Tag Archives: Hasan Nuhanovic

Resolution 819, the film: Hasan Nuhanovic’s position.

I have been writing about this film about the genocide in Srebrenica, ‘Resolution 819’, named after the UN Security Council resolution that established Srebrenica as a ‘safe area’. This film sparked a controversy over the way it depicts the role of the international comunity, the United Nations ‘peacekeepers’, and the Dutch Bat, the battalion of UN ‘peacekeepers present in Srebrenica.

The film was awarded the public’s award in the Rome Film Festival, and I put a post here saying that ‘anything that may help keep the memory of Srebrenica alive and reach audiences that are usually not interested in this issue is more than welcome.’.

Then I published an article written by Hasan Nuhanovic, who in 1995 was working for the DutchBat as a translator, and whose entire family was killed after having been handed to the Serbs by the Dutch themselves. Based on some photos he saw of the movie’s scenes, he claimed that the film contained at least one inaccurate scene that would distort the truth about the role of the DutchBat. As it happens that the victims associations were not consulted about this film, Hasan raised  the following question:

“””So who in the end was responsible for including the scene in the film, and why? This is the stereotypical general idea that in any situation of that kind there will always be a guy “with balls” who angered by the behaviour of the Serb soldiers, at least grabs hold of one of them by the collar and then “lets go” when another Serb soldier holds a gun to his head.  Pure Hollywood. If this scene isn’t removed from the film (and that is what I plan to ask the director to do), over the next 50 years it will be telling future generations that the UNPROFOR troops were compelled to behave as they did, there was nothing they could do about it because they were being held “at gun point”, with a pistol held to their head. And so the Republika Srpska troops were able to do what they did because the whole of UNPROFOR, the whole of Europe, the whole of NATO, were being being held “at gun point” as people were being separated and killed. That scene and that individual UNPROFOR officer, will be fixed in the minds of the film’s future audience, who will take away the idea that it is the uncontested truth. And if all the rest of the film consists of a faithful and accurate reconstruction of the tragic events, that scene would still be extremely controversial.  Because that scene gives the audience an idea of the attitude of the rest of the world towards the executioners and the victims – Europe, represented by UNPROFOR, after all those reiterations of “Never Again”.

No, neither UNPROFOR nor the Dutch, none of them, made even the slightest effort to grab one of the Serbs by the collar, a terrifying thought.  Not one of them. They were servile towards the Serb , they did whatever the Serbs asked them to, and more.  We cannot consent to that scene being shown, no matter how many people might say that it’s just a single scene and the rest of the film shows events in a truthful light.

We do not know that and we cannot offer our absolute trust without having seen the film.””””

(Hasan Nuhanovic’s full article here, in english . The article was originally published in the bosnian newspaper Dani, then translated into italian and published on Osservatorio sui Balcani)

When I read Andrea Rossini’s article on the projection in Sarajevo, I emailed Hasan Nuhanovic to ask him if he could share his opinion with me, and whether the issue had been clarified, as the article implied, or not.

Hasan gave me his position and authorized me to paraphrase him here on my blog, and that’s what I’ll go right now.

For Hasan Nuhanovic, the issue he raised was not clarified. He did meet Giaccomo Battiato, the film director, and discussed the issue of how the film shows the role of the Dutch and the UN during the critical period and why he thinks that  particular scene should not have been included, but this meeting did not clarify what the authors had in mind with such option.

In fact, according to Hasan, the scene where a Duch military tries to protect a Bosniak woman  is not the only inaccurate scene in the film. The entire part regarding the role of Karremans does not match what happened in reality.

He points out that the main reason why the film has been welcomed  rather than challenged is primarily because politicians and ordinary people aren’t clear about what actually happened at Srebrenica and the complicity of the UN/Dutch would be incomprehensible to a lot of people who did not experience it – and it still is incomprehenisble.  Even most Bosniaks, who understand the enormity of the genocide, don’t necessarily understand the the reality of the betrayal that occurred. Thus, the inaccuracies in the film are perceived as mere details, concessions that are easily accepted.

The film is highly critical of the Bosnian Serbs, and, because of that, it is being welcomed among Bosniaks, while the importance of the inaccurate scenes regarding the role of the DutchBat and the United Nations is downplayed or ignored. Behind this logic, Hasan claims, is a mind-set that leads Bosnians to adopt the attitude that one should not  look a gift horse in the mouth.

Such attitude, which he refuses to accept, is, in part, politically motivated, but mostly due to the fact that many people don’t understand or refuse to see up to which point the UN and the Dutch became complicit in the Srebrenica genocide, this despite all the books that have been written, including his own (Under the UN Flag, the International Community and the Srebrenica Genocide),  the documentaries that have been made, and the legal action against the UN and the Dutch state.

Hasan also raises the more general question of how a traumatic  historical event should be portrayed in cinema, and what should be the involvement of the survivors and witnesses. The problem regarding this film is that it is not a work of fiction. Although it is not a documentary, it is a film that is perceived by the public as a reconstruction. However, the director made the choice to mix fictional events with real events, in a way that creates a bias in the perception of the behaviour of important elements involved in the real events. Hasan criticizes the ambiguity of such option and the decision not to consult the victims.

The question of what did the authors had in mind is still not answered, and the position that we should not look a gift horse in the mouth is one that Hasan Nuhanovic rejects.

Aditional note:

Among traumatic historical events, the experience of genocide is one that only victims fully understand. The lack of understanding from others about the impact of genocide in people’s lives, not only as members of one group, but also as individuals, is something that is part of of the heavy legacy that survivors have to cope with. This is an additional element of suffering for them, which has been widely documented on studies about Jews who survived the Holocaust. There is also a whole body of literature about the ethical implications of the choice of the topic of genocide for films and books. The importance of popular narrative forms such as films and novels for the construction of a collective memory of Historical events is also widely known. The fact that this is the first feature film about Srebrenica only adds responsibility to the authors options.

Thus, it puzzles me that the victims have not been consulted. The issue raised by Hassan Nuhanovic should not be seen as a question of detail. There is a strict ethical code that people who choose to work on the issue of genocide are obliged to observe. Instead of making one more film for entertainment, the authors chose a sensitive topic, they should be aware of its implications.

I am looking forward to watching the movie, and then I’ll try to post on this again.

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Filed under Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, Srebrenica

Resolution 819, the film: article on its projection in Sarajevo

I have already written three posts about the film Resolution 819, about the genocidal massacre of Srebrenica, but i’m not satisfied, so today I’m posting two more.

I’ve been googling searching the keywords ‘Resolution 819’, and I came to the conclusion that there is hardly anything relevant written in english and available online about this film. I’m not surprised, this is the problem with european cinema, national boundaries are hard to cross.

There are some more materials in French, because it turns out that this film has already passed on french TV Canal Plus on 27 October 2008 , but nothing relevant in english, at least nothing that I could find.

So, I think it’s useful to provide both the regular readers and those who come here through google searches with a more extended excerpt of the article published on Osservatorio sui Balcani by Andrea Rossini, who covered the projection of the film in Sarajevo. The article also adresses the issue raised by Hasan Nuhanovic, and incudes a small interview with the director.

I’m posting most of the article except for the journalist personal considerations, not that they are not relevant, but because it would make the post too long.

In another post I’m giving Hasan Nihanovic’s own opinion about this film, now that he has already watched it.

Sarajevo 819

04/12/2008

Author: Andrea Rossini, published originally in italian in Osservatorio sui Balcani.

Translated by Owen Beith (thanks, Owen!)

The Sarajevo premiere of Resolution 819, a French film about the massacre at Srebrenica by Italian director Giacomo Battiato.
Cinema, history and the construction of the past.
The public’s reaction, the director’s comments.

“I am a bit concerned about the screening tomorrow [Wednesday].  I have come here from abroad to talk about their history. I was very motivated and I made this film in a spirit of absolute honesty. But I don’t know what the reaction here might be …”

The anxiety that Resolution 819’s director Giacomo Battiato had confided to us the evening before the film’s premiere in Sarajevo disappeared after an hour and a half.  The audience in the People’s Theatre watched the screening in almost religious silence.  In the auditorium were survivors, relatives of the victims – the women of Srebrenica.  Women who had been there in July 1995.  They watched the cinematic reconstruction of the killings in anguished amazement. The story of the fall of the enclave was accurately recounted.  There was tentative applause as the closing credits began to roll, which slowly built to an ovation. Amor Mašović, a man who has dedicated his life to searching for the missing, rose to his feet in the centre of the auditorium and invited everybody around him to do likewise – Nataša Kandić, Florence Hartmann, the anthropologist Ewa Klonowoski and many others who over the years have played their part in the search for the truth about Srebrenica.  Finally Giacomo Battiato returned to the stage and modestly expressed his personal gratitude to the Sarajevo audience.

The previous evening the director had explained his motivation to journalists: “I decided to make this film for two reasons. There have been some excellent documentaries made about  Srebrenica, but a film speaks to the emotions and allows you to reach a lot more people.  I wanted to tell a story that was not just about the suffering of the Bosniaks but also about the passivity of the international community, and the feeling of guilt this could have been allowed to happen.  At the same time, though, I wanted to show something positive as well, the story of a French investigator [Jean René Ruez], and how so many people have contributed to the work of trying to establish the truth and bring the criminals to justice.”

The screening was prefaced by a controversy raised by Hasan Nuhanović, the United Nations interpreter whose family died at Srebrenica and who eventually decided to take legal action against the Dutch government for its failure to protect them.  In an article for the weekly journal Dani, Nuhanović told of his confusion after seeing a shot from the film showing one of the [U.N.] Blue Helmets clashing with a Serb soldier.  Nothing like that ever happened at Srebrenica, Nuhanović maintained, expressing his hope that the film would not distort history by exculpating the United Nations.  The confusion was cleared up after Nuhanović and Battiato met here in Sarajevo.  Apart from this episode the film’s stance is unambiguous, the message that Resolution 819 tells about the role of the international community is very clear. The situation is described in merciless detail, starting with the desperate telephone calls made by the Dutch commandant at Srebrenica (Karremans) to the United Nations general in Zagreb (Janvier), who refuses to order air strikes. The Dutch soldiers then hand over uniforms and equipment to the Serbs, who carry out killings disguised as Blue Helmets. This is precisely the scenario that the scene that inspired Nuhanović’s article describes: a Dutch officer just for a moment ceases to be a soldier and reacts as an ordinary human being to a violent assault on a girl.  And then almost immediately the soldier resumes the role that Dutchbat was assigned at Srebrenica in the summer of ’95, ordered to do nothing.  The film is very hard on the international community.  In a subsequent scene filmed at an imaginary road block in post-Dayton Bosnia, American soldiers allow a convoy of cars with the wanted Radovan Karadžić on board to pass through, on the grounds that “it’s better to avoid problems.”

We met Giacomo Battiato ahead of the film’s premiere before a Bosnian audience, fresh from its triumph at the Rome Festival.  “If anyone had wanted to strike a bet with me I’d have lost”, he told us.  “I never dreamed we’d win in Rome. The fact that the public voted for the film astonished me, it meant that the message had been received loud and clear.”

What is the reason, in your opinion?

It is a story about pain, and the sharing of pain, and along with the pain a sense of guilt that we experience when we discover that while we were enjoying ourselves on the beach, only a few kilometres away something unimaginable was taking place.

Italy knows nothing about Srebrenica?

Very little, and very superficially.  I was astonished by the response of the media after the film won the prize in Rome. The newspapers began to talk about Srebrenica, people said to me “but I knew nothing about all that, but it’s true, so how is it possible?”

(…)

Previous posts on ‘Resolution 819′ on Café Turco:

History as written by other people, the transation of Hasan Nuhhanovic’s article  Drugi pišu našu historiju, published on the newspaper Dani (thanks, Owen, for the translation) (24/11/2008)

Film ‘Resolution 819′ about the genocide in Srebrenica includes inaccurate scene that falsifies the truth, where I react to Hasan Nuhanovic’s article. (21/11/2008)

Film ‘Resoultion 819′ about the genocide in Srebrenica wins highest award at the Rome Film Festival. (1/11/2008)

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Film ‘Resolution 819’ shown in Sarajevo

Two days ago (3 December) the film ‘Resolution 819’ was shown in Sarajevo.

Here is an article on the event, published by Osservatorio sui Balcani (in italian).

Sarajevo 819

According to its author, Andrea Rossini, my fears that the film might misrepresent the role of the UN and the Dutchbat have not been confirmed. Rossini mentions the polemic caused by the article written by Hasan Nuhanovic in the newspaper Dani (translated into italian by Osservatorio sui Balcani and into english from the italian translation here at this blog), saying that ‘the equivoque  was clarified after a meeting between Nuhanovic and Battiato in Sarajevo’.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

La visione di “Risoluzione 819”, del resto, non lascia dubbi, il messaggio rispetto al ruolo della comunità internazionale è molto chiaro. Il sistema viene descritto impietosamente, a partire dai disperati colloqui telefonici del comandante olandese a Srebrenica (Karremans) con il generale delle Nazioni Unite a Zagabria (Janvier), che nega gli interventi aerei.

Here in English (my translation):

The vision of ‘Resolution 819’ does not leave room for doubt, the message regarding the role of the international community is very clear. The system is described with no mercy, starting from the desperate phone conversations between the dutch commander in Srebrenica (Karremans) and the United Nations general in Zagreb (Janvier), who denies an air intervention”.

This perspective is, somehow, confirmed by another person who watched the film, which stated in the comment box of Osservatorio sui Balcani (comment author: provenzan salvan, 05.12.2008 10:08):

ho visto il film l’altra sera. forse non un capolavoro, ma un film utile. (…) temevo sentimentalismi facili, temevo deviazioni “spettacolari” dalla trama, temevo una narrazione molto parziale dei fatti. invece, devo ammettere che la storia di srebrenica e’ li’, e’ nel film che, ricordiamolo, non e’ un documentario (ce ne sono di bellissimi) ma un prodotto che non deve essere “vero”, ma “verosimile”. (…)  il regista ha mostrato la storia di srebrenica, in un modo certo imperfetto e in alcuni punti discutibile, ma non l’ha stravolta o strumentalizzata. magari, altri faranno meglio. o magari no.”

I watched the movie the other evening. it’s probably not a masterpiece, but a useful film. (…) I was afraid of easy sentimentalisms, I feared ‘spectacular’ deviations of the thread, a narration that might be too parcial. On the contrary, I have to admite that the story of Srebrenica is there, it’s on the film, which, let me remind that, is not a documentary (there are excellent) but a product that must not me ‘true’, but ‘likely’. (…) the director has shown the story of Srebrenica, in an imperfect way and in some points questionable, but has not distorted or instrumentalized it maybe others will do better. ir not.

I hope to get other reactions from people who may have watched the film. I’ll post more on this as soon as I have more reactions (it is unlikely that I will have the possibility to watch the film any time soon).

Previous posts on ‘Resolution 819’ on Café Turco:

History as written by other people, the transation of Hasan Nuhhanovic’s article  Drugi pišu našu historiju, published on the newspaper Dani (thanks, Owen, for the translation) (24/11/2008)

Film ‘Resolution 819’ about the genocide in Srebrenica includes inaccurate scene that falsifies the truth, where I react to Hasan Nuhanovic’s article. (21/11/2008)

Film ‘Resoultion 819’ about the genocide in Srebrenica wins highest award at the Rome Film Festival. (1/11/2008)

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Filed under Art, Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, Hope, Nationalism, Srebrenica

HISTORY AS WRITTEN BY OTHER PEOPLE

I am now publishing the full version of the article written by Hasan Nuhanović (thanks Owen, for the translation). Additionally I am also posting the trailer of the Film ‘Resolution 891’.

A few days ahead of its Sarajevo launch, the film “Resolution 819”, a prize-winner in Rome, has provoked controversy in Bosnia Herzegovina.  A survivor of the genocide at Srebrenica, challenges the veracity of some scenes in the film in his article in the weekly Dani.

by Hasan Nuhanović, 14 November 2008, Dani
(original title Drugi pišu našu historiju)

Translated into English from the translation into Italian for Osservatorio Balcani by Maria Elena Franco

Controversy: Does the Rome Festival award-winning film “Resolution 819” give a misleading account of the massacre of Bosniaks at Srebrenica?  “Resolution 819”, a Franco-Polish co-production directed by the renowned Italian Giacomo Battiato, was recently honoured with the audience award at the Rome Film Festival.  It tells the true story of a police officer sent by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to carry out inquiries into the death of 8000 Bosniaks from Srebrenica. The film is due to be launched on 2 December at the People’s Theatre in Sarajevo.  Hasan Nuhanović, an interpreter for the UN forces at Srebrenica who lost his family in July 1995 and has made numerous documentaries about the Srebrenica massacre, maintains that  the film is a historical fabrication.

Ten days ago, on my return from Potočari, where I had been making a documentary with a German television crew (another in a sequence of tens and maybe hundreds of documentaries to date) about what happened at Srebrenica and in the surrounding area in July 1995, I heard that the Italian director had won a prize for his film about the Srebrenica genocide titled “Resolution 819”.  When I saw a photograph  from the film accompanying an article in Avaz, I thought immediately that at long last this was the film we had all been waiting 13 years for.  The shot showed shows a scene from the film with criminals drunk on blood and alcohol seated around a table drinking and feasting themselves on meat just a few metres away from the bodies – corpses piled one on top of one another in front of a building.  That scene reflects exactly accounts of the mass execution of 1500-2000 men and boys that took place around Pilica, Kozluk or Grbavnica, Orahovica and Zvornik.  Those accounts have been provided many times in the course of reconstructing the facts at the trials of members of the of Republika Srpska military and police forces before the Hague Tribunal.  I thought to myself, at last a film made by a director who has chosen not to play softball or pretty things up “to keep the audience happy”.

Accomplices to genocide

While I was agreeably surprised by the news, at the same time I had my reservations and I have to confess I was angry that the film (which it’s clear no-one knew almost anything about before it was shown at the Rome Film Festival) had been made without speaking to eye-witnesses and survivors of the events it portrayed.

For years I have been preoccupied with the idea of making the same kind of film about Srebrenica but none of my efforts have ever got anywhere.  I have spoken to plenty of people in Bosnia Herzegovina and abroad (not to mention important political and cultural figures) and proposed using material already available, for example in books and witness statements, in order to make as accurate as possible of the events into a film, but all to no avail.  Since 1995 I have helped a number of authors of books about the Srebrenica genocide to arrange interviews with individual survivors of the mass executions and trace documents and other materials so as to ensure as complete and accurate an account as possible, setting out the facts of what actually happened.

These books include the American journalist David Rohde’s book “End Game”, published in 1996 (which won him the Pulitzer Prize), and the book by Dutch journalist Frank Westerman, written almost immediately following the event and published under the title “Srebrenica: The Darkest Scenario”.  In 2003 I published my own book, “Under the UN Flag – the international community and the Srebrenica Genocide”; a documented reconstruction of events, including the shameful role played by the international community (UN, Netherlands, NATO and EU).  In truth, “shameful role” is an inaccurate description, because what it actually refers to is their complicity with a crime that has been confirmed as genocide.  So they are accomplices to genocide.

While all through those long years I always believed that one day we would eventually manage to find the money, and by that I mean people willing to finance a film of this kind, I was still afraid that “someone else” would get there ahead of us (by us, I mean we, the survivors), because after fighting for 13 years against people who continue to deny the full truth (and there are plenty of them) I have learned that that there is always some sort mistake that will get past everything – some misapprehension, or to be more precise an incomplete or possibly superficial understanding of what had happened.  Above all I’m referring to the role of what is known as the international community, because however resistant the actual deniers – those Serbs who deny that genocide occurred (in Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia and the diaspora), there is even greater resistance among the intellectuals of Western Europe who are either unwilling or unable to contemplate the fact that this so-called international community was an accomplice to genocide.

Reality and the cinema

Searching on the internet for articles about the director Giacomo Battiato’s film “Resolution 819”, I also found a few photographs showing half a dozen or so scenes from the film.  Initially I had the impression that this was a fairly faithful reconstruction, at least as far as those particular scenes were concerned, but then I came across the photograph which caused me to write this article.  In it a tall, good-looking UNPROFOR soldier, beside one of the buses at Potočari with only women and young children on board, is grabbing hold of a Serb officer by the collar while another Serb soldier is pointing a gun at his head.


At first I didn’t understand what this was all about but then I became extremely angry.  A complete fabrication, depicting something that never happened.  In fact it was just what I had always feared, the type of scene that I imagined might have turned up in a film made by someone else, not ourselves.

In the shot you can see an UNPROFOR officer in Dutch army uniform (it has to be said that they’ve paid great attention to detail).  On his head he is wearing the blue beret and around his waist is the belt that his holster and gun would be attached to.  So an image  representation and attitude that would impress the ordinary spectator with no background knowledge.  And this is why!  Here is another hero!  Except this one never existed.  It never happened.

In fact, during those few days in July 1995 none of the soldiers or officers belonging to the Dutch UNPROFOR contingent at Potočari ever wore that uniform outside the base.  And the fact is that they didn’t wear uniform, all the Dutch soldiers who went outside the base (for any reason) wore shorts, T-shirts and blue baseball caps with the UN badge. None of them carried arms because they had been ordered to leave them behind on the base “in order not to provoke the Serbs in any way”.  At the same time all the Dutch soldiers inside the base who had any contact with the 5000-6000 Bosniak refugees were fully equipped with helmets, bulletproof vests and firearms.  It was the Dutch (not the Serbs) who around midday on 13 July 1995, wearing uniforms like the one worn by the actor in the film, ordered all the Bosniaks to leave the UNPROFOR compound and delivered them into the hands of the Serb soldiers who were waiting for them outside the camp gate.  All the boys and young men were forced to leave the base under escort and then killed.

Evidence given in the trial of General Krstić

So the Dutch not only did nothing to prevent this happening but went so far as give the go-ahead for it to happen in the way I have just described and also as set out in detail in my book.  I am willing to give everything I possess without the slightest hesitation to any Dutch soldier or officer who can look me in the eye and tell me that he or any other member of the Dutch battalion behaved in the way shown in the film scene that impelled me to write this article. I will then apolgise for any offence caused to his country by that accusation against in the trial and withdraw it immediately.

When Hayat TV showed a trailer for the film including the scene in question, I got in touch straight away with the Association of Mothers from the Enclaves of Žepa and Srebrenica in Sarajevo to show them the picture of the scene.  They obviously agreed with me without hesitation that this was an absolute fabrication, but they also told me that they along with the Ministry of Culture for the Canton of Sarajevo had been in contact with the director for a number months and had sent him a  letter complimenting him and thanking him and inviting him to hold the launch of the film, with their support, in Bosnia Herzegovina (in Sarajevo, to be precise).

So the Association, unaware of any scenes like the one in question, had presented the director with a blank cheque.  The mothers had complimented him on a film that no-one had yet seen.

Given all that, I am not convinced that the director, the scriptwriters or anyone else involved in deciding to include that scene in the film (out of hundreds and hundreds of other possible scenes) did so with the explicit intention of exonerating UNPROFOR (either the UN or the Dutch), it could have happened by mistake.  But what if that wasn’t the case? As far as I have been able to discover, the film was made in consultation with the French investigator Jean-Rene Ruez, who for years after the war (up until around 2001 or 2002) was head of the ICTY investigative task force responsible for gathering evidence on the ground in Bosnia Herzegovina.  I know Jean-Rene very well, we were friends. About 6-7 years ago he left his investigator’s post with the Prosecutor’s Office at the ICTY, for personal reasons.  At the time he had some private issues to resolve that he believes were due to his preoccupation with Srebrenica.  His health also suffered as a result.  As far as I know, the film, or at least part of it, is about his work. His work has nothing to do in fact with the scene under discussion.  Jean-Rene worked on the reconstruction of the episode which he has frequently had to describe as an expert witness to the judges at The Hague Tribunal hearing the case against General Krstić.

The last word belongs to Tito

So who in the end was responsible for including the scene in the film, and why?  This is the stereotypical general idea that in any situation of that kind there will always be a guy “with balls” who angered by the behaviour of the Serb soldiers, at least grabs hold of one of them by the collar and then “lets go” when another Serb soldier holds a gun to his head.  Pure Hollywood. If this scene isn’t removed from the film (and that is what I plan to ask the director to do), over the next 50 years it will be telling future generations that the UNPROFOR troops were compelled to behave as they did, there was nothing they could do about it because they were being held “at gun point”, with a pistol held to their head. And so the Republika Srpska troops were able to do what they did because the whole of UNPROFOR, the whole of Europe, the whole of NATO, were being being held “at gun point” as people were being separated and killed. That scene and that individual UNPROFOR officer, will be fixed in the minds of the film’s future audience, who will take away the idea that it is the uncontested truth. And if all the rest of the film consists of a faithful and accurate reconstruction of the tragic events, that scene would still be extremely controversial.  Because that scene gives the audience an idea of the attitude of the rest of the world towards the executioners and the victims – Europe, represented by UNPROFOR, after all those reiterations of “Never Again”.

No, neither UNPROFOR nor the Dutch, none of them, made even the slightest effort to grab one of the Serbs by the collar, a terrifying thought.  Not one of them. They were servile towards the Serb , they did whatever the Serbs asked them to, and more.  We cannot consent to that scene being shown, no matter how many people might say that it’s just a single scene and the rest of the film shows events in a truthful light.

We do not know that and we cannot offer our absolute trust without having seen the film. When one day I spoke to a friend about how angry I felt about the scene, he told me this story.  After the filming of “Sutjeska” had been completed, Tito invited his surviving advisers to view the film before it was shown on general release.  After watching the film they complained that the film didn’t show even 1% of what had happened. Tito said to them, I know that, but let people at least see that 1%.

This time it is not Tito saying so, and it’s not even a matter of how much of that happened is in the film, but whether it misrepresents specific events.

I was in Paris when I happened to bump into Danis Tanović, around the time that his film had been nominated for an Oscar and I had already seen it.  I was there for a meeting the following day with members of the French Parliamentary Commission that was about to publish its report on Srebrenica (which largely and unjustifiably let the French off the hook).  I recognised Danis because he had been a fellow student at the Engineering Faculty in Sarajevo in 1988.  I didn’t even know it was the same Danis.  We shook hands, I made a few comments about his film and I suggested we might work together on the idea of a film about Srebrenica. But he said that it was a project that he wouldn’t dare take on.  I then wrote some articles about his film and I remember telling him then that I had noted down some comments on his film, because it hadn’t included scenes that showed the true nature of the war in Bosnia Herzegovina (destroyed villages, genocide, mass killings, refugees).   Danis replied: “You had your war, I’ve made my film about my war, as I saw it”.

Who started the war?

I hope that “Resolution 819” is not going to leave the issue unresolved in the way Tanović’s film did.  Tanović’s film fails to answer the question although it does the raise the issue which remains at the heart of the film (whatever the director may have intended). And can we be allowed to offer an answer to that question?  Or even here do we require a national consensus, as provided for by the Constitution of Bosnia Herzegovina?  As if the answer to that question could ever justify the camps, the mass killings, the violence and other unimaginable atrocities, and genocide.

I sincerely hope that Giacomo Battiato’s film contains just that one controversial scene but it must be removed before the film goes out on official release.

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Filed under Art, Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, Srebrenica

Film ‘Resolution 819’ about the genocide in Srebrenica includes inacurate scene that falsifies the truth

Some days ago, I published a post about a filme called ‘Resolution 819’. The film had just been awarded at the Rome Film Festival.

Although I hadn’t seem the film, I though that it should be good news.My point then was that:

Anything that may help keep the memory of Srebrenica alive and reach audiences that are usually not interested in this issue is more than welcome.

Ever since, everyday people get to this post through search engines with the keywords Resolution 819.
Now, a deep shadow appears over this film, which makes me regret having promoted it in my blog. The film contains at least one scene that represents a falsification of the true, and this means the film cannot help keep the memory of Srebrenica alive, but rather that it may be an extra element to its abuse and falsification. I am sorry that I allowed myself to be carried away and not cautious enough, and I apologise that I mislead my readers.

Hasan Nuhanovic, the UN translator whose family was handed to the serbs by the Dutch UN peacekeepers, has just published an article on the bosnian newspaper Dani, where he states that the film contains at least a scene that falsifies the truth. The article is available for subscribers in bosnian here and for free in the site Osservatorio sui balcani. Since the english language is more widely known than italian, I decided to translate the article and I am posting now an excerpt. Please bear in mind that this is the translation of a translation: I am not a translator and I apologise for the mistakes, but I tried to be as accurate as possible. I hope all of those who know italian read the full version.

Hasan Nuhadovic has not yet watched the film, but he has seen this photo:
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(you can see the photo enlarged by going to the Festival site here and clicking on the photo on the right side)

UPDATE: Here is the trailer, please take a look. The fact that this scene is considered important enough to appear at the trailer give is a worrying sign. At minute 1.10 you can also see a serb soldier bullying duch soldiers and taking the blue helmet from one of them.

“At first, I didn’t understand what it was about, but then I felt terribly angry, It as a real falsification of history, the representation of something that never happened. In fact, this is what I always feared, one of these scenes that I thought could happen in a film made by others an not by us.
In the photo-film scene you can see a UNPROFOR official wearing the uniform of the dutch army (it must be recognized that the film makers have shown great care for the details). In his head a blue beret, and around his waist a belt where he should have his gun. Thus it is an image that for an average spectator transmits respect. And here is his reasoning! He perceives him as an hero! But the problem is that it never existed. This has never happened.
In fact, in those days in July 1995, neither soldiers, nor UNPROFOR officers in Potočari, thus members of the dutchbat, ever wore such uniform outside the base. And this is not about the uniform, but about the fact that all, but really all the dutch that were outside the base (for any reson) were wearing shorts, t-shirt and blue baseball caps with the UN emblem. None was armed because they had received the order to leave the weapon at the base ‘not to provoke the serbs in any way’. At the same time, all the dutch militaryat, inside the base were in contact with the 5000-6000 bosniak refugees were armed, with helmets, bullet proof vests and fire weapons. Thus, the dutch (and not the serbs) in 13 July 1995, around noon, dressed in uniforms like the one the actor in the film, forced the bosniaks to leave the UNPROFOR base and handed them to the hands of the serbs that were waiting for them at the entrance of the camp. All the boys and young men were driven out and then killed.
In the face of this, not only the dutch didn’t do anything to avoid it, but they even allowed that it happened in this way and in others that I describe in detail in my book. (…)”

Hasan Nuhanovic contacted the Association of Mothers from the enclaves of Zepa and Srebrenica to show them the photo, and they joined him in his conclusion that here at stake is a falsification of History. But they also informed him that they, along with the Ministry of Culture of the Canton of Sarajevo, they had already sent a message to the film maker greeting him and thanking him, and inviting him to show the film, under their sponsorship, on an opening in Bosnia and Hercegovina (more precisely in Sarajevo).
“In this way, the Association, not knowing about scenes like this, gave the film director a blank check, in fact the mothers congratulated themselves for a film that non of us has watched yet.”
(…)
“Then, who put the contested scene in the film and why? This is a stereotype, the general though that in such situation there is always a young man ‘with balls’ that, well, frustrated with the behaviour of the serb military, if nothing else, will take one by his collar and then ‘drops the prey’ when another serb soldier pints him a gut at his head. This is just like Hollywood. This scene, if it is not eliminated from the film (and I it is what i will ask the film director), in the next 50 year will tell the generations to come that will watch it that the UNPROFOR men were constrained to do certain things, meaning that they couldn’t do anything because the were ‘at gun point’ (in english in the original). So, the forces of Republika Srpska because the whole UNPROFOR, all Europe, all Nato, were taken ‘at gun point’. In this scene, this UNPROFOR official, will be imprinted in the minds of the future viewers,, who will take it as indisputable truth. And even if the rest of the film showed a precise and accurate reconstruction of the tragic events, this scene will remain ecceptionaly controversial. Because through this scene the viewer obtains an image of the attitude of the rest of the world towards the executioners and towards the victims- Europe personified in UNPROFOR, after the so much repeated ‘never again’.
No, neither the UNPROFOR men, nor the dutch, no one of them had even the smallest gesture to grab a Serb through his neck. None of them. They were servile with the Serbs, they did everything the serbs told them, and even more than they were told. We cannot allow that this scene is shown with our consent, even if someone may say: this is just one scene, the rest of the film shows the events in a truthful way.
This we don’t know and cannot give anyone our trust before we watch the film
.”

(this is an excerpt, the article is much more extended and addresses relevant questions).

UPDATE: A full translation of this article is now published in this blog, here (History as Written by Others). In case you want to quote it, please use the text published on the full version.

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Filed under Art, Bosnia, Duty of memory, Genocide, Nationalism, Serbia, Srebrenica, War

DENIAL OF JUSTICE: The case of Hasan Nuhanović.

In June I posted a press release about the law suit against the dutch state by a former translator, Hasan Nuhanović, whose family was handed to the serbs by the UN DutchBat.

The outcome of the case of Hasan Nuhanović against the dutch state was known today:

Concluding a six-year case, the Hague District Court said on Wednesday that the Dutch government could not be deemed responsible as its peacekeepers in Bosnia had been operating under UN command.

“The state cannot be held responsible for any breach of contract or wrongful act committed by Dutchbat [the Dutch military],” the ruling said.

“Neither is the state liable for wrongful action taken by those in charge of the armed forces or members of the national government.”

Two months ago, a similar case against the UN in a dutch court was rejected, due to the fact that the UN has the privilege of immunity:

A Dutch court has ruled that it is unable to hear a case brought against the UN by relatives of victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia.

The court ruled that UN immunity, enshrined in its charter, meant it could not be prosecuted by any state.

But it said a civil case against the Dutch state, over its troops’ failure to protect civilians, could proceed.

The status of immunity, which the text from the BBC incorrectly says to be enshrined in its charter, is a consequence of the application of the doctrine of implicit competences to international organizations. This doctrine states that an International Organization must be able to use not only the powers explicitly  predicted in their constitutive treaties, but also the necessary powers to be able to fulfill the goals to which it was created.

This was recognized by the International Court of Justice in 1949, in the case called “Reparation for Injuries Suffered in the Service of the United Nations“, after the assassination of the UN mediator in Palestine, Folke Bernardotte. The ICJ recognized that the UN has international juridical personality, and that its agents benifict from priviledges and immunities paralel to those that diplomats and other state officials have.

These privileges and immunities were granted to make sure that the UN was granted with a level of autonomy that allowed it to fulfil its goals, which are, above all, the goal of preserving peace and security.

It was supposedly to fulfil the goal of preserving peace and security that the ‘safe areas’ were created.

we all know how this ended…

But still, despite having totally failed in fulfilling the goals that legitimize the existence of the status of immunity,it is those legal mechanisms that are invoked to deny justice to the victims.

We are here upon a scandalous case of the spirit of justice being distorted. The victims cannot ask the UN for responsibilities, because the UN has immunity, but the dutch state cannot be  considered responsible because its military were acting under the UN.
The UN, which failed to protect the victims, is successful in protecting itself and its agents from those which it failed to protect, while not only the dutch government, but also the dutch judiciary system wash their own hands, dismissing their own responsibilities, not only towards the victims, but also towards the idea of justice itself.

All of it in the name of international peace and security…

…tasteless wall paintings, it seems that was the true mission of the dutch bat… thirteen years latter, the drawings are still there, and not the drawings. behind this wall is the room depicted on the photo above.

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Filed under Bosnia, International Law, Justice, Srebrenica