Letter: Why we let down Bosnia's Muslims

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Sir: In order to justify their non-intervention in the Bosnian war, many Western politicians have maintained that, since it is a civil war, it is not possible for other states to intervene. And yet, according to international law, the war in Bosnia is not a civil war but a matter of international concern, in which it is incumbent upon democratic and enlightened states to intervene.

This has been established by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 and which went into effect in 1951. As to what constitutes genocide, the following extract from the convention explains the situation clearly:

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part: (d) imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

This is clearly very relevant to the situation in Bosnia. Most importantly, the convention established the principle that genocide, under any circumstances, even if perpetrated by a government in its own territory, is not an internal matter but a matter of international concern. Therefore, what is happening in Bosnia cannot be regarded as a civil war or a purely domestic affair, but a horrific crime requiring the active and effective intervention of the international community. So far, no such effective action has been taken, and one can only hope that, even at this late stage, there will be a change of heart by those who have the power to bring a just peace to Bosnia.

Yours sincerely,


Little Eversden, Cambridge

26 May