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UN Embarrassed by Serb Nationalist; Secretary General Issues Apology

by Tanya Domi on January 18, 2013

in Analysis,Human Rights,Tanya Domi

Post image for UN Embarrassed by Serb Nationalist; Secretary General Issues Apology

 Serbian nationalist Vuk Jeremic stinks up the UN with a “New Year’s” self-celebration, dragging Secretary Ban Ki-Moon through Serbia’s perverse patriotic mud and they wonder why Serbia is a pariah state

Vuk Jeremic, President of the UN General Assembly ( a former foreign minister), an unmitigated Serb nationalist, arranged for the playing of a sordid Serbian military martial song “March Across the Drina” at an official UN General Assembly New Year’s celebration recently, provoking anger and outrage among Bosnian survivors of the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

The Stop Genocide Denial Campaign demanded an apology from Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.

In an overtly nationalistic play, Jeremic apparently manipulated the enthusiastic participation of Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during a January 14th ceremony, duping him and many others, who may not have known of how the World War I wartime song was used as fear provoking propaganda during Serbian invasions of Eastern Bosnian towns and villages during the more recent 1990 Balkan Wars.  It was perversely and falsely referred to as a “march of peace” by an unknown speaker before the Belgrade based Viva Vox choir performed it to a delighted UN audience.

Martin Nesirky, the Secretary General’s spokesperson issued a statement of regret yesterday (diplomatic parlance for an apology) that was published in the Huffington Post:

 Martin Nesirky said that “the United Nations was aware that some people were offended by the song “March to the Drina,” sung in the General Assembly hall Monday night. Ban afterward stood at the podium alongside Vuk Jeremic, the former Serbian foreign minister and current assembly president, for a photo with the performers, the Belgrade vocal group Viva Vox.

Ban “expressed sincere regret that people were offended by this song,” Nesirky said, adding that the U.N. chief “obviously was not aware what the song was about or the use that has been made of it in the past.”

The Stop Genocide Denial Campaign, organized by Refik Hodzic, director of communications at the International Center for Transitional Justice, demanded “a public apology to all the victims of war crimes in BiH committed in the name of Serbian nationalism and remove the video containing the song from the official UN page.”

The campaign likely generated a number of complaints, urging offended parties to send a letter of complaint to the Secretary General and his immediate staff.

The video remains on Jeremic’s home page today and the fairly quick apology issued by Nesirky was for the playing of a nationalistic song, not an apology to Bosnians for the wartime aggression carried out against them by Serbia.


The most recent history of Serbian exploitation of March on the Drina River, is reported in a rather macabre human rights report, issued in the State Department’s Seventh Report on War Crimes in the Former Yugoslavia, submitted to the UN Security Council in 1993.  According to the report, the March on the Drina  was perversely played when women and their daughters were selected to be raped by Serbia militia: “The woman knew the rapes would begin when ‘Mars na Drinu (March on the Drina)’ was played over the loudspeaker of the main mosque. While ‘Mars na Drinu’ was playing, the women were ordered to strip and soldiers entered the homes taking the ones they wanted. The age of women taken ranged from 12 to 60. Frequently the soldiers would seek out mother and daughter combinations. Many of the women were severely beaten during the rapes.”

The authoritative Visegrad Genocide Memories blog, reviews the origin of the  “March on the Drina” military martial music and song:

[the] Serb patriotic song composed by Stanislav Binicki during World War One after the Battle of Cer. This composition was adopted by the Nazi-collaborate Yugoslav Royalist Army  popularly known as Chetniks during the Second War War. It was played during attacks on Bosniak towns in Eastern Bosnia during the genocide from 1941-1945. During the Communist rule in Yugoslavia, The March on the Drina was banned since it glorified Serb Nationalism and genocide. A film with the same title produced in 1963 was also banned. English translation follows:

To battle, go forth you heroes,

Go on and don’t regret living your lives

May the Cer see the front, may the Cer hear the guns

and the river Drina’s glory, courage!

And the heroic hand of the father and sons!

Sing, sing, Drina – of cold water,

Remember, and tell of the ones that fell,

Remember the brave front,

Which full of fire, mighty force

Expelled the invaders from our dear river!

Sing, sing, Drina, tell the generations,

How we bravely fought,

The front sang, the battle was fought

Near cold water

Blood was flowing,

Blood was streaming:

By the Drina was freedom!

Does this sound like a “march of peace?” When does Serbian impunity stop? Jeremic and his brethren should hang their heads in shame. They should repudiate their history of genocide, rape and war crimes.  As long as Serbia is governed and led by genocide denying leaders and cling to empty and destructive nationalism, they remain outside the community of nations.  Serbia is a pariah state of war criminals drowning in the blood of their victims and are in fact, choking the future potential of their people and future generations.  For the moment, shame is the least of their problems.

The New Civil Rights Movement blog has repeatedly reported on Serbia’s  pattern of anti-LGBT violence and intolerance from these pages.  Our readers must understand that a nationalistic and unrepentant state like Serbia, will continue to define anyone who exists outside the political power’s elite definition of acceptability, as “the other”–to be driven from society, from within their borders or to a very limited existence, frozen, in a zone of self imposed silence.  In this contemporary instance of continued nationalism, the history of Serbia’s recent role in a series of genocidal wars bears necessary understanding for its current stance and intolerance toward Bosniaks, LGBT, Roma and Sinti peoples, as well as Albanians.

For more information on the Stop Genocide Denial Campaign’s efforts to remove the Jeremic video visit its Facebook page here.  Campaign participants have expanded their efforts to urge the UN Bosnia and Herzegovina Ambassador Mirsada Čolaković and U.S Ambassador Susan Rice to pressure the UN to removed the Jeremic video from the UN General Assembly’s website.

Image courtesy of the Stop Genocide Denial campaign.


316568_10150308241032334_651712333_8318983_213496096_nTanya L. Domi is the Deputy Editor of the New Civil Rights Movement blog.  She is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University and teaches human rights in East Central Europe and former Yugoslavia.  Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi was a nationally recognized LGBT civil rights activist who worked for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force during the campaign to lift the military ban in the early 1990s. Domi has also worked internationally in a dozen countries on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights and gender issues.  She is chair of the board of directors for GetEQUAL.  Domi is currently writing a book about the emerging LGBT human rights movement in the Western Balkans.


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Mitch333 January 21, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Does this sound like a “march of peace?” __No, it is a march of liberation that serves as a reminder of those WW1 years where the armed fight for Liberty and peace could not be achieved without sacrifice. It is a WW1 era song well before it could have been misused by some in the 90’s. WW1 was the time a foreign flag flew over the Whitehouse (the Serbian one) and public buildings across the USA in support of the Serbian and world liberation efforts, a time Serbia and half Serb, half Muslim Vuk Jeremic evoked remembrance. It was a reminder of a time liberating the Serb and Slavic populations of Bosnia from foreign subjugation. Mars na Drinu can be compared to many an accepted song that has been misused in history.__Here the excerpts of the French national anthem lyrics,__Let's go children of the fatherland,_The day of glory has arrived!_Against us tyranny's_Bloody flag is raised__Grab your weapons, citizens!_Form your batallions!_Let us march! Let us march!_May impure blood_Water our fields!__Played at least 11 times at the 2012 Olympics.

Santa January 22, 2013 at 9:39 am

Oh please, stop playing dumb, for heaven sakes, have a little decency.

What should we expect next, "Lily Marlene" set by German Ambassador to the UN for some future event in UN !? Eh, it's a beautiful love song, and possibly last sound heard by the thousands in Nazi camps and scaffolds around Europe, and Balkans as well.

And do you really think no one else, except Serbian nationalists and their apologists, knows who lived (and still lives) in Bosnia throughout that country history, and what was the actual history of Bosnia and Bosnians, or what was the role of Serbian nationalism since 1850's, especially around times of WWI (immediately before and after), or Mihajlovic's cetnik thugs during WWII, and finally Milosevic, Cosic, Mladic & Karadzic in 1990's !?

Get a grip dud, you comparing "La Marseillaise" with song composed to use and express Serbian victimhood and nationalism for the purpose of justifying domination among South Slavs in newly formed Serbian dominated kingdom, under full scale colonization by 600 thousand Serbs from Macedonia and Kosovo who replaced and expelled to Turkey 300 thousand Bosnian Slavic-muslims landowners, under disguise of infamous Belgrade dictated "agrarian / land reforms".

Song which describes Serbian military march toward the (Drina) river which flows almost in it's entirety in another country anyway (!!!), and what ever other reason or historical, time or any frame and context was/is, song was banned by communists during Yugoslavian era, and was rejected as proposition for state anthem by Serbian parliament recently – it was and still is inappropriate !

After the WWI "March on the Drina" was constantly used by Serbian nationalistic thugs – from 1941 to 1999, whenever opportunity aroused for war and killing of Bosnians, Albanians and Croats !
Since WWII and especially during the Serbian aggression and genocide on Bosnia and Bosnians in 1990's, this cacophony expressing Serbian hunger for territory of this for Serbia foreign country. It was a main musical underscore, a soundtrack if you like, of aggression on Bosnia and genocide, especially during operations along the Drina river – scaffolds of Srebrenica, Zepa, Visegrad, Foca, Zvornik, Bijeljina, etc. were saturated with the noise of this song and other musical underscores, which were used for busting murdering moral among executioners ! It was used in concentration camps in Bosnian Krajina, around Prijedor and Banja Luka. Torturing and murdering Bosnians in these camps were followed by "March on the Drina" and many other Serbian nationalistic songs.

And one more point – when Serbian parliament were about to decide what should Serbian anthem be some politician suggested this "March on the Drina" song, but the cooler heads prevailed and parliament rejected it and choose another song, with reasonable and clear exposition that, as state anthem "March on the Drina" could be offensive and threatening for the neighbors since lyrics clearly expressing allusions in sense of territorial pretensions, and above all it's simply inappropriate because of its awful historical and military connotations, from crimes committed on Bosnians in WWII and 1990's, which song bears !

Mitch333 January 21, 2013 at 9:38 pm

__See if you can get where this one is from,__Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution._No refuge could save the hireling and slave_From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:_And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,_O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave__Does this one meet the criteria of peaceful?

Mitch333 January 21, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Then there is the adhan, Allahu Akbar is publicly announced as a call to prayer throughout all Mosques. Allahu Akbar is a terminology that has been used committing some of the worst , barbaric and gruesome massacres, executions and stoning. This now represents a religion of peace that we are constantly being told. When does Islamic impunity stop then?

Mitch333 January 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm

With these subjects one needs to do some fact checking before posting what turns out to another suppression attempt on anything that showcases Serbia. If one is to have credibility, sources need to be checked. Recently a member of the CNAB has actively called for Michael Dobb’s (USHM) sacking for daring to publish his well researched thoughts in an article that showed only the slightest objectivity in a subject involving Bosnian civil war (Dobbs was correct). These fast handed and vitriolic postings only serve ill informed extremists in their attempt using victim centred propaganda.

Now who becomes the haters and their followers?

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