April 6, 2022 – Washington, D.C. – The Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina (ACBH) commemorates the Siege of Sarajevo that began this week in 1992 and lasted until February 29, 1996. For 1,425 days, the brave and resilient residents of the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina endured continuous shelling and sniper attacks by the Serb forces, while being forced to live without water, electricity, medicine, and with very little food.
On April 5, 1992, the Serb forces of then self-proclaimed Republika Srpska, along with the Yugoslav People’s Army, besieged Sarajevo with a clear intent to destroy its multiethnic fabric, and eliminate any resemblance of religious and cultural cohabitation. Sarajevo is a city where Christianity, Islam and Judaism flourished side by side for centuries, and its residents have historically lived in unity. The siege of Sarajevo became the longest siege in modern day history, and it not only marked the start of the war of aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also the beginning of genocide and ethnic cleansing of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s non-Serb population.
In March of 2016, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) – a UN court of law established to prosecute crimes committed during the conflict in the Balkans in the 1990s, ruled that Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic committed genocide in Srebrenica against its non-Serb population. The court also ruled that he participated in a Joint Criminal Enterprise (JCE) – which among many other things, aimed to establish and carry out a campaign of sniping and shelling against the civilian population of Sarajevo, and spread terror among civilians. Karadzic is the most senior Bosnian Serb leader to face prosecution. On March 20, 2019, the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals increased the sentence of Radovan Karadzic to life in prison.
11,541 individuals lost their lives during the Siege of Sarajevo, many of them children. The human toll from the war is astounding and devastating: over 100,000 killed, over 2 million displaced and according to the United Nations (UN), between 20,000 – 50,000 mostly Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) women and girls raped.
This is a somber day for citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and for the Bosnian diaspora across the globe. Today and always, we solemnly remember the innocent men, women and children who lost their lives in the 1992-1995 war of aggression against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s challenges did not stop when the war ended. The Dayton Peace Accords halted the gunfire, but the society continues to be devoid of justice for rape, camp, and genocide survivors. Thirty years after the beginning of the war, corruption and ethnically charged political rhetoric continue to threaten the country’s progress.
Today, we remember the heroic perseverance that Sarajevo, its courageous defenders, and its citizens endured, and in solidarity with April Genocide Prevention Month, ACBH is remembering victims of genocide and honoring the survivors. Lastly, ACBH urges the United States and the international community to re-commit its efforts in the campaign against genocide and mass atrocities that are currently being committed in places like Ukraine, Syria, China (Xinjiang), Yemen, Myanmar and other places around the globe.