Thousands have gathered in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica to commemorate Europe’s worst atrocity, a genocide unprecedented in Europe since the Second World War.
The remains of 71 recently identified victims were laid to rest at Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial Centre and Cemetery, to join 6,504 white gravestones as mourners observed the twenty-second anniversary of the massacre.
We remember the more than 8000 Bosnian fathers, brothers and sons were systematically separated from their wives, mothers and daughters, taken away, executed and dumped into hastily dug pits (so inappropriate to call them graves).
Every year, new bodies are discovered and the remains are identified through DNA analysis before being buried at Potocari.Thousands of activists each year attend massive marches to remember the genocide victims.
Srebrenica had been declared a UN safe zone, to which thousands of Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) had fled during the 1992-95 Bosnian war. However in July 1995, General Ratko Mladić and his Serbian paramilitary units overran and captured the town, Dutch UN peacekeeping forces were at the time accused of failing to do enough to prevent the massacre.The Muslim men and boys were told by the Dutch peacekeepers they would be safe and handed over to the Bosnian Serb army. They never returned. The Netherlands has since been found partly liable for the deaths of 300 Muslims killed in the Srebrenica massacre, a court recently confirmed.The Hague appeals court upheld a decision from 2014 that ordered the Dutch state to pay compensation to the victims families.
Srebrenica happened during a war with seemingly few rules of engagement, bitter fighting, indiscriminate shelling of cities and towns, ethnic cleansing and systematic mass rape. Essentially a territorial conflict, one in which people of difference looked back on times of peaceful coexistence, however fragile, and forward to ethnic separation, exclusion and to living apart.
In March last year, former Bosnian Serb political leader, Radovan Karadzic, was convicted of war crimes for his role in the Srebrenica killings and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Prosecutors at The Hague war crimes tribunal have called for a life sentence to be imposed on the Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, for genocide and crimes against humanity committed by his forces during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. Yet for many Serbs he is still regarded as a hero of his people and is celebrated.
Humanity has lived through the darkest of times, but few events have stained our collective history more than the Srebrenica genocide.Today we remember the victims, survivors and those still fighting for justice. Let us continue to unite against forces of hatred. We must continue to learn lessons from this tragic event, never forget and recognise the dangers of what can manifest when racism, prejudice, religious-hatred and discrimination go unchallenged and ethnic divisions are exploited by political leaders.
Here is a link to the official site of rememberance.:-