SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI

Has the Bosnia verdict ‘closed a chapter’ in history?

A court decision can hardly close a chapter in history, despite the EU declaration »»
A court decision can hardly close a chapter in history, despite the EU declaration that the Hague verdict has done so in Bosnia.Neither the victims nor the aggressors have been impressed by the long-awaited decision that basically clears the Serbs of genocide but calls the Srebrenica massacre “genocide.” Even more confusing, the court said Serbia “could and should have” prevented genocide.

It is a stark irony that the country where the verdict was decided, the Netherlands, was responsible for the protection of Bosnians in Srebrenica, which was declared a safe haven by the UN. Not only did the Netherlands fail to protect those Bosnian men and boys on that faithful night in July 1995, the Dutch government rewarded the soldiers that handed Bosnians to Serbian “commanders” without firing a shot with medals of honor just a few months ago.

Genocide took place in the midst of Europe under the watchful eyes of European soldiers and politicians in 1995, yet it is not easy to judge who did what and who carries the responsibility.

The moral of the story is history is always difficult to judge! Just take a look at the German EU presidency proposals to reckon with the past. Germans, under the immense urge to cleanse themselves from all remnants of the Holocaust, want to criminalize the deniers of “genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity” with 1 to 3 years in prison in all 27 European member countries. While Britain, Italy and Denmark say it is against freedom of expression; the Baltic countries and Poland want the period of communism to be inserted to the draft law, which will squarely put the blame on the Russians. Not surprisingly, Russia is leading Europe to believe they will protest.

Germans also want a common history book, even if their first experiment with France hit some hitches. The 50th Anniversary Declaration of the European Union, which will be announced at the end of March to mark the achievements of the club, is also facing challenges as some member countries ask for the dark pages to be referred to as well. Who will decide on such dark pages and who will bear the responsibility is already a heated debate.

Europeans should draw some conclusions from the Bosnian verdict and the ongoing debates over the term president Germany’s proposals when brazenly judging what happened in 1915. While judging what happened some 10 years ago in Bosnia in an international court is a challenge, parliaments should stay away from giving their ideas on what happened almost 100 years ago.

Look at the number of people killed in Bosnia. It was 250,000 until very recently, it now stands at 100,000. Then how can you be so sure it was 1.5 million in 1915? I do not want to negate the life of one human being, killing one human being is like killing all the universe as the Holy Quran says. What I am humbly suggesting, is the West should be more sensitive and responsible when throwing around decisions on historical events. Yes, what happened in 1915 was a huge tragedy, but let go and help Turks and Armenians to discuss it before condemning the “terrible Turk.”

2007-02-28

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Columnist:: SELÇUK GÜLTAŞLI