Srebrenica: 11 years later, still no justice
The Srebrenica Genocide Blog notes the July 11 ceremony at the Bosnian town to commemorate the mass murder that took place there precisely 11 years ago—an anniversary largely overlooked by the world media, despite some important new developments in the survivors' ongoing search for justice:
SREBRENICA - More than 40,000 mourners gathered Tuesday in the eastern Bosnian village of Potocari, near the town of Srebrenica, for the burial of 505 victims - aged 15 to 78 - of the 1995 massacre.
Mourners gathered Tuesday in the eastern Bosnian village of Potocari, near the town of Srebrenica, for the burial of 505 victims of the 1995 massacre in that town.
Bosnian Muslim women saying their prayers during the funeral ceremony for 505 bodies at the Memorial Center Potocari, near Srebrenica, north of Bosnian capital Sarajevo, Tuesday, July 11, 2006. The bodies will be buried marking the 11th anniversary commemorations of the massacre where Serb troops killed over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995. During a commemoration titled 'Do Not Forget!' which marked the 11th anniversary of the massacre, 505 caskets wrapped in green were laid in fresh graves next to nearly 2,000 victims of the Srebrenica massacre buried in the Potocari Memorial Centre during the last three years.
The commemoration comes as a group of survivors is launching suit, charging UN collaboration with the Bosnian Serb forces that carried out the genocide. From UPI July 5:
SREBRENICA -- Muslim widows were reportedly preparing to sue the United Nations and Netherlands for failing to protect their sons and spouses from Bosnian Serbs in 1995.
An Amsterdam legal firm was working on the compensation lawsuit on behalf of the widows from Srebrenica, the mostly Muslim town in eastern Bosnia, Germany's Der Spiegel reported Wednesday.
About 8,000 Muslim boys and men were killed in July 1995 after Serbian troops led by military chief Ratko Mladic captured Srebrenica.
Still on the run, Mladic is sought by the U.N. tribunal in The Hague on genocide and crimes against humanity charges, including the Srebrenica massacre.
Dutch soldiers, as part of the U.N. protection forces, were stationed around in the Srebrenica area and in villages nearby, but they were not equipped to confront the Bosnian Serb units.
However, for most of the surviving relatives, money is not the issue, the newspaper said. The relatives want an answer as to why the Dutch soldiers did not, or could not stop the Serbian troops.
The war crimes trial at The Hague continues despite the death of the chief defendant Slobodan Milosevic, president of Serbia from 1989 to 1997 and then of the diminished Yugoslavia until 2000. But the latest Serbian leaders to face prosecution at the tribunal are being charged in connection with the atrocities in Kosova in 1999—not the even greater atrocities in Bosnia just a few years earlier. From The Jurist, July 10:
The trial of six men accused of war crimes in Kosovo in 1999, including former Serbian President Milan Milutinovic, began at the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Monday. Milutinovic and his five co-defendants - former Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Sainovic, former Yugoslav army chiefs of staff Dragoljub Ojdanic and Nebojsa Pavkovic, and generals Vladimir Lazarevic and Sreten Lukic - face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the deportation of 800,000 Kosovo Albanian civilians and the forcible transfer, murder and persecution of Kosovo Albanians at the hands of Serb troops. All six have pleaded not guilty.
Milutinovic took over as president in 1997 after Slobodan Milosevic ended his presidency, but Milutinovic reportedly continued to stay in close contact with Milosevic and carry out Milosevic's policies. The prosecution will use much of the same evidence that was presented in the Milosevic trial, which ended earlier this year when Milosevic passed away in prison. The ICTY granted a provisional release to Milutinovic, Sainovic, Ojdanic and Lazarevic in 2005 until their trial because they were not considered dangerous or a flight risk.
The problem here is that the Kosova atrocities were carried out within the official borders of Serbia, and in large part by the official Serbian security forces. While Belgrade's collaboration with Bosnia genocide is well-known, it is also harder to prove, as it was carried out by the completely unaccountable "Bosnian Serb Republic" forces, then recognized by no government on earth. This "Serb Republic" has since become an official constituent entity of the still-divided Bosnian state—an arrangement worked out in the US-brokered Dayton Accords shortly after the Srebrenica massacre. While President Clinton and even, perversely, Milosevic (who officially represented the Bosnian Serbs in the talks) were hailed as peacemakers after Dayton, many on the ground in Bosnia saw the Accords as rewarding Serb aggression.
The website of the Turkish news service Zaman has a special link offering a sampling of stories marking the Srebrenica ten-year anniversary one year ago. It is, perhaps, a sign of hope that both Serbian President Boris Tadic and Bosnian Serb Republic President Dragan Cavic officially expressed contrition on this occasison. From Zaman, July 13, 2005:
As the memorial ceremony of the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica Massacre opened a new era for Serbs to undertake "self-criticism," Serbian leader Boris Tadic's attendance at the ceremony prompted heated debates among Serbs.
Tadic had said he "bows to the innocent victims". Nationalist circles in the country have harshly criticized his visit to Potocari.
Zaman, July 12, 2005:
How many Bosnians were murdered within the span of a few days is as yet unknown.
While the Prosecutor of the United Nations (UN) Former Yugoslavia War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague puts the death toll as between 7,000 and 8,000, the report prepared by the Bosnian Serb government gives the number 7,779 and the Bosnian government's report says "more than 8,374." The Bosnian Serb Republic President Dragan Cavic had officially acknowledged the massacre on 22 June 2004 in a statement. Cavic said, "After what had passed, I must say above all as a human being, as a Serb, as a father, as a brother, as a son and lastly as the President of Serbian Republic that the 9-day Srebrenica tragedy is a black page in Serbian history." So far, 42 mass graves have been uncovered around Srebrenica. The specialists believe there are 22 more mass graves. The victims identified until today number 2,070. Body parts in more than 7,000 bags still await identification.
But it was also noted that elements in the Bosnian Serb Republic were protecting the presumed real mastermind of the genocide, former Bosnian Serb president Radovan Karadzic. From Zaman, July 12, 2005:
Former US Ambassador to United Nations (UN) Richard Holbrooke and the architect of the Bosnian Peace treaty claimed former Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic was being protected by the Serbian Church and the biggest Serbian political party in Bosnia, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDP).
Holbrooke told the Associated Press (AP) that the SDP was a criminal organization protecting Karadzic adding that if asked to predict Karadzic's whereabouts, he could guess a monastary as his hideout.
Holbrook was in Saraybosna (Sarajevo) for the memorial services of the 10th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) special forces have been searching for Karadzic for a long time. They detained his son Alexander last week on the suspicion of having information on his father's whereabouts.
A year later, Karadzic still remains at large, as does his top general Ratko Mladic.