Transitional Justice and Civil Society in the Balkans

Part of the series Springer Series in Transitional Justice pp 181-199


‘Pillar of Shame’: Civil Society, UN Accountability and Genocide in Srebrenica

  • Olivera SimićAffiliated withGriffith Law School, Griffith University Email author 

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On March 30, 2010, the Court of Appeal of the Hague rejected an appeal brought by the association ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ against the United Nations (UN) and the Netherlands. The ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ demanded that the UN and the state of the Netherlands be held accountable for not preventing the genocide committed in Srebrenica in July 1995. Disappointed by the outcome of the legal proceedings, ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’ and the German ‘Center for Political Beauty’, together with a number of Bosnian and German activists and artists, launched the project ‘Pillar of Shame’. The aim of this project was to collect 16,744 shoes as a symbolic representation of the lives lost in the Srebrenica genocide. Drawing on interviews with the campaign’s founders, this chapter analyses the ‘Pillar of Shame’ project, which aimed to construct a permanent monument from the collected shoes as a reminder of UN shame and responsibility for not preventing the genocide. This chapter argues that ‘informal’ civil society campaigns are an ever-evolving part of transitional justice processes and the significance of the ‘Pillar of Shame’ project lies in mobilizing cross-border activism, in terms of bringing together Bosnian citizens and German artists under the joint pledge ‘not to forget’. However, while the campaign crossed national borders, it failed to traverse ethnic borders in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BH) since it did not engage citizens of Serb origin either in BH or in Serbia. The chapter contends that although the project is significant because it mobilizes activism across national borders, it fails to overcome the significant challenges that exist in creating coalitions across ethnic divisions.