Texas Holocaust and Genocide Commission Awareness - Education - Inspiration

Conflicts with “Closure”


By THGC Admin

Closure is a safe word. We think of closure and we think of putting trauma and violence into a box, sealing it up tight, filing it away somewhere in the annals of history with a date and a location, sanitized and safe: Vukovar, 1991. Srebrenica, 1994. It's a political word too, used to show progress, a resolution of conflict, and that the dark days are behind us. Closure means peace - sometimes, forgiveness. For survivors of genocide, for the countries in which they live, closure is not as straightforward as its definition makes it seem. Those surviving in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the former Yugoslavia, know that unfortunate truth very well. 

Upon the arrest of Ratko Mladic on May 27th, 2011, the former military commander was indicted on fifteen counts of such crimes as genocide, murder, and persecutions on political, racial, and religious grounds. Overall, response to the arrest was positive. News reports spoke of justice and reconciliation, of Serbia "proving their cooperation" to the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). In fact, Serbia also needed to arrest Mladic and turn him over to the ICTY as a condition of their joining the European Union

(photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Did this arrest bring closure to the families of the murdered that so many news outlets reported it would? President Boris Tadic of Serbia made a public statement on the occasion: "I think today we finished a difficult period in our recent history." Sixteen years after the massacre of an estimated 7500-8000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, it seemed that one more war criminal would finally be held accountable. But was it really over? Or perhaps, a better question: is it ever really over?

Two of the resources in our forthcoming Online Digital Library, the film Belvedere and the book The Graves: Srebrenica and Vukovar, take on this question. Both answer with a resounding "no."In Belvedere, we see the post-war life of one family: a man confined to a wheelchair, who lost both of his legs; a woman searching for answers about her father, father-in-law, husband, and son; a young man trying to find a new reality. There is no closure for them. We hear the stories of more survivors in The Graves. This combination of journalism and photography documents the overwhelming task of exhuming the mass graves from the massacres at Srebrenica and Vukovar, and trying to identify thousands of victims. A few families found answers - most are still waiting. 

(photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

It's important to recognize anniversaries like Mladic's arrest - when we inch closer to justice - and just as important to recognize that any proclamations that such events bring "closure" threatens to make invisible the continued struggle of genocide survivors. 

Tags: thgc genocide texas holocaust and genocide commission bosnia vukovar srebrenica icty online digital library bosnian genocide


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