By Nedim Hasic
Srebrenica (Bosnia-Herzegovina), Jul 11 (efe-epa).- With messages of pain and calls for reconciliation, Bosnia-Herzegovina held commemorations Saturday for the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide.
The solemn ceremony was joined by a number of world leaders who sent in video messages to mark the event.
An estimated 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb troops who advanced into Srebrenica, which at the time was a designated United Nations safe zone, on 11 July 1995.
The massacre, carried out under the command of Ratko Mladic, occurred shortly before the end of the Bosnian War (1992-95), which pitted the region’s Muslims, Serbs and Croats against each other.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said: “After quarter of a century, Srebrenica is still an open wound in Europe’s conscience.”
The annual ceremony normally brings hundreds of people to the Srebrenica–Potocari Memorial Center, where the remains of around 6,652 victims are buried following their excavation from mass graves, but this year the proceedings have been altered due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Another nine victims of the massacre, the worst crime committed against a civilian population since World War II, were laid to rest on Saturday. The remains of a thousand victims are yet to be retrieved from mass graves and identified.
The messages sent in by world leaders centered on the notion of reconciliation without forgetting the pursuit for justice for the victims of the crime against humanity.
The ceremony was broadcast live.
“The past cannot be changed or undone, but we have a duty to remember and a duty to speak up and act, no more blood in the name of race or religion. No more genocides, never again. Because racism has not disappeared from our streets, from our social media feeds, even from political discourse,” Von der Leyen added.
“In 25 years, Bosnia and Herzegovina has come a long way in restoring trust, within and between the country’s communities. For peace to authentically flourish, Bosnia and Herzegovina now needs its leaders to lead the way forward. Through the recognition of suffering and mutual respect,” she added.
The head of the specialized Hague court for Yugoslavia Serge Brammertz recalled Saturday that the genocide that took place 25 years ago had been planned by the highest military and political powers at the time, and called for a continued campaign against genocide denial.
United States secretary of state Mike Pompeo said: “Those of us who remember what happened a quarter century ago must build a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic future for that generation. Let’s build a future that will benefit all peoples, regardless of race or religion, and unite in shared values based on individual rights.”
French president Emmanuel Macron said the genocide at Srebrenica marked a period in history in which the international community failed to protect civilians when they most needed help.
Former US president Bill Clinton, who inaugurated the Srebrenica–Potocari Memorial Center in 2003 and was the architect of Nato’s intervention in the Bosnian War, said: “It is more important than ever that in Bosnia and across the world, real democracy requires a genuine commitment to an inclusive society, including shared-decision making and commitment to the rule of law and uncovering the hard truths about the past, so you can be free to make a different future.”
A total of 8,372 full coffee cups were laid out at the memorial center on Saturday, an installation art piece by Bosnian creator Aida Sehovic, who collected the objects from Bosnians around the world. Some 900 were donated by the mothers of Srebrenica victims, according to the local press.
The Bosnian War raged during the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Some 47 people, including Mladic, have been charged by the specialised international court with war crimes and genocide. EFE-EPA