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Bosnian Serbs Admit Committing Srebrenica Massacre - 2004-06-12

Bosnia-Herzergovina's international administrator, Paddy Ashdown, has welcomed the admission by Bosnian Serb authorities that their security forces massacred up to 8,000 Muslims at the town of Srebrenica in 1995. But Mr. Ashdown cautioned the admission is not a substitute for cooperation with the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

In a letter to the European Union and NATO, Mr. Ashdown says the acknowledgment by Bosnian Serbs indicates the government of the Serb entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina has made some progress in helping to establish the truth about what has been called Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

Until now, Bosnian Serbs refused to publicly acknowledge any responsibility for the 1995 massacre. But a special commission set up to investigate, issued a report Friday saying Bosnian Serb military and security forces took part in the killings. It happened after Serb forces overran the U.N.-protected enclave of Srebrenica in July 1995, with U.N. peacekeepers unable to prevent it.

The commission's report concluded that the massacre was part of a well orchestrated plan to attack the town, separate men from women and children and execute the men.

The seven-member commission included one international and one Muslim member.

In his letter to the European Union and NATO, Mr. Ashdown said the official acknowledgment, along with recent public statements by some Bosnian Serb leaders, indicates, "a growing willingness to face up to the issue of responsibility for Srebrenica, and to achieve justice for the victims."

But he also warns Bosnian Serb authorities must do a lot more to make up for nine years of denial, and specifically, must cooperate with the U.N. War Crimes Tribunal in bringing those responsible to justice.

Widows of men murdered in Srebrenica complained to the Chief U.N. prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, that most of the suspects in the Srebrenica killings are still at large.

Chief among them is former Bosnian Serb President Radovan Karadzic and his war time military commander, Ratko Mladic.