European Western Balkans

Serbian government uses UN Resolution on Srebrenica for a pre-election nationalist frenzy

President of Serbia in UN Generaly Assembly; Photo: FoNet

The Resolution on Genocide in Srebrenica, adopted by the UN General Assembly on Thursday, served as another opportunity for the Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to flex his nationalist muscles on eve of local elections scheduled for 2 June.

The vote came after a weeks-long campaign in Serbia to present the resolution as designating Serbs as a “genocidal people”, a claim made even though the proposed resolution did not mention neither Serbs nor Serbia.

The outcome of the voting in the UN General Assembly (84 countries in favour, 19 against, 68 abstained, and 22 did not vote), was interpreted as a “great moral victory” achieved by the Serbian President due to the high number of the “abstained” votes.

While voting was taking place, Vučić was present in the UN headquarters in New York, wrapped himself in the Serbian national flag in protest, and delivered the message via Instagram ”I am proud of my Serbia”.

The members of the Serbian Government, who gathered in Belgrade to watch the live broadcast of the session of the UN General Assembly, also draped themselves in the national flag.

In addition, a convoy of vehicles decorated with the Serbian flags was seen both in the Belgrade downtown and in North Mitrovica (Kosovo). The “flag parade” was accompanied by Serbian patriotic songs.

Flag parade in Belgrade; Photo: Vojin Radovanović

Also, at Thursday noon the bells rang on all the temples of the Serbian Orthodox Church, a move initiated by the Serbian patriarch Porfirije. The patriarch called the “the faithful people to prayer, calmness, mutual solidarity and steadfastness in doing good, despite completely false and unjust accusations to which they are exposed in the organization of the United Nations”.

Prior to his trip to New York Vučić visited Saint Sava Temple in Belgrade and was blessed by the patriarch, who wished him good luck and that he “had enough strength for the difficult days ahead”.

The pro-government daily newspapers in Serbia portrayed Vučić as “one of the greatest Serbs of all the time, who had the strength and the courage to confront the greatest powers of the West”.

Ministers of the Serbian Government draped in the Serbian flag during the UN general Assembly session; Photo: FoNet

Defence against the “genocidal people” accusation serves the election campaign

Over the last two months Vučić insisted that Draft Resolution on Srebrenica would label Serbs “genocidal people”. “Our people are not genocidal people, and we will fight. Serbia defends its honour and its freedom”, he underlined.

The same message – We remember… Proud Serbia and Srpska” (the BiH entity Republika Srpska), was put on the light display on so-called “Belgrade Tower”, the largest building in the Belgrade Waterfront district, as well as on billboards across Belgrade.

“We are not a genocidal nation”, billboard in Belgrade; Photo: FoNet

In the similar vein, other state officials in Serbia expressed support to the President “in his fight for the interests of Serbia”. The “epic battle” against the Draft Resolution on Srebrenica fought by Vučić, was also a burning topic at the rallies of the governing Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) for local elections in Belgrade, Novi Sad and many other places in Serbia, scheduled for 2 June.

For instance, Vučić spoke at the public gathering organized by the SNS in Novi Sad, and said that he was going to NYC to “defend our country”, while the SNS candidate for the City Major of Belgrade Aleksandar Šapić stated that the Resolution on Srebrenica “would be a huge burden for the future generations in Serbia”.

One of the strongest voices against the Draft Resolution was the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, a self-styled defender of the Serbian national interests. Dodik organized a public gathering in Banja Luka under the slogan: “Srpska is Calling You” and repeated on several occasions that Republika Srpska “could not be a part of Bosnia and Herzegovina anymore”, offering “a peaceful dissolution” to the Federation (BiH entity run by the Bosnian Muslims).

What does the UN resolution state?

However, the UN Resolution on Srebrenica, proposed by Germany and Rwanda, and co-sponsored by more than 30 countries, did not brand either Serbia or Republika Srpska “genocidal”.

The Resolution calls for establishing 11 July as the International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica (when more than 8,000 local Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed by the armed forces of the Bosnian Serbs).

It further condemns any denial of the Srebrenica genocide as a historical event and called on UN Member States to preserve the established facts, including through their educational systems, towards preventing denial and distortion, and any occurrence of genocide in the future.

The similar expressions are found in the Resolution on Rwanda, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2014, and aimed at the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi, which took place during the Rwandan Civil War. The Resolution on Rwanda called upon the UN member states to “recommit to prevent and fight against genocide and other serious crimes under international law”.

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