The question of the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre


Welcome from Chairs

Dear Delegates,

Welcome back to December 6th, 1995! We are delighted that you will be taking part in the Historical Security Council at Benenden School’s Fourteenth Model United Nations Conference. Leading the council this year will be Issy (Head Chair) and Aliya  (Co-chair), and we are excited to meet you.

As seasoned delegates and chairs, both of us are hoping to be a source of support leading up to, as well as on the day of, the debate. We believe that Model United Nations is a truly rewarding experience which grants everyone the opportunity to immerse themselves in the world of international relations, giving young people like us the opportunity to engage with topics which are pivotal to the scope of the world today.

Although our council will be focusing on a crisis from over twenty years ago, that does not make us any less relevant than the contemporary committees. Historical events, such as the Srebrenica Massacre of 1995, still shape the political climate of our world, especially within the region of Eastern Europe. We also believe that as a topic which is not commonly taught in schools across England, this question will give each delegate the opportunity to explore a part of history they may not have previously heard about, thus enabling an opportunity for learning and creating global awareness: two important aims of MUN.

Although Security Council may seem daunting, we invite all delegates, both new and seasoned, to participate wholeheartedly. Above all, MUN is an inclusive space for everyone to find their voices. We therefore hope that when the day comes, you are sufficiently prepared and ready to take full advantage of the forum. We can’t wait to meet you and are hoping that we will have a historical day of fruitful debate.


Introduction to the Committee

The Historical Security Council is an opportunity for delegates to debate events which have already occurred previously. The point of this is to encourage reflection and innovation, because you will be tasked with coming up with an even better solution to a crisis which occurred at least ten years in the past, and so you have the opportunity to make even better decisions than the country you are representing did at the time of the event. However, you are expected to immerse yourself in the year the topic at hand occurred, and as we are debating the Srebrenica Massacre, we will be returning to the 1990s. As a result of this, delegates are discouraged from mentioning the aftermath of the situation as well as their country’s actions after that time, to retain the “historical” title of this committee.

However, there are some similarities with the current security council; this committee will feature the five permanent members of the Security Council, as well as ten temporarily elected ones. As well as this, the Permanent Members will be granted the opportunity to invoke their veto power if they wish to, which will result in caucus procedure. Further, each delegate is still expected to retain the formality and skill of the current Security Council – as well as be prepared for crises throughout the day!

So, in true Historical Security Council style, the chairs are requesting that each delegate comes with an opening speech, a position paper (notes on what your country thinks, as of December 1995 – again we STRONGLY DISCOURAGE any mention of events after this), and some preambulatory and operative clauses. In the committee, we will debate clause-by-clause to form a collective and collaborative draft resolution made up of clauses from different delegations.


History of the Srebrenica Massacre


The Srebrenica massacre, also known as the Srebrenica genocide, was the July 1995 genocide of more than 8,000 Bosniak Muslim men and boys in and around the town of Srebrenica at the time of the Bosnian War.  The killings were perpetrated by units of the Bosnian Serb Army of Republika Srpska under the command of their leader Ratko Mladić. A paramilitary unit from Serbia, under the name of The Scorpions, who had been part of the Serbian Interior Ministry until 1991, also participated in the massacre. Prior to the massacre, the UN declared the besieged enclave of Srebrenica in eastern Bosnia, a “safe area” under UN protection. However, the UN failed both to demilitarize the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. (ARBiH) within Srebrenica and to force withdrawal of the VRS surrounding Srebrenica. UNPROFOR’s 370 lightly armed Duchbat soldiers were unable to prevent the town’s capture and the subsequent massacre. As of July 2021, 6,671 bodies have been buried at the Memorial Centre of Potočari, another 236 have been buried elsewhere.

Some Serbian sources claim that the massacre was retaliation for attacks on Serbs made by Bosniak soldiers from Srebrenica under command of Naser Orić. In 2013, 2014, and 2019, the Dutch state was found liable in the Dutch supreme court and in the Hague district court of failing to do enough to prevent more than 300 of the deaths.

In April 2013, Serbian President Tomislav Nikolić apologised for the crime of Srebrenica but refused to call it genocide.


United Nations failure to demilitarise Srebrenica:

A Security Council mission led by Diego Arria arrived in Srebrenica on 25 April 1993. In their report to the UN, they condemned the Serbs for perpetrating “a slow-motion process of genocide.” The mission then stated that “Serb forces must withdraw to points from which they cannot attack, harass or terrorise the town. UNPROFOR should be in a position to determine the related parameters. The mission believes, as does UNPROFOR, that the actual 4.5 km (3 mi) by 0.5 km (530 yd) decided as a safe area should be greatly expanded.” Specific instructions from United Nations Headquarters in New York stated that UNPROFOR should not be too keen in searching for Bosniak weapons and, later, that the Serbs should withdraw their heavy weapons before the Bosniaks gave up their weapons. The Serbs never did withdraw their heavy weapons. Multiple attempts to demilitarise the ARBiH and force the withdrawal of the VRS proved futile. The ARBiH hid the majority of their heavy weapons, modern equipment and ammunition in the surrounding forest and only handed over disused and old weaponry. On the other hand, given the failure to disarm the ARBiH, the VRS refused to withdraw from the front lines given the intelligence they had regarding hidden weaponry. In March 1994, UNPROFOR sent 600 Royal Dutch Army soldiers (“Dutchbat”) to replace the Canadian troops. By March 1995, Serb forces controlled all territory surrounding Srebrenica, preventing even UN access to the supply road. Humanitarian aid decreased significantly and living conditions in Srebrenica quickly deteriorated. UNPROFOR presence prevented all-out assault on the safe area, although occasional skirmishes and mortar attacks continued. The Dutchbat alerted UNPROFOR command to the dire conditions in Srebrenica, but UNPROFOR declined to send humanitarian relief or military support.


Early 1995: the situation in the Srebrenica “safe area” deteriorates:

By early 1995, fewer and fewer supply convoys were making it through to the enclave. The situation in Srebrenica and in other enclaves had deteriorated into lawless violence as prostitution among young Muslim girls, theft and black marketizing proliferated. The already meagre resources of the civilian population dwindled further, and even the UN forces started running dangerously low on food, medicine, ammunition, and fuel, eventually being forced to start patrolling the enclave on foot. Dutch soldiers who left the area on leave were not allowed to return, and their number dropped from 600 to 400 men. In March and April, the Dutch soldiers noticed a build-up of Serb forces near two of the observation posts, “OP Romeo” and “OP Quebec”. By mid-1995, the humanitarian situation of the Bosniak civilians and military personnel in the enclave was catastrophic. In May, following orders, Orić and his staff left the enclave by helicopter to Tuzla, leaving senior officers in command of the 28th Division. In late June and early July, the 28th Division issued a series of reports including urgent pleas for the humanitarian corridor to the enclave to be reopened. When this failed, Bosniak civilians began dying from starvation. On Friday, 7 July the mayor of Srebrenica reported that eight residents had died of starvation. On 4 June 1995, UNPROFOR French commander Bernard Janvier secretly met with Ratko Mladić to obtain the release of hostages, many of whom were French. Mladić demanded of Janvier that there would be no more air strikes. In the weeks leading up to the assault on Srebrenica by the VRS, ARBiH forces were ordered to carry out diversion and disruption attacks on the VRS by the high command. On one particular occasion on the evening of 25–26 June, ARBiH forces attacked VRS units on the Sarajevo-Zvornik Road inflicting high casualties and looting VRS stockpiles. These continued attacks prompted a response from Mladić, who contacted the UN headquarters in Sarajevo and advised that he would no longer tolerate ARBiH incursions into the Bosnian Serb countryside. Meanwhile, attempts by UNPROFOR to redeploy BRITBAT 1 to a position where they could intervene were actively obstructed by the Federation, including their detention of the CO’s reconnaissance group.


6–11 July 1995: Serb take-over of Srebrenica:

The Serb offensive against Srebrenica began in earnest on 6 July 1995. The VRS, with 2,000 soldiers, were outnumbered by the defenders and did not expect the assault to be an easy conquest. In the following days, the five UNPROFOR observation posts in the southern part of the enclave fell one by one in the face of the Bosnian Serb advance.

Some of the Dutch soldiers retreated into the enclave after their posts were attacked, but the crews of the other observation posts surrendered into Serb custody. Simultaneously, the defending Bosnian forces numbering 6,000 came under heavy fire and were pushed back towards the town. Once the southern perimeter began to collapse, about 4,000 Bosniak residents who had been living in a Swedish housing complex for refugees nearby fled north into the town of Srebrenica. Dutch soldiers reported that the advancing Serbs were “cleansing” the houses in the southern part of the enclave.

Further NATO air attacks were cancelled after VRS threats to bomb the UN’s Potočari compound, to kill Dutch and French military hostages and to attack surrounding locations where 20,000 to 30,000 civilian refugees were situated. 30 Dutchbat were taken hostage by Mladic’s troops.


Recommendations to delegates

The chairs recommend that each delegate does the following when preparing for the Historical Security Council:

  1. Considers the political stance of their country and alliances the country had with other members of the committee, as of December 6th, 1995;
  2. Researches other organisations their country might have been a part of, as this might dictate who your allies/enemies are;
  3. Explores the geopolitical map of their country, as well as of the Srebrenica region;
  4. Finds out about their relationship with Bosnia and Herzegovina, and whether their country would have aligned themselves with, or opposed the actions of the Bosnian government;
  5. Uses only credible historical sources to dictate their research – such as notable newspapers, news channels, Britannica Encyclopaedia and other legitimate materials;
  6. Prepares a short opening statement, no longer than a minute and a half, to discuss and inform the committee of their country’s position;
  7. Prepares clauses for debate in the committee. However, this is not compulsory but very strongly encouraged;
  8. Familiarises themselves with the format and style of the Historical Security Council, as well as the rules of general MUN debate and its safeguarding policies;
  9. Creates diplomatic note paper to pass ideas/information across the committee; however, inappropriate content is strictly forbidden;
  10. Comes well prepared with all their material in order, and ready for a day of rewarding and fruitful debate. We look forward to seeing you!


Further reading & Bibliography


Information and Background:


Useful Articles:


Useful Videos:


Official UN Resolutions on the Topic:


General Delegate Preparation: