“Never Again” – Remembering Srebrenica – 6 March 2018

Fifty years after the world said “Never Again” to the horrors of the Holocaust, genocide took place on European soil.

John Corrigan, ex-police chief and head of counter-terrorism made a welcome return to the club to explain to us how the name “Srebrenica” has become synonymous with those dark days in July 1995 when thousands of men and boys were systematically murdered and buried in mass graves. The victims, predominantly Muslim, were selected for death on the basis of their identity. This was the worst atrocity on European soil since the Second World War and was only the final act in a much broader genocidal strategy, euphemistically dubbed “ethnic cleansing”. The Srebrenica genocide was the planned, systematic, and industrialised conclusion of a four-year campaign of forced deportation, torture, mass murder and systematic sexual violence by Bosnian Serb forces in service of their goal to create a “Greater Serbia”. No one faction was blameless in this and even the UN had let the people down.

John elaborated on his view that genocide does not just happen overnight. It begins when hatred and intolerance are left unchallenged or are manipulated for political gain. With the fall of Yugoslavia in 1992, politicians in the region used divisive nationalism to gain power and influence. Propaganda and misinformation were utilised to spread first fear and then hatred, breaking apart decades of trust between vibrant and integrated communities and turning neighbour against neighbour. John explained how extermination of this kind is inevitably followed by denial and described how mass graves had been mechanically disturbed in an attempt to disguise the scale of the killings and the identities of the perpetrators. Thus, body parts were spread over large areas.

As a prominent board member of the Scottish branch of the charity ‘Remembering Srebrinica’, John has spent some time there and has listened to the terrible stories of the mostly women survivors of the war. They have been left bereft of grandfathers, fathers, brothers and sons. Time and again they have expressed their desire, not for revenge, but for Srebrenica and the events which took place not to be forgotten. That then is the overriding goal of the charity, and all who join them are pledged to go on telling the awful story of what took place in the hope that such things can be prevented from happening again.

The lesson from Srebrenica is that no society is invulnerable to prejudice and intolerance. We must all remain vigilant against these forces, and take positive action to build stronger, more resilient communities. The vision is a society free from hatred.

Dr Jimmy Begg thanked John for his graphic description of the causes and effects of these terrible events and commented that rarely had the members listened to a speaker in such silence throughout.