MASS GRAVES AND OTHER ATROCITIES IN BOSNIA
US Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Wednesday, DECEMBER 6, 1995
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. STENY H. HOYER
Mr. HOYER. Thank you very much, Chairman Smith. I want
to thank you for having these hearings. They are very
important and they are very timely. It is a sad task before
us today, but one that must be undertaken: the examination
of testimony about genocide, mass graves, rape, executions-
unspeakable and unacceptable atrocities.
The past 4 years in Bosnia have seen the recurrence of
a European nightmare that we all thought had ended 50 years
ago. We have before us a distinguished panel of witnesses,
all who have seen firsthand the results of unbridled ethnic
hatred. Mr. Rohde himself was captured by the Bosnian Serb
militants for daring to bare to the world the gruesome
killing fields of Srebrenica, where as many as possibly
8,000 Muslim men were summarily executed following the
overrunning of that safe haven.
Those killing fields were not limited, of course, to
Srebrenica and Zepa, but are found throughout Croatian and
Bosnian territory overrun by the militants. On October 16,
1995, a USA Today article detailed the exhumation of a mass
grave in the recently liberated Krajina region of Croatia-a
site of much of Dr. Wolf's work, as we will hear shortly
from her testimony.
According to that article, dozens of family members
gathered in the morgue of Split Clinical Hospital to try to
identify remains of loved ones, including watches,
crucifixes, and pieces of clothing found with the bodies.
The article reveals, and I quote, "A BMW car key found on
Body Number 28 was given to a woman who claims her husband,
hotel manager Mate Steko, age 33, had a similar car. The
woman, who was Bozana Steko, 32 years of age, races home to
see if the car starts. It does."
Mr. Chairman, this tragic story and hundreds like it
will be retold in the weeks, months, and perhaps years
ahead. We must listen to the painful testimony. We must
record with the utmost care and attention. We must continue
to investigate, and we must bring to justice those
responsible for these crimes.
Fifty years after the cry, "Never again," rang out
from the death camps of Europe, we are again exhuming
bodies from mass graves in Europe and recording atrocities
committed against innocent people simply because of their
ethnic or national background.
Mr. Chairman, we as members of the international
community, not just as Americans, not just as members of
Congress who are this Commission, but as members of the
international community, must recommit ourselves to that
haunting phrase. We must redouble our efforts to ensure
that the goal of justice before vengeance enshrined in
Nuremberg is, in fact, achieved.
Justice before vengeance. Now, many of us traveled
throughout Europe and heard about things that needed to be
redressed that occurred 50 years ago, 100 years ago, and
200, 300, 400years and centuries ago. But those who feel
aggrieved saw their grievances never redressed. Therefore,
the cycle of vengeance and terror and atrocities and
killings go on.
We have witnessed the conclusion of the long-awaited
and strenuously-achieved peace agreement among the parties
to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Plans to
implement that agreement are underway. However, Mr.
Chairman, I'm convinced that a lasting resolution of this
conflict requires breaking the cycle of violence and
vengeance that has racked this region, not just in this
century, but as I said, in centuries past.
This goal can only be achieved through the
administration of justice by an impartial International
Tribunal, which is already moving forward with its work.
The United States, Mr. Chairman- and I hope our Commission
is in the forefront of urging it to do so- must continue to
take the lead in strongly supporting the efforts of the War
Crimes Tribunal. We must undertake this effort because
where there is not justice, vengeance will most certainly
reside and flourish and continue.
The people of the former Yugoslavia must have both the
satisfaction and the deterring example of justice now. If
not, we can be virtually assured that there will be more
violence, more killings, and more atrocities. Mr. Chairman,
we cannot allow this to happen. This hearing, I think, is
an important element in continuing to educate us as members
of Congress, the American public, and the international
community on what, in fact, has happened.
I want to congratulate all three witnesses for the
work that they have undertaken; in some cases, the risks
that they have taken as well, for a better understanding of
what's going on, and as to what has happened in the region,
and hopefully a heightening of the consciousness of the
world that we will never again stand idly by while hundreds
of thousands of people are killed and millions of people
are displaced from their homes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.