Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A View from the Hill: To Fail Bosnia Is to Fail America

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

A View from the Hill: To Fail Bosnia Is to Fail America

Article excerpt

A View From the Hill: To Fail Bosnia is to Fail America

Recently, Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-MD), co-chair of the Helsinki Commission whose mission is to monitor compliance with the Helsinki Final Act, pointed out a striking similarity between the infamous case of Kitty Genovese, almost 30 years ago, and the moral failings of Western policy with regard to Bosnia. Just as some 38 fellow New Yorkers watched and listened and did nothing as Ms. Genovese was brutally slain, we have witnessed the slow strangulation and near-annihilation of the Bosnian nation and its people through a policy that can only be called genocide.

While those who stood by in the Genovese incident violated no law, the community of nations which has stood by while Bosnia was being dismembered can take no such refuge. Mr. Hoyer reminds us that the Convention on the Prevention of the Crime of Genocide makes it "a legal obligation for states, including the United States, both to prevent and to punish acts of genocide."

To put an end to that genocide, over the past year I have joined my congressional colleagues in calling for such policies as an end to the Bosnian arms embargo; a multinational force to enforce the "no-fly" zone; and, finally, the imposition of a 72-hour deadline for Serb irregulars to cease fire, withdraw from the hills around Sarajevo and remove the blockades around that beleaguered city. I also cosponsored legislation urging the U.N. to convene a War Crimes Tribunal to prosecute the individual perpetrators of rape, torture and genocide in Bosnia. Recently, U.N. Ambassador Madeleine Albright made clear our determination to see the war crime prosecutions go forward.

In July, as a member of the United States delegation to the CSCE Parliamentary Assembly meeting of the Helsinki signatory states, I introduced and secured unanimous passage of an amendment strongly reaffirming that systematic rape of women or children is indeed a war crime. I took that step after comparing notes with other delegates, both men and women, and discovering they shared my outrage that the original draft resolution merely "deplored" the practice. If there were ever any question among the 53 signatory nations who must adhere to the terms of the Helsinki Final Act, a group that includes Serbia and Montenegro, there can be no doubt now that using rape as an instrument of war is not only morally reprehensible, but is in fact criminal conduct which requires vigorous prosecution and severe punishment.

Although we must acknowledge that the president inherited a policy of neglect from the previous administration, and that principled leadership has been noticeably lacking among our European allies--realities which seriously undermined prospects for deterring Serbian aggression--more recent American policy has still been far short of what it should be. The impact of our silence and inaction has been devastating. On Sept. 2, the Helsinki Commission chair, Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-AZ), once again made the strong case for a more interventionist policy, including the credible threat of NATO air strikes to end the murderous shelling of Sarajevo. …

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