22 June 2001 –A Year in Focus / Journal de l’année – MSF F : French Parliamentary Fact-Finding Commission on Srebrenica/ Mission d’information parlementaire française sur Srebrenica – FRENCH



Commentary: Nobody’s forgotten the images. General Mladic assuring the inhabitants of Srebrenica, with an unbelievable cynicism, that nothing was going to happen to them. A hollow promise, of course. We’re in July 1995, Bosnian Serb forces have just taken the Muslim enclave and they’re about to deport the population in full view of the Dutch peacekeepers. A total of 7,000 people were killed and 40,000 deported. But the UN had declared Srebrenica a safe area. So why did the international community stand by and do nothing? Why did the peacekeepers do nothing? Thanks to Médecins Sans Frontières’ campaign, French MPs have set up a parliamentary fact-finding mission to investigate this inaction. MSF was in Srebrenica and Christina Schmitz and Daniel O'Brien watched as casualties they were looking after and 22 members of their local staff disappeared.

Christina Schmitz: A father carrying his one-year old baby came up to me in tears. He was with an armed Bosnian Serb soldier. It was obvious they were going to take him away. He handed me his baby. I thought he would never see his daughter again, so I took his and his baby’s name.

Commentary: Hugely traumatic, but an equally huge question mark. Were the people of Srebrenica sacrificed for political ends? The Dayton Peace Agreement would be signed two months later. But France, which commanded UNPROFOR at the time, did not appear to be seeking greater transparency as the MPs confined themselves to investigating the military aspects of the fall of the enclave, whereas MSF also wants a condemnation of the predictability of the massacres and the lack of response.

Pierre Salignon: If all we do is to look into the fall of the enclave, we absolve the United Nations and France of their responsibilities regarding the massacres that came when the people of Srebrenica were left to the mercy of the Bosnian Serb forces. It wasn’t just the absence of NATO airstrikes to prevent the Serb forces taking Srebrenica. No other plan had been envisioned to ensure the safe evacuation of civilians and non-combatants, which would have conformed to the decisions in the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions.

Commentary: Looking beyond Srebrenica, peacekeeping operations raise questions for countries such as Rwanda and Sierra Leone. What are the roles, what are the responsibilities of humanitarian aid organisations and the military? Clarification is needed more than ever.