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UN Denounces Bosnian Serb Move To Revoke Report On Srebrenica Massacre

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik addressing members of the parliament of the Republic Srpska.

A top UN official has sharply criticized Bosnian Serb legislators for annulling a government report acknowledging the massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys in Srebrenica.

The statement by UN Special Adviser Adama Dieng on August 16 came one day after the United States also denounced the move by Republika Srpska legislators.

Dieng called the legislature's vote on August 14 "a step backwards for Bosnia and Herzegovina" and said it "undermines the rule of law and national and international efforts to achieve justice for victims of crimes committed against people of all ethnicities during the 1992-1995 Bosnian War."

Dieng warned that "given the timing of this decision, it is likely to exacerbate tensions" ahead of an October 7 general election and "damage prospects for long-term stability and reconciliation" in Bosnia.

The vote to revoke the report by a previous Republika Srpska government acknowledging the Srebrenica massacre was initiated by Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and was widely seen as an attempt to boost his campaign ahead of the October elections.

Dodik, an advocate of the Serbian region's secession from Bosnia with Russian backing, has rejected rulings by war crimes courts which have determined that the Srebrenica atrocity was a genocide.

While acknowledging that a crime occurred, Dodik says the numbers of those killed was exaggerated in the 2004 report and it should have included Serbian victims.

Dieng, the UN official, during a visit to the Balkans in February said: "It is evident that events of the past are being used for political purposes."

He warned at the time that "mistrust and outright hostility between political leaders representing different constituencies is preventing any significant progress towards reconciliation."

The Bosnian war killed an estimated 100,000 people, and the Dayton Agreement that ended it split the country into two semiautonomous regions along ethnic lines, one for Bosnian Serbs and the other shared by Bosniaks and Croats.

The Srebrenica Commission, set up by the Republika Srpska government, reported in 2004 that between 7,000 and 8,000 Bosniaks went missing from Srebrenica in July 1995 after Bosnian Serbs overran the enclave, and over 1,000 were killed, in what constituted a serious violation of international law.

All of the missing are presumed to have been killed and, more than two decades later, experts are still excavating victims' bodies from hidden mass graves throughout Bosnia.

Two international courts, the International Court of Justice and the UN war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia, have determined that the massacre constituted genocide.

The UN war crimes tribunal sentenced Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic over the Srebrenica massacre and other atrocities.

But many Bosnian Serbs have never admitted that their troops committed war crimes and nationalist politicians have portrayed Mladic and Karadzic as heroes.

"The Srebrenica crime is a staged tragedy with an aim to 'satanize' the Serbs," Dodik said in comments that outraged Srebrenica victims and survivors.

In revoking the 2004 report, the Bosnian Serb legislature endorsed Dodik's call for establishing what he called an "unbiased" international investigation into the Srebrenica massacre to stop "manipulation" of the number of victims.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and RFE/RL's Balkan Service
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