The remains of 534 identified victims of the July 11, 1995 Srebrenica massacre were buried in a ceremony attended by tens of thousands of relatives and survivors at the Potocari Memorial Park outside the town in eastern Bosnia on the 14th anniversary of Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II. The bodies, which had been unearthed from mass graves, were buried alongside nearly 3,300 others at the memorial site. The victims were aged between 14 and 72 at the time of their deaths. Forensic experts have now identified more than 6,000 of the estimated 8,000 victims of the massacre through DNA analysis. The memorial opened in 2003 as a final resting place for remains uncovered from some 70 mass graves.
Massacre officially commemorated in Europe—but not Bosnia
The massacre was officially commemorated for the first time this year across Europe—but not in ethnically divided Bosnia itself. The European Parliament in January proclaimed July 11 a day of commemoration and urged European countries to support the resolution. The parliaments in both Croatia and Montenegro passed resolutions this week proclaiming the date as a day of remembrance. But there was no such initiative in Serbia. And in Bosnia, ethnic Serb deputies in parliament blocked the resolution.
Speaking to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Bosnia’s grand mufti, Mustafa Ceric, said that Bosnian legislators “missed the historic opportunity to say to their children that they earned their salary.” Ceric added that Bosnia’s Muslims have “lived for 14 years with this defiance and this denial of genocide—which is the most difficult stage of the genocidal processes. Genocide has many stages. So the final stage is denial of the genocide after accusing the victims of genocide that they are responsible for what has been done to them.”
Mladic still at large
The Srebrenica massacre has been termed genocide by both the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic, charged as the main culprit behind the atrocity, is awaiting trial before the ICTY. But his army chief and co-accused, Ratko Mladic, remains at large. Haris Silajdzic, a member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, said Bosnia seeks good relations with Serbia, but this won’t be possible until Mladic is brought to justice. (RFE/RL, AlJazeera, July 11)
Serbian President Boris Tadic in his own statement on the anniversary said that Serbia is doing everything in its power to arrest Mladic, but added that no one people have collective guilt, as those who committed crimes “have names.” (Radio Srbija, July 11)
Karadzic immunity claim rejected
Days before the Srebrenica anniversary, the ICTY at The Hague rejected Karadzic’s claim that he should not be prosecuted because of an immunity deal he had supposedly received from former US peace envoy Richard Holbrooke. The ICTY ruled that even if the deal existed, it would have no legal standing. Holbrooke, now the US envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, has repeatedly denied there was any such deal, calling the claim “laughable” and a “lie.” Karadzic, 64, faces 11 charges including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Tribunal filed a not guilty plea on his behalf after he refused to cooperate, asserting the court lacks jurisdiction. (BBC News, July 8)
Srebrenica survivor arrested
There was also tension around the commemoration this year when a massacre survivor living in Sweden, Midhat Salihovic, returned to attend the funeral of his father and brother (both killed in the massacre)—and was detained July 7 by Bosnian Serb authorities, allegedly on suspicion of war crimes. He was released after protest by rights groups. A joint statement from Women in Black (Belgrade), the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia, the Youth Initiative for Human Rights and other groups called the arrest a “cynical and criminal move.” (B-92, Belgrade, July 7; Balkan Insight, July 6)