Failure to Protect

By Cassidy Henry

Srebrenica-Potočari 11, July 2007 Source: Wikimedia Commons/Almir Dzanovic

Twenty years ago more than 8,000 men and boys were killed in Europe. They were in their sleepy little village, but it was during a war. These men were Muslim Bosniaks and the killings were perpetuated by the Army of the Republika Srpska under Mladic. It was specifically done in an attempt to eliminate the Bosniaks.

Genocide -“the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”

Surprisingly, defining this massacre/killing as “genocide” is still continuous. This past week the UN Security Council failed to adopt a resolution officially calling the massacre a “genocide” because Serbia objected to the terming of it as genocide and claims it would be divisive to reconciliation. Serbia rejects the term genocide as related to that killing. In the UN, Russia vetoed the resolution saying it “would be counter-productive [and] would lead to greater tension in the region.” This UN resolution would compel individual states to pursue prosecutions rather than simply work through the tribunal at the Hauge.

Many ask- “Why is something like this still controversial? If it fits the definition of genocide, can’t we just call it genocide?” Unfortunately, politics often get in the way of common sense. We, as people, often have a problem calling something genocide from Armenia to Rwanda, we hesitate to term something genocide even if it fits the dictionary definition as genocide.

Is it because we don’t want to show that we may be complicit in genocide? Is it similar to our inability in America to discuss race? If we agree that something is genocide or may turn out to be genocide, do we as the international community have a responsibility to prevent it?

The idea of a “Responsibility to Protect” stems, in part, from the genocides in the former Yugoslavia. It stems in part from Srebrenica. Because, if you can term something as more horrible than the massacre itself- the massacre occurred in a UN safe zone. While the “meaning of the ambiguous term “safe area” was never properly defined,” how ambiguous should the term safe zone be? Nearby were Dutch Peacekeepers.

They did nothing.


Source: Wikimedia Commons/Mazbin

The villagers have often called for something to be done about the genocide. They have often called for those in power to be held responsible, and in 2014, The Hague ordered the Dutch to compensate the families of those killed. The court argued that the peacekeepers acted unlawfully since they knew that the Serbs were committing war crimes and had reason to suspect that the refugees they released would be killed.

So today we remember.

We remember that 8,000 people had to die to stem the tide of war. We remember that we as people are fallible.

And we hope that it never has to happen again for the world to take notice.

cassidyCassidy Henry is a recent graduate of the Patterson School where she studied Diplomacy and National Security. Her focus is on Eastern Europe/Russia, where she has spent 19 months living and studying. Cassidy is currently looking for an entry level career position and can be contacted at


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