The Srebrenica massacre in July 1995 was the worst single atrocity in Europe since 1945. Bosnian Serb forces murdered around 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in a crime judged by the International Court of Justice at The Hague to be an act of genocide.
That was a sound judgment. The intention in killing every male was to ensure that the Muslim captives could not remain a sustainable population. Many of the victims were blindfolded and then shot in the back. Whatever you call the Srebrenica massacre, there is no legitimate debate about the nature of that abominable crime or the number of its victims.
There are, however, a few extremists who maintain otherwise. Their motivations are obscure but appear to include the belief that the racist, imperialist regime of Slobodan Milosevic in Belgrade was somehow progressive, and unabashed conspiracy theories about Muslims.
I first noticed this phenomenon of “Srebrenica denial” when the Government of Republika Srpska (the Serb entity in Bosnia) issued a report in 2002 claiming that the victims amounted to some 2,000, most of them combatants. Lord Ashdown, then international High Representative for Bosnia, rightly dismissed it as “preposterous” and “an insult”. As I argued in this column, the techniques of Srebrenica denial derive from Holocaust denial. Its proponents use bogus demographics, non sequiturs, calumnies and outright fakery.
You won’t find Srebrenica denial in any reputable scholarly forum but, like other conspiracy theories, it spreads on the internet. Its most prominent advocate is Edward Herman, a sometime co-author of Noam Chomsky.
I believe (though am open to correction) that Herman has never visited Bosnia, but he has indefatigably denied the established facts of the Srebrenica massacre. Here is a new piece in which he rubbishes the notion of 8,000 victims (“they had never proved that there were 7,000 or 8,000, even men and boys killed. The bodies in the graves added up to something like 2,500”).
Be aware, if you encounter such material, that it’s baloney. Herman has been using bogus statistics for years. Scientists working with the International Commission on Missing Persons have excavated the remains of more than 7,000 Srebrenica victims from mass graves that were never intended to be discovered. Using DNA analysis, they have managed to identify and name these victims. That is harrowing, vital work. Yet the pernicious lies of the deniers never go away.
That’s why I fight these people.