The Srebrenica Commemoration: As it Happened

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. Thousands of people gathered in the town to attend a memorial ceremony. Here’s how it all unfolded, along with some of our own commentary and analysis.

15.45 CET – Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, the international community’s favorite standard-bearer of regional stability and a consummate showman, may have pulled off his best act yet today, with a scene-stealing performance in Potočari. Vučić managed not only to overshadow the somber event, which was intended to honor the more than 8,000 victims of the Srebrenica genocide, but also to position himself as the victim in the very location where the 1995 horrors occurred for which he would later provide propagandistic support as Slobodan Milošević’s Minister of Information. Of course, this isn’t to imply that there weren’t very angry people present who attacked the Serbian premier, or that the assault on him was staged. The stone-throwing, like the rage, was directed and real, and probably should have been anticipated by those members of the international community who have stood by and showered Vučić with praise even as he has steamrolled the independent media, the opposition, and every existing check on power in his own country.

Instead, an event which should have been about the victims of genocide has been turned on its head: both the Serbian media and the international media are preoccupied with the attack on the prime minister rather than the many thousands of dead. At a hastily organized press conference following the incident at Srebrenica, Vučić said that he’d never seen “such hatred before”; the international media was quick to report that the premier, who once pledged that for every Serb killed “100 Muslims would be killed” in retribution, had endured an attack in which his glasses may have been broken. For his part, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović likened the incident, which involved the throwing of water bottles and stones, to an “assassination attempt” — yet the Serbian government still refuses to call the 1995 mass murder at Srebrenica a genocide.

None of this will stop Vučić from being applauded by the international community and media for his visit to Srebrenica, much as he was lauded for holding a conspicuously hooligan-free, EU-mandated pride parade in Belgrade last year. In both instances, Vučić managed to walk away not only as the West’s darling, but as the victim, since the only serious injuries at the 2014 pride parade were sustained by Vučić’s brother Andrej, under circumstances still shrouded in secrecy by the Serbian state. 

The sentiment expressed at today’s press conference, and the coming discussions about the attack on Vučić in the Serbian media and elsewhere, will only aid in the whitewashing of the premier’s personal history, while generating more confusion about who is committed to regional reconciliation and who is a victim. The international media’s attention to the minor assault on Vucic will only serve to deflect attention from the fact that the Serbian government lobbied Russia to veto a UN Security Council resolution on Srebrenica, so the crimes committed there will never be named for what they really are: genocide. — Lily Lynch, editor-in-chief @lilyslynch

 

16.37 CET – Following the attack on Serbia’s prime minister, Vucic, at the commemoration ceremony, the media narrative has been dominated by this story. The concern, of course, is that this risks making an event that should have been about the victims of the massacre into a PR coup for the Serbian government. The attack allows the Serbian administration to claim it is the victim.

This is part of a pattern that Balkanist has written about before. See, in particular, this article, this article, this article, and this article.

 

16.37 CET – The fall-out from the attack on Vucic continues to roll in …

 

 

16.17 CET – One event has dominated the reporting today. Serbia’s prime minister, Vucic, was driven from the ceremony by a crowd throwing rocks and bottles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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