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Group Pushes For Renaming Main Street In Srebrenica After Pro-Serbia Austrian Writer

Controversial Austrian author Peter Handke (file photo)
Controversial Austrian author Peter Handke (file photo)

The local administration of Srebrenica is due to discuss a proposal to name the Bosnian town's main thoroughfare after Austrian writer Peter Handke, a Nobel Prize winner and an apologist for Serbian war crimes.

Srebrenica, located in Republika Srpska, the Serbian entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was the site of the July 1995 massacre of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces -- the worst atrocity committed in Europe since World War II that was ruled as an act of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).

The proposal, to be discussed on May 24,was put forward by a so-called citizens' association called the Eastern Alternative of Republika Srpska. The street currently bears the name of Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the longtime leader of communist Yugoslavia.

The president of the association, Vojin Pavlovic, told RFE/RL that "it is absurd for the Marshal Tito Street to exist in Srebrenica nowadays, while a Nobel laureate cannot have his own street."

"Peter Handke is a man who is a great friend of the Serbian people first, and secondly, a great fighter for the truth," Pavlovic told RFE/RL.

Handke, a controversial choice for the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature, has long been known as a supporter of the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic's policies in the 1990s.

He was criticized by the international community for his support for Serbia during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, visits to Milosevic in the Hague tribunal's detention unit, and attendance at his funeral.

Bosnia, Albania, Croatia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Turkey boycotted the Nobel Prize award ceremony in 2019. Protests were also held in Sweden on the day the awards were presented in Stockholm.

Handke, 78, who is considered to be one of the most original German-language writers alive, has argued that Serbs were unfairly portrayed by the Western press as the only aggressors in the conflict.

Vojin Pavlovic heads a citizens' association called the Eastern Alternative of Republika Srpska. (file photo)
Vojin Pavlovic heads a citizens' association called the Eastern Alternative of Republika Srpska. (file photo)

Pavlovic said that, even if the proposal is rejected by the Srebrenica Municipal Assembly, his association intends to place street signs with Handke's name on the thoroughfare and adorn it with posters and other symbols. He said he will personally finance the initiative.

So far, 94 mass graves have been exhumed in Srebrenica and the surrounding municipalities, and the remains of more than 6,900 victims killed by Republika Srpska Army forces have been identified.