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Bosnia-Herzegovina: Marking The 10th Anniversary Of The Srebrenica Massacre

About 50,000 people attended ceremonies on 11 July in Srebrenica and nearby Potocari in Bosnia-Herzegovina to mark the 10th anniversary of the killing of about 8,000 mainly Muslim males by Serbian forces in the worst single atrocity in Europe since the end of World War II.

A central aspect of the ceremony was the reburial of 610 massacre victims who have been recently identified from remains found in mass graves elsewhere. The memorial cemetery already contained the remains of 1,327 victims. Muslim women dressed in white stood alongside the green-draped coffins to lead mourning for their relatives. About 7,000 body bags still await analysis, and about 20 additional mass graves have yet to be exhumed.

Srebrenica is now a largely Serbian town with a fraction of its prewar population. Most young Serbs have left because their is little work to be had in what was once a center of mining and tourism. Some local residents blame unnamed "vested interests" in Banja Luka for preventing the relaunching of the town's potentially lucrative mineral water business. Local journalist Marinko Sekulic told "RFE/RL's Balkan Report" that Srebrenica today is "the only town in Bosnia so poor that no Chinese traders will go to it."

Sulejman Tihic, who is the Muslim member of the Bosnian Presidency, said at the 11 July gathering that "the United Nations failed to protect the inhabitants of its safe haven," which led to the killing of about 8,000 mainly Muslim males by Serbian forces. He argued that the Dutch UN peacekeepers "surrendered [the victims] to the Serbian military forces from both sides of the Drina River, who committed genocide."

Tihic told the families of the victims that he has "no word of comfort for your pain and suffering. No one 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 [former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan] Karadzic and [former Bosnian Serb commander General Ratko] Mladic."

Former chief U.S. Balkans envoy Richard Holbrooke told the gathering that "Srebrenica was the failure of NATO, of the West, of peacekeeping, and of the United Nations. It was the tragedy that should never be allowed to happen again."

U.S. President George W. Bush said in a written statement that "we...remain committed to ensuring that those responsible for these crimes face justice, most notably Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic."

Croatian President Stipe Mesic told reporters after the commemoration that he was surprised that Serbian President Boris Tadic, who also attended the meeting, did not apologize for the role of Serbian forces in the 1995 massacre. "I don't know why he did not do so," Mesic added. He said that it was good that Tadic attended the commemoration but argued that it would have been far more significant if Tadic had apologized for the Serbian role in the war crime.
Srebrenica is now a largely Serbian town with a fraction of its prewar population.

Before Tadic left Belgrade for Srebrenica, he had said that wanted to pay his respects to the victims, stressing that "Serbia's future depends" on the extent to which that country distances itself from war crimes committed in its name in the 1990s. Some nationalist politicians warned him not to apologize for anything in the name of other Serbs.

Rasim Ljajic, who chairs Serbia and Montenegro's National Council for Cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, said in Srebrenica on 11 July that his country is ready to be a "stabilizing factor" during a time of change in the region.

A representative of the mothers of the victims of the massacre included in her speech to the commemorative meeting the words: "Long live Bosnia and Herzegovina, death to the perpetrators of genocide on this land." In response, Republika Srpska President Dragan Cavic said that all people who committed war crimes must answer for what they did, adding that it is "tragic that some people have used the pronounce a death sentence on the Republika Srpska."

Meanwhile in the Serbian city of Cacak, several dozen people laid wreaths at a monument to innocent victims from all nations and faiths to show respect for the Muslim victims of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre.

In Belgrade, the Serbian parliament observed a moment of silence for Serbian victims of the wars of the 1990s and also for those who lost their lives in Srebrenica in 1995 and in London during the recent terrorist attack. Members of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) were not in the chamber at the time. Tomislav Nikolic, who heads the SRS parliamentary faction, charged that speaker Predrag Markovic called for the moment of silence without consulting the leaders of the various party factions in the legislature.

On 9 July, about 4,000 Serbs attended a Belgrade rally hosted by the SRS, at which a film was shown that portrays Serbs as victims of the conflicts of the 1990s. Those present in the audience included top leaders of the Serbian Orthodox Church as well as leading defenders of Karadzic and Mladic.

Stasa Zajovic, who is one of the co-founders of Belgrade's antinationalist and antiwar movement known as Women in Black, told Berlin's "Die Welt" of 11 July that members of her group have been repeatedly threatened by SRS activists but do not let themselves be intimidated. She added that the Women in Black plan to send representatives to the commemorative meeting in Srebrenica. Zajovic charged that Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica has effectively assumed leadership of the "fascist" tendencies in Serbia dating back to the rule of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic from the late 1980s to 2000. She stressed that Kostunica refuses to recognize that what took place in Srebrenica was genocide organized by the Serbian state.

And back in Srebrenica, one young local Serb told London's "The Guardian" of 11 July that the commemoration is a "publicity stunt" based on "figures [that] are exaggerated," adding that the commemoration takes no note of the "3,600 Serbs killed here." Another young Serb said that he has a picture of Mladic on his wall because "he's our military leader.... There's not a single document to show that Mladic ordered the killings."

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