Wednesday, 11 July 2012 00:00
Federal Member for Melbourne Ports
I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. – Eli Wiesel
Firstly I would like to note and thank Dr Damir Arnaut, the Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina for asking me to speak at tonight’s commemoration. I would like to welcome the Consul-Generals from the USA, Poland, Turkey and Croatia, special guests, members of the Bosnian Herzegovina community, survivors, relatives, ladies and gentleman.
In July 1995 genocide was perpetrated.
The Geneva Conventions were broken.
Families were destroyed.
Generations were lost.
Michael Danby receives a certificate of recognition after his address to the hundreds of Bosnian Muslims on the 17th anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica
Today marks the 17th Anniversary of the Srebrenica Genocide. Last year I moved a motion in the Australian Parliament calling for the recognition of the 11 of July as Srebrenica Remembrance Day. The motion was passed with the full and unanimous support of both major parties. Australia joined the Congress of the United States and parliaments in Europe in remembering these dreadful and important events.
I want to thank Mr Tony Smith, Liberal Federal Member for Casey for seconding my motion, and my friend Mr Ed Husic, the Federal Member for Chiefly who also spoke on the motion. I would also like to thank Ambassador Arnaut again, who said of our efforts to recognise the atrocities committed at Srebrenica it ‘gave me a real belief that this is a country that does not shy away from standing firmly in support of the rights of victims.”
Between the 12 July and 16 July 1995, under the command of General Ratko Mladic, the Serbian Army and police separated men aged between 16 to approximately 60 or 70 from their families in the town of Srebrencia. The Mladic forces executed 8,000 men and boys and forcefully deported 25,000 women, children and elderly. These men, women, children and elderly had sought refuge and safety under the protection of the United Nations.
This was the worst war crime to take place in Europe since the end of the Second World War.
The conflict in the Balkans led to the displacement of two million people and the massacre of 200,000, not to mention the tens of thousands that were tortured and abused.
The failure of the international community-especially the UN-to protect those in Srebrenica is a stain on the international community's record. Kofi Annan, the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, said on the fifth anniversary of the atrocities at Srebrenica, 'The tragedy of Srebrenica will forever haunt the history of the United Nations.'
People were targeted not for what they had done, but for who there were. Mladic forces did not distinguish between young or old. They deliberately and systemically wiped out generations of Bosnian men, decimating a people and a ripping apart a nation.
The pain, despair, anger and anguish that relatives have experienced has not eased over the last 17 years. Just this weekend 520 new bodies have been exhumed, with many being buried today.
This week we have heard reports from the first witness in Ratko Mladic’s war crimes trial, and the harrowing tail of Mr Pasic, who in 1992, at the age of 14 year old, was separated from his father and never saw him again.
During his testimony, Mr Pasic asked if anybody had information about the whereabouts of his father’s body “please come forward and let me find my dad.” He ended his plea for information with the following line; “I miss my dad.”
I felt compelled to raise the motion marking the 11 of July as Srebrenica Remembrance Day because I felt the weight of history on my shoulders. My grandfather Bruno Danziger, a German soldier in World War One was killed in the last days of World War Two at Auschwitz. I never met him or my grandmother. When my father arrived in Australia all he had was his papers and the clothes on his back.
Conscious of the fact that I am a second generation survivor, I believe it is my duty to speak out and remember the dead. It was important to me to ensure that future generations knew of the horrors of our past.
The events of July 1995 were an indictment on the world's collective soul. That we could allow what we said 'never again' to occur again in Europe; that a so called ‘protected’ area could be the scene of one of the most horrific war crimes will remain a stain on our history.
David Rhode, a journalist with the Christian Science Monitor wrote a piece on what he saw in Srebrenica at an abandoned building near a soccer field- this is what he saw.
“Several dozen bullet holes pocked the interior walls, and what appeared to be dried blood stains dotted the floor and one wall… at the vacant field where American spy planes photographed mounds of newly disturbed earth , three areas of fresh digging were clearly visible the largest measuring about 300 feet by 300 feet…..On the edge of the smallest of the three alleged mass graves, what appeared to be a human femur and tibia surrounded by bits of fabric jutted from rich brown dirt….faded photographs of a young man were scattered on the ground near another excavation…Approximately a quarter-mile from the three sites, Muslim prayer beads, clothing and still legible receipts and election ballots from Srebrenica were found.”
Nothing can fill the void in the lives of families who lost loved ones on the 11 July. But it is their memories that must sustain us and in still in us the determination to educate future generations to remember; to pass on our ideals of freedom from fear and freedom from want; of peace and justice; of freedom of religion; and of human rights. We must remember that all men and women are created equal and that the doctrine of 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' should be our ethos.
On 22 August 1939 at the Obersalzburg , on the eve of perpetrating genocide, 'Who remembers the Armenians?’ referring to the failure of anyone to react to Turkey's genocide of 2 million Armenians
If we learn anything from the tragedy of Srebrenica, it is that, if good men and women stand by and do nothing or say nothing, evil will be perpetrated.
When I speak to people in my own electorate about the crime of genocide, I tell them we must remember all of the horrors and genocides that have been perpetrated since the great Shoah, the great holocaust, of the Second World War. We are duty bound to remember not just the Second World War but after then: the events that have happened since; in Rwanda, Srebrenica and in Sudan, in Dafur. Never again should the Adolf Hitlers be able to say to people in Srebrenica, in Dafur, in Rwanda, in Armenia: 'Who remembers the Armenians? Who remembers the Rwandans? Who remembers the Bosnians?'
The resolution that we passed in Parliament last year is what the Russians would call an act of pamyat-memory. It is very important to never forget the legacy of these horrors; not from the point of view of torturing ourselves but to educate future generations that, if people are able to act out of racial prejudice and kill masses of others, this will happen again and again. It is our sacred duty to speak out when we see these kinds of events. We must remember the dead and remember the families they left behind.
Those who perished at Srebrenica must be remembered.
In his speech to Parliament last year US President Barack Obama said: History is on the side of the free; free societies, free governments, free economies, and free people. And the future belongs to those who stand firm for these ideals around the world.
I want to end on an apology- an apology to those who suffered, who have lost loved ones. I am sorry that the international community failed you. I am sorry that the United Nations failed you. As an Australian, know this, we stand beside you in your fight for justice, we stand beside you in remembering those who perished and we stand beside you in standing up for human dignity.
We must continue to raise our voices, continue to speak out against injustice, against discrimination and against oppression.
There is never a day where I don't think about the fate of my grandparents.
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