he tried to give the order to withdraw the people wouldn’t let us withdraw. My soldiers were very reluctant anyway, we felt we should be there and in the end if 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 had already covered north to south in Bosnia and it was ordered that we would be replaced by Canadian troops. The Canadians came and they were good, they were very good. We withdrew from Bosnia, my unit, I don’t know if this story has got anything to do with it but frankly it is the limit of my knowledge to it apart from the fact my observation in July 1995 where I was Chief of Policy at Supreme [inaudible] Europe. And when I heard that Srebrenica was occurring I was still in the army I went to [inaudible] supreme head of command in Europe and said this is disgraceful we 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 than Martin. Commanding Officer Kerimans was a coward he should have not [inaudible]. The Dutch soldiers were like soldiers anywhere, were led they were fine, their moral was foul but the excuse given, and I remember going home to Clare, my wife who is sitting beside me who is a delegate of the British Red Cross in Bosnia same time as me, and saying the Dutch are saying they didn’t open fire because their tank weapons are out of date. Clare’s comment and I will end there was all weapons are out of date in Bosnia.

In my view whenever the trials took place Srebrenica was a bloody disgrace and if we’d had good troops with good commanders, the Dutch would have opened fire and Mladic, Karadzic would have stopped. Because of a failure of nerve, 7,380 men and boys were murdered. I’ve got to go shortly but that’s my view on it. I have given evidence Sir Geoffrey knows, he used to give me a hard time, he even wanted my wife to give evidence at one stage I think but that is not allowed because she is a delegate. But the fact of the matter is I think it is a very good summary I think you’ve got two first class people, Geoffrey although he won’t say it I will, is an outstanding lawyer because I gave evidence in 5 trials, outstanding 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 is a journalist, I’m joking here, Martin Bell on the other hand 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’s been a lance corporal in [inaudible].

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
Thank you very much. Anymore comments or questions, yes.

Question 4
I’m Andrew Ross I kind of created this event so it’s very personal and I would just like to thank the Colonel for your words it’s very emotional for my experiences and Toms 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?

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
Good question I was going to put it myself where the other questions from the floor going to dry up anyways over to you both.

Martin Bell
There are a lot of lessons to be learned one is the almost inevitably unsatisfactory nature of multinational force where some contingents knew the business very well and others completely incapable. I think that we should never get into 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 required unfortunately the Srebrenica massacre the impotence and the second market place bonding at the end of August and the arrival of Croatian main force units which were already collapsing the Serbs frontlines. But I think there are many lessons to be learned both on the political, military and diplomatic level and indeed on the journalistic, we weren’t perfect either.

Sir Geoffrey Nice
Has it ever occurred to you that there is no principle philosophy or practice of confession? In cases in court we ask the defendant to plead guilty either to acknowledge his guilt or to save court time. There is no politician who will confess to anything. There is no government institution that will confess to anything if its interests are engaged. That is why those involved in this sort of work will accept the proposition that victims count for nothing. In this conflict and in many others where there are competing influences from great powers.

What can you do to sort out the Srebrenica problem if you cannot persuade the Serbs, the American government, the British government, the French government to tell the truth? I don’t know because that is what you need and that is what the victims have always needed to bring their suffering to an earlier close than the extent that their suffering may ever be closed.

Remember that the Nuremberg trials which lasted less than a year trying and convicting or acquitting over 20 people and executing a number of them was as short as it was because we had the keys to the cabinet, we had every document we didn’t need, they didn’t need live witnesses they only put them on to stop the public gallery being quite as empty as it was. The documents proved the case.

We now need, we 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 Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia bear the documents which are lodged there and haven’t been used.

But worse than that in the trials and this is a point I said at the beginning 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 which would be revealing, so it was a courtly dance that would take how long to get a document – a day, a week, a month, a year, 2 years, 3 years. 3 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.

Now I will tell you one funny little story. We asked for a whole lot of documents, Bob will know them, war diaries. The documents what show from the Commander what was happening on the ground on the day when in this case the Serbs were saying so far as gospel that they were driving their tanks around chucking sweets to children, not at all basically I overstate the position but they weren’t actually blowing people up in the way that our evidence suggested. And we wanted the war diaries of these units, we’ve always wanted them, we wanted them for 3 years and we faced successful procedural opposition. But one day there was a defence witness called Sel and I said to him, the war diary or whatever it was, will tell the truth of this story. Yes he said – and where is it – oh it’s easily found back home in this shed or something they always denied and I said well maybe on this occasion and turned to the court, would you on this occasion find the courage to order the immediate production of that diary. They did. It turned up a couple of days later and it was the only document from the Serb side that contained the phrase ‘cleansed the village.’

The one thing we can do in my view apart from changing the whole structure of any war crimes investigations in trials, is to make the international community realise that documents are what makes trials short and what make the results of trials reliable. If any finance company today in London is suspected of fraud the police will have the documents tomorrow morning. Not 3 years later or never.

Question 5
Yes first of all it is an absolute honour to be in your presence Sir Geoffrey.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
Who are you and where are you from?

Question 5
I’m Amir and I’m a supporter of The Henry Jackson Society. I don’t know if my question is somewhat out of context and I apologise if it is, but I’m very curious about the legacy and the consequences of those including the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition who take a principled stance against any form of intervention from the West in conflicts such as the Balkans and today areas such as Yemen and Sudan. What arguments can be produced in advance rather than post-halt so to speak to confront such positions?

Sir Geoffrey Nice
I don’t want to get into today’s politics but I firmly believe and I work for UNICEF among other organisations that where we can intervene and we have the ability to intervene and we can save lives by doing so we should never hesitate to do so at whatever risk.

The Rt Hon. the Baroness Blackstone
Thank you very much that’s perhaps a good and strong note on which to end. For me this has been absolutely fascinating as I am sure it has been for everyone else in the room so I’d like to thank both the speakers, thank you very much Geoffrey and thank you very much Martin for your contribution. We could have gone on for a lot longer, I wanted to ask what we do about Myanmar generals but that’s a whole new subject. Thank you again and thank you all for coming.


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