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Bosnia marks 25th anniversary of Srebrenica massacre

Simon Coveney said Irish people should “remember this event for what it was: an appalling act of genocide”

A woman by a grave stone in Potocari, near Srebrenica, Bosnia today.
A woman by a grave stone in Potocari, near Srebrenica, Bosnia today.
Image: AP/PA Images

MUSLIMS IN BOSNIA have today marked the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, the worst atrocity on European soil since World War II.

Many mourners braved the tighter restrictions put in place to stem the spread of Covid-19 to attend the commemorations which culminated in a ceremony laying to rest the remains of nine victims identified over the past year. 

On July 11, 1995, after capturing Srebrenica, Serb forces killed more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in a few days.

Sehad Hasanovic (27) was one of around 3,000 relatives of the victims who attended the commemorations in spite of the virus. 

He lost his father, Semso, in the incident. He said he “left to go into the forest and never returned. Only a few bones have been found.”

Semso was killed when Bosnian Serb troops led by Ratko Mladic entered the Srebrenica enclave before systematically massacring Bosnian men and adolescents. 

“The husbands of my four sisters were killed,” said Ifeta Hasanovic (48) whose husband Hasib was one of the nine victims whose remains have been identified since July 2019.

The nine victims were buried in the cemetery of the Genocide Memorial in Potocari, a village near Srebrenica where the base of the UN protection force was located. 

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence, Simon Coveney, today said it is important for Irish people to “remember this event for what it was: an appalling act of genocide”.

“As Ireland prepares to take up its seat for a two-year term on the UN Security Council next January, the memories of what occurred in Srebrenica will be a driving force for our membership,” he said in a statement.

“Mindful of the lessons of those appalling days, Ireland and its representatives will work to ensure such atrocities can never occur again and to be an effective voice for equality, justice, and respect for human rights on the council.”

Ireland last month won a seat on the UN Security Council for the period of 2021-2022.

Genocide label 

embedded254534899 A man prays between grave stones in Potocari, near Srebrenica today. Source: PA

The incident – labelled as genocide by two international courts – came at the end of a 1992-1995 war between Bosnia’s Croats, Muslims and Serbs that claimed some 100,000 lives. 

So far, the remains of nearly 6,900 victims have been found and identified from more than 80 mass graves. 

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Bosnian Serb wartime military chief general Ratko Mladic, still revered as a hero by many Serbs, was sentenced to life in prison by a UN court in 2017 over war crimes including the Srebrenica genocide. He is awaiting the decision on his appeal.

Radovan Karadzic, a Bosnian Serb wartime political leader, was also sentenced to life in prison in The Hague. 

The Srebrenica massacre is the only episode of the Bosnian conflict to be described as genocide by the international community.

And while for Bosnian Muslims recognising the scale of the atrocity is a necessity for lasting peace, for most Serbs – leaders and laypeople in both Bosnia and Serbia – the use of the word genocide remains unacceptable.

In the run-up to the anniversary, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic described Srebrenica as “something that we should not and cannot be proud of”, but he has never publicly uttered the word “genocide”.

- With reporting by Orla Dwyer.

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