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Europe

Tens of thousands mark 15 years since massacre

Video by Olivia Salazar-Winspear

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-11

Tens of thousands are gathering to mark 15 years since the massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serbs at Srebrenica during the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia with a special ceremony at Potocari cemetery.

AFP - Tens of thousands of people gathered Sunday to commemorate the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of nearly 8,000 Muslims by Bosnian Serbs and bury 775 newly identified victims.
   
The massacre, the worst single atrocity on European soil since World War II, is the darkest episode in the violent break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
   

French Foreign minister Bernard Kouchner on the Srebrenica massacre

A ceremony addressed by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and others is to be followed by the burial of the recently identified victims, the youngest two boys aged 14, alongside 3,749 bodies already in the Potocari graveyard.
   
Ramiza Gurdic, 57, will bury her son Mehrudin, who had not yet turned 17 when he was killed. He will join Gurdic's husband and another son already in the immense graveyard near the town of Srebrenica.
   
"How can you forget, how can you forgive? I think about them every day. I wonder if they were hungry, thirsty," she told AFP ahead of the ceremony.
   
"I go to bed with the pain and I wake up with the sadness," she said.
   
Nearly 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed in the days following the fall of the Srebrenica enclave, designated a UN safe area, to Bosnian Serb troops on July 11, 1995.
   
In a statement on the anniversary, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the Srebrenica genocide "must never" be forgotten.
   
"It was a crime that shamed Europe," Cameron said. "We pledge never to forget the past, and to do all in our power to ensure that such an atrocity can never be repeated."
   
The massacre has been deemed genocide by the UN war crimes court and the International Court of Justice, the UN's top court.
   
It is the only episode to have that label from among the ethnic conflicts that followed the 1990s break away from Serbia of other members of the Yugoslav federation.
   
The victims were shot and dumped in mass graves, then reburied haphazardly in more than 70 sites in a bid to cover up the evidence.
   
Bones exhumed by forensic experts over the past few years were reburied in Potocari after identification through DNA testing.
   
While the remains of nearly 6,500 people have been identified, some found in more than one grave, many families are holding off burial in the hope that more body parts, or those of another relative, will turn up.
   
Hatidza Mehmedovic, 68, was on Sunday to bury her husband and two sons.
   
"I waited for them to return alive, I could not believe such a crime could have been committed. Today, my hope dies," she said.
   
"It was not only my sons, thousands of people were killed. The intent was to make sure that no Muslim would live in this place. I don't wish on any other mother to have to live through this," Mehmedovic said.
   
The presidents of all the states that made up the former Yugoslavia were present for the commemoration, including Serbia's President Boris Tadic.
   

Tadic's presence is a sore point for many survivors who say that Ratko Mladic, the fugitive Bosnian Serb wartime military commander charged with genocide by the UN war crimes court, is believed to be hiding in Serbia.
   
"He should be ashamed to come to Potocari as long as he hasn't arrested the most wanted war criminals, Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic," Mehmedovic said.
   
For years Belgrade denied the scale of the bloodbath but this March, following an initiative by pro-European Tadic, the Serbian parliament passed a declaration condemning the massacre and apologising to victims and their families.
   
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 on trial for genocide before the Hague-based the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
   

 

Date created : 2010-07-11

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