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by Eloïse Ringenbach with Anne Roy

Srebrenica Hasn’t Finished Burying Its Dead

Translated Monday 16 July 2007, by Patrick Bolland

Bosnia. Srebrenica, the city of martyrs, where 8,000 people were executed at the orders of Ratko Mladić, is commemorating the 12th anniversary of this massacre (1).

On 11 July 1995, The Bosnian city of Srebrenica fell to the nationalistforces of General Ratko Mladić and, in the following days, experienced the darkest days of its history, with the massacre of nearly 8,000 men, executed by the Serbian forces. Twelve years later, the city of Srebrenica has yet to fully put the war behind it and the relatives of the victims are still burying their dead.

Several tens of thousands of these are expected to attend commemorations for the 12th anniversary of the massacres. To mark this occasion, the bodies of 439 victims, boys and men aged from 13 to 77, in common graves and identified by DNA, will be exhumed from the Potocari memorial cemetery, close to Srebenica in eastern Bosnia where the remains of 2,400 victims are buried. On Monday, two days before the ceremony, several hundred people had accompanied the passage of the funeral procession in Sarajevo.

“The search for the disappeared will continue for many years”, according to Murat Hutic, member of a local commission for finding the disappeared. He says that several dozens of grave sites still have to be examined. Up to now, only 3,195 victims have been identified. Nearly a thousand others, whose bones are kept in a special morgue, have yet to be identified.

Parallel to this, the victims’ families won another battle, this time legal, when last February the International Court of Justice (in The Hague) recognized the massacres as “genocide”. The Court has not yet identified who was responsible, but considers that Serbia cannot be accused of programming and organizing the massacre. The Court has, however, stated that the Serbian authorities did nothing did nothing to stop it and pointed to their lack of cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), headed by the prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, who will be ending her mandate in the autumn. She is expected to be present, as she has every year, at the ceremonies.

But in the last few months, Boris Tadic’s Bosnian government has become more open, and shown its good faith by allowing for the arrest of the Bosnian-Serb general Zradko Tolimir. This led to the re-opening of negotiations between Serbia and the European Union, which had been frozen since December 2006. This should lead to the signing of a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) – but a precondition of such an agreement is the arrest of “the architects of the massacre”, the previous political and military Serbian bosses in Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladić, charged in 1995 by the ICTY for genocide.

Translator’s footnote:

(1) The Srebrenica massacre is the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. In July 1995, an estimated 8,000 Bosniak males were executed, in the region of Srebrenica in Bosnia and Herzegovina by units of the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) under the command of General Ratko Mladić during the Bosnian War. In addition to the Army of Republika Srpska, a paramilitary unit from Serbia known as the "Scorpions" participated in the massacre. (Adapted from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srebrenica_massacre)

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