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UN Chief Honors Srebrenica Dead

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service

SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Ban Ki-moon has become the first United Nations secretary-general to visit the site of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Ban laid flowers at Potocari Cemetery, near Srebrenica, and paid his respects at a wall listing the names of the some 8,000 Muslim men and boys who were killed in the area in July 1995 in Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

"I am standing here with profound sadness and remorse," Ban told the crowd. "There is perhaps nowhere in the world more difficult and more painful than here for a United Nations secretary-general to visit."

The massacre occurred despite the presence of Dutch-led UN peacekeeping forces, whose defenses proved ineffective as the Serbian forces moved in.

Ban said the international community should have done more to stop the slaughter in the eastern Bosnian town.

"Srebrenica is one of the darkest chapters in modern history," he said. "The UN did not meet its responsibility; the international community did not prevent genocide."

Laying a wreath at the cemetery, the UN chief added: "While I look over these endless rows of graves -- 8,000 -- I want to say that this is a holy ground not only for families of the victims, but also for the world family of nations."

During his visit, Ban also met with survivors and relatives of Srebrenica victims.

During the operation to seize Srebrenica, Bosnian Serb forces expelled the town's Muslim women, children, and elderly before executing the males.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that the massacre was genocide carried out by the Bosnian Serb Army. Several Serb officers have already been convicted of genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

The two alleged Serbian masterminds of the slaughter -- Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic and political leader Radovan Karadzic -- are currently on trial before the UN court.

Mladic and Karadzic have also been charged with genocide in connection with the killings, which occurred near the end of the 1992-95 interethnic Bosnian war.

Bosnia-Herzegovina was the last stop on the UN secretary-general's weeklong, seven-country tour of the western Balkans.

With reporting by AFP

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