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A Bosnian woman mourns next to the grave of her relative (Armin Durgut/AP)

Thousands commemorate victims of Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia

The massacre is the only recognised genocide in Europe since the Holocaust.

THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE from Bosnia and abroad have gathered in Srebrenica for an annual ritual commemorating the 1995 massacre in the town, and to bury victims unearthed from mass graves who have only recently been identified through DNA analysis.

Twenty-eight years after they were murdered in Europe’s only acknowledged genocide since the Holocaust, 27 men and three teenage boys will be laid to rest at a vast cemetery just outside Srebrenica, joining more than 6,600 massacre victims already reburied there.

Relatives of the victims can bury only partial remains of their loved ones as they are typically found scattered over several different mass graves, sometimes miles apart.

Such was the case for Mirsda Merdzic, who will bury her father today.

“Only a very few bones of his were retrieved because he had been found [in a mass grave] near the Drina River,” she said while huddling next to a coffin shrouded in green burial cloth. “Maybe the river washed him away.”

Selma Ramic reburied a handful of bones of her father’s several years ago but continues returning to the town for the anniversary to honour others who shared his fate.

“One photo is the only thing I have left of my father, but I have love for him in my heart,” said Ramic, adding: “He still lives in us, he will live on as long as we are alive.”

The Srebrenica killings were the bloody crescendo of Bosnia’s 1992-95 war, which came after the break-up of Yugoslavia unleashed nationalist passions and territorial ambitions that set Bosnian Serbs against the country’s two other main ethnic populations — Croats and Bosniaks.

On 11 July 1995, Bosnian Serbs overran a UN-protected safe haven in Srebrenica. They separated at least 8,000 Muslim Bosniak men and boys from their wives, mothers and sisters, chased them through woods around the town, and slaughtered them.

The perpetrators then ploughed their victims’ bodies into hastily made mass graves, which they later dug up with bulldozers, scattering the remains among other burial sites to hide the evidence of their war crimes.

The Bosnian Serb wartime political leader Radovan Karadzic and his military commander Ratko Mladic were both convicted of genocide in Srebrenica by a special UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

In all, the tribunal and courts in the Balkans have sentenced close to 50 Bosnian Serb wartime officials to more than 700 years in prison for the Srebrenica killings.

However, most Serbian and Bosnian Serbs officials still celebrate Karadzic and Mladic as national heroes and continue to downplay or even deny the Srebrenica killings.

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