News / Europe

Serbia's Parliament Apologizes for Srebrenica Massacre

Serbia's parliament has apologized for the massacre of 8,000 Muslims by Bosnian-Serb forces in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.  But, the declaration does not directly call the crime "genocide", as survivors had demanded.

After 13 hours of debate Serbia's parliament adopted a resolution condemning Europe's worst massacre since World War II.

Two-thirds of the lawmakers voted for a declaration that analysts said ends years of denial by Serbian politicians about the scale of the killings.

About  8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed after Bosnian-Serb forces overran the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995.  The atrocity happened during the Balkan conflict that led to the break up of Yugoslavia.  

The text of the resolution says, "The parliament of Serbia strongly condemns the crime committed against the Bosnian-Muslim population of Srebrenica in July, 1995."

Lawmakers also expressed "their condolences and an apology to the families of the victims because not everything possible was done to prevent the tragedy."

The parliamentary leader of the ruling coalition's Democratic Party, Nada Kolundzija, said the resolution marks a new chapter for Serbia.

She says with this resolution Serbia's parliament recognizes "terrible things have happened in Srebrenica" and that her country does not support  those who committed the crime.  The lawmaker calls the declaration "a milestone on Serbia's road to the construction of a modern European society".

But survivors of the Srebrenica massacre have condemned the resolution, saying it does not describe the killings as genocide.

Nationalists outside the parliament building protested the resolution, while inside several legislators expressed their reservations about the declaration.  Some Serbs say they are angry about the apology because it does not mention crimes committed against Serbs.

Those critics include Tomislav Nikolic, who leads the Serbian Progressive Party. He suggests the resolution was needed for Serbia's integration into the European Union.  But Nikolic says the ruling coalition wants the parliament "to declare the whole nation guilty".  He says "Nations do not commit crimes, individuals do."

The resolution is seen as another step towards Serbia's EU membership.  The country has extradited former Bosnian-Serb leader Radovan Karadzic to the Netherlands-based U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for war crimes in the former Yugoslavia.  But war-time commander Ratko Mladic, whose forces were involved in the massacre, remains at large.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic told VOA Serbia will extradite Mladic "as soon as he is found" to the U.N. Tribunal in The Hague.   

Jeremic said he does not know yet when that will happen, but made clear he wants him to be captured soon. "If I knew how to answer this question, he would not have been at large.  But what can I say that in the context of the cooperation with [the Tribunal in] The Hague, the government of Serbia is going to continue [the search] doing its utmost," he said.

Ironically, among those supporting the Srebrenica resolution were the Socialists of former president Slobodan Milosevic, who was indicted by the The Hague Tribunal for his alleged involvement in the Srebrenica massacre.  He died before he could be sentenced.

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