“All my children were killed.”
“Six sons, two brothers … and finally my sister was hanged.”
“My four brothers … and my father is the fifth … they never came back … I only have my mother left, nobody else …”
“I lost my brother, my two nephews … my five grandchildren, my two sons …”
“When I add it up, 24 of them were swallowed up by Srebrenica …”
Year after year, one testimony follows another. I have been recording them for over two decades.
They are the testimonies of mostly women – and some male – survivors of the Bosnian war, whose loved ones were killed in the genocide committed in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995, by the Serb forces led by General Ratko Mladic.
The survivors are now anxiously awaiting news from The Hague, where a first-instance verdict is due to be pronounced against Mladic before the International War Crimes Tribunal.
Mladic was indicted and charged with genocide in Srebrenica and six other municipalities in Bosnia Herzegovina, in addition to ethnic cleansing; killings; inhumane actions; destruction of mosques and Catholic churches; and the siege of Sarajevo.
Those how have lost people dearest to their heart see Mladic as a symbol of the project of evil, designed and prepared so as to enable the perpetration of genocide, a symbol of the system that hid traces of crimes and consequences of genocide and continues to hide them in mass graves across Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I have spent hundreds of days and nights in the company of those who have spent years searching for the mortal remains of their loved ones. Searching for their bones, buried deep in the Bosnian soil.
I witnessed their enormous grief. I watched mothers caress the only recovered bone belonging to their sons, talking to that piece of skeleton as if it were a living man.
I was moved by their stories, both as a journalist and a human being.
They are my most important source of information, my key method of preparation.
For they speak without calculations. They speak the truth.
And on the day of the pronouncement of the verdict against Mladic, their words will be the loudest.
Giving them a chance to speak means practising journalism in the only right way: “Giving a voice to the voiceless!”
In conclusion, there is no balance and neutrality in reporting on crimes. There is no even distribution of media time between criminals and victims.
Criminals and their representatives must not be given an opportunity to promote crimes under the guise of objectivity, which is not the same as neutrality.
Ed Vulliamy, a British-Irish reporter who covered the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has been credited with discovering Serb concentration camps in northwestern Bosnia, wrote in his book on the war in Bosnia: “I believe that there are moments in history when neutrality is not neutral, but becomes complicit in the crime. I’m not neutral between the camp guards and the prisoners, between the raped women and the beasts who raped them.”
These words should be reiterated. They are important.
Follow Adnan Rondic on Twitter @AdnanAJB