This week we mark 25 years since the Srebrenica genocide carried out against the Bosnian people during the break-up of Yugoslavia. On 11 July, 1995, Bosnian Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic and Serbian paramilitary units systematically massacred 8,372 men and boys: each one a mother’s son, a father, husband or loved one, to those left behind. It must not be forgotten, writes Anna Fotyga.
Anna Fotyga is a Polish MEP from the ECR Group and Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
25 years later we in Europe seem to have almost forgotten the lessons that should have been learnt from that incident. That there are times when it is not a political decision to step in and intervene but a moral one. That, when human lives at risk, we should not hesitate.
Today we continue to fail to stand up for those who need our help. In China – over a million Uyghurs are in internment camps as a part of cultural genocide. Their basic rights are being stripped – with more and more revelations coming out about the state of affairs in Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
Most recently it has been revealed that the Communist State is carrying out a programme of forced sterilisation.
At the same time – the new security measures passed in Hong Kong have led to a wave of mass arrests by Chinese authorities. Pro-democracy protestors have continued to disappear without a trace as the Communist Party increases its grip on the region – disregarding the ‘One Country – Two Systems’ principle that has been enshrined in international law.
Meanwhile, in Iran, protestors who oppose the theocratic regime face the death penalty. Activists there as well have disappeared, and sham trials have been held to claim that many who are simply speaking out in favour of democracy are terrorists and enemies of the state.
The same has happened in Belarus – where opposition candidates have been arrested without due process. Charged for crimes they may not have committed but unable to see the evidence against them. The death penalty – banned everywhere else in Europe – continues to apply under the regime in Minsk.
Perhaps worst of all is the ongoing conflict in Syria – which is now into its ninth year of fighting – which has so far taken the lives of 500,000 people, with seven million people internally displaced and a further five million seeking refuge abroad.
Whilst we have had to deal with the direct consequences of this conflict ourselves, we have sat to one side and allowed Russia to take advantage of the situation for their own gain.
And yet we are doing very little. The European Union, who sat idly by in the past, continues to fail to act when it comes to human rights violations around the world.
They may produce press releases, and the European Parliament might vote on resolutions, but the fact is that this Commission is too afraid to antagonise Iran, China or Russia, failing in its responsibility to stand up for human rights around the world.
We failed more than eight thousand people in Bosnia – are we really going to allow ourselves to fail again? How can we claim to be the defenders of freedom and liberty in Europe if we are willing to continue to turn a blind eye on violations because we are too afraid to speak out?
If the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand are able to hold their own against China, Russia and Iran, then why can’t we? It is time for real action from the High Representative and the European External Action Service.