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Thousands remember 22nd anniversary of Srebrenica massacre

A woman walks among graves in Memorial Center Potocari, near Srebrenica. - REUTERS

A woman walks among graves in Memorial Center Potocari, near Srebrenica. - REUTERS

11/07/2017 09:34

(Vatican Radio) Thousands of people are gathering in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica to remember the victims of Europe's worst massacre since World War Two. 

Listen to Stefan Bos' report

In July 1995, some 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces after they overran the town during the Balkan bloodshed. Some 70 new coffins will join 6,504 white gravestones of Srebrenica men and boys already buried at the Srebrenica-Potocari Memorial.

For the relatives of those victims, that moment will represent some closure.

Ahead of the Tuesday's ceremony, thousands of people marched across Bosnia-Herzegovina to the memorial site to remember those who died 22 years ago. They include marcher Medina Gusic. "It's just too much. It is the right thing to do [to participate in the march]," she said, close to tears.

Not among those buried here is local radio journalist Nihad Catic, who was one of the roughly 8,000 Muslim men and boys who were killed.

On the afternoon of July 10, 1995, as Bosnian Serb forces closed in on his hometown of Srebrenica, he turned on his microphone and recorded what would be his last cry for help. "Srebrenica is turning into a vast slaughterhouse," he shouted, his voice urgent and desperate.

DEAD, WOUNDED

"The dead and wounded are continuously being brought to the hospital. Will anyone
in the world come and witness the tragedy that is befalling Srebrenica and its people?"

The recording is all his mother has. But she has pledged to continue to search for his remains for the rest of her life, if that's what it takes.

Prosecutors at The Hague war crimes tribunal have called for a life sentence to be imposed on the Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic, for genocide and crimes against humanity committed by his forces during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

But Natasa Kandic, a Serbian peace activist, has her doubts saying many Serbs regard him as a hero. "Mladic will be sentenced for genocide, but it will not change the picture of ordinary people about what happened in Srebrenica," she said.

"For them, Ratko Mladic is a hero. They will celebrate Ratko Mladic. They will not mention [and] they will not talk about the victims, they will talk about Ratko Mladic," Kandic added.

RE-OPENED WOUNDS

The 22nd anniversary of the massacre has also re-opened wounds in the Netherlands.

Last month, a Dutch appeals court largely upheld a 2014 ruling finding the Netherlands responsible for the deaths of at least 350 Bosnian Muslim men in the Srebrenica massacre.

It said that the Dutch state acted unlawfully in July 1995 as peacekeepers handed the men over knowing the dangers they faced.

Some 5,000 people had sought shelter from Bosnian Serb soldiers in a United Nations base, which was defended by the lightly-armed Dutch peacekeepers - known as Dutchbat. Thousands more had sought protection outside the base.

But after the base was overrun, the Muslim men and boys were told by the Dutch peacekeepers they would be safe and handed over to the Bosnian Serb army. They never returned.

 

11/07/2017 09:34