17 April 1993 – France 2 – Rony Brauman, MSF: Srebrenica – French



TV presenter: So, Rony Brauman, let me first remind viewers that you are president of Médecins Sans Frontières. You and your organisation were in Croatia at the beginning of the conflict, then former Yugoslavia and now Bosnia. Let’s start with how did we allow this to this happen?

Rony Brauman: I think it was an attempt to replace a kind of fundamental political responsibility with a strategy of the lesser evil. It was allowed to happen because we were following on the heels of the Serb nationalists, picking up the pieces, bandaging wounds and patching up some of the casualties. That’s it. Our responsibilities were readily abdicated, probably by invoking a whole slew of pertinent historical, diplomatic and political reasons, but the facts are there and, as the report shows only too well, we European citizens, our governments, our Western countries, have totally abdicated the responsibility that was ours to prevent the deployment of a strategy of racial domination and territorial conquest right at the heart of Europe. This failure, as we are now witnessing, is barbaric.

TV presenter: Do you consider that the entire Western political establishment has given itself a good conscience by leaving it to humanitarian organisations to take action on the ground?

Rony Brauman: Yes, never in my life have I been as struck by what could be called the ‘humanitarian alibi’ in Bosnia. Seeing in Bosnia all the armoured vehicles and the tanks, all the soldiers, all the aid organisations, all these worthy sentiments in a kind of hellish whirl to make it look like something’s being done. But nothing’s being done. We manage to get to a few towns and enclaves, but not very many, while the war continues to rage relentlessly in 90% of the country. That’s what’s happening in Srebrenica now, exactly like what happened in other towns in east Bosnia, and nobody’s saying a word.

TV presenter: And Croatia…

Rony Brauman: And Croatia, like in Vukovar and Osijek. We had teams in Vukovar who were attacked by Serb nationalists when they were evacuating casualties. We’ve got a surgical team in Srebrenica operating as we speak. Well, I don’t know what’s going to become of them in the next few hours, or tomorrow or the next day. Perhaps they’ll be forced to flee in a panic, probably along with tens of thousands of people who have sought refuge in Srebrenica. You should know that Srebrenica’s population is 6,000, and that now more like 30 or 50,000 people are there, refugees from other towns in the vicinity who’ve ended up there.

TV presenter: So seen from the ground, does that mean Srebrenica is going to fall in a few hours, that the Serbs aren’t necessarily going to exterminate the people in the town, but are going to ask humanitarian organisations to evacuate them?

Rony Brauman: I believe there are two reasons why they won’t exterminate them. Firstly, it’s not in their strategy. Serb nationalism isn’t a Hitlerian enterprise; it’s not a strategy of extermination. It’s a strategy of terror, of expulsion. What they want is to drive out all the non-Serbs from all the places they lay claim to. That’s the first reason why they’re not going to exterminate them. But the fact remains that when people wanting to show their determination are prepared to kill, if that means killing several hundreds or thousand of people, they’ll do it. We saw it happen in Vukovar. The second reason why they’re not going to do it is because we’re going to do it; Western governments, the United Nations will do the job for them. Humanitarian organisations are really valuable to ethnic cleansing, and that’s why we feel like the world has gone crazy, that all sense of values has been over-turned. To be inhuman, cowardly, adopt the guise of a big shot, well, here’s the answer – the humanitarian worker, the perfect mask for our abdication and our cowardice.