Over five days in July 1995, 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys, separated from their womenfolk, were butchered in what should have been the safe haven of Srebrenica, allegedly on the orders of Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic.
Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic failed to attend the opening of his long-awaited war crimes trial at The Hague Monday.
But unlike Karadzic, the memory and legacy of the Srebrenica massacre - which he is accused of masterminding - is not lurking in a cell.
Some 8,000 Bosnian Muslims were killed in the tiny enclave in July 1995, the biggest ethnic massacre to take place in Europe since the Second World War.
"The population of Srebrenica was buried, there is no one left, the town is dead," survivor Fazila Efendic tells FRANCE 24.
In 1993, while the Yugoslav War was in full swing, Sebrenica was declared a "secure zone" by the UN Security Council, and put under NATO control.
But the six hundred Dutch soldiers responsible for the security of the mostly Muslim town proved unable to prevent the "ethnic cleansing" that took place in 1995.
In March of that year, Karadzic, then leader of the Bosnian Serbs, allegedly issued "Directive 7" - an order to besiege the enclave and carry out "planned and well-thought-out combat operations meant to create an unbearable situation of total insecurity with no hope for further survival or life for the inhabitants of Srebrenica."
These words would become a reality under the direction of General Radko Mladic in July 1995.
The final assault on the enclave, home to some 30,000 people, began on July 6.
In a few days Mladic and his men were in control and humanitarian organisations in Srebrenica sent out frantic telegrams warning of an impending massacre.
It began on July 12.
Women and children deported
Immediately, Serbian forces set about isolating 23,000 women and children under the age of 12, earmarked to be deported from the enclave.
According to witnesses, the first killings began on July 13 in the neighbouring village of Kravica.
Over five days 8,000 Muslim civilians were murdered, while the international community failed to react.
The Dutch troops had asked for help from NATO, but apart from two bombardments, no help came.
Since the end of of the war only 3,000 bodies have been identified.
And while Karadzic must answer to the court for his alleged overall responsibility for the massacres, the man who carried out the killings, Ratko Mladic, remains on the run.
Date created : 2009-10-26