The Fictitious Genocide in Srebrenica - March 1, 2010


Written by: Andy Wilcoxson


The public has been wrongly led to believe that Bosnian-Serbs massacred 8,000 Bosnian-Muslim civilians in a vicious campaign of genocide in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July of 1995, but documents found in the archives of the UN war crimes Tribunal in The Hague cast serious doubt on these allegations.


The Allegation


Writing for the New York Times, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Anthony Lewis told his readers that “The Bosnian Serb leaders were not on the scale of the Nazis, but the evil was the same. General Mladic presided over the slaughter of 8,000 civilian men and boys after his troops captured the U.N. ‘safe haven’ of Srebrenica.” [1]


In an article published by the International Herald Tribune, Gareth Evans and James Lyon, the president and senior Balkan analyst of the International Crisis Group informed readers that “In mid-July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces commanded by Mladic conducted the organized slaughter of nearly 8,000 civilians and non-combatants around the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.” [2]


CBS News reporter Bob Simon told viewers of the popular newsmagazine show 60 Minutes that “The shame of Srebrenica is not only that the Serbs murdered 8,000 civilians, but that the Dutch peacekeepers looked on as men were separated from women, husbands from wives, looked on as the genocide began.” [3]


The London Mirror even reported that former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had apologized for what reporter Mark Dowdney called “the West’s failure to stop the murder of 8,000 civilians at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war”. Dowdney assured his readers that “the victims - unarmed Muslim men and boys - were butchered by Serb forces after they captured the small town of Srebrenica in 1995.” [4]


The media aren’t the only ones making this claim. In 2005 the UN High Commission on Refugees issued a report on Srebrenica which said, “Nearly 8,000 civilians were slaughtered in the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II. The International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague last year judged the action as genocide.” [5] Also in 2005, the White House issued a statement which said, “On July 11th, we remember the tragic loss of lives in Srebrenica 10 years ago. The mass murder of nearly 8,000 men and boys was Europe’s worst massacre of civilians since World War II, and a grim reminder that there are evil people who will kill the innocent without conscience or mercy.” [6]


Comparing Srebrenica to the Holocaust


Proponents of the Srebrenica genocide theory often try to equate the Srebrenica massacre with the Holocaust. At best these analogies can be dismissed as feebleminded; at worst they’re a cynical attempt to exploit the Holocaust.


The vast majority of Jews living in territories controlled by the Nazis were killed in the Holocaust – but in Srebrenica the vast majority of Bosnian Muslims survived the fall of the enclave to Bosnian-Serb forces. That difference alone ought to be enough to destroy any Srebrenica-to-Holocaust analogies, but the differences don’t end there.


Unlike the Jews in the Holocaust, the Bosnian-Muslims were the aggressors in the war. The Bosnian-Muslims groomed paramilitary groups for years before the war started. They chose to use armed violence against Yugoslavia and the Bosnian-Serbs as a means to achieve their political and territorial ambitions. The fighting in and around Srebrenica, as well as every other battle that took place in Bosnia between 1992 and 1995, was the direct consequence of their decision to go to war. If they hadn’t started the war in the first place there never would have been a Srebrenica massacre or any other war crimes – it’s as simple as that.


The Hague Tribunal’s verdict in the Nasir Oric trial confirms that in the years leading-up to the Srebrenica massacre, Bosnian-Muslim soldiers together with Muslim civilians from Srebrenica participated in the burning and looting of several Serbian villages around Srebrenica in a series of tit-for-tat battles with the Bosnian-Serbs, and that they physically mistreated, and in some cases killed, the Serbian prisoners they captured during the fighting.


There were no Jewish paramilitaries rampaging through Germany, burning villages, and killing people before the Holocaust started. So yet again the Srebrenica-to-Holocaust analogies fall flat. The Jews did not provoke the Nazis, whereas the same can not be said of the Bosnian-Muslims.


Less than two weeks before the July 1995 Srebrenica massacre, Muslims from the so-called “UN Safe Area” of Srebrenica attacked the Serbian village of Visnjica burning houses, killing livestock, and forcing Serbian civilians to flee for their lives. [7]


The Srebrenica massacre and the Holocaust are so thoroughly and completely different that no comparison whatsoever can be made between the two events. Regardless, this does not stop the proponents of the Srebrenica genocide theory from labeling their detractors “Srebrenica genocide deniers” as if Srebrenica genocide denial were the same thing as Holocaust denial. The proponents of the Srebrenica genocide theory would have you believe that the primary victims of the Bosnian war were the people who started it in the first place.


What Did The Bosnian-Serbs Do?


Nobody denies the fact that a crime was committed, former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic described what happened in Srebrenica as an “insane crime” [8] and former Bosnian-Serb president Radovan Karadzic recently told the ICTY trial chamber, “I believe that for thousands of [Srebrenica victims] we can assume that people’s hands were tied, and based on that we can assume that those people were executed.” [9]


Bosnian-Serb forces killed thousands of Bosnian-Muslims from Srebrenica, including many civilians. However, the allegation that the victims were primarily civilians and that the killings constituted an act of genocide is absurd. The overwhelming majority of Srebrenica victims were military-aged men who were members of the Army of Bosnia Herzegovina (ABiH), as evidenced by their military service records.


Executing hostile civilians and enemy POWs is clearly a war crime. In Srebrenica the question is how many people were executed and why? The dispute about what happened in Srebrenica hinges on that question.


The Bosnian-Serbs and the Bosnian-Muslims tell two different stories about what happened in Srebrenica. The Bosnian-Muslims say the Serbs rounded up every man and young boy they could get their hands on and murdered them in cold blood. The Bosnian Serbs have never denied executing Bosnian-Muslim men whom they suspected of participating in attacks on Serbian villages, but they insist that the Bosnian-Muslims are exaggerating the scope of the crime and that most of the victims died in combat. According to a restricted UN document that was probably never meant to see the light of day, U.N. Military Observers (UNMOs) who were stationed in Srebrenica together with the Muslims when the Bosnian-Serbs attacked the enclave told their debriefers in New York that "the UNMOs were with the [Muslim] refugees for 24 hrs a day and knew nothing about the reports of the killing of men of military age. Single gunshots were heard but there was nothing to suggest they were from executions." [10]


Since everybody who was on the ground when this happened is telling a different story, the only recourse is to look at the forensic evidence and draw your own conclusions.

The Forensic Evidence


In 2005 the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague compiled a list of 7,661 persons (military and civilian) who went missing and are believed to have been killed when Srebrenica fell to Bosnian-Serb forces in July of 1995.


According to an internal memorandum written by the head of the demographic unit of the ICTY prosecutor's office, the majority of the persons identified as missing from Srebrenica by the ICTY prosecutor are Bosnian-Muslim military personnel. 5,371, or 70.1%, of the 7,661 persons identified by the ICTY prosecutor were known members of the ABiH whose military records have been examined by the Tribunal's researchers. [11]


International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has performed DNA analysis on thousands of corpses exhumed from gravesites in and around Srebrenica. According to the most recent statistics released by the ICTY, they have identified the mortal remains of 3,837 individuals from the ICTY prosecutor’s list of Srebrenica victims. 


Of the Srebrenica victims identified by the ICMP, 3,602 (93.9%) were males aged fifteen to sixty-five. 201 (5.2%) were men over the age of sixty-five. 9 (0.2%) were boys under the age of fourteen.  11 (0.3%) were women, and 14 (0.4%) were age or sex unknown. [12]


Based on the above statistics we can assume that approximately 88% of the identified victims were “military aged” men (i.e. men between the U.S. military’s minimum enlistment age of 17 and the mandatory retirement age of 62).


Between 1996 and 2001 a team of investigators led by Australian forensic scientist Dean Manning was employed by the ICTY to exhume graves thought to be associated with the Srebrenica massacre. The team discovered 448 blindfolds and 423 ligatures among the bodies exhumed from the gravesites. [13] They determined that 1,785 individuals died of gunshot wounds, 169 died of probable or possible gunshot wounds, 67 died of Shrapnel wounds or blast injuries, 11 died of gunshot and blast injuries, 6 died of other causes (trauma, suffocation, etc.), and 1441 died of undetermined causes. Investigators also found shell casings among the bodies which indicates that some individuals must have been shot in or near the gravesite. [14]  The shell casings were found in the same graves where the blindfolds and ligatures were found. [15]


Live ammunition was also found in the graves, but the Tribunal’s investigators didn’t bother to collect it. [16] Live ammunition found in the possession of the victims may be an indicator that some of them had been armed, but since no investigation was done concerning the live ammunition we’ll never know.


Interpreting the Facts


Nobody really knows how many people from Srebrenica were executed, how many died in combat, and how many were collateral damage, but we do know that, contrary to what we’ve been told, most of the victims were military personnel and not civilians.


The Hague Tribunal has acknowledged that “a percentage of the bodies in the gravesites examined may have been of men killed in combat,” [17] but it none the less it made a finding that “following the take-over of Srebrenica, Bosnian Serb forces executed several thousand Bosnian Muslim men. The total number is likely to be within the range of 7,000 - 8,000 men.” [18]


None of the forensic evidence cited by the ICTY judgment even begins to support its conclusion that between 7,000 and 8,000 men were executed. Forensic investigators had only exhumed 2,028 bodies when the judgment was handed down. [19] The judges could not have known how the remaining 5,000 to 6,000 persons whose remains had not been found, and for whom no post-mortem forensic investigation had been done, had died or even if they were all dead at all.


The forensic evidence clearly indicates that a portion of the victims were executed, but it by no means proves that all or even most of them were executed.


Defining Genocide


Genocide is a word with a definition. Just because a crime was committed in Srebrenica, it doesn’t mean that the crime of genocide was committed.


According to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide:


Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.


In order for genocide to take place the perpetrator must have the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.”


The crime of genocide hinges on the intent of the perpetrator. History is loaded with examples of military campaigns with much higher military and civilian death tolls than anything seen in Srebrenica, where nobody alleges genocide (Operation Meetinghouse, the Tet Offensive, the Allied bombing of Dresden, etc…).


When evaluating the allegation of genocide in Srebrenica one must determine whether the Bosnian Serb forces intended to destroy the Bosnian Muslim ethno-religious group as such, or whether their intent was to wipe-out enemy resistance in the region. It’s a simple matter. If their target was the enemy fighting force, and not the ethno-religious group itself, they’re not guilty of genocide.


The Hague Tribunal Weighs In


Although it seems obvious that the main target of the massacre was the military because the overwhelming majority of victims were military aged men for whom military service records exist, the ICTY none-the-less ruled during the Krstic trial that the Srebrenica massacre was an act of genocide, but the reasoning behind that conclusion is hopelessly weak.


According to the Tribunal, “the Trial Chamber treated the killing of the men of military age as evidence from which to infer that Radislav Krstic and some members of the VRS [Bosnian Serb Army] Main Staff had the requisite intent to destroy all the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica.” [20] Indeed, “The main evidence underlying the Trial Chamber’s conclusion that the VRS forces intended to eliminate all the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica was the massacre by the VRS of all (sic) men of military age from that community.” [21]


The Tribunal conceded that Krstic’s defense was correct in arguing that “the record contains no statements by members of the VRS Main Staff indicating that the killing of the Bosnian Muslim men was motivated by genocidal intent to destroy the Bosnian Muslims of Srebrenica.” Yet they dismissed that argument by ruling that “The absence of such statements is not determinative. Where direct evidence of genocidal intent is absent, the intent may still be inferred.” [22]


The Tribunal’s finding of genocide in Srebrenica isn’t based on hard evidence of a genocidal Serbian plan because no such evidence exists. According to the Tribunal, “The existence of a plan or policy is not a legal ingredient of the crime of genocide.” [23]


The Tribunal’s finding of genocide in Srebrenica is based on an inference they drew from the killing of military aged men in a war zone, most of whom were members of the military as evidenced by their military records. According to the Tribunal it’s irrelevant whether the victims are military or civilians. In their judgment, “The perpetrator’s genocidal intent will almost invariably encompass civilians, but that is not a legal requirement of the offence of genocide.” [24]


The Tribunal dismisses the fact that the Bosnian Serb Army transported the Bosnian-Muslim women and children from Srebrenica to safety by ruling that “the offence of genocide does not require proof that the perpetrator chose the most efficient method to accomplish his objective of destroying the targeted part. Even where the method selected will not implement the perpetrator’s intent to the fullest, leaving that destruction incomplete, this ineffectiveness alone does not preclude a finding of genocidal intent.” [25]


If one uses the definition of “genocide” concocted by the Tribunal for Srebrenica one could argue that genocide is a feature of practically every military conflict. When one reads the Tribunal's verdict it is obvious that they are performing mental gymnastics in order to warp the definition of "genocide" to fit their purposes. They entered a finding of genocide because that was the finding they wanted to make, not because it was where the evidence led them.


What happened in Srebrenica does not remotely resemble "genocide" as the term is understood by most people. It’s a huge stretch to argue that killing enemy soldiers and military aged men in the context of a three-year-old civil war that had victims on both sides is an act of “genocide” comparable to the wholesale slaughters of civilians that have characterized the Holocaust and every other genocide you could name.


In Srebrenica at least 80% of the Bosnian-Muslim population survived the fall of the town to Bosnian-Serb troops and the vast majority of the dead were military personnel, compare that to the Holocaust where in places like Poland and Estonia over 90% of the Jews were killed by the Nazis, or to Rwanda where nearly 75% of the Tutsi population was killed by Hutu fighters in 1994. What happened in Srebrenica is nowhere close to being in the same league.

What happened in Srebrenica was a war crime far more comparable to the 2001 Dasht-i-Leili massacre in Afghanistan than it is to anything that happened during the Holocaust.


The victims of the Srebrenica massacre fall into three categories: people who were captured and executed, belligerents who were killed in combat, and non-combatants who got caught in the cross-fire. We don’t know how many victims fall into each category because a proper post-mortem forensic examination has not been done for the vast majority of victims.

In 2001 the ICTY stopped its forensic investigations. It should be noted that in ten out of the twenty-six gravesites they did examine, no blindfolds, ligatures, or shell casings were found among the bodies. It would appear that not every grave contained execution victims. It is possible that the Tribunal only looked in the graves where they thought there was a high likelihood that they were going to find evidence of executions and that they stopped investigating once those graves had been checked.


Thousands of bodies have been and continue to be exhumed from graves in the areas around Srebrenica. The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) is doing DNA analysis to determine the identity of the victims, but they’re doing absolutely nothing to determine how any of them died, which makes it impossible to say how many of them were victims of a war crime and how many were simply victims of the war or belligerents killed in combat.


It’s irresponsible to simply assume that thousands of people were executed without doing a proper investigation to determine the cause of death when there are so many other ways that people could have been killed in a war zone.


Given that the proponents of the Srebrenica genocide theory are lying about the identity of the victims by making them all out to be civilians when most of them were military personnel, it certainly isn’t inconceivable that they’re also lying about the circumstances of their death by saying they were all executed when many of them could have been belligerents killed in combat or collateral damage.


The truth about what happened in Srebrenica has not been established. The Hague Tribunal has been useful in so far as it has made evidence available to the public, but its biased and malicious interpretation of the evidence has been extremely unhelpful.


By affixing the “genocide” label to Srebrenica the Tribunal has undermined the will to do any further investigation into the cause of death of the bodies still being exhumed. Every corpse that is exhumed is assumed to have been executed by the Bosnian-Serbs during the so-called “genocide” even though there is a distinct possibility that they weren’t.


The Hague Tribunal entered a finding of “genocide” in Srebrenica without sufficient evidence to back it up. Something happened in Srebrenica, but there’s certainly no evidence to suggest that it was genocide. Unfortunately we’ll probably never know the whole truth because the Tribunal has effectively killed the will to do any further investigation, but maybe that was the plan all along.




1 - Anthony Lewis, “Abroad at Home; Leading From Weakness,” The New York Times, September 13, 1996

2 - Gareth Evans and James Lyon, “No Mladic, no talks; The EU and Serbia,” The International Herald Tribune, March 22, 2007

3 - Transcript: 60 Minutes II (8:00 PM ET), CBS, July 17, 2002

4 - Mark Dowdney , “We’re Shamed By This Evil Slaughter; Straw Apology for Bosnia Massacre,” The Mirror (London), July 12, 2005

5 - "Remembering Srebrenica," UNHCR, July 8, 2005

6 - Press Briefing by Scott McClellan, July 11, 2005

7 - Stephen Kinzer, "Bosnian Muslim Troops Evade U.N. Force to Raid Serb Village," The New York Times, June 27, 1995

8 - Milosevic Transcript, Pg. 10309, 27 September 2002

9 - Karadzic Transcript, Pg. 360, 23 July 2009

10 - Debrief of UNMOs from the Srebrenica Enclave, July 24, 1995 (Marked "UN Restricted")

11 - ICTY Internal Memorandum entitled "ABiH Military Records Overlapping with 2005 OTP List of Srebrenica Missing," Dated July 24, 2008

12 - Srebrenica Missing: The 2007 Progress Report on the DNA-based Identification by ICMP

13 - Milosevic Trial prosecution exhibit P642.10

14 - Milosevic Trial prosecution exhibit P642.1a, Statement of ICTY Investigations Leader Dean Manning, November 24, 2003,  p. 14, 20

15 - Compare Milosevic trial prosecution exhibit P642.6 to prosecution exhibit P642.10

16 - Milosevic Trial prosecution exhibit P642.1a, Statement of ICTY Investigations Leader Dean Manning, November 24, 2003,  p. 14

17 - Krstic Judgment, August 2, 2001, para. 77

18 - Ibid., para. 84

19 - Ibid., para. 73

20 - Krstic Appeal Judgment, April 19, 2004, para. 19

21 - Ibid., para. 26

22 - Ibid., para. 34

23 - Jelisic Appeal Judgment, July 5, 2001, para. 48

24 - Krstic Appeal Judgment, April 19, 2004; para. 226

25 - Ibid., para. 32