Bosnia set to commemorate Srebrenica massacre

Bosnians will mark on Sunday 15 years since the darkest episode of the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia, the Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslims by Serbs.

Last Updated: Jul 09, 2010, 10:19 AM IST

Srebrenica: Bosnians will mark on Sunday 15 years since the darkest episode of the bloody break-up of Yugoslavia, the Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslims by Serbs.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to attend the commemoration, including Serbian President Boris Tadic, who also attended the 10th anniversary ceremony, his Croatian counterpart Ivo Josipovic and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The ceremony will include the burial of 775 recently identified victims at the special memorial centre and graveyard in Potocari near Srebrenica, joining the 3,749 already there.

Bosnian Muslim men and boys were systematically killed in the days following the fall of the Srebrenica enclave, designated a UN safe area, to Bosnian Serb troops on July 11, 1995.

The massacre is the only episode of the ethnic conflicts that followed the breakaway from Serbia of other members of the Yugoslav federation in the 1990s to have been deemed a genocide by the UN war crimes court and the International Court of Justice, the UN`s top court.

The victims were shot and interred in mass graves, then reburied haphazardly later in more than 70 sites in a bid to cover up the evidence.

The bones, exhumed by forensic experts over the last few years, were buried in Potocari after identification by DNA testing.

To date the remains of nearly 6,500 people have been identified, some of them found in more than one grave, but many families are waiting to bury them in the hope that more bones, or those of another relative, will turn up.

This year`s commemoration of the worst single atrocity on European soil since World War II comes three months after the Serbian parliament adopted a resolution condemning the massacre and apologising to the victims.

The resolution, which ended years of denials from Belgrade about the scale of the bloodbath, was criticised by victims` organisations who blasted the fact that the parliament did not use the term genocide.

The presence of Serbia`s President Tadic at Sunday`s commemoration remains a sore point for many survivors.

"It`s good that he`s coming, whatever his reasons, but I will ask him why he has not brought Ratko Mladic with him," Munira Subasic, who heads an organisation of Srebrenica women, said.

Mladic, the wartime commander of the Bosnian Serb military, is wanted for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in the Srebrenica massacre. He has been on the run for nearly 15 years and is believed to be hiding in Serbia.

"I don`t think Tadic`s gesture is sincere. He is doing it to score points for Serbia with the European Union," Subasic said.

The alleged mastermind behind the Bosnian Serb campaign of ethnic cleansing and the Srebrenica killings, political leader Radovan Karadzic, was arrested in Belgrade in 2008.

He is currently on trial for genocide before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The ICTY has charged 21 people over the massacre. On June 10 two former Bosnian Serb officers were sentenced to life in prison for genocide for their part in it.
In 2004 Bosnian Serb ex-general Radislav Krstic, Mladic`s right hand man who led the attack on Srebrenica, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for genocide.

Since the end of the war Bosnia has consisted of two semi-autonomous entities -- the Serbs` Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation. Each has its own government.
The Republika Srpska government continues to contest the scale of the massacre, saying in April it would seek the revision of a 2004 report in which it accepted that more than 7,000 people were killed.

Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Milorad Dodik now says the report was adopted under intense international pressure and maintains that 3,500 dead is a more likely figure.

Bureau Report