Bosnia, silver screens, and the slow road to justice for genocide

By | Rachel Brooks

March 2, 2021 

Image credit: 

“Srebrenica Massacre – Exhumed Grave of Victims – Potocari 2007” by Adam Jones, Ph.D. – Global Photo Archive is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0  Above image: Exhumed graves give validity to the record of the Srebrenica massacre. 

Bosnia has been on a journey for the last 25 years since the genocide of Srebenica. Yesterday, March 1, 2021, marked the 29th year since Bosnia filed for its independence, and in the wake of this petition, there was bloodshed and national trauma. In the aftermath, there has been a protracted process to locate, apprehend, and convict those who instigated that violence. The violence surrounding the genocide in Bosnia is made most famous by the mass killing in Srebrenica. The killing is entrenched deep into the realities of the post-Soviet era in the former Soviet nation. 

Zoran Malinic on trial 

On February 12, the Balkan Transnational Justice reported that Zoran Malinic was tried in aide of commission the genocide in Srebrenica. Malinic, a Serbian citizen who lives in Belgrade, was the former commander of the Bosnian Serb Army police battalion. 

The indictment formally filed against Malinic follows in a series of withdrawn convictions. The Bosnian state court filed it in February, accusing Malinic of “helping participants in a joint criminal enterprise that intended to commit genocide”, citing Balkan Transnational Justice.

The indictment against Malinic accuses him of involvement in the detention and maltreatment of at least 20 Bosniak civilians who hailed from Srebrenica. Malinic’s crimes occurred in the summer of 1995. The indictment accused Malinic of being a coordinator for crimes committed in Nova Kasaba and the area surrounding it. 

Malinic conviction follows a series of convictions 

The indictment of Malinic follows years after the conviction of Radovan Karadzic. The New York Times reported in 2016 that Karadzic, a former Bosnian Serb leader, was convicted of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by a United Nations tribunal. The conflict in Bosnia was reported, as of 2016, as the deadliest conflict in history since World War II. 

Denialism continues in recent history 

Even though international courts have found evidence of the genocide in Srebrenica, denialism continues to circulate the crime as “a myth.” The Associated Press reported that, in 2019, a Bosnian Serb leader referred to the events of Srebrenica 1995 as “a myth.” This follows in the hollow echo of post-Soviet ethnic conflicts where one nationality radicalized movement seeks to erase the other. This was seen in the post-Soviet propaganda of Armenia against the genocidal events in Khojaly, Azerbaijan in 1992. 

On silver screens

Foreign Policy reported on February 27 that a film depicting the events of the genocide in Srebrenica has, at last, put the genocide on silver screens. The film Quo Vadis, Aida? has been reported to potentially do for the Srebrenica genocide what Schindler’s List did to depict the Jewish Holocaust in films. The film was released across film festivals in September 2020. The Hollywood Reporter states that the film’s director Jasmila Zbanic returned to the topic of Srebrenica 25 years after the fact to at last tell “the greatest atrocity of the Yugoslav war”. Zbanic stated that, 10 years ago, when she was making her first film about the war in Bosnia Grabvica: The Land of My Dreams, she did not yet feel prepared as a director to tell “such a big story” as that of the Srebrenica events. She stated that, despite the fact she was not yet ready, she had been thinking of Srebrenica always. She was a citizen in Bosnia when Srebrenica fell to the Serbian armed forces. 

The film’s director noted the nuances of propaganda that affected her storytelling to this day. Srebrenica continues to be a topic of high political sensitivity. For example, Serbs have argued that the massacres in Srebrenica were in retaliation for attacks carried out against Serbs by Bosniak forces. Because of the politicization of the situation, Zbanic organized the film’s premiere “only for young people.” Young people from across Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia were invited to the screening. 

She stated that this decision was to set the scene where the film could not be grabbed by political actors to further the strain of relations in the political aftermath of a recent human tragedy. Even with her efforts, the Serbian press came for the Serbian actors who were in the film. Despite this, Zbanic stated that she believed many in Serbia wanted to pay respect to what had occurred between the two nationalities in 1995.