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Bosnia marks 29th anniversary of Srebrenica genocide

Bosnia and Herzegovina marked the 29th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, recalling the killing of over 8,000 civilians in July 1995. Since then, 45 individuals involved in the atrocity have been sentenced to nearly 700 years in prison. The conflict stemmed from Bosnian Serb declarations of independence, triggering a three-year war that claimed more than 100,000 lives and displaced 2 million people.

Agencies and A News WORLD
Published July 11,2024

Bosnia and Herzegovina marked the 29th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide Thursday in the wake of several developments since the killing of more than 8,000 civilians in July 1995, including the sentencing of 45 of those responsible for the atrocity to nearly 700 years in prison.

On Dec. 21, 1991, Bosnian Serbs proclaimed their own republic after voting against independence from Yugoslavia in a referendum.

On Jan. 9, 1992, they proclaimed the Republic of the Serbian People in Bosnia-Herzegovina but did not officially declare independence.

Bosnia and Herzegovina formally declared independence following a referendum held on Feb. 29 and March 1, 1992, which sparked a three-year war.

The war lasted until Dec. 14, 1995, and more than 100,000 people were killed and 2 million had to migrate.

The UN Security Council in the spring of 1993 declared Srebrenica a "safe area." But Serb troops led by Gen. Ratko Mladic-who was later found guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide-overran the UN zone.

The fate of approximately 7,000 people who disappeared during the war is still unknown.

In a case heard at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague, the Netherlands, Serbian commander Mladic was sentenced to life imprisonment for many crimes, including genocide. The sentence was approved at an appeal hearing on June 8, 2021.

Radovan Karadzic, the leader of the Bosnian Serbs during the Bosnian War, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for many crimes, including the Srebrenica Genocide, and then to life imprisonment in an appeal case.

In the Srebrenica cases heard at the ICTY, former Serbian officials Ljubisa Beara and Vujadin Popovic were also sentenced to life imprisonment.

In its decision in 2007, the International Court of Justice in The Hague described what happened in Srebrenica and its surroundings as a "genocide," based on evidence from the ICTY.

Former Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic died in prison while his trial was ongoing.

In the Srebrenica cases heard at the ICTY, Drago Nikolic was sentenced to 35 years in prison, Radislav Krstic to 35 years, Radivoje Miletic to 19 years, Ljubomir Borovcanin to 17 years, Vidoje Blagojevic to 15 years, Vinko Pandurevic to 13 years and Milan Gvero to five years.

In a case at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Trbic was found guilty of genocide and was sentenced to 30 years in prison for his part in the killing of nearly 1,000 Bosnian civilians in July 1995.

To date, 45 Serbs have been sentenced to a total of 699 years in prison in cases heard in different courts.


Most of the Bosnian male civilians who took shelter in a battery factory used as a base by Dutch UN soldiers were killed by Serbs there.

Despite the passing of years, the role of Dutch UN soldiers in the genocide continued to be debated.

In images taken after the occupation of Srebrenica, Dutch commander Thom Karremans was seen meeting with Mladic on July 11, 1995. It was noted that Mladic bought Karremans a drink at the end of the footage and the two toasted together.

While Karremans was never tried for what happened, the Dutch state was found "partially" guilty of the genocide in Srebrenica.

The Dutch government in 2022 apologized to Bosniak families who lost their relatives in the genocide.

Former Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren offered the apology at the 27th commemoration of the genocide at the cemetery in the village of Potocari in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

''Despite everything, Srebrenica was crushed...The Netherlands is also a part of this failure. For this reason, we offer you our deepest apologies,'' said Ollongren.

She said international institutions had promised to protect innocent people.

"The international community failed to protect the people of Srebrenica. As part of this community, the Dutch government shares political responsibility for the situation in which this failure could happen...We cannot take away the suffering. But what we can do is look history straight in the eye," she added.

In a lawsuit filed in 2007 by relatives of the victims against the Dutch government, The Hague District Court found The Netherlands guilty of handing over 300 Bosniak civilians to the Serbs who had taken refuge with Dutch soldiers and the United Nations during the occupation of Srebrenica.


The UN in late May this year passed a resolution to designate July 11 as the "International Day of Reflection and Commemoration of the 1995 Genocide in Srebrenica" with overwhelming support from the General Assembly.

The resolution was spearheaded by Germany, with co-sponsorship from more than 40 countries.

It passed with 84 nations voting in favor and 19 against. A total of 68 countries abstained.

Condemning the denial of the Srebrenica genocide, the resolution denounced the glorification of crimes against humanity, genocide and war criminals.

Highlighting the importance of ongoing efforts for the identification of victims and the retrieval of bodies, the resolution emphasizes the need for all perpetrators to be brought to justice.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic argued before the vote that the resolution was "highly politicized."

He said individuals responsible for the genocide had been punished and that the resolution would neither contribute to the stability and unity of Bosnia and Herzegovina nor the region, but would increase divisions.

Accusing Germany of threatening countries that did not support the resolution, Vucic said: "Is that European values, democratic values?"

While not legally binding, General Assembly resolutions carry political weight and send a strong message to the international community.

Türkiye has officially declared July 11 as the "International Day of Reflection and Remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide," according to a presidential decree published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday.

Mentioning the UN's adoption of the resolution, the decree noted that the resolution unequivocally condemns actions that glorify those convicted by international courts of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, including those responsible for the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"July 11, accepted as the 'International Day of Reflection and Remembrance of the Srebrenica Genocide,' will be commemorated in our country to share the pain, condemn genocide and crimes against humanity, and raise global awareness through special remembrance events, educational activities and public awareness initiatives in honor of the victims of the Srebrenica genocide," it added.

Kosovo is another country that decided Wednesday to declare July 11 Srebrenica genocide remembrance day to honor the memory of the victims.

''As one of the first countries to implement the UN resolution on the Srebrenica genocide, the Republic of Kosovo has just decided, as the first topic of our government meeting today, that July 11 will be designated as the official Commemoration Day for Srebrenica,'' said Foreign Minister Donika Gervalla-Schwarz.


In 2017, then-Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic apologized for all "crimes" committed by Serbs during the break-up of Yugoslavia, including Srebrenica.

But he refused to call the killing of thousands of Bosnian Muslims an act of genocide.

Serbia has never accepted the killings as genocide.

Nikolic said he was kneeling and seeking forgiveness for Srebrenica.

In 2015, then-Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic attended the commemoration ceremony on July 11 and paid respect to the victims. However, he quickly left the ceremony after being attacked by a stone-throwing mob.

Vucic has termed the incident involving him getting chased out from the mass burial ceremony during the 20th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina as politically motivated.

He was forced to flee with his bodyguards on July 11, 2015 under a hail of stones thrown by mourners at a funeral prayer and burial service for 136 Srebrenica victims whose remains were recently discovered.

People from the Bosnian village of Potocari-the scene of the genocide of Bosnian Muslim men and boys in 1995-shouted "Justice!" and "Vucic leave!" as the Serbian premier was immediately forced to leave the cemetery.

"This was an organized attack laced with political messages. I am happy (to know) that it was not organized by the victims' families. I heard some Muslims from among the crowd say 'he is not guilty,'" Vucic said after an emergency government meeting upon his return to the Serbian capital Belgrade.

He said he was given a warm welcome by the victims' families and the Bosniak mayor of Srebrenica, Camil Durakovic, upon his arrival at the memorial and cemetery complex, adding he refused to hide, despite hearing slogans demanding that he be "shot."

"I was physically attacked as I was proceeding to the designated seating area, and my glasses fell off my face and broke," Vucic said. "I am sorry that such an incident occurred and some people did not respond to our intention of building a friendship between Bosnians and Serbs."

He added that he would continue to extend his hand to the Bosnian people, the majority of whom, he said, condemned the attack on him.

"I am the one who extends his hand to you and wants to have peace with you. This is our policy," he said.

Vucic also urged the Serbian people "to not raise their hands to anyone, thinking they can do anything they want," as "we have to live together with the Bosniaks in the future too."


A Council of Europe body in 2017 called on Serbia to officially recognize the 1995 Srebrenica massacre as a genocide and to punish those responsible.

The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published its annual report on Serbia and also said that hate speech and hate crimes were on the increase in the Balkan state.

It said Belgrade should "actively implement" a strategy to punish those guilty of war crimes.


In 2019, the Swedish Academy picked a 77-year-old Austrian author, Peter Handke, for the Nobel Prize in literature, despite his denial of the Srebrenica genocide.

The academy's choice was met with backlash worldwide.

Handke claimed that Muslim Bosniaks in Sarajevo had killed themselves.

He also openly supported Serbian leader Milosevic.

Several countries, including Türkiye, boycotted the award ceremony and the Turkish, Albanian, Kosovar and Croatian envoys to Sweden also did not attend.

After the ceremony, Bosnian Croat President Zeljko Komsic said the Srebrenica genocide was awarded on the occasion.

Vucic, however, congratulated Handke and also invited him to visit Serbia.


European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Wednesday that they must honor the memory of the over 8,300 boys and men who were systematically murdered in the hills around Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina, stressing the need to bring all perpetrators of the 1995 genocide to justice.

Borrell issued a statement the day before the 29th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, urging leaders to reject divisive rhetoric and act with truth, justice and dialogue.

"Healing the wounds of the past requires acknowledging and teaching the historical facts, honoring and remembering the victims, identifying those still missing, and bringing all perpetrators to justice. This is key to confronting the roots of hatred that led to the genocide."

There is no place for those who deny genocide, try to rewrite history, and glorify war criminals, Borrell warned, stressing that they need to build together bridges to reconciliation.

Meanwhile, hundreds of motorcyclists from various countries gathered in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo to ride in a convoy to the Potocari Memorial Cemetery in Srebrenica in memory of the genocide victims.

The International Srebrenica Motorcycle Marathon is being held for the 13th time this year under the theme "Not to be Forgotten, Not to Be Repeated."

Motorcyclists passed through Sarajevo's main streets on Wednesday, as they have done in the past, and residents expressed their enthusiasm for their participation in honoring those massacred in 1995.

The motorcyclists paid their respects and left flowers in front of the Monument to the Murdered Children before continuing to the Potocari Memorial Cemetery.

On Tuesday, Bosnia and Herzegovina sent the remains of 14 more Srebrenica genocide victims to Potocari village, three days before their burial on the 29th anniversary of the 1995 genocide.

Every year on July 11, newly identified victims of the genocide are buried in the memorial cemetery in Potocari.

The youngest victim to be buried this year is Beriz Mujic, 17, born in 1978 in Zvornik.

In May 2023, his remains were found 28 years after his killing and exhumed.

He was killed in July 1995 in the Suceska area near Bratunac.

Mujic will be buried next to his brother Hazim, whose remains were laid to rest in 2013.

The body of their father, Omer Mujic, has yet to be found.

The oldest victim who will be buried on Thursday is Hamed Salic, born in 1927. He was 68 years old when he went missing in the summer of 1995 in the town of Zepa. His remains were exhumed in May 2014 and recently identified.

Thousands of people from various countries will attend the funerals and burials. Following this year's funeral, the cemetery's total number of burials will reach 6,765.