Srebrenica Genocide: The July 11, 1995 execution of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys is the only declared genocide in Europe since World War II.
Bosnians have begun commemorating the massacres of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica, marking the 26th anniversary of mass killings that stunned the world and have stood out as Europe’s only atrocity since World War Two constituting genocide.
More than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed after Serb forces attacked a UN “safe area” in Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, despite the presence of Dutch troops tasked with acting as international peacekeepers.
Srebrenica was besieged by Serb forces who were trying to wrest territory from Bosnian Muslims and Croats to form a state.
The UN Security Council declared Srebrenica a “safe area” in the spring of 1993.
But Serb troops, led by General Ratko Mladic overran the UN zone.
Mladic was later sentenced to life for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.
Dutch troops failed to act as Serb forces occupied the area, killing 2,000 men and boys on July 11 alone.
Some 15,000 residents of Srebrenica fled to the surrounding mountains but Serb troops hunted down and killed 6,000 in the forests.
Bodies of victims have been found in 570 different areas in the country.
The bodies were dumped into mass graves and later exhumed by UN investigators and used as evidence in war crimes trials of Serb leaders.
Marathon marks anniversary
On Saturday a group of runners marked the genocide with a 227-km ultra-marathon.
The event has been held every year for the past 10 years.
Runners start in the Croatian city of Vukovar and run in five stages until arriving in Srebrenica.
In another event, thousands of people also finished a three-day walk around the Bosnian city to mark the escape of Muslim refugees, re-enacting the escape of Muslim refugees in 1995.
Burial of victims
Earlier on Friday, the remains of 19 more victims of the Srebrenica genocide were sent for burial in the village of Potocari on the anniversary of genocide.
Scores of people came out in Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the nearby town of Visoko to bid a final farewell to the recently identified victims.
Every year on July 11, newly identified victims of the genocide are buried in a memorial cemetery in Potocari in the eastern part of the country.
After passing by Vogosca, a Sarajevo suburb, the truck carrying the coffins, draped with a large flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stopped in front of the presidency near a memorial for children killed in the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1995.
Around 1,500 children were massacred during the brutal 1995 siege of Sarajevo by Bosnian Serb forces.
A total of 6,696 victims lie buried at the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potocari. At Sunday’s commemoration ceremony, more identified victims will be buried at the cemetery.
‘Europe has not forgotten failure to prevent Srebrenica genocide’
Also on Saturday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell and commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said Europe has not forgotten its responsibility for not being able to prevent the Srebrenica genocide.
“Political leaders in the Western Balkans have to lead by example in acknowledging what happened, honoring the victims and genuinely promoting reconciliation by confronting the roots of hatred that led to the genocide,” they said in a statement.
“There is no place in Europe for genocide denial, revisionism, and glorification of war criminals, which contradict the most fundamental European values. Attempts to rewrite history are unacceptable.”
The EU officials stressed the need for international courts, as well as domestic courts in Bosnia and Herzegovina and neighbouring countries, to provide justice to the victims and their families.
“Serving justice and building a better society are the best ways of remembering those who were systematically and deliberately murdered,” the EU leaders said.
The officials also reaffirmed the EU’s commitment to help “Bosnia and Herzegovina in establishing a society anchored in pluralism, justice and human dignity and to build a future together in which conflicts and atrocities are no longer conceivable.”