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International Community Failures Recalled At Srebrenica

11 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The sound of Muslim prayer music echoed through the valley of Srebrenica today as an estimated 50,000 people gathered to mark the 10th anniversary of the slaughter of nearly 8,000 Bosnian men and boys there.

In addition to survivors of the massacre and local guests, the ceremonies also were attended by foreign dignitaries and members of the three-person presidency that has governed Bosnia-Herzegovina since the U.S.-brokered Dayton Peace accords in 1996.

The focal point of the day was the burial of 610 Bosnian Muslim men and boys whose remains were recently recovered from unmarked graves in the area.

Sulejman Tihic, the Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency, spoke first after the completion of the Muslim funeral prayers. He blamed the United Nations for allowing the massacre to occur, and he blamed both Bosnian Serbs and Serbs from Serbia-proper for carrying out the mass killings:

"For the sake of truth, which is the basis for a better future, on this particular occasion at this very place, I have to repeat that the United Nations failed to protect the inhabitants of its safe haven," Tihic said. "They surrendered them to the Serbian military forces from both sides of the Drina River who committed genocide and killed at least 7,808 Bosniaks."

Tihic also reminded the foreign dignitaries gathered in the presence of the victims' families that justice has not yet been carried out. He called for the arrest and punishment of those indicted for genocide by the UN's war crimes tribunal for the events at Srebrenica 10 years ago -- including Bosnian-Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and the Bosnian-Serb military commander Ratko Mladic.

"Dear families of the victims," Tihic said, "I have no word of comfort for your pain and suffering. None can bring back and replace your loved ones either. The only thing we can do now is to do our best in finding the missing and killed ones -- to bury them with dignity -- and to punish those who are responsible for the crime. Particularly, the most wanted war criminals Karadzic and Mladic."

Mark Brown, special envoy for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, read a statement from Annan that admits failures by both the UN and the international community at Srebrenica.

"We can say, and it is true, that great nations failed to respond adequately," Brown said. "We can say, and it is also true, that there should have been stronger military forces in place and a stronger will to use them. We can say, and it is undeniable, that blame lies first and foremost with those who planned and carried out the massacre or who assisted them or who harbored them and are still harboring them today."

Others present at the 11 July memorial ceremony was former U.S. Amabassador Richard Holbrooke -- the architect of the 1996 Dayton Accords that brought an end to the Bosnian war -- as well as Croatia's President Stipe Mesic, and Serbia's President Boris Tadic.

Tadic's presence is considered a significant gesture given Serbia's political and military backing of the Bosnian Serbs during the war.

Tadic has faced criticism in Belgrade from Serbian hard-line nationalists for his decision to attend. Tadic has responded by saying he is paying tribute to, in his words, "innocent victims of the crime committed there." He also says his visit is necessary to establish full trust and cooperation in the region and to break "the circle of evil on the Balkans."

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