A Backbench Business Committee debate on ‘Stability and peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina’ took place on Thursday 2nd December in the Main Chamber.
Here is my speech:
The recent political violence in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be of significant concern to the UK and the international community. Under the leadership of Milorad Dodik, there has been a return of ethnic conflict in the region.
As we all know, in 1995 Srebrenica experienced a genocide on a scale not seen in Europe since the Second World War. 8,000 Muslim men and boys were murdered; women were raped; children were slain in front of their parents; and bodies were pushed into mass graves using bulldozers.
The scale of the crimes exceed comprehension.
Following these horrific events, a peace agreement was eventually reached. The Dayton agreement is widely considered as a holding operation and with the situation rapidly worsening, the already fragile agreement is under immense strain.
Does the Minister agree that there is an urgent need to reinforce the political will behind the Dayton Agreement, and will she commit to working with the US, NATO, and the EU to underline the Agreement as the basis of peace in the Western Balkans?
Mr Speaker, my journey with Bosnia goes back almost to the very beginning. While Yugoslavia was disintegrating, I was involved in organising demonstrations in my home city of Manchester against the persecution of Europe’s Muslims.
Seeing the Bosnian community flourish in Manchester and across the UK demonstrates the strength of humanity. Despite experiencing such atrocities, they were able to start a new life here in the UK and provide their children with a better future.
The events of Srebrenica have always stayed with me and are part of the reason I dedicate so much of my work to challenging hate and division in society.
The UK has a special duty to protect the peace and progress made in the region, not just as a signatory to the agreement, but also because UK troops served there with distinction and 57 died securing the peace.
We now know that assaults on Bosnia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and constitutional order enjoys the full backing of Russia, China, and Serbia.
Dodik has separately said he has support from both Russia and China, with both countries opposing the role of the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Given that Russia and China are state-based threats identified in the Government’s Integrated Review, will the minister condemn their attempts to undermine the High Representative’s position and the influence of the UN in the region?
It is a tragedy that to this day, minority groups around the world are still being persecuted.
After the Holocaust, we said never again. Yet what happened in Srebrenica and what is currently happening in Xinjiang, China, against Uyghur Muslims, proves that words are not enough.
They must be met with action.
As we mark 26 years since the harrowing genocide in Srebrenica, we must ensure there is no return to the violence and suffering of the past and to secure the gains made for the people of Bosnia.
To echo the words of the high representative, Bosnia “is facing the greatest existential threat of the post-war period”.
It is paramount that the global response now matches the gravity of the situation.