Commissioner Reflects on Srebrenica Visit

Failing to fully acknowledge the past while allowing it to dictate the present is damaging people’s confidence in government, the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors has said. Judith Thompson was speaking to BBC journalist Chris Page during a visit to Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Pictured: Judith Thompson among delegates at Potocari, listening to the testimony of genocide survivor, Nedzad Avdic.

The three day 'Lessons From Srebrenica' visit was organised by Remembering Srebrenica, a British charitable initiative, part-funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government and supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The delegation was led by the Chair of Remembering Srebrenica Northern Ireland, Peter Osborne, who is also Chair of the Community Relations Council.

On a visit to the Podrinje Identification Project which deals with the identification of victims of the 1995 Srebenica Massacre, Ms Thompson commented that the team of professionals had retrieved the remains of 6,000 people - “giving 6,000 families at least a person to remember, to bury, to mourn and to be able to say to the world ‘I know what happened here.’ That is… acknowledgment, that’s maintaining the truth of what happened.”

Whilst Ms Thompson emphasised that it would be wrong to compare the situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina with Northern Ireland, she did highlight the need for acknowledgement.

“Those are powerful things that…we’re struggling with at home. Acknowledgment of harm, loss, and wrongdoing on all parts, recognition of pain, and recognition that finding truth, or what’s available of it, is more important than the discomfort of those people who don’t necessarily want to acknowledge aspects of the past. I think that the failure to deal with things in the past, the way they constantly re-emerge in our political dialogues and in the way we decide what the future should look like, that resonates. And I think there is a declining confidence in our own systems of government and our politicians...because we keep doing that same thing, failing to really honestly acknowledge what happened in the past fully, but at the same time, allowing it, or perceptions about it, to dictate what we do now. And that’s a really unhelpful combination.”

To find out more about the work of Remembering Srebrenica click here to visit their website.

The BBC radio clip can be accessed via this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007cps5