Home > srebrenica massacre > 13TH ANNIVERSARY OF SREBRENICA GENOCIDE


July 14, 2008

“We call upon the European Parliament to pronounce this day a day of mourning in Europe, to organise commemoration ceremonies in Europe and to send a message that another holocaust, and another genocide will never happen again.” – Reis Mustafa Ceric

“I know it is unlikely after this time I will find them but every time I hear of a new grave I hope that at last my soul can rest. Many bodies were burned or thrown in the river.” – Sabaheta Fejzic.

The 13th commemoration of Srebrenica genocide, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War II , took place a day after a court in the Netherlands ruled that it had no jurisdiction to hear a case brought by relatives of the Srebrenica victims against the United Nations, which they accuse of failing to protect them.

Close to 40,000 people gathered in front of the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial in Potocari on Friday, July 11, to remember the 1995 Srebrenica genocide and attend a funeral for 308 recently DNA-identified victims. The youngest victims was only 15 years old, and the oldest was 84. With the funeral on Friday, the number of victims buried in Potocari, a site just east of Srebrenica, totalled 3,215.
Kerry-Ann Martin, senior forensic anthropologist at the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), and her team have to date identified some 5,200 victims of Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two.

The U.N. war crimes court has established that Bosnian Serbs, supported by neighboring Serbia and Montenegro, committed the lion’s share of the atrocities in a campaign to wipe out their Bosniak compatriots.

PHOTO CAPTION: Munira Subasic lost 22 members of her family when Bosnian Serbs overran Srebrenica. More than eight thousand men, children, and elderly were rounded up, stripped of their identification papers and then slaughtered.

It took symbolic 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 11 seconds (7/11/1995) to read the names of the 308 genocide victims from Srebrenica who were buried Friday in Potocari.

During the 1992-95 Bosnian war, the United Nations declared Srebrenica — which had been besieged by Serb forces throughout the war — a U.N.-protected safe area for civilians. However, the area was constantly attacked by Serbs from surrounding villages around Srebrenica. Thousands of Bosniaks flocked into the enclave for protection.

In July 1995, Serb troops led by wanted war criminal Gen Ratko Mladic overran the enclave and slaughtered at least 8,000, and up to 10,000 men, children, and elderly. Tens of thousands of civilians were forcibly expelled in an attempt to ethnically cleanse the area of Bosniaks. Mladic and the former Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, both indicted for genocide, are two of the most wanted European fugitives in hiding.
“The UN will never acknowledge their mistake, even though the crime happened on their watch, before the eyes of the world,” said Hafiza Klepic (36), who came from Denmark to bury the remains of her husband, after burying her brother last year. “But we will not give up, justice must be done,” she said.

“We should pray that sadness becomes hope, that justice replaces revenge, and that a mother’s tears are a prayer for the tragedy of Srebrenica never to happen again,” the head of Bosnia’s Islamic Community, Mustafa Ceric, said during the religious service.
“We call upon the European Parliament to pronounce this day a day of mourning in Europe, to organise commemoration ceremonies in Europe and to send a message that another holocaust, another genocide will never happen again… This should be a lesson that no one can be persecuted or killed on the bases of their religion, nationality or skin color. Not Muslims, nor Jews or anybody. Generations should hear this message from Srebrenica,” said Reis Ceric.

This year, for the first time, Serbian activist Milica Tomic joined the “March of Death – Path of Freedom,” through the route where Srebrenica civilians and their defenders were hunted and killed. The anniversary was also marked in Belgrade a day before by a peaceful demonstration organized by the Women in Black NGO.

A film entitled “The Women of Srebrenica Speak” by Milica Tomić was screened yesterday. The commemoration was not attended by any senior Bosnian Serb officials.

This year, more than 2,000 people joined the Peace March on a four day long walk to Srebrenica in a march to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the genocide in the former eastern Bosniak enclave during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The March started from the village of Sapna, near the eastern Bosnian Serb town of Zvornik, and ended in front of the Srebrenica Genocide Memorial Memorial in Potocari on Friday, July 11, the actual day of the anniversary.

PHOTO CAPTION: Bosniak men carried Bosnia-Herzegovina state flag and Bosnian historic flag (white) at a start point of a four-day march to the Srebrenica, in the village of Nezuk near Zvornik. A four-day march is held along the route survivors used 13 years ago to escape the Bosnian Serb killings in Srebrenica, the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

13 years after the murders of more than 8,000 Muslim Bosniaks in Srebrenica, the mothers, sisters and wives of the victims are still waiting for the guilty to be brought to justice. In Milica Tomic’s 15-minute documentary, they talk about their fates and their attitude towards Serbs:

“I would like to ask all Serbian mothers and all Serbs whose hands have not been stained with blood to stand by those innocent people and denounce the perpetrators.”

“I would like to ask the Serbian authorities to stop hiding the criminals, and the Serbian youth not to listen to them, to come to Srebrenica, to see. I do not teach my children to hate, but to see people as they are, not to ask them their name, names are not important.”

This year, 12 former Dutch soldiers who served in Srebrenica joined a memorial march — made by survivors and volunteers every July — along the mountain track the 15,000 men took in 1995.

“I do not consider myself personally responsible for what happened,” said Rob Zomer, 35, one of the former soldiers. “I did what I could.”

His colleague Johan de Jonge, 40, said July 1995 has changed his life: he has become aggressive, and suffers nightmares and insomnia.

Miroslav Lajcak was also present at the commemoration of genocide. He came to pay his respect to more than 8,000 innocent victims.

“In 1905 George Santayana wrote that: ‘Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it,'” – said Lajcak, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina/EU Special Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Today we are gathered here not only to pay our respects to the families who are burying their loved ones, but also to remember the past in the hope we will never again have to repeat it. I say “we” because genocide is the worst crime against humanity, and a crime against humanity is a crime against all of us… The first requirement of justice is to find and punish all of those who were involved in the genocide.”

“I know it is unlikely after this time I will find them but every time I hear of a new grave I hope that at last my soul can rest. Many bodies were burned or thrown in the river. But for some families this place means that their nightmare is over. One day it may be so for me,” – said Sabaheta Fejzic who lost her son, her husband, and her father.

“They killed him in one spot and then mutilated his body. It was a crime on top of a crime. When they find his head I shall finally be able to lay him to rest and I will have a place to lay a rose,” – said Zumra Sehomerovic,remembering her husband.

At Friday’s ceremony, survivors and victims’ relatives were joined by diplomats and local leaders led by the Croat and Muslim members of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency — Zeljko Komsic and Haris Silajdzic.

“We are still fighting to prove to the world what has happened here while those who are the most responsible for the crime are being rewarded with freedom,” said Munira Subasic, head of an association of Srebrenica mothers.

“It was so hard when they informed me that my father has been identified,” said Mehmedovic, who added however that she was “glad that his soul will finally find peace,” – said Vanesa Mehmedovic as she watched on as remains of her father were simultaneously laid in graves along with the 307 other victims.

Zina Huremovic, 49, was pregnant the last time she saw her husband, Izet, before she escaped the besieged town in 1993. She searched for Izet ever since, even leaving a drop of her son’s blood at the DNA lab. Last year she was notified that Izet’s body had been excavated and identified.

“I was waiting for all these years — looked at his picture and hoped he would come back,” her son, Ermin, now 15, said as his mother sobbed in his arms. “Today I am burying my hope with him,” the boy said. “That’s why I will never forget or forgive.”

The highest World Courts, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), as well as the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have ruled that the massacre in Srebrenica was genocide. Former Secretary General Kofi Annan described it as the darkest page in U.N. history.

Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladic and the political leader of Bosnian Serbs Radovan Karadzic have both been indicted for genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws or customs of war at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Both of them are still fugitives from justice and the U.S. Government has placed $5 million reward for information leading to their arrest (reward info for: Radovan Karadzic / Ratko Mladic).

If you would like to learn more about Srebrenica Genocide, please consult our Questions and Answers.

Srebrenica genocide is not a matter of anybody’s opinion; it’s a judicial fact recognized first by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and subsequently by the International Court of Justice.


PHOTO CAPTION: A Bosniak woman cries surrounded by coffins containing the remains of her family members inside the Potocari memorial cemetery July 10, 2008, a day before a funeral ceremony to commemorate the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The Bosnian Serb forces slaughtered some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys after the former United Nations “safe zone” fell into their hands in 1995. Newly identified victims are buried each year by their families after their bodies are dug out of mass graves.

  1. Vincent Jappi
    July 14, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    The policeman who dug out the horrors of Srebrenica
    Meg Bortin, International Herald Tribune, 11 July 2008 )
    Bosnian Institute, 13 July, 2008

    Impressive profile of a senior French police officer who played a key role in establishing the truth of what happened at Srebrenica in July 1995.

    There are cops who enjoy the limelight on television, and then there are the ones who do the work. Jean-René Ruez is the second kind. He went in with his own shovel to search for evidence – ‘multiple human remains’ – while chief investigator in Srebrenica, where thousands of Bosnian Muslims were slaughtered in July 1995 in the worst massacre in Europe since World War II.

    Ruez, a senior French police officer, was the central figure in establishing the facts about those murders. He knows better than anyone how as many as 8,000 men and boys fleeing Srebrenica were rounded up by Bosnian Serb forces, shot, buried and then reburied in mass graves to hide the evidence of what has been officially classified as genocide.

    Since leaving the Bosnia investigation in 2001, Ruez has taken cases of videotapes, files and other evidence around the world with him to have proof on hand when called to testify against suspected war criminals. Today, although he has moved into a less harrowing line of police work, he continues to pursue what he sees as an unfinished quest for justice.

    ‘One must not believe that it’s an obsession for me,’ Ruez, 47, said in an interview. Nonetheless, he said, he is prepared to testify at any time against men wanted for war crimes at Srebrenica, especially Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, the former Bosnian Serb military and civilian leaders, who are still at large.

    ‘It’s totally unacceptable, once the evidence is out and the courts have ruled that the crime must be labeled genocide, that only the henchmen of Mladic and Karadzic are currently in custody and on trial,’ Ruez said. ‘I’ve been cross-examined I think five times. I have no pleasure going to testify. I’m not eager. I’m just eager for justice to be done. Not just for the victims, but for all Europeans – and all humankind.’

    Ruez was so marked by his experience in Bosnia that even his jaunty smile cannot erase the permanent shadow in his eyes. He asked that his current whereabouts not be disclosed out of concern that certain Srebrenica perpetrators might hold a grudge.

    He is soon to emerge from the shadows, however, with the release this autumn of a French feature film about his work, ‘Resolution 819,’ directed by Georges Campana and starring Benoît Magimel as Ruez.

    Before being named to head what became the biggest criminal investigation in Europe since World War II, Ruez must have seemed an unlikely crusader for justice. He was head of the crime squad in the palm-studded city of Nice, having learned during his police training ‘the incredible fun of chasing criminals.’

    Yet in many ways, he said, his early years prepared him for a broader mission. Although his father was French, his mother was German, and while raising him in the leafy Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud, she conveyed the guilt she felt about Nazi atrocities. Later, during military service in Germany, he had a taste of geopolitics when pacifists – ‘very aggressive pacifists’ – beat up the young French troops to oppose the deployment of nuclear missiles on or near German soil.

    After the army, Ruez studied law and entered the elite French police commissioners’ school. He went to work for the criminal police, in Paris, Marseille and then Nice, where in 1994 he got word that the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia wanted to hire police investigators.

    ‘I signed up immediately,’ Ruez said, ‘because I had the strong feeling that this war would be investigated and that the war criminals would be punished. In Europe it was so unacceptable – with the experience we had of World War II – that such crimes not be investigated and punished. And I absolutely wanted to be part of that.’

    Ruez joined the tribunal in The Hague in April 1995 and was sent straight into the field.

    ‘I was part of the group investigating the siege of Sarajevo in July 1995 when Srebrenica fell and the first press rumors came out of a massacre,’ he said.

    In the chaos of the Yugoslav wars, Srebrenica had been designated a United Nations ‘safe area,’ but the West stood by as the mainly Muslim-populated town was besieged by Bosnian Serbs. When the town fell on July 11 and 12, panicked refugees sought shelter at a UN compound, but the Dutch UN forces in charge were overwhelmed by the advancing Serbs. Muslim men were separated from the women, tortured and shot. Separately, a column of men and boys headed north, but many were captured and killed by Serbs.

    Media reports of the outrages being committed were minimal, with reporters unable to get to the rugged area and few survivors able to reach the outside world. By the time Ruez reached the Bosnian Muslim city of Tuzla on July 20, just one witness had come forward. That was his starting point.

    ‘When the Srebrenica investigation began, the first phase was to reconstruct the events,’ Ruez said. He relied on witnesses. Photographs taken by U.S. U-2 reconnaissance planes were available, but virtually useless without help from survivors. ‘A U-2 picture is 30 kilometers square,’ Ruez said. ‘You can zoom into that picture, but you need to know what to be looking for.’

    Ruez and his multinational team of investigators – from the United States, Britain, Sweden, Norway, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand – had to find proof of the reported slaughter: human remains, in other words. As more than 8,000 people were missing, the task was enormous.

    The investigators located some burial sites, thanks largely to the accounts of witnesses. But just before the Bosnian peace process got under way in Dayton, Ohio, in November 1995, ‘the Serbs removed the bodies from the mass graves’ and reburied them in secret new locations. This at first eluded the investigators.

    ‘We were under the surveillance of Serbian intelligence in 1996,’ Ruez recalled. ‘They knew we had found the initial burial places. But they were laughing and drinking slivovitz in the evening because they knew that the evidence of the crime had been erased.’

    Gradually Ruez’s team grasped what had happened. ‘For example, we would find only 110 bodies clustered at a site where our information indicated that 1,200 people had been murdered. And some of these 110 bodies had been sliced into with bulldozers. So it was obvious they had been moved.’

    Once the investigators were sure about the deception – ‘a crime within a crime,’ Ruez calls it – they used aerial images to try to locate the secondary graves. Experts went in with ‘pick-and-sniff’ probes. When they scented evidence of human remains, Ruez got out his shovel.

    The secondary graves ‘were disseminated in remote places littered with land mines,’ he recalled. ‘Every time I went in, I was astounded to come out with two legs.’

    When Ruez finally left the tribunal in 2001, he was so exhausted that he took a two-year leave of absence, moving to the Caribbean and taking his files with him. When he returned to police work in France, he brought them back.

    ‘I carry my files with me wherever I go,’ said Ruez, who now works in a sunny, air-conditioned office and has a desk covered in papers – old newspaper articles about Srebrenica, but also a list of local restaurants and bars. He is posted at a French embassy annex, where he helps the local police fight everything from clandestine immigration to forest fires.

    In his new incarnation far from the killing fields, Ruez has not given up his quest to remind the public that Mladic is still at large. For Serbia to join the European Union, he contends, it will first have to deliver the general who led the Bosnian Serb assault.

    ‘Integrating Serbia with Mladic out there? I’m sorry. I won’t feel European,’ he said, citing the slogan he used with his team: ‘No peace without justice.’

  2. Kirk Johnson
    July 15, 2008 at 3:42 am

    I have nothing to add, Daniel. Thank you for sharing these images and the text, however sobering they may be.

  3. sarah franco
    July 15, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    I was there myself for the first time and I was impressed with the dignified way in which the people there were paying their tribute. Everybody should go there at least once. I am returning next year to join the march. Please do not publish this comment, otherwise it may look like I am using this blog to promote my own.

    I have to say that what impressed me most on this trip was entering Bosnia from Serbia and seeing a welcome builboard saying republika srpska with all the serbian colors and symbols just next to a destroyed house. it felt like the war had never been over.

  4. visegrad92
    July 16, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    Why isn’t Milan Lukic accused of taking part in genocide in Srebrenica when witnesses saw him there taking men from Visegrad. Chuck Sudetic wrote about this in “Blood and Vengence”.

  5. Vincent Jappi
    July 16, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    CAFE TURCO, July 13, 2008

    This year i attended the annual cerimony in Srebrenica for the first time. I didn’t have the intention to write about it, at least not immediately, but the staff from Women in Black, the NGO that organized the bus in which I travelled from Belgrade to Potočari, gave me a questionnaire for me to fill, so I did write about it. In the end, they didn’t collect my statement, and my friend Jelena, to whom I read it afterwords, though I should publish it on my blog, so that is what I am doing now, with a new part that I have decided to add while I was typing the original handwritten text. The photos published in this post were taken by me.


    Koji put ideš u Srebrenici?

    To je bio prvi put.

    Šta za tebe u emotivnom, moralnom i političkom pogledu znači posećivanje mesta zloćina posećinjenih u naše ime/Srebrenica?

    It was my duty to come to Srebrenica, not because genocide was committed in my name, as I am not serbian, but because I believe it is essential to my work as a researcher in Political Science that I always keep in my mind that the subjects I study, analyze and present to my readers had and continue to have real implication in the lives of real people. It is not difficult for a researcher to loose that sense of reality as he is submerged by all kinds of informations, data and theories. The need to respect the dignity of the victims of violence imposes on me that I never forget that, otherwise my work would be no more than an intellectual exercise to feed my self-image.

    Koje ti je osnovni razlog da odlazak u Srebrenicu?

    The answer to this question is contained in the the first question.

    Koji ti je najvažniji utisak iz Srebrenice/Potočara?

    My strongest impression is the small girl who asked me to take her picture. She was probably 6. I am sorry to say that I don’t remember her name. She was beautiful and her mother and grandmother were very generous to allow me to take her picture. They even unleashed her blonde hair so that she might look even better. She was very happy.
    I could say the walls covered with blood in the building in Potočari impressed me most, but as a researcher it is my job to deal with that kind of morbid details.
    The beautiful girl, and all the other children I got the chance to meet in my trips around former Yugoslavia are what gives my work a purpose. She means that the past is important, but that it is the future that really matters.

    My answer to the questionnaire stopped here, because I had already used all the available space in the paper sheet. However, I was not satisfied with the abrupt way in which it ended. I am aware that my last phrase does sound like a cliché, but for me it has a real meaning. Saying that the best in the world are the children does sound like a cliché, but one of the most beautiful poems ever written in portuguese, Liberdade, also ends like that (o melhor do mundo são as crianças), so I rely on Fernando Pessoa to defend myself from the accusation that burdens me of being too emotional, a critique that usually implies that my work is biased or contaminated by an excessive subjectivity.
    Dealing with suffering always demands a certain degree of emotional attachment, and this is something one has to learn to deal with. It comes with the job. The focus on objectivity, neutrality or impartiality is usually a way to escape it that but one that carries with it the danger of moral relativization.

    I cannot be indifferent to the fact that yesterday thousands of people gathered to pay respect to the dead, but what I witnessed yesterday does not resume to that. I also saw how life is much stronger than death and this is why racists and genociders particularly hate others’ children.
    By bringing their children to Srebrenica, these families are preserving the memory of their deceased, they are creating a link between generations that were denied the possibility to live together and enjoy each other’s company. On the children will one day rely the double responsibility to both honor the dead by protecting them from oblivion and to overcome the legacy that burdens their families.

    This will not be an easy task. To be able to cope with such responsibility in the future they need to be nurtured now. It is up to today’s adults to provide them with an environment that allows them to grow into self-confident decent adults. If we achieve, these children will represesent the genociders ultimate failure.

    SREBRENICA AND SERBIA some thoughts on moral monsters, bystanders and civic minded people.

  6. flightchix
    April 13, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    I was also fortunate to attend the 13th Anniversary of Srebrenica’s Genocide and being an outsider from the United States it increased so many questions about the UNs involvement with creating “safe areas” for the people within these regions.

    I stayed with a Bosnian-Muslim woman that lost her sons and husband during the massacre and while I was walking through the city of Srebrenica and Potocari there is still evidence of war and hostilities between the Bosnian Serbs and Muslims. As I covered my head and walked to the Ceremony, Bosnian Serbian Youth taunted the passing Muslims and called us names that were translated to me by those who spoke the language. I arrived in Srebrenica two days prior to the ceremony and coincidently on the day of the memorial I received a text from my mobile service stating, “Welcome to Telekom Srbija…Have a pleasant stay with Telekom Srbija.” I have kept this text in my phone even till this day since I found it interesting that I along with others were sent reminders from the local communication towers that we are in “Srbija”…not Bosnia I Herzegovina. I was told that in the previous years they have cut off water supplies and telecommunication towers in the area during the time of this Memorial Ceremony but fortunately we continued to have service and access to water. From talk with numerous people who have attended in previous years there has be much more development in the area and new homes are being built and Bosnian Muslims are returning to the city. I only hope that true change will occur and that people will move forward toward peace and remember what happened so that it will not happen again.

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