SREBRENICA (Bosnia), July 11: Tens of thousands of grieving Bosnian Muslims gathered on Sunday to bury the remains of 775 newly identified victims killed when Bosnian Serbs overran this town exactly 15 years ago. Troops led by the-then Bosnian Serb general, Ratko Mladic, seized Srebrenica on July 11, 1995, and went on a week-long killing spree as UN personnel protecting the town stepped aside.
Around 8,000 Muslims were killed in what is now seen as Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II. Those who tried to escape were hunted down. Mladic remains at large.
On Sunday, men passed green-draped coffins from hand to hand towards freshly dug graves. Sobbing women murmured prayers as they kneeled among rows of white marble gravestones.
“I have nothing left to lose,” Hatidza Mehmedovic, 58, said through tears. She came to bury her husband and two sons, killed when they were aged 18 and 21.
“Now I can only fight for justice to be served.”
A Bosnian Croat man, Rudolf Hren, shared the fate of thousands of his non-Serb neighbours when he was killed in 1995.
At the funeral on Sunday, Hren was the only victim who had a Roman Catholic burial ceremony.“Rudolf is buried among the friends he stayed with until the last day,” said his mother Barbara Hren, whose other son was also killed in Srebrenica.
The UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague has indicted Mladic and his political chief Radovan Karadzic for genocide in Srebrenica. Karadzic is on trial but denies all counts of the indictment, including on Srebrenica.
Mladic is said to be hiding in Serbia. Failure to arrest him has hindered Serbia’s progress towards EU membership.
“We have Karadzic on trial and it is important the trial is completed and justice is done but it is of even greater importance that commander of the forces responsible for these murders is brought to justice,” said Stephen Rapp, the United States ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues.
After the massacre, Serbs dumped the victims’ bodies into mass graves. They were later dug out with bulldozers and moved to smaller graves in an attempt to cover up the crime.
More than 3,700 victims have been buried in the special memorial graveyard after being unearthed from hundreds of mass graves and identified.—Reuters