Serbian PM calls Srebrenica massacre a ‘monstruous crime’
Issued on: Modified:
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic arrived on Saturday in Srebrenica to attend a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the massacre committed by Bosnian Serb forces.
Vucic was briefly booed as he arrived in the Bosnian town to sign a book of condolences, according to an AFP journalist. The prime minister spoke with relatives of the victims, one of whom gave him a long hug.
In a statement released shortly before his arrival, Vucic condemned the "monstrous crime" that saw some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim boys and men slaughtered by Bosnian Serb forces after they captured the town in July 1995, near the end of Bosnia's inter-ethnic war.
Dozens of foreign dignitaries - including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Britain's Princess Anne and Jordan's Queen Noor - came for a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the massacre.
The crime was defined as genocide by two international courts.
At the end of the ceremony families will lay the remains of 136 victims to rest at a memorial center next to the graves of over 6,000 previously found in mass graves.
During the 1992-95 war, the United Nations declared Srebrenica a safe haven for civilians. But on July 11, 1995, Serb troops overran the Muslim enclave. Some 15,000 men tried to flee through the woods toward government-held territory while others joined the town's women and children in seeking refuge at the base of the Dutch U.N. troops.
The outnumbered Dutch troops could only watch as Serb soldiers rounded up about 2,000 men for killing and later hunted down and killed another 6,000 men in the woods.
Serbia and Bosnian Serbs deny the killings were "genocide," but despite this Vucic still came to represent his country at the commemoration. Although the crowd booed his arrival, many welcomed his presence.
"Only on truth we can build a future. You cannot deny the truth," Kada Hotic, who lost her son and husband in the massacre, told Vucic.
"All of my family members are here under these tombstones. This cannot be denied. Because of our future, we need good relations," she added.
So far, remains of some 7,000 victims have been excavated from 93 graves or collected from 314 surface locations and identified through DNA technology. None of the 136 bodies to be laid to rest Saturday are complete.
(FRANCE 24 with AP and AFP)