MAY THEIR SOULS REST IN PEACE: 12th ANNIVERSARY OF SREBRENICA GENOCIDE
"Srebrenica is the emblem of those other massacres, concentration camps, savage ‘ethnic cleansing’ on a vast scale, organised mass rape, relentless shelling of civilians - women and children - and of hospitals - and the bloody siege of a great capital, Sarajevo, while the ‘international community’ either connived with the Serbs (as in the cases of Paris and London) or else looked on and dithered, forbidding the Bosnians to arm themselves and mount effective resistance to the Serbian juggernaut." - Ed Vulliamy
Important Update: The Chief U.N. War Crimes Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, also attended the anniversary of Srebrenica genocide. Prof Deborah E. Lipstadt, who was also in attendance of the 12th anniversary of Srebrenica Genocide, reported on her blog that Carla del Ponte defended herself against allegations of helping Serbia use censored evidence. Deborah Lipstadt reported (quote):
"Some people, I learned last night when I appeared on Bosnia's leading news show, are upset because they allege that she received some documents which she used in the case against Milosevic but which she did not allow to be used in a subsequent case brought by Bosnia against Serbia for the crime of genocide. [Some people believe she cut a deal with Serbia.]
A Ph.D. student at the university here just challenged her on this. She denied that she did it. She said quite clearly that the decision about the use of the documents this was made by the judges not her." (End Quote)
During the 1992-95 war, the United Nations declared Srebrenica a U.N.-protected safe area for civilians, but then did nothing to prevent the massacre and expulsion. Srebrenica enclave had been brutally besieged by Serb forces throughout the war who were attacking the enclave from surrounding militarized Serb villages and blocking humanitarian convoys. In July 1995, Serb troops under the command of now indicted genocide fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic and his superior, former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, overran the enclave. The outnumbered U.N. troops never fired a shot and watched as Mladic's troops rounded up the entire Srebrenica population in the Dutch compound and took the boys, men and elderly away for execution. They witnessed slaughter of children, boys, men and elderly.
On June 21st 2007, a four-year study by the internationally evaluated study, the Bosnian Book of Dead, concluded that 8,460 Bosniaks were killed in Srebrenica; 6565 (or 77.6%) were civilians (including 441 children ranging from infants to teens) and 1,895 (or 22.4%) were soldiers.
On Wednesday, July 11th, f
amilies of victims of the Srebrenica massacre buried 465 new DNA-identified victims at an annual ceremony that has become the main event of their lives since the 1995 genocide committed by Bosnian Serb forces.
For background on Srebrenica massacre, you may refer to Srebrenica Genocide Questions & Answers.
[Photo of Srebrenica massacre grave (next photo down) is a courtesy of www.international-law.us]
The Bosnian Serb Army under the command of indicted genocide fugitives General Ratko Mladic and former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic seized the defenceless former U.N. "safe zone" of Srebrenica in July 1995 and in the following days carried out what is considered Europe's worst war crime since World War Two.
On Tuesday, the new International Representative in Bosnia-Herzegovina - Miroslav Lajcak - moved to sack a senior Bosnian Serb police official and suspend 35 Serb policemen believed to have taken part in Srebrenica massacre.
"God grant that what was done yesterday bears fruit," said Elmana Mehic from Srebrenica, who came to bury the remains of her uncle, collected from three different mass graves. "Twelve years have passed and nobody has done anything for us."
Several senior Bosnian Serb army officers have been sentenced by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague for the Srebrenica massacre, and others are being tried in Bosnia. But top genocide suspects Mladic and his political boss Radovan Karadzic are still at large.
"I'm working to get Karadzic and Mladic. I still hope that I'll get them by the end of my mandate in December," U.N. Chief Prosecutor Carla del Ponte told a group of Srebrenica mothers, who accused her of not doing enough to apprehend the two men.
Serbian President Boris Tadic said in a statement that his country, consistently accused by del Ponte of harboring Mladic, was committed to locate and arrest all war crimes indictees.
"That is not just our international obligation, it is something we owe above all to ourselves and to our neighbors," Tadic said, paying respect to the Srebrenica massacre victims.
Chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla del Ponte paid her respect to the Srebrenica victims and vowed that the perpetrators will face justice before her mandate expires. In an expression of dissatisfaction with her work, however, the Srebrenica Mothers' Association boycotted del Ponte's appearance. The reason for their dissatisfaction with her work lies in the accusation that Del Ponte cut a deal with Belgrade to withhold evidence during the Milosevic trial that would have helped Bosnia's case against Serbia. (read:
Serbia's Darkest Pages Hidden from Genocide Court and Censorship of Evidence).
The Dayton Peace Agreement which ended Bosnia's 1992-95 war split the former Yugoslav republic into two political entities - Federation and Republika Srpska. Srebrenica, who was 75 percent Bosniak-populated before the war, went to the Serbs. After ethnic cleansing and genocide, there is hardly any Bosniaks in Srebrenica.
Survivors of the Srebrenica genocide demand self-rule for the town but the Serbs are opposed. No senior Bosnian Serb officials attended Wednesday's commemoration ceremony.
"These innocent victims died because of a concept not worthy of a human," Bosnian presidency member Haris Silajdzic, a Bosniak, told the gathering of thousands. His Croat colleague in the Presidency attended the ceremony, but his Serb colleague did not.
"Let us do everything, all together, for this concept not to become reality, for Bosnia-Herzegovina not to be the way the perpetrators of crimes wanted it, for our country to be good for all people living in it and they themselves worthy of that name," Silajdzic said.
In his last ruling before handing over to Lajcak this month, former peace envoy Christian Schwarz-Schilling put the Genocide Memorial complex in Potocari near Srebrenica under Bosnian state protection.
Srebrenica families said that was fine as far as it went, but complained that the same people who killed their relatives were still wearing the uniforms of the Bosnian Serb police and 'guarding' the tombs of the victims.
"Lajcak did a fair thing for us, the victims ... after all these years," said Mirnesa Sinanovic, 21, who came to bury the remains of her father. But she said that her family were not yet ready to go back to their old home near Srebrenica.
"Until we feel safe and secure, we will not return," Sinanovic said.
"Only when you come here and see this field of graves, and meet the families, you start to understand the scale of the crime - genocide - that took place here 12 years ago,'' said Bosnia's recently appointed top international official, Miroslav Lajcak.
Some 15,000 men, boys and elderly tried to escape the slaughter by fleeing over the mountains toward the safe town of Tuzla. They were hunted along their 65-mile walk and killed if caught. Hazim Mehmedovic was 3 years old at the time, and was carried along the path in his father's arms.
Hazim, now 16, arrived a few days ago from Copenhagen, Denmark, where he is living with his mother. Survivors today live in 107 countries around the world as refugees, he said. For the past few days, he walked the escape route the other way from Tuzla to Srebrenica and arrived for the anniversary.
"I don't remember anything and wanted to see where it happened. The Serbs shelled our group and killed dad while he was holding me in his arms. Someone else, I don't know who, carried me the rest of the way to Tuzla,'' he says.
The body of Hazim's father, Edhem, was found in a mass grave along the route and buried last year in Potocari.
Srebrenica was described by former Secretary General Kofi Annan as the darkest page of U.N. history.
The Association of survivors of genocide, Mothers of Srebrenica, recently launched a lawsuit against the Dutch authorities and the United Nations. The lawyers' conclusion is that:
"The only interest they served was that of avoiding Dutch casualties."
The one problem with the case is that the United Nations enjoys immunity from prosecution. The Netherlands can also claim immunity by declaring that it operated under UN guidelines.
However, Mr Gerritsen believes there is a chance of challenging the UN's immunity.
"Everyone would agree that the UN is liable in questions of genocide, for instance. If there was ever a case which could challenge UN immunity, then this is it." The case will begin next year.
Besides the Srebrenica case filed by 6,000 women, several others have been brought against the Dutch state: one is that of the UN interpreter Hassan Nuhanovic (photo on the left), who has accused the Dutch government of not protecting his family whilst it could easily have done so.
Another case was brought by the relatives of the deceased electrician Rizo Mustafic. They say the Dutch authorities were responsible because Mr Mustafic had been on the grounds of the Dutch military compound in Srebrenica, but Lieutenant-Colonel Karremans sent him away. Dutch UN Commander Tom Karremans [aka: Thomas J.P. (Thom) Karremans] was drinking a toast with the indicted Serb genocide fugivitive, General Ratko Mladic, on July 12th 1995 during horrendous Srebrenica massacre (click here to see photo).
Lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld says there is a good chance the Dutch government will be found guilty. She expects a verdict at the end of the year.
A third case has been brought by the Dutch soldier Dave Maat. He says the authorities are responsible for the trauma he has had since the fall of the enclave.
The judge ruled in his favour, but the Defence Ministry appealed against the sentence last November. No date has been given for the ruling.
- More photos:
Bosnian Muslims cry beside a coffin of their relative prepared for a funeral near Srebrenica July 10, 2007. The mass burial of victims of the 1995 genocide of over 8,000 Bosniak men and boys by the Bosnian Serb forces is scheduled for July 11 at Srebrenica Genocide Memorial.
Families carry coffins with the remains of 465 newly DNA-identified victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of more than 8,000 Bosniaks, at a cemetery near Srebrenica July 11, 2007. Thousands of survivors and visitors gathered to bury the remains on Wednesday, at an annual ceremony that has become the main event of their lives since the 1995 atrocity by Bosnian Serb forces.
One of hundreds of coffins with remains of Bosnian Muslims is taken to a cemetery near Srebrenica, late July 10, 2007. The mass burial of newly identified victims of the 1995 genocide of up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces is scheduled for July 11 at a joint cemetery near Srebrenica.
May Their Souls Finally Rest in Peace...