SREBRENICA HISTORICAL PROJECT / International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

Open Letter to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia




Open Letter to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia

To Whom It May Concern:

On November 24, Ms. Nerma Jelacic, acting in her official capacity as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia’s Head of Outreach, addressed a letter to Ms. Eva Hamilton, the Chief Executive and Editor-in-chief of Sveriges Television (Swedish Public Television, or SVT).

Ms. Jelacic reprimanded SVT for having broadcast in August of this year the documentary film Staden som offrades (“Srebrenica: A Town Betrayed”), by the Norwegian filmmakers Ola Flyum and David Hebditch.[1]

“[M]uch of the [film’s] content runs counter to rulings made by the ICTY,” Ms. Jelacic noted. She also asked that, “should [SVT] decide to broadcast any further material which contradicts facts irrefutably established by the ICTY including those related to the Srebrenica genocide, that the ICTY be given the opportunity to present its findings.”[2]

Clearly, Ms. Jelacic’s request is designed to intimidate SVT, and to warn other media not to follow SVT’s example and broadcast Srebrenica: A Town Betrayed. Space and time should not be provided to any other person whose work challenges the ICTY’s alleged facts. It is unacceptable to discuss Srebrenica outside of what Ms. Jelacic called the ICTY's “definitive judgements.”

But Srebrenica: A Town Betrayed does an impressive job of portraying much of the largely ignored but important political background and context to the Srebrenica tragedy—material that receives little or no weight in the ICTY’s judgments. Furthermore, many of the ICTY’s accepted facts are highly contestable.[3] We fully support Swedish Public Television’s decision to broadcast this documentary, and consider Jelacic’s effort to obtain equal time for the ICTY’s publicists an illicit form of pressure on SVT, wholly incompatible with the principles of freedom of speech and of the press.

As the fate of the population in the Srebrenica “safe area” after July 11, 1995 is currently an issue before the ICTY in the trial of Radovan Karadzic, and will also be an issue in the trial of Ratko Mladic, Ms. Jelacic’s intervention at SVT also amounts to a denial of the fundamental rights of the accused to be presumed innocent. It also betrays the fact that at the ICTY, there never has been any real purpose to the Srebrenica-related trials, other than as mechanisms of official guilt-assignment and propaganda.[4] It is this truth that Ms. Jelacic appears intent on shielding from criticism.

Nerma Jelacic has long displayed animosity towards ethnic Serbs, as well as towards the wartime political structures and figures of the Republic of Serbia and the Srpska Republika within Bosnia and Herzegovina (where her hometown is located[5]). Her current attempt as the ICTY’s Head of Outreach to intimidate Swedish Public Television adds greater weight to the contention that the central task of the ICTY is not to render unbiased justice, but to impose the official NATO interpretation of the Yugoslav tragedy.

It is now the responsibility of ICTY President Judge Theodor Meron to issue a public clarification on behalf of the ICTY in which the ICTY rejects and renounces the kind of political interference in which Ms. Jelacic’s letter engages. Conduct such as Ms. Jelacic’s ought to be ruled out-of-bounds for all ICTY personnel.

[1] For one YouTube version of the documentary in question, see Ola Flyum and David Hebditch, Srebrenica—A Town Betrayed (Oslo: Fenris Film, 2010).
[2] Nerma Jelacic, Head of Outreach, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, Letter Addressed to Ms. Eva Hamilton, Chief Executive and Editor-in-Chief, SVT (Swedish Television), November 24, 2011, p. 1; p. 4. (For a copy of this letter, written on the official ICTY letterhead, see here.)
[3] For work that powerfully contests the ICTY’s accepted facts in the Srebrenica-related cases, see, e.g., Germinal Civikov, Srebrenica: The Star Witness, Trans. John Laughland (Belgrade: NGO Srebrenica Historical Project, 2010); and Edward S. Herman, Ed., The Srebrenica Massacre: Evidence, Context, Politics (Evergreen Park, IL: Alphabet Soup, 2011).
[4] On the ICTY as a mechanism of official guilt-assignment and a stager of show-trials, see Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, The New York Times on the Yugoslavia Tribunal: A Study in Total Propaganda Service, ColdType, 2004, p. 29.
[5] See Nerma Jelacic, "'Milosevic shattered my life, caused all the pain',” The Observer, June 24, 2001. Also see Nerma Jelacic, “Even in death, Milosevic wins again,” The Observer, March 12, 2006.

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