The German foreign affairs minister has withdrawn its proposal to award Israeli historian Gideon Greif with the country’s Order of Merit after the academic was widely criticised over a report which denied the Srebrenica genocide.
Germany had announced earlier this year that it planned to award Greif for his contributions to Holocaust research, which focuses on the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp.
However, a wave of criticism followed, as Greif served as head of a commission which published a controversial report in July concluding that a genocide did not happen in Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina in July 1995, contradicting rulings by international courts.
Bosnia’s Serb-run entity of Republika Srpska had commissioned Greif to conduct the report. Serb leaders openly deny the genocide, including Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of the country’s tripartite presidency who is now seeking secession for the entity.
The award ceremony was supposed to take place on November 10, but Germany postponed the event until further notice and said it was reconsidering its decision.
On Wednesday, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a letter to Esnaf Begic, president of the board of directors at the Islamic College in Osnabruck, Germany that the foreign ministry had withdrawn its decision to present the award to Greif.
“The Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs has withdrawn his proposal to award Professor Greif the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany,” the letter said, published by Bosnian media.
“Professor Greif was therefore not awarded the Order of Merit. This decision does not diminish the merits that Professor Greif gained in researching the Holocaust and German Jews who emigrated to Israel.”
The now-closed International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Court of Justice (ICJ) long concluded that the systematic massacre of some 8,000 Bosniak men and boys by Serb forces in July 1995 constituted a genocide – the worst atrocity in Europe since World War II.
Greif’s work on the Srebrenica genocide was denounced by many, including Menachem Rosensaft, general counsel of the World Jewish Congress, who said he was “appalled by the report’s shameless manipulation of the truth”.
Emir Suljagic, director of the Srebrenica Memorial Center, told Al Jazeera earlier this month that Greif “has been paid by a genocide denying autocrat to peddle falsehoods and airbrush Bosniaks out of their own history, only because they are also Muslims”.
“And that is how he should be remembered for the rest of his life and in history,” Suljagic said.
The Institute for Research of Genocide Canada (IGC) called Germany’s decision “another big victory for truth and justice”.
“This is another victory in the fight against genocide deniers; falsifiers of historical, judicial and scientific facts about the genocide; and glorifiers of convicted war criminals,” institute director Emir Ramic said in a statement.
“The voice of victims, witnesses to the genocide, and genocide researchers needs to be heard more loudly.
“IGC will continue to vigilantly follow activities that are directed against Bosnia and will insist on justice and truth each time,” Ramic said.