Eyewitness testimony from women forcibly displaced from Srebrenica and from survivors among a column of men who tried to flee in advance of the Bosnian Serb army provided the first details to the international media and leaders about what happened to those detained by Bosnian Serbs.
Although individual policymakers at times took strong stands against human rights abuses in Bosnia, in general the UN, the European Union, the United States, and Russia minimized the aggressive nature of the conflict and treated the Serbs, Bosniaks, and Croats as equal "warring parties."
Throughout the conflict and even after the fall of Srebrenica, the UN and international leaders refused to confront the Bosnian Serbs, fearing strong action would complicate peace negotiations or jeopardize humanitarian aid efforts.
Providing humanitarian aid instead of confronting atrocities against civilians was the central focus of the international response to the conflict in Bosnia. With the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees leading the effort, an enormous aid operation tended to the forced displacement, malnutrition, and medical emergencies suffered by the victims of the war.
When the Bosnian Serb army attacked Srebrenica, the UN and other international forces in the region offered no additional support for the battalion of Dutch soldiers stationed there as part of the UN peacekeeping force in Bosnia.
The Dutch soldiers failed to protect the Bosniak civilians in Srebrenica. Instead, they cooperated with and even helped Bosnian Serb soldiers as they separated men, who were later executed, from women and children, who were expelled.
Only after the UN safe haven at Zepa was overrun by Serbian forces and a bomb fell in a crowded Sarajevo market did the international community respond with more force. In August 1995, NATO launched three weeks of bombing Bosnian Serb positions in conjunction with a Bosnian government and Croatian ground offensive that helped push the Serbs back to negotiations.
On May 25, 1993, during the conflict in Bosnia and a full year before the genocide at Srebrenica, the UN Security Council created the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY). It was the first such tribunal since Nuremberg and the first mandated to prosecute the crime of genocide, among other offenses. In 2001, the ICTY judged that genocide had occurred in Srebrenica.