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March 14, 2007



What else was to be expected? The only answer to all these rhetorical questions, for Muslims at least, is to remember that whatever one may think about the messenger, the message is always true: al wara wal bara. The only people who care about Muslims are Muslims - the others care only for themselves. What more proof do we need?


So angry can't type - al wala wal bara! Muslims are in denial about what we're facing. I don't like the Islamists but that doesn't mean they are wrong about everything.


What happened in the former Yugoslavia was a civil war, all sides were victims. There are over a million Serbian refugees from other places in the former Yugoslavia, living in horrible conditions in Serbia proper. That's the problem with all this, people only see one side and cannot see the other. Furthermore the scale of what happened in Bosnia in no way compares to the scale of things happening in Darfur. I really don't see a need for an "outrage", except by people who artificially want to stir up BS.


It's bollocks that the Balkan wars were genocidal. I wouldn't go there on Dar Fur either. Genocide is exterminating a people. The post-Yugoslavia wars, and Dar Fur, were about ethnic cleansing and land grabbing. But the debate here goes to show how devalued the term 'genocide' has gotten, apparently now meaning little more than 'thousands killed'.


In my opinion, what happened to the Bosnian Muslims was a genocidal campaign carried out by Serbs, which you can call ethnic cleansing if that sounds nicer. I don't believe that there is any serious doubt about this - the evidence is overwhelming. That many Serbs also suffered in those wars in no way compromises the reality of what was done to Bosnians. I'm frankly sickened by the historical revisionism I've seen on this, whether from the left or the right. But that's just me, I guess. More relevant than my thoughts, though, is that from the general Muslim perspective, which is what I'm trying to explain here, that's how it is seen.


At some point we will have to conclude either that the institutions defending human human rights are hopelessly ineffective and need to be rebuilt from the gound up or that the very idea of pursuing rights-based positive law on a global scale is misconceived. I fear that a lot of people outside Europe and the Americas have already come to the second conclusion, and I fear we're not far behind.

Rex Brynen

It needs to be remembered that demonstrating genocide--in the international legal sense--has a very high bar. Evidence of periodic mass killings by (para)military forces is not, in and of itself, proof of state genocidal intent (which is required to meet the 1951 Genocide Convention definition). Paradoxically and perversely, this means that forced displacement and ethnic cleansing can be cited as evidence *against* state genocidal intent (why drive them out when you had the opportunity to kill them?) The ICJ (or, for that matter earlier UN International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur) can't be faulted for the very restrictive way the Convention is written.

Incidentally, the ICJ (like ICTY before it) did rule that genocidal killing had indeed taken place in Srebrenica, and also ruled that Serbia violated the genocide convention in its failure to prevent this and its failure to hand over suspects to the ICTY for trial.


All that having been said, its largely irrelevant to Marc's actual point about the way this has played in the Arab world.

I wonder, however, whether the Serbia-Sudan *legal* parallels have been drawn in the Arab media at all: the legal reasoning for exempting Serbia from the genocide charge (as a state) was essentially identical to the legal reasoning used by the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur to conclude that Sudan had not--as a state--violated the 1951 Convention, even if genocidal and mass killings had taken place. I haven't seen anything on this--probably because, however important, its very technical, and not terribly sound-bite-worthy.

Brian Ulrich

Does the spate of Armenian genocide laws also play into this?


Rex - you make excellent points... all of which are, as you admit, too subtle to get traction in media coverage. But the actual reasons for the legal decision should matter, it's true, especially if mol-ag's fears aren't to be realized..

Michael P.

For some discussion of the legal question, see here. Marc, while you may be correct on the Muslim work's interpretation of what happened in Bosnia, I do not think that one has to be a "revisionist" in order to claim that while the Serbs, there is also a nuanced need to distinguish between Bosnian-Serbs and their supporters in Serbia, were guilty of ethnic cleansing and that there were horrendous massacres of Muslims, this might not necessarily have been genocide.


michael p - there is also a nuanced need to distinguish between Bosnian-Serbs and their supporters in Serbia

yes, but that's exactly what the ICJ did, isn't it? it ruled that bosnian-serb forces committed genocide at srebrenica, but that this was not due to direct serbian government involvement. without knowing all the details of the case, i think this is perfectly plausible. unless there's good evidence to the contrary -- i haven't heard of it, and the ICJ apparently didn't find it -- the arab press reaction described by abu a. is wildly off the mark.

michael p - [the] horrendous massacres of Muslims [...] might not necessarily have been genocide

the serb government's main goal obviously wasn't genocide, it was securing serbian state dominance and preventing the independence of certain other states. and i'd also agree with anyone who says that the primary aim of the bosnian-serb forces wasn't genocide, because it simply wasn't. their goal was winning their battles in the civil war and carving out a place to live -- and for that purpose, one of their goals was certainly ethnic cleansing. but that was the case for most everyone in that war, sometimes for purely defensive purposes.

however, at times it seems genocidal intent was adopted in respect to particular parts of the populations, in particular areas that the bosnian-serb leadership felt needed to be decisively emptied once and for all. and this is significant because, bear with me...

klaus - It's bollocks that the Balkan wars were genocidal. I wouldn't go there on Dar Fur either. Genocide is exterminating a people.

... not it's really not. it's, as defined by convention, any act of mass criminal killing aiming to destroy an ethnic or religious community, or significant parts of it. so, like the ICJ has now decided, the srebrenica massacre should definitely count as a genocidal crime -- even if on a more modest scale than, say, the holocaust.

the problem with always measuring genocide against near-unique atrocities like the holocaust, the armenian genocide or rwanda 1994, is that it creates an extremely narrow conception of genocide. those would be better described as "extermination genocides", or something similar, because there is a need for a term to describe what happened in bosnia and what is happening in darfur today. it's mostly just ("just") ethnic cleansing, but also more than that: a good number of the forces involved are out to kill any and all members of undesirable ethnic groups that they can lay their hands on. that doesn't translate into an overarching serbian or bosnian serbian, or sudanese, government strategy of genocide, but it does mean that those particular generals or warlords had genocidal intentions. and unfortunately acted on them, as best they could.


I can agree that this does sell differently to Muslims than it does to Americans.

I am a American by birth, Muslim by choice, who has been to Bosnia and worked there.

We came three years too late after doing the best we could to keep the Bosnian Muslims from being able to protect themselves.

We then came at a time of great military advances on the part of the Muslim and Croat troops against the Serbs. Far from saving the Muslims, the perception is that the US came in and attacked the Serbs as an indirect way of SAVING the Serbs. Interestings that an attack, limited as it was, by the US on the Serbs might have actually helped them.

It is perceived that American forces came in to end the fighting because they fear a Muslim/Croat victory in Bosnia might cause a further escalation of the war by bringing in the neighbors.


I think the problem here is that there is no question that huge numbers of civilians of all ethnicities were killed by all sides.

All sides did this as a matter of policy to ethnically cleans areas they sought.

Really those saying Serbian was guilty would also have to say that the Croats and Croatia, Bosnians and Bosnia and even ethnic Albanians committed genocide int he post Yugoslav wars.

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