Statement of Germany during the General Assembly meeting on the adoption of an International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica, 23 May 2024

International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica

International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica, © Germany UN

23.05.2024 - Speech

Statement delivered by Ambassador Leendertse, Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations.

Mr President,

The United Nations were founded on the ashes of the Second World War – a war unleashed by Nazi Germany, leaving more than 60 million people dead.

One of our common goals in this organization is to build a multilateral system that prevents such crimes from happening again.

On many occasions, we gather in this Hall to commemorate events that have left deep marks in our collective conscience.
These failures must never be repeated.

Or as Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana put it: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Mr President,

It is my privilege to present the draft resolution “International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica” on behalf of the co-facilitators, Germany and Rwanda, as well as the cross-regional core group of 17 Member States.

Almost thirty years ago, at least 8.372 Bosnian Muslims were systematically executed in the town of Srebrenica.

Executions began on July 11th 1995 and lasted several days.

The prior designation of Srebrenica as a “safe area” through Security Council resolution 819 (1993) could not prevent this crime from happening.

Perpetrated amidst the Bosnian War, this act of genocide led to the tragic death of the victims and to unimaginable suffering for survivors and their families.

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.

Alongside the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda of 1994, the Srebrenica genocide has been recognized as such by international courts.

The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is commemorated annually, following a General Assembly resolution.

By designating the 11th of July as an International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the Srebrenica Genocide, we are committed to closing this gap in the institutionalized memory of this organization.

The resolution is closely modeled on the General Assembly resolution on the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

It creates an outreach programme in order to facilitate annual remembrance within the United Nations.

And it invites all to join in this remembrance and reflection.

The draft resolution also underscores the role of international courts in fighting impunity and ensuring accountability for genocide.

And it contains language against genocide denial and glorification of perpetrators – urging Member States to preserve established facts, including through education.

Mr President,

Let me be frank: False allegations about this resolution have been spread.

I therefore want to provide some clarification.

This resolution is not directed against anybody – not against Serbia, a valued member of this organization.

If at all, it is directed against perpetrators of a genocide.

I therefore invite everybody to judge the text on its merits and to support our call to commemorate and reflect on what happened in Srebrenica almost 30 years ago.

Mr President,

The resolution enjoys strong support from a diverse group of Member States including States from the Western Balkans region, and co-sponsors from all parts of the world.

In recognition of the importance of regional ownership and participation the core group decided to include proposed amendments to the text, even after the draft resolution had already been tabled.

Montenegro’s suggestion clarifies that criminal accountability under international law for the crime of genocide is individualized and cannot be attributed to any ethnic, religious, or other group or community as a whole.

We are confident that this helps to prevent misinterpretation and appreciate the constructive engagement of Montenegro.

Mr President,

This resolution seeks to foster reconciliation, in the present and for the future.

We welcome the strong regional support – including from youth organizations in Serbia – for this resolution.

All ethnic groups involved in the wars in former Yugoslavia have suffered terrible losses.

We mourn all victims equally.

In saying all, I include every ethnic group that has suffered tragic losses.

Mr President,

It is a major achievement of the international community in recent decades that perpetrators of crimes like genocide can be held accountable.

We hope this organization will unite in acknowledging a genocide recognized by its own judicial institutions.

As Emir Suljagić, a survivor of the Srebrenica genocide and director of the Srebrenica Memorial, put it: “To remember is to affirm our humanity, and to affirm our freedom”.

What message would we send to future generations if we – the General Assembly – chose to not commemorate the victims?

To not reflect on the historical context and judicial processing of the crimes that happened in Srebrenica?

I call on all Member States to lend their valued support to this resolution and vote in favor – should the resolution be called to a vote.

I thank you.

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