Victoria University in Australia told the President of the Institute For Research of Genocide Canada in an email on Friday that the genocide material was removed from ASA1024 Applied Human Rights because it was “overly explicit.”
Last month a quote discussing Serbian war crimes against Bosniaks was removed from a human rights lecture at Victoria University with an apology issued for “any hurt” caused by its content, after an American YouTuber living in Serbia implored his nearly 50,000 subscribers to complainand demand a public apology for material he described as “slander” and “despicable comments.”
Member of the International Genocide Scholars Association and President of the Institute For Research of Genocide Canada, Dr Emir Ramic, who wrote to Victoria Universityin May denouncing their decision to remove the content, received an email response from the university on Friday.
The reply from Victoria University which was forwarded to the Sarajevo Times by Dr Ramic, explained that the quote was removed in the interest of protecting students from the graphic descriptiveness of the content.
“On reflection, it was determined that the quote was overly explicit, including genital mutilation of a victim, and that discussion on this matter, and related human rights abuses, could have been facilitated without the level of detail provided,” Victoria University wrote.
“In all instances our first concern is for the welfare of our students and this was the reason why the University took the action that it did,” they added.
The YouTube video entitled ‘Serbs Degraded by Australian Uni: Action Needed!’which was the catalyst for Victoria University removing the content and subsequently apologising for its inclusion in the human rights lecture, has received 375 comments to date, the majority of which describe the material as prejudicial towards the Serbian community.
These comments include sentiments stating that Victoria University’s use of the quote was “anti Serbian propaganda”, “big lies”, “blatant racism and oppression”, “demonizing Serbs”, “vilification”, and “hatred” of Serbian people.
According to Lara J Nettelfield, co-author of Srebrenica in the Aftermath of Genocideand Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Human Rights and the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, genocide denial has become less overt in its presentation in recent years.
“The manner in which war crimes have been denied has changed over the course of the post-war period from outright lies and propaganda to more subtle and yet equally insidious forms,” she told the Sarajevo Times.
“More recent strategies raise doubt and refocus attention away from the perpetrators.”
The email from Victoria University to Dr Ramic also stated that while the specific quote was erased from the lecture, human rights violations that occurred during the aggression would continue to be covered and discussed within the program.
“Despite removing this specific quote, the course curriculum remains the same and students are strongly encouraged to discuss any incidence of human rights abuse,” Victoria University stated.
“Human rights abuses in the Bosnian War will still be discussed in this course,” they added.
Dr Ramic told the Sarajevo Times the Insitute For Research of Genocide Canada is displeased with Victoria University’s response.
“We are not happy with this,” he said.
“This behavior does not produce fertile soil for reconciliation between the Serbs and Bosnians,” Dr Ramic stated, adding that “bridges are built by bringing truths out into the open.”
“Learning about the genocide in Srebrenica using judicial, scientific research and historical facts is the least we can do to honor the victims that were brutally murdered simply because of their religious affiliation,” he told the Sarajevo Times.
According to the genocide scholar, acknowledgment through education is the key to a more harmonious tomorrow.
“By increasing our education and teaching future generations to accept historical facts, we will bring truths out into the open and our relationships will be healthier and function better,” he said.
“This education mainly starts from the parents who need to teach their children that their ancestors made mistakes that they can never repeat.”
World experts in the discipline of human rights, political science and trauma have expressed disapproval of Victoria University’s actions.
Written by Miya Yamanouchi for the Sarajevo Times